Beta Alanine Fails to HIIT Back: No Increased Training Effect in Response to Nine 4x4 Min HIIT Workouts W/ BA Preload, But Evidence in Favor of Chronic Supplementation
|Contemporary scientific evidence suggest that you have to pick the right type of (short intense) exercise if you don't want your beta alanine supplement to end up as another "false starter" in your closet.|
The most recent BA study from the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport in Switzerland and the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden is yet another rather disappointing BA study to support my previous assertion that the benefits for the average gymrat are largely overblown.
What did the researchers do
As Gross et al. point out, the aim of their two-part intervention study was to alter the physiological systems discussed above in ways that could improve severe exercise performance. In that, their hypotheses were that
If we look at the results of previous studies, it appears that the question, whether BA ↪ promotes or ↪ blunts the ergogenic effects of baking soda does also depend on the type of exercise.
- ... beta-alanine supplementation, by increasing intramuscular carnosine, would improve buffering capacity and reduce pH disturbance, or otherwise dampen muscle fatigue during severe cycling exercise; and
- ... prior supplementation with beta-alanine would allow for greater training load and better recovery during HIIT,which would enhance benefits of training on physiological determinants of severe exercise performance.
- * supplements were provided as 400-mg gel capsules and taken with the 3 main meals and before bed4 x 800mg/day "purified beta alanine"* (BA), or
- 4 x 800mg/day maltedextrin (PLA),
Let's take a look at the results
I guess, it doesn't make sense to keep you on the tenderhooks any longer, so let's see what happened during and after the obligatory nine 4 x 4 minute interval HIIT sessions on a cycle ergometer (10 min warm-up; heart rate 90-95% of max; 3min light cycling between intervals).
|Simply taking your beta alanine supplements with food increases the absorption of BA more effectively than fancy "time-release" caps or tablets | read more|
|Figure 1: Changes in VO2max, peak power output, max. blood lactate, and power at second ventilatory threshold in from baseline (pre) to post-supplementation (before HIIT) and from baseline (pre) to the end of the study (after HIIT +7-days)|
It is difficult to say if the overall effect size is the reason that there were no significant inter-group differences. Since there were not differences at all (not even borderline or non-significant ones), it is however unlikely that a longer study duration and correspondingly more pronounced increases in VO2Max, peak power and co, as well as the likewise identical post workout glycogen synthesis and muscle fiber cross-sectional area would have yielded a significant advantage on part of the BA supplemented trainees. The fact that the increases in skeletal muscle buffering capacity reached significance only in the placebo group, would even support the exact opposite hypothesis, i.e. more pronounced long-term adaptive effects without beta alanine supplementation.
In my humble opinion this is not the case. Not necessarily because I feel that BA is a supplemental non-starter, but rather in view of its exercise- / duration-specificity, of which Hobson et al. wrote in their 2012 meta-analysis that it restricts the usefulness of beta alanine to sports where the overall duration of high intensity muscular contractions is longer than 60s, but shorter than 240s. This is a pretty narrow margin and even within this "performance zone" the mean effect size of 2.85% does not come remotely close to what you'd expect to see when you read the boastful promises in the "write-ups" of the supplement industry.
- Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):25-37.
- Gross M, Boesch C, Bolliger CS, Norman B, Gustafsson T, Hoppeler H, Vogt M. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation and interval training on physiological determinants of severe exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Nov 9. [Epub ahead of print]