Carnosine and Professional Sport

Intensive muscle work leads to the accumulation of lactic acid (excess of H+ ions), there is a significant increase in acidity in the muscles, which causes muscle fatigue, reduction of the strength and endurance, along with slow regeneration. Russian scientist E.S.Severin proved in 1953 that carnosine contributes significantly physicochemical balance of acidity (by buffering) in skeletal muscles, maintaining acid-base balance during intense muscle work. Carnosine represents 30% of the total buffer capacity of the organism. Recent studies have confirmed that increased concentrations of carnosine leads to increased buffering capacity of H+ ions, which means that carnosine regulates (buffers) intracellular acidity (pH). The important fact is that carnosine exhibits this property and when is taken before exercise.

It is generally known that the accumulation of lactic acid in the working muscles causes a decrease of pH values, i.e. increased acidification, leading to muscle fatigue, and even pause. Reduction of the concentration of carnosine throughout life leads to the suppression of muscle strength and endurance. L-carnosine supplementation increases its concentration, thus causing more rapid recovery, increased strength, resistance, endurance and rapid regeneration.

L-carnosine helps the work of the so-called calcium pump sarcoplasmic reticulum of muscle cells and maintains open channels of calcium. The pump stops working due to lack of carnosine, calcium channels close as a result of increased acidification, increased lipid peroxidation and accumulation of malondialdehyde (MDA). Carnosine prevents the development of these adverse reactions and represents an ideal natural supplement in the sport. Carnosine is not a doping substance. In the sport and bodybuilding carnosine is also involved in the detoxification of reactive aldehydes formed by lipid peroxidation during muscle work.

Numerous studies confirmed that carnosine protects muscles from injury, increases their strength, resistance, endurance and accelerates regeneration. The above-mentioned features of carnosine are also explored from the perspective of the quantity that can cause those results. Studies have shown that a minimum amount that causes the cessation of lipid peroxidation is 2.5 mM and 1.0 mM for the prevention of carbonylation. These concentrations are achieved after a few months carnosine supplementation (according to a study to 13 months). Supplements containing 1.8% of carnosine increase for 5 times the concentration in the muscles after only 8 weeks.

Human athletes involved in anaerobic sports such as sprinters and bodybuilders have been found to have higher intramuscular concentrations of carnosine. Exercise training has been reported to increase resting muscle carnosine concentrations in these athlete types. For example, some researchers reported that exercise training increased the plasma carnosinase activity and decreased carnosine excretion leading to greater muscle carnosine concentrations.

Several studies have reported that Carnosine can increase high-intensity exercise performance, lean muscle gains, increase VO2 max and speed up training adaptations. The mechanism behind these effects are not fully understood but are at least partly attributable to Carnosine’s ability to increase muscle buffering capacity.

Carnosine in sports is a relatively recent and growing area of research. It carries potential beneficial effects with high-intensity exercise including anaerobic sprints and resistance training. There is also the potential for additive effects of carnosine, along with other substances, to further enhance the possible ergogenic effects.