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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

β-alanine supplementation improves tactical performance but not cognitive function in combat soldiers

Jay R Hoffman1*, Geva Landau2, Jeffrey R Stout1, Matan Dabora2, Daniel S Moran23, Nurit Sharvit4, Mattan W Hoffman2, Yuval Ben Moshe2, William P McCormack1, Gil Hirschhorn2 and Ishay Ostfeld2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Exercise Physiology and Wellness, Sport and Exercise Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA

2 Israel Defense Force, Medical Corps, Tel Hashomer, Israel

3 School of Health Science, Ariel University, Center of Samaria, Ariel, Israel

4 Israel Defense Forces, Combat Fitness Branch, Netanya, Israel

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Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2014, 11:15  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-15

Published: 10 April 2014

Abstract

Background

There are no known studies that have examined β-alanine supplementation in military personnel. Considering the physiological and potential neurological effects that have been reported during sustained military operations, it appears that β-alanine supplementation may have a potential benefit in maintaining physical and cognitive performance during high-intensity military activity under stressful conditions. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of 28 days of β-alanine ingestion in military personnel while fatigued on physical and cognitive performance.

Methods

Twenty soldiers (20.1 ± 0.9 years) from an elite combat unit were randomly assigned to either a β-alanine (BA) or placebo (PL) group. Soldiers were involved in advanced military training, including combat skill development, navigational training, self-defense/hand-to-hand combat and conditioning. All participants performed a 4-km run, 5-countermovement jumps using a linear position transducer, 120-m sprint, a 10-shot shooting protocol with assault rifle, including overcoming a misfire, and a 2-min serial subtraction test to assess cognitive function before (Pre) and after (Post) 28 days of supplementation.

Results

The training routine resulted in significant increases in 4-km run time for both groups, but no between group differences were seen (p = 0.597). Peak jump power at Post was greater for BA than PL (p = 0.034), while mean jump power for BA at Post was 10.2% greater (p = 0.139) than PL. BA had a significantly greater (p = 0.012) number of shots on target at Post (8.2 ± 1.0) than PL (6.5 ± 2.1), and their target engagement speed at Post was also significantly faster (p = 0.039). No difference in serial subtraction performance was seen between the groups (p = 0.844).

Conclusion

Results of this study indicate that 4-weeks of β-alanine ingestion in young, healthy soldiers did not impact cognitive performance, but did enhance power performance, marksmanship and target engagement speed from pre-ingestion levels.

Keywords:
Military performance; Marksmanship; Power; Physical performance; Supplements