Sometimes, not often, being a highly trained individual has its downsides. It’s harder to stay seated on long flights, maybe. Or trying to answer all the bros’ questions in the gym gets tedious. But perhaps the strangest downside of being an incredibly fit specimen is the fact that some incredibly beneficial supplements don’t work as well in a highly trained body as they do in a less highly trained body.
Or so scientists thought. Take beta-alanine, for example. An amino acid that has grown in popularity because it helps increase strength and endurance during weight training, beta-alanine combines with histidine in the body to form carnosine. Carnosine helps maintain normal muscle pH, keeping acidity low during high-intensity lactate-pumping exercise. As a result, you can work harder longer, cranking out more reps with more weight or doing endurance events like cycling at a higher intensity level. Sounds awesome, right? And yet studies also showed that because a highly trained muscle is pretty efficient at buffering its own acidity, beta-alanine had a limited effect on gym rats.
So a new study, conducted at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, looked at that exact question. Researchers divided 40 men into groups based on whether they were exceptionally well-trained (in this case, as high-level endurance cyclists) or were merely recreationally active. In both groups, some were given beta-alanine and some got a placebo. After four weeks, during which subjects followed their usual workouts and diet plans, both beta-alanine groups demonstrated significant improvement in performance in cycling, indicating that the amino is beneficial regardless of training experience.
The best way to test these results is to try it yourself. Take 1 to 1.5 grams of beta-alanine before and after workouts — and consider giving some to your couch-potato friends to get them off their ever-widening rears. According to this data, it should work just as well for them.