Improving Performance With Carnosine

Carnosine, a dipeptide made up of the amino acids alanine and histidine (histidyl-alanine) has many beneficial effects. It has been shown to have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, increase performance, increase healing, enhance the immune system, and provide anti-aging effects.1,2,3,4,5,6,7

It also inhibits glycation, a destructive protein/sugar reaction that occurs in the body and which contributes to aging through a number of mechanisms including the breakdown of connective tissue, a loss of elasticity, and a decrease in cellular hydration. Carnosine, along with alpha lipoic acid, provides protection against glycation and premature aging.

Carnosine has beneficial effects on exercise performance by helping to overcome muscle fatigue, likely due to its effectiveness as a buffering agent and perhaps its antioxidant, chelating, and enzyme regulating effects.8

Carnosine levels tend to be higher in athletes such as sprintersi9,10 and in bodybuilders11. These studies also show that intramuscular carnosine may be an effective physiological H+ buffer and that there is a significant relationship between the carnosine concentration in human skeletal muscle and high intensity exercise performance. A recent study found that beta-alanine supplementation increased muscle carnosine levels12 and resulted in an improvement in exercise performance.13

However, since dietary carnosine is absorbed across intestinal epithelial cells, using carnosine itself is a more direct approach to increasing carnosine levels compared to using beta alanine, which is used in producing endogenous carnosine.


  1. Nagai K, Suda T. Immunoregulative effects of carnosine and beta-alanine. J. Physiol. Soc Jap 1986;48:564-571.
  2. Boldyrev A, Johnson P. Carnosine and related compounds: antioxidant dipeptides. In: P. Johnson and A. Boldyrev, Editors, Oxidative Stress at Molecular, Cellular and Organ Levels, Res. Signpost 2002;101-114.
  3. Nagai K, Suda T, Kawasaki K, Mathuura S. Action of carnosine and beta-alanine on wound healing. Surgery. 1986;100(5):815-21.
  4. Wang AM, Ma C, Xie ZH, et al. Use of carnosine as a natural anti-senescence drug for human beings. Biochemistry (Mosc) 2000;65(7):869-71.
  5. Zakharchenko MV, Temnov AV, Kondrashova MN. Effect of carnosine on self-organization of mitochondrial assemblies in rat liver homogenate. Biochemistry (Mosc). 2003;68(9):1002-5.
  6. Stvolinsky SL, Dobrota D. Anti-ischemic activity of carnosine. Biochemistry (Mosc) 2000;65(7):849-55.
  7. Hipkiss AR. On the enigma of carnosine's anti-ageing actions. Exp Gerontol. 2009 Apr;44(4):237-42.
  8. Begum G, Cunliffe A, Leveritt M. Physiological role of carnosine in contracting muscle. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005 Oct;15(5):493-514.Links
  9. Parkhouse WS, McKenzie DC, Hochachka PW, Ovalle WK. Buffering capacity of deproteinized human vastus lateralis muscle. J Appl Physiol 1985;58:14–17.
  10. Susuki Y, Ito O, Takahashi H, Takamatsu K (2004) The effect of sprint training on skeletal muscle carnosine in humans. Int J Sport Health Sci 2: 105–110.
  11. Tallon MJ, Harris RC, Boobis L, Fallowfield J, Wise JA (2005) The carnosine content of vastus lateralis is elevated in resistance trained bodybuilders. J Strength Condit Res 19: 725–729.
  12. Harris RC, Tallon MJ, Dunnett M, Boobis L, Coakley J, Kim HJ, Fallowfield JL, Hill CA, Sale C, Wise JA. The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids. 2006;30(3):279-89.
  13. Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids. 2007;32(2):225-33.