The Beta Alanine & Creatine effect

The Beta Alanine & Creatine effect

September 2, 2019

Fuelling for exercise – Part 2

The Beta Alanine & Creatine effect

by our Sports Scientist Stephen Morehen

In the previous post we looked at carbohydrates and caffeine and their ergogenic effects when implemented pre-exercise. Following on from this, we will look at a further two supplements that have been extensively and rigorously researched for their performance enhancing effects.

Beta Alanine

When we exercise at a high intensity, the oxygen demands of our muscles exceed the amount of oxygen we can supply to them and we begin to rely on anaerobic respiration to continue to supply our body with energy, allowing us to sustain performance.

A by-product of anaerobic respiration is lactate. Lactate gets a bad reputation as it’s often associated with the burning sensation in muscles and the “heavy legs” feeling. However, it is not lactate, per se, that is responsible for this. An accumulation of lactate causes an increase in hydrogen ions which subsequently causes the environment within our muscles to become acidic. This acidity impairs muscle contractions, elicits the unpleasant sensations we talked about and, unsurprisingly, hinders performance [1]. 

Beta alanine can improve lactate clearance by increasing your levels of the amino acid carnosine, an intracellular buffer, which helps to clear lactate within the cells thus delaying fatigue and allowing you to exercise for longer [2].

So how much should you supplement with? A review of existing literature concluded that the recommended dose of beta alanine is ~65mg per kg of bodyweight per day and that this is best consumed in split doses of 0.6-1.6g 3-4 times a day and over a prolonged period of 10-12 weeks [3].

Beta alanine supplementation can result in tingling sensations in the face, ears, neck and back of the hands (paraesthesia). This is completely harmless and is attenuated by the aforementioned split-dose supplementation strategy [4].

Creatine

During short, intense bouts of exertion our body utilises phosphocreatine as fuel to obtain energy from. The stores of phosphocreatine in our muscles are relatively small and thus can only fuel us for 6-12 seconds before we switch to an alternative fuel source, such as carbohydrate.

Supplementing with creatine can increase these stores within our muscles and as such, enhance our short-term, high-intensity exercise capacity [5] – highly beneficial for scenarios such as lifting weights or team sports e.g. repeatedly sprinting for the ball in football.

Being able to perform better in acute scenarios will also lead to chronic improvements as a result of better training. Indeed, long-term creatine supplementation has been shown to increase gains in lean mass, muscular strength and power [6-8].

Research recommends a loading phase of 20g/day (4x5g doses) for 5-7 days before entering a maintenance phase of one 3-5g dose per day for the duration of the supplementary period [9, 10].

It should be noted that a 1-2kg increase in bodyweight can be expected due to increased water retention and this may impact weight-making sports or sports where being lightweight is beneficial [11].

References

  1. Metzger, J.M. and R.H. Fitts, Role of intracellular pH in muscle fatigue. J Appl Physiol (1985), 1987. 62(4): p. 1392-7.
  2. Lancha Junior, A.H., et al., Nutritional Strategies to Modulate Intracellular and Extracellular Buffering Capacity During High-Intensity Exercise. Sports Med, 2015. 45 Suppl 1: p. S71-81.
  3. Saunders, B., et al., beta-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, 2017. 51(8): p. 658-669.
  4. Trexler, E.T., et al., International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2015. 12: p. 30.
  5. Buford, T.W., et al., International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2007. 4: p. 6.
  6. Volek, J.S. and E.S. Rawson, Scientific basis and practical aspects of creatine supplementation for athletes. Nutrition, 2004. 20(7-8): p. 609-14.
  7. Cooper, R., et al., Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2012. 9(1): p. 33.
  8. Maganaris, C.N. and R.J. Maughan, Creatine supplementation enhances maximum voluntary isometric force and endurance capacity in resistance trained men. Acta Physiol Scand, 1998. 163(3): p. 279-87.
  9. Lanhers, C., et al., Creatine Supplementation and Upper Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med, 2017. 47(1): p. 163-173.
  10. Hultman, E., et al., Muscle creatine loading in men. J Appl Physiol (1985), 1996. 81(1): p. 232-7.
  11. Deminice, R., et al., Effects of creatine supplementation on oxidative stress and inflammatory markers after repeated-sprint exercise in humans. Nutrition, 2013. 29(9): p. 1127-32.

 

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