Monday, June 13, 2011

Build Muscle While Cutting Weight! Beta Alanine @4g/day Helps Wrestlers Achieve Their Weight Goals and Build Lean Muscle at the Same Time.

Figure 1: The structural difference in their
molecular structure is the outward sign of
the very different biological functions of
alanine (left) and beta-alanine (right);
one part of the energy supply chain,
the other a potent H+ buffer
Initially heavily marketed as creatine for athletes competing in sports with weightclasses (similar effects, no water retention) by supplement companies, it has become sort of quiet around the hydrogen buffering amino acid beta-alanine, lately. While most pre-/ and post-workout products have it, hardly anybody seems to care whether it is actually worth adding to the formula - it certainly ain't expensive, though. Thanks to B.D. Kern and T.L. Robinson from the Human Performance and Physical Education Department at the Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado, this indifference may well change into a new craze in the future.

In their study (Kern. 2011) that is going to be published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Kern and Robinson investigated the effect of 8-weeks of supplemental beta-alanine (plain beta-alanine in capsule-form, no fancily modified, or as the supp-companies would call it "improved" molecule, @4g/day) on timed 300-yd shuttle, 90° flexed-arm hang (FAH), body composition, and blood lactate after 300-yd shuttle in a group of 22 resistance training collegiate wrestlers (WR) and 15 college football players (FB).

Figure 2: Supplementation with 4g/day beta-alanine over an 8-weeks periods has beneficial effects on performance (400yd shuttle runs and flexed-arm hand endurance) and body composition (body mass to lean mass ratio).
In view of the results of previous studies, the increase in 300yd shuttle time (-0.7s vs. placebo) and flexed-arm hang endurance (+2.62 vs. placebo) in the football players were to expected. The degree to which beta-alanine supplementation prevented muscle loss in the dieting wrestlers and even stimulated lean mass accrual does yet come as a surprise:
The wrestlers, both placebo and supplement, lost weight (as was the goal, i.e., weight bracket allowance); however, the supplement group increased lean mass by 1.1 lb, whereas the placebo group lost lean mass (-0.98 lb).
Although in a different context (mass building vs. dieting) a similar beneficial effect on muscle hypertrophy was observed in the (calorically obviously not restricted) football players, where supplementation increased lean mass gains by 1lb over placebo (beta-alanine +2.1lb vs. placebo: +1.1lb).

Overall, these results are of twofold significance: For one, they confirm the results of previous studies that showed statistically significant performance increases even in trained athletes. On the other hand, Kern and Robinson's results underline the initially referenced hypothesis that beta-alanine is "the creatine of athletes with weight classes", as it does facilitate performance increases and muscle gain without water retention or otherwise unwanted weight gain. What else could athletes and fitness models ask for?