Each athlete is on a quest for that natural edge, something to help them perform at their personal best. And every so often, nature surprises us with compounds that seem too good to be true. And sometimes, these gems are not just found in exotic plants or rare minerals but right within us. L-carnosine, a dipeptide naturally occurring in the human body, is one such wonder.
While its name might sound like something from a science fiction novel, its real-world benefits are grounded in robust research, from defending our cells against age-related decline to enhancing athletic prowess, L-Carnosine is a marvel waiting to be further appreciated.
Dive in with us as we unravel the myriad of advantages this powerhouse compound offers to both the body and mind, particularly for athletes.
What is L-carnosine?
L-carnosine, also called carnosine or the “longevity molecule,” is a natural substance in the body. Carnosine is a dipeptide—that is, a small molecule composed of two amino acids, histidine and beta-alanine.
This compound is found in high concentrations in the muscle, brain, and gastrointestinal tissues of humans, where energy demands are high. It possesses numerous antioxidant qualities that mitigate the harm caused by the extremely reactive oxygen free radicals. These radicals result from the unchecked oxidation of lipids and sugars often seen in Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes. 
Now let’s take a closer look at how carnosine can benefit athletes.
7 Benefits of L-carnosine for Athletes
1 – Muscle pH Buffering:
L-carnosine acts as a buffer against the acid produced in muscles during intense physical activity. By counteracting muscle acidosis, it helps delay the onset of muscle fatigue and enhances athletic performance, especially during high-intensity, short-duration efforts.
Let’s paint a picture: As you challenge your muscles, they produce reactive hydrogen ions, making the environment more acidic. This drop in muscle pH is what’s responsible for that familiar, fiery sensation athletes and gym-goers often refer to as “feeling the burn.” It signals that our muscles aren’t getting oxygen fast enough to keep pace with their energy needs.
Now, enter L-carnosine. Research has spotlighted its exceptional muscle-buffering capacity, particularly in the human vastus lateralis muscle fibers, thanks to its stellar pKA value. In layman’s terms, L-carnosine is the hero that swoops in, mitigating the effects of this muscle acidity and allowing us to push on for longer. 
2 – Antioxidant Properties
Athletic pursuits, while invigorating, subject the body to intense bouts of oxidative stress. As athletes push their limits, they inadvertently usher in a surge of free radicals—reactive molecules that, left unchecked, can impair cellular health and compromise performance.
This oxidative onslaught doesn’t just strain muscles; it can also prolong recovery periods, slowing down an athlete’s return to their prime form. But nature, in its wisdom, has armed us with L-carnosine. This natural antioxidant neutralizes the torrent of free radicals that exercise introduces. And the benefits don’t stop at the muscular level.
Beyond shielding our muscles, emerging research paints a promising picture of L-carnosine’s role in brain health and improving cognitive function. There’s mounting evidence to suggest that this compound may offer a protective barrier against formidable adversaries like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as many other neurological and psychiatric challenges.
3 – Enhanced Muscle Contractility
Muscle fibers in the human body are broadly categorized into slow-twitch (Type I) and fast-twitch (Type II). Fast-twitch fibers are further divided into Type IIa and Type IIb, with each type having unique properties regarding speed, endurance, and force generation.
L-carnosine’s involvement with muscle contractility primarily concerns these fast-twitch fibers, boosting their sensitivity. This could potentially improve muscle contraction and power output, which is beneficial for sprinters, weightlifters, and other power athletes.
4 – Protection Against Glycation
In the intricate dance of biochemistry, glycation stands out as a process with potential implications for our health and cellular functionality. During glycation, sugar molecules spontaneously attach to proteins, leading to the formation of advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs. 
Over time, these AGEs accumulate and can disrupt the normal functioning of cells, compromising tissue integrity and elasticity. For athletes, this is of paramount concern, especially when it comes to muscle tissues. Muscles, after all, are the engines that power athletic performance.
L-carnosine steps into this arena with its glycation-inhibiting properties. By mitigating the formation of AGEs, L-carnosine plays a protective role, ensuring that muscle proteins maintain their integrity and function. In doing so, it aids athletes in preserving the very tissues that enable them to sprint, jump, lift, and compete at their best.
5 – Improved Bone Health
A solid framework of bones is indispensable, especially for those engaged in high-impact sports where every leap, tackle, or sprint exerts a significant force upon the skeletal structure.
In this demanding environment, bone density and robustness become non-negotiable assets. L-carnosine is believed to play a pivotal role in regulating calcium within the body. Proper calcium balance ensures that bones remain fortified and less susceptible to breakage. 
Additionally, L-carnosine’s renowned antioxidant capabilities offer a shield against oxidative stress that might otherwise weaken bone integrity. By potentially enhancing bone health through these dual actions, L-carnosine offers athletes a better shot at staying injury-free and ensuring that their skeletal system remains as resilient as their spirit.
Bone density and strength are crucial, especially for athletes in high-impact sports. L-carnosine’s potential role in calcium regulation and its antioxidant properties might contribute to healthier bones, reducing the risk of fractures or injuries.
6 – Improved Cardiovascular Health
For endurance athletes, cardiovascular efficiency is paramount. L-carnosine has been suggested to improve heart health by protecting cardiac cells from oxidative damage and potentially supporting better blood flow.
As mentioned above, Oxidation produces unstable chemicals (free radicals) that can damage vital cell molecules, including proteins and DNA. These structures are responsible for many body functions. Oxidation can be accelerated by alcohol, stress, sunlight, pollution, and cigarette smoking. During oxidative stress, L-carnosine protects the heart by reducing lipid peroxidation.
7 – Enhanced Cellular Repair and Recovery
Every athletic endeavor, whether it’s an intense training session or a competition, places significant demands on the body at a cellular level. The natural wear and tear from these activities can lead to cellular damage. L-carnosine, with its unique properties, is believed to expedite the repair and recovery of cells. 
When an athlete undergoes rigorous training, there’s microscopic damage to the muscle fibers, which subsequently need repair and recovery to grow stronger. L-carnosine plays a potential role in accelerating this recovery process, allowing athletes to bounce back faster from strenuous workouts.
Furthermore, speedy recovery reduces downtime between training sessions, enabling athletes to maintain a consistent and intense training regimen. With L-carnosine in the mix, athletes might find that they’re not only recovering faster but also experiencing fewer muscle soreness episodes, making each training session more effective and efficient.
The accelerated cellular repair and reduced inflammation potentially offered by L-carnosine can be a game-changer, especially for athletes who are always on the hunt for strategies to optimize recovery and enhance overall performance.
L-Carnosine Supplementation – What is the best way to increase your carnosine levels?
As stated earlier, Carnosine occurs naturally in the human body. In order to increase your levels and the associated health benefits, you can choose to increase your intake of carnosine-rich foods, take daily carnosine supplements or apply it directly to your chosen muscle group.
But which is the most effective method for athletes? Well, if carnosine is applied directly to the desired muscle group, the effect is stronger and the end result is more visible.
Chemipower’s team, in cooperation with Tartu Pharmacology Institute, has developed a sports gel whose primary ingredient is carnosine. Carnosport has been dermatologically tested and approved for use by all sports federations, regardless of the difficulty level and type of competition.
For the best results, you should apply Carnosport to all muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints that will need support for accelerated performance and recovery.
For athletes striving to optimize their performance, L-carnosine emerges as an unsung hero. This remarkable dipeptide plays a role in enhancing muscle contractility, safeguarding muscle proteins from glycation, fortifying bone health, and offering potent antioxidant properties that not only assist in faster recovery but also show promise in brain health.
For athletes keen on harnessing these advantages, gels have been identified as the most effective vehicle to elevate L-carnosine levels. The ease of absorption and convenience of gels make them a top choice for those in rigorous training regimes.
How well-researched is Carnosine?
Several scientific studies have been conducted to assess the positive effects of carnosine in humans and animals.
Many of these studies have delved into its antioxidant properties, with notable research published in the “Biochemistry (Moscow)” journal  highlighting its ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species. Additionally, its role in inhibiting the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) has been explored in depth, with a specific study in the “Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences”  detailing its potential in this arena. While the volume of research is impressive, it’s equally important to consider the quality and conclusiveness of these studies.
What is the most effective way to use a carnosine gel?
For optimal absorption, remove any dirt, oil, or potential contaminants. When applying, it’s recommended to start with a modest amount, gently massaging it into the skin using circular motions until fully absorbed. This massage technique can enhance the gel’s efficacy by promoting blood flow to the targeted area.
While the frequency of application depends on the product’s guidelines, usually once or twice daily, it’s vital to maintain consistency over time to achieve the best results.
Over-application might not boost benefits and could even lead to skin irritation.
As always, following the specific product’s instructions and recommendations will yield the most favorable outcomes.