Beta-Alanine Supplementation for Hockey Players

Today we have a guest post on beta-alanine supplementation for hockey players from Danielle LaFata, MA, RD, CSSD, CPT, who is one of the nutritionists that does a lot of work with hockey players at Athletes Performance. I’ve started recommending beta-alanine to more of our players at Endeavor and they love it. It seems to help them push through their conditioning work.

Enter Danielle:

“Hockey demands the need for quickness, agility, performing at a high intensity, quick recovery, muscular endurance as well as coordination and strength. Also, delaying the onset of fatigue is key to maintaining performance levels.  Fatigue can be classified through a decrease in energy stores such as ATP, phosphocreatine and glycogenic substrates as well as accumulation of metabolites for instance ADP, inorganic phosphate, hydrogen ions (H+), and magnesium.

During high intensity activities, such as hockey, the glycolytic and phosphagen systems are used resulting in metabolic breakdown products such as increases in hydrogen ions leading to metabolic acidosis.  When the body cannot clear the hydrogen ions quickly enough they bind with pyruvate to produce lactic acid.  Excessive increases in blood lactate have been shown to hinder performance with a concomitant decrease in coordination and skill.  Athletes are no stranger to the burning sensation brought on from lactic acid.  In order to help regulate lactic acid levels researchers have found a compound called carnosine, which can buffer this rise in hydrogen ions, thus increasing parameters such time to fatigue and VO2 max/oxygen uptake.

Carnosine is a di-peptide that is formed by the amino acids beta-alanine(BA) and histidine.  Not only has it been found to decrease hydrogen ion production, ultimately increasing pH levels, but also acts as an antioxidant, inhibits protein glycation and because of its hydrogen ion buffering it may augment excitation-contraction coupling improving work output.  Although it is carnosine that ultimately improves work capacity through the listed functions, it is the non-proteogenic amino acid, beta-alanine (BA), that needs to be consumed in order to increase intramuscular and plasma carnosine levels.

Although there are no studies to date on the use of beta-alanine on hockey players, we can deduce from the current literature that BA may be a beneficial ergogenic aid.  Many studies have shown oral doses of BA at 4-6 grams per day, in divided doses, improved total work done, time to exhaustion and VO2 max.  There have also been a few studies showing benefits on performance when combining beta-alanine and creatine.  However, BA needs to be taken for a minimum of 30 days, in order for carnosine to saturate the muscle and be effective.  The beta-alanine we use and find effective is a brand called Carnosyn® and comes in tablet form. “

Zoeller RF, et al. Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion.  Amino Acids. 2007;33:505-510.
Smith AE, et al.  Effects of beta-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval training on endurance performance and body composition in men; a double-blind trial. JISSN. 2009;6:5.

Hoffman JR, et al.  Short-duration β-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutr Res. 2008;28:31-35.

Stout JR, et al.  Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on the physical working capacity at neuromuscular fatigue threshold.  J Str Cond Res.  2006;20:4.

Hill CA, et al.  Influence of b-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity.  Amino Acids.  2007;32:225-233.

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