Carnosyn® can increase carnosine muscle stores and has been clinically shown to delay muscle fatigue.
Carnosyn is a combination of natural amino acids, such as carnosine, that are frequently included in workout supplements. This review details the advantages of this brand over similar supplements, including the following:
- Clinically researched. There are at least 55 clinical trials evaluating the safety and effectiveness of Carnosyn as a supplement.
- Patented. Carnosyn is covered by many international patents, although the validity of several of these has been questioned.
Carnosyn is a branded variation of the naturally occurring compound carnosine manufactured by American nutritional company Natural Alternatives International (NAI). Carnosine is composed of the amino acids beta alanine and histidine, and is present in the brain and muscles. In addition to carnosine, Carnosyn contains the amino acid glycine.
The unique composition of beta alanine and glycine within Carnosyn is what gives the supplement an edge over similar products. Collectively, this combination of amino acids may help prolong anaerobic muscle activity and possibly improve muscle recovery. Furthermore, its most recent version, SR Carnosyn, utilizes a sustained-release mechanism to extend the absorption time of Carnosyn in the body. This increases peak concentrations of beta alanine and glycine in the muscles.
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts most commonly use Carnosyn for high-intensity and long-duration exercises such as body building, since these activities often lead to muscle soreness and breakdown. Carnosyn may help minimize the muscle burn and discomfort caused by lactic acid buildup.
How Carnosyn Works
Multiple clinical studies have affirmed that ingesting the supplement dramatically increases carnosine levels in the muscles.1 However, the precise mechanism behind Carnosyn’s capacity to improve physical performance is still undergoing investigation.
Current research suggests that having a sufficient quantity of Carnosyn in the muscles allows it to act as a buffer to a common consequence of exercise known as catabolism. Increasing stores of Carnosyn may thus be able to delay muscle fatigue and enhance endurance, as well as potentially boost physical working capacity.
Another proposed mechanism of Carnosyn is that its contents have antioxidant properties that could prolong exercise by reduce the negative consequences of oxidative stress.
Anaerobic working capacity
NAI has received approval for multiple patents in several different countries protecting Carnosyn, including U.S. patents 7504376, 9668994, and 9907770, and Canadian patent 2521987. They claim that Carnosyn is able to increase carnosine concentrations in the muscles and subsequently boost the muscles’ anaerobic working capacity.
The sustained-release version of Carnosyn is also protected by more than a dozen international patents, including U.S. patent 8329207, China patent 101309688, and Europe patent 1883406. The patents report that SR Carnosyn releases beta alanine and other amino acids gradually, minimizing the occurrence of unwanted adverse side effects.
Carnosyn has been plagued by numerous imitation beta alanine products for workout supplementation over the past several years. Seeking to combat these alleged infringements, NAI has issued lawsuits against dozens of supplement manufacturers and raw material importers.
In a September 2017 case, however, a California judge ruled against NAI and invalidated at least 5 of the company’s patents covering Carnosyn. The judge stated that the patents were ineligible due to the fundamental concept of Carnosyn being based on a natural phenomenon. In other words, the patents were deemed ineligible since they attempt to assert ownership over amino acids that are readily found in nature.
Responding to the verdict, NAI said it would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, with the argument that no other court in the U.S. has invalidated a human dietary supplement patent for the reason discussed.
Carnosyn Nutritional Supplement Uses
The large reserve of beta alanine and glycine in Carnosyn makes the supplement ideal for pre-workout supplementation. Taking it before exercising fills muscles with carnosine and allows muscles to keep working at optimal levels for a longer duration than normal, according to several clinical trials. Potential benefits of taking Carnosyn include the following:
- Enhancing peak performance
- Maintaining muscle endurance
- Reducing lactic acid buildup and muscle fatigue
- Supporting healthy muscles
Though not as common, post-workout supplementation with Carnosyn is a potential option. Taking the supplement can indirectly improve muscle recovery since it delays the onset of fatigue.
Carnosyn has several notable advantages compared with generic carnosine supplements, including the following:
- Clinical research: Many clinical studies have shown Carnosyn to be safe and effective for workout supplementation.
- Patents: The product holds approval for various international patents, although they may not continue to be valid in the U.S. depending on the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
- Sustained release: The newest iteration of Carnosyn involves a sustained-release mechanism that allows it to steadily replenish carnosine stores in the muscles over time. NAI claims that this design helps improve the supplement’s safety.
Among hundreds of clinical trials evaluating beta alanine, dozens have specifically assessed the potential benefits of Carnosyn on workout supplementation. Most of the studies’ authors agree that Carnosyn imparts some degree of positive influence on exercise capacity, though the effects appear to be short-lived. A selection from this research is detailed below.
In this double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 18 elite combat soldiers took either 2 g of Carnosyn, 3 times a day or a placebo during a 30-day period in which they performed military exercises and mental tasks. The Carnosyn group had statistically significant increases in muscle carnosine content and decreases in fatigue compared with the placebo group. There were no notable differences between the groups for most of the exercise, but the Carnosyn group did have a markedly enhanced ability to carry another person for 50 meters as well as improvements in cognitive performance.
- The researchers concluded that “β-alanine ingestion in soldiers of an elite combat unit can increase muscle carnosine content and improve 50-m casualty carry time.”2
In this double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 18 seniors (60 to 80 years old) took either 2 servings of 1.6 g of Carnosyn or a placebo every day for 12 weeks. The Carnosyn group had significant improvements in time-to-exhaustion tests compared with the placebo (+36.5% vs +8.6%). There were significant positive correlations between the increase in muscle carnosine content in the calf muscle and the improved time-to-exhaustion.
- The researchers concluded that “beta-alanine supplementation is effective in increasing the muscle carnosine content in the elderly (60–80 years) with improvements in physical exercise capacity.”3
In this double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 20 elite combat soldiers ingested either 2 g of Carnosyn, 3 times a day or a placebo for 28 days. All of the soldiers participated in advanced military training on a daily basis. The Carnosyn group had significant increases peak and average jump power, rifle shots on target, and target engagement speed compared with the placebo. However, there were no major differences between the groups for running time or performance on a math exam.
- The researchers concluded that “β-alanine ingestion in young, healthy soldiers did not impact cognitive performance, but did enhance power performance, marksmanship and target engagement speed.”4
- Successful clinical trials have used between 3.2 – 6.4 g per day for at least 4 weeks.
- Typical Carnosyn supplements come in total daily amounts of 3.2 g.
Supplements in Review Recommendation
- Carnosyn®, 3.2 g.
Carnosyn is a premier workout supplement for delaying muscle fatigue. Research as demonstrated that Carnosyn can enhance various aspects of exercise performance as well as prolong muscle fatigue, making it suitable for pre-workout supplementation. The extent of these benefits continue to be examined in clinical studies.
Start with 1.6 g of Carnosyn, twice daily. We recommend beginning with 1.6 g serving sizes, 2 times a day to take advantage of Carnosyn’s workout benefits without having to deal with minor side effects such as tingling. Research has shown that as much as 6.4 g is safe and effective for daily supplementation.
- Harris RC, et al. Changes in muscle carnosine of subjects with 4 weeks supplementation with a controlled release formulation of beta-alanine (Carnosyn™), and for 6 weeks post. The FASEB Journal. 2009 Apr;23(1). ↩
- Hoffman JR, et al. β-Alanine ingestion increases muscle carnosine content and combat specific performance in soldiers. Amino Acids. 2015;47(3):627-36. ↩
- Favero S, et al. Beta-alanine (Carnosyn™) supplementation in elderly subjects (60–80 years): effects on muscle carnosine content and physical capacity. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):49-56. ↩
- Hoffman JR, et al. β-alanine supplementation improves tactical performance but not cognitive function in combat soldiers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:15. ↩