Beta-Alanine supplements are not only useful for athletes. Scientists at the University of Central Florida discovered that soldiers function better too if they take beta-alanine. It helps them shoot sharper in combat situations.
Beta-Alanine is an eccentric amino acid, found in small quantities in food, and also made in small quantities in the body. It’s also different from L-alanine, a non-essential amino acid that the body can make by converting other amino acids. Alanine also goes by the name of alpha-alanine and if you want to be completely correct it’s L-alpha-alanine.
When enzymes attach beta-alanine to histidine – an amino acid that we consume in large quantities through our food – the dipeptide carnosine is created.
Carnosine has a wide range of functions, one of which is to neutralise acids and maintain the body’s pH balance. The more carnosine there is in your muscles, the longer you can keep up intensive exercise during which lactic acid is released. It takes longer for the lactic acid build up to get to the point where you can no longer contract your muscles.
Beta-Alanine supplementation is effective for intensive forms of continuous exercise that last longer than one minute but not longer than four minutes. Military operations also involve this kind of exertion, so the researchers were curious to know how soldiers would react to beta-alanine supplementation.
To answer the question they did an experiment with 20 male soldiers from an elite unit in the Israel Defense Forces. The subjects were given 6 g beta-alanine daily for four weeks, or a placebo. Before and after the supplementation period the soldiers had to complete a trail that involved 4 km running, followed by five countermovement jumps, a 120-metre sprint, target shooting and finally mental arithmetic.
The supplement had no effect on the sprint times. The soldiers that had taken beta-alanine [BA] did develop more power per kg bodyweight during the countermovement jumps than the soldiers that had been given a placebo [PL].
When the soldiers had to shoot after the sprint, the beta-alanine group scored more hits than the placebo group did. They also shot faster.
The supplement had no effect on the subjects’ ability to do sums, but that may have been because the sums were very easy. If the arithmetic had been more difficult, the beta-alanine may have increased the subjects’ cognitive capacity.
“This study demonstrated that beta-alanine ingestion for 4 weeks in young, healthy soldiers in an elite combat unit can enhance jump power performance, marksmanship and target engagement speed”, the researchers write. “In consideration of the highly intense and fatiguing nature of sustained combat and prolonged military training, ingestion of beta-alanine does appear to provide specific benefits for military personnel.”
B-alanine supplementation improves tactical performance but not cognitive function in combat soldiers.
There are no known studies that have examined ?-alanine supplementation in military personnel. Considering the physiological and potential neurological effects that have been reported during sustained military operations, it appears that ?-alanine supplementation may have a potential benefit in maintaining physical and cognitive performance during high-intensity military activity under stressful conditions. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of 28 days of ?-alanine ingestion in military personnel while fatigued on physical and cognitive performance.
Twenty soldiers (20.1?±?0.9 years) from an elite combat unit were randomly assigned to either a ?-alanine (BA) or placebo (PL) group. Soldiers were involved in advanced military training, including combat skill development, navigational training, self-defense/hand-to-hand combat and conditioning. All participants performed a 4-km run, 5-countermovement jumps using a linear position transducer, 120-m sprint, a 10-shot shooting protocol with assault rifle, including overcoming a misfire, and a 2-min serial subtraction test to assess cognitive function before (Pre) and after (Post) 28 days of supplementation.
The training routine resulted in significant increases in 4-km run time for both groups, but no between group differences were seen (p?=?0.597). Peak jump power at Post was greater for BA than PL (p?=?0.034), while mean jump power for BA at Post was 10.2% greater (p?=?0.139) than PL. BA had a significantly greater (p?=?0.012) number of shots on target at Post (8.2?±?1.0) than PL (6.5?±?2.1), and their target engagement speed at Post was also significantly faster (p?=?0.039). No difference in serial subtraction performance was seen between the groups (p?=?0.844).
Results of this study indicate that 4-weeks of ?-alanine ingestion in young, healthy soldiers did not impact cognitive performance, but did enhance power performance, marksmanship and target engagement speed from pre-ingestion levels.
PMID: 24716994 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3983672