Regular athletes benefit from taking beta-alanine if their sport involves movements lasting longer than one minute. So beta-alanine has no significant effect on sprints lasting just a few seconds. Researchers at Nottingham Trent University came to this conclusion in a meta-study.
The researchers will soon publish the results of their study in Amino Acids. They gathered data from 15 previously published studies and analysed them again. The analysis doesn't say much about the effects of beta-alanine on strength athletes, however. Although there are a few studies which suggest that beta-alanine has a positive effect on strength athletes, the British researchers did not consider them convincing enough.
The researchers did find one study on (novice) bodybuilders that matched the requirements for their analysis, but the positive effects reported in that study were not statistically significant. Another study that the researchers included was one on wrestlers, where the researchers looked at how long the athletes could hang on a pull-up bar. These are the only two studies in which the subjects were strength athletes: possibly a little meagre for reaching a conclusion on the usefulness of beta-alanine for strength athletes.
In most of the studies that earned approval from the Brits the subjects had to cycle. So the meta-analysis says more about the use of beta-alanine by regular athletes.
The researchers discovered that beta-alanine supplementation did not improve exercise performance, but it did improve exercise capacity. Put simply, this means that beta-alanine won't boost your maximum speed per minute, but that it will help you keep your maximum speed up for longer.
The researchers draw a second, logical, conclusion: beta-alanine doesn't have a positive effect on exertions that last less than 60 seconds. The amino acid achieves the best results for exertions that last between 60 and 240 seconds.
Amino Acids. 2012 Jan 24. [Epub ahead of print].