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The Secret Weapon Against Lactic Acid in Horses!

Performance horses are valuable assets, and their physical and mental health is crucial to their success in competitions. Horse owners and trainers are always searching for ways to enhance their horses’ performance and ensure their overall well-being. One such substance that has gained popularity in recent years is beta-alanine. 

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that has been found to improve exercise performance in horses. This article will discuss beta-alanine and its effects on performance horses.

What is Beta Alanine?

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is naturally present in the body. It is used to produce carnosine, which is stored in the muscles. Carnosine is a dipeptide made up of beta-alanine and histidine, and it helps to buffer acid produced during high-intensity exercise. Beta-alanine is not found in high amounts in typical equine diets, and supplementation via a Beta Alanine supplement may be necessary to enhance carnosine levels in the muscles.

When horses exercise, their muscles produce lactic acid as a by-product. This lactic acid lowers the pH of the muscles, making them more acidic, which can lead to fatigue and a decrease in performance. Beta-alanine is used by the body to create a molecule called carnosine, which acts as a buffer to help neutralize the lactic acid and maintain a stable pH level in the muscles.

For example, imagine a horse running a race. As the horse runs, its muscles produce lactic acid, which begins to accumulate and lower the pH of the muscles. However, if the horse has sufficient levels of carnosine, which can be increased through beta-alanine supplementation, the carnosine can help to neutralize the lactic acid, maintaining a stable pH level in the muscles. This helps to delay the onset of muscle fatigue, allowing the horse to continue running for longer periods of time with less discomfort and improved performance.

Benefits of Beta Alanine in Horses

  1. Delayed onset of muscle fatigue

One of the significant benefits of beta-alanine is its ability to delay the onset of muscle fatigue. During high-intensity exercise, the body produces lactic acid, which leads to a drop in pH levels in the muscles. This decrease in pH causes muscle fatigue and limits the horse’s performance. Carnosine, which is synthesized from beta-alanine, acts as a buffer by neutralizing the lactic acid and maintaining a stable pH level in the muscles. This delay in muscle fatigue can lead to better performance and endurance in horses.

  1. Improved exercise capacity

Studies have shown that horses supplemented with beta-alanine have an increased exercise capacity compared to those not supplemented. A study conducted by Harris et al. (2006) found that horses supplemented with beta-alanine had a 13% increase in their time to exhaustion compared to the control group. The increased exercise capacity can lead to better performance in competitions and reduce the risk of injury due to fatigue.

  1. Improved muscle recovery

Beta-alanine supplementation has been found to improve muscle recovery after high-intensity exercise. The production of carnosine in the muscles helps to reduce muscle damage caused by exercise-induced oxidative stress. This reduced muscle damage leads to faster recovery times and reduced muscle soreness, allowing the horse to return to training and competition more quickly.

  1. Improved heart function

Studies have shown that beta-alanine supplementation can improve heart function in horses. The production of carnosine in the heart muscle has been found to improve cardiac output, leading to increased blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles. This improved heart function can lead to better endurance and overall performance in horses.

  1. Reduces muscle acidosis / tying up risk

Muscle acidosis is a condition where the pH levels in the muscles drop due to the production of lactic acid during exercise. This drop in pH can lead to muscle fatigue and limit performance. Beta-alanine supplementation has been found to reduce muscle acidosis by increasing carnosine levels in the muscles. The increased carnosine acts as a buffer, neutralizing the lactic acid and maintaining a stable pH level in the muscles. Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to improve muscle function and reduce oxidative stress in horses with recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER), also known as tying-up.

How To Reduce Lactic Acid Build Up In Horses

Beta-alanine supplementation has several benefits for performance horses,  including delayed onset of muscle fatigue, improved exercise capacity, improved muscle recovery, improved heart function, and reduced muscle acidosis. 

One of the best quality horse supplements is CEN Beta Alanine – Lactic Acid Buffer which is a high grade, 100% pure Beta-Alanine. It is also important to note the correct feed rate for your training intensity to get the best results. Combining Beta-alanine throughout the period of training for competition, can be very powerful for improving the performance and overall health of performance horses.

By Bryan Meggitt (BMedSc. PGCrtMedSc.)
Blood Scientist and Co-founder of CEN Horse Nutrition

References:

  1. Art T., Lekeux P. (2007). Exercise-induced physiological adjustments to stressful conditions in sports horses. Vet J, 174(1), 45-53.
  2. Dunnett M, Harris RC. Influence of oral beta-alanine and L-histidine supplementation on the carnosine content of the gluteus medius. Equine Vet J Suppl. 1999 Jul;(30):499-504. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.1999.tb05273.x. PMID: 10659307.
  3. Harris, R. C., Tallon, M. J., Dunnett, M., Boobis, L., Coakley, J., Kim, H. J., … & Wise, J. A. (2006). The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids, 30(3), 279-289.
  4. Hill, C. A., Harris, R. C., Kim, H. J., Harris, B. D., Sale, C., Boobis, L. H., & Kim, C. K. (2007). Influence of β-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids, 32(2), 225-233.
  5. Van den Hoven, R., & Hinchcliff, K. W. (2002). Nutritional supplements for performance horses. The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Equine Practice, 18(2), 409-421.

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