What is Carnosine?
Carnosine is a protein-building block. It is a dipeptide and consists of two amino acids- beta-alanine and histidine.
It plays several crucial functions in the body and is found in the muscles, brain, heart, and other body organs.
Carnosine mainly comes from animal sources such as beef, turkey, chicken, and organic meats.
Dairy, cheese, and eggs also contain small amounts of carnosine.
What Functions Does Carnosine Perform in the Body?
Note that your body breaks down carnosine quickly. β-alanine is a precursor for carnosine.
So instead of using carnosine directly, several studies use β-alanine instead.
Here is what research suggests about the potential benefits of carnosine.
#1: Carnosine Boosts Athletic Performance
There are different ways carnosine can boost athletic performance.
The foremost effect of carnosine is its ability to act as a pH buffer.
Your muscles rely on anaerobic metabolism during exercise, which increases the acid build-up in the muscles and causes fatigue.
Carnosine helps buffer that acid.
Also, it helps in regulating the amount and action of calcium used during muscle contraction.
It supports energy generation by promoting the breakdown of sugars. Finally, it is a potent antioxidant and helps in the oxidative damage of the muscles commonly seen after exercise (1).
All of these effects of carnosine allow you to extend endurance, build muscle strength, sharpen mental focus, and enhance peak performance.
In a Belgian Randomized Control Trial (RCT), researchers studied the effects of β-alanine (a precursor to carnosine) supplementation (5g/day) on the muscle carnosine levels and athletic performance in elite rowers.
Results after 7 weeks showed that compared to the placebo, the β-alanine group had higher muscle carnosine levels.
Also, after supplementation, the β-alanine group was 4.3 s faster compared to the placebo (2).
Similarly, researchers at the University of Milan, Italy studied the effects of carnosine and β-alanine supplementation on isometric force and jumping performance in athletes.
In this RCT, the participants used 2 g/day β-alanine and 2g/day carnosine or a placebo.
Results showed that the β-alanine and carnosine group jumped 6% higher and had 15% more muscle contractions compared to the placebo group (3).
Bill et al. noted changes in muscle carnosine content and an increase in athletic performance after 10 weeks of β-alanine supplementation in a group of cyclists.
Results showed that β-alanine supplementation (4-6.4g/day) increased muscle carnosine content by 80% and increased the physical ability to cycle by 13% (4).
# 2: Carnosine Improves Recovery After Workout
Physical activity can lead to physical and mental exhaustion that manifests as delayed recovery, muscle fatigue, and reduced physical activity.
Carnosine can normalize muscle acidity, enhance oxygen utilization during and after workouts, and detox oxidative stress.
These effects allow carnosine to improve recovery after a workout.
Research at the São Paulo State University, Brazil noted the effects of β-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine levels and its ability to promote recovery in a group of athletes.
The athletes were given 6.4 g β-alanine/day and were subjected to a program comprising High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
The recovery was assessed by evaluating the athletes’ ability to do vertical jumps and isometric muscle contractions after the HIIT workout sessions.
The β-alanine group showed significant improvement in the muscle carnosine concentration.
That group also had superior recovery with more vertical jumps and isometric muscle contractions performed after the HIIT workout compared to the placebo (5).
# 3: Role of Carnosine in Health and Disease
In addition to improving athletic ability and recovery, the use of carnosine can help in a variety of health conditions as well. These include:
Neurons (the brain cells) are sensitive and cannot regenerate.
An increase in oxidative stress wreaks havoc on the health of your neurons and other types of nerve cells.
An early and accelerated decline in the number of neurons leads to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia.
In a trial, researchers studied the effects of giving 1.5 g carnosine/day on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Individuals using carnosine in addition to their routine Parkinson’s medication experienced a 36% improvement in their clinical symptoms compared to 16% in the medication-only group (6).
Effects on Diabetes:
Diabetes is a multi-system condition that results from the inability of the body to process glucose appropriately.
The excessive amount of sugar leads to the production of toxic substances called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
These AGEs can affect your heart, eyes, kidneys, brain, and other body organs.
Carnosine helps improve diabetic control by improving the body’s ability to utilize glucose.
In addition, it has a potent antioxidant action and helps scavenge AGEs.
A systematic review that summarized 4 human randomized control trials noted that carnosine supplementation was a useful adjuvant in diabetes management. It reduced baseline blood sugar levels and helped reduce HbA1C levels by 1% (7).
Effects on Aging:
Aging, especially skin aging, is a complex process involving the breakdown of body tissues as a response to the toxic build-up in the body.
Due to its antioxidant action, carnosine can help reverse signs of aging including the visible signs of skin aging.
In a randomized control trial, researchers studied the effects of a multi-ingredient face mask that had carnosine as one of the main ingredients.
They noted a 15.9 percent improvement in skin hydration, a 17.6 percent increment in skin elasticity, and some improvement in wrinkle depth (8).
Effects on Sleep Disorders:
Another way carnosine can help improve physical health and recovery is due to its effects on improving sleep.
In a Randomized Control Trial, researchers noted that using 500 mg of carnosine per day significantly reduced the frequency and intensity of sleep disorders and helped autistic children sleep better (9).
What are the Side Effects of Carnosine?
Carnosine is generally safe to use.
The most common side effects include headache, stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.
You should use it with caution if you have diabetes and taking anti-diabetes medication as it can further lower your blood sugar levels.
Carnosine is a supercharged protein building block that is scientifically proven to improve athletic performance and enhance recovery. In addition, due to its variety of health effects, it can improve overall well-being and can have anti-aging effects.
1- Jukić I, Kolobarić N, Stupin A, Matić A, Kozina N, Mihaljević Z, Mihalj M, Šušnjara P, Stupin M, Ćurić ŽB, Selthofer-Relatić K, Kibel A, Lukinac A, Kolar L, Kralik G, Kralik Z, Széchenyi A, Jozanović M, Galović O, Medvidović-Kosanović M, Drenjančević I. Carnosine, Small but Mighty-Prospect of Use as Functional Ingredient for Functional Food Formulation. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Jun 28;10(7):1037
- Baguet A, Bourgois J, Vanhee L, Achten E, Derave W. Important role of muscle carnosine in rowing performance. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Oct;109(4):1096-101. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00141.2010
- Invernizzi PL, Limonta E, Riboli A, Bosio A, Scurati R, Esposito F. Effects of Acute Carnosine and β-Alanine on Isometric Force and Jumping Performance. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016 Apr;11(3):344-9.
- 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 Feb;32(2):225-33.
- Milioni F, de Poli RAB, Saunders B, Gualano B, da Rocha AL, Sanchez Ramos da Silva A, Muller PTG, Zagatto AM. Effect of β-alanine supplementation during high-intensity interval training on repeated sprint ability performance and neuromuscular fatigue. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2019 Dec 1;127(6):1599-1610.
- Boldyrev A, Fedorova T, Stepanova M, et al. Carnosine increases the efficiency of DOPA therapy of Parkinson’s disease. Rejuv Res. 2008. 11:988–99
- Matthews JJ, Dolan E, Swinton PA, Santos L, Artioli GG, Turner MD, Elliott-Sale KJ, Sale C. Effect of Carnosine or β-Alanine Supplementation on Markers of Glycemic Control and Insulin Resistance in Humans and Animals: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Adv Nutr. 2021 Dec 1;12(6):2216-2231
- Guaitolini E, Cavezzi A, Cocchi S, Colucci R, Urso SU, Quinzi V. Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study of a Nutraceutical Based on Hyaluronic Acid, L-carnosine, and Methylsulfonylmethane in Facial Skin Aesthetics and Well-being. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019 Apr;12(4):40-45.
- Mehrazad-Saber Z, Kheirouri S, Noorazar SG. Effects of l-Carnosine Supplementation on Sleep Disorders and Disease Severity in Autistic Children: A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2018 Jul;123(1):72-77.