What is beta alanine?Beta Alanine is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid who’s one and only job is to act as an l-carnosine reserve. While beta-alanine typically gets all the credit for ‘reducing muscle acidity’ and improving performance, it’s actually carnosine that is doing the work (2).
The reason why beta-alanine is so popular, is because the most effective way to raise l-carnosine in the body is by supplementing with beta-alanine (3).
This is because the gut actively breaks carnosine down into its two constituents, beta alanine and l-histidine (4). In reverse, this is how carnosine is formed.
However, histidine is extremely plentiful in the body, so supplementing with l-histidine to make l-carnosine isn’t necessary. Instead, beta-alanine is often in limited supply which through supplementation, allows the timely creation of l-carnosine (5).
Note: L-carnosine is not to be confused with l-carnitine, which is essential for mitochondria function (6).
In Review: Beta-alanine acts as an l-carnosine reserve, which reduces lactic acid and muscle acidity build up. This increases the duration of exercise potential, and the preservation of other acid-sensitive tissue functions.
Beta alanine benefitsThe benefits of beta-alanine supplementation result from l-carnosine formation in muscle tissue.
This buffering effect promotes oxygen utilization (7), performance duration, and overall muscle mass; independently from vO2 max (8).
Beta-alanine makes it’s impact exactly when lactic acid creation is at its peak, at which point it begins to rapidly release l-carnosine to counteract acidity (9).
Sounds cool, but why would you want to take beta-alanine?
4 Real world examples of beta-alanine supplementation:
#1 Benefits of beta alanine for runnersLactic acid and oxygen capacity severely influence performance for runners.
It appears that beta-alanine effectively reduces OBLA (onset of blood lactate accumulation) during exercise (10). However, this effect also may reduce vO2 max, since oxygen usage is not inhibited by rising cellular acidity.
When supplementing consistently for long durations, beta-alanine improves performance for distance runners (above) as well as 800 meter performance (11).
#2 Benefits of beta alanine for cyclistsSimilar to running, beta-alanine also benefits cyclists by combating the constant accumulation of lactic acid.
These affects have led to improved time-trial performance, isokinetic force, and body composition in both male and female elite cyclists (12) (13).
Buffering effects appear to occur at the most intense moments of exercise, when ‘natural’ reservoirs would otherwise fail (14). The cited studies 12+13 occurred over durations of 28 days.
#3 Benefits of beta-alanine for Footballers and wrestlersIt appears that beta-alanine not only improves performance in dynamic exercise, but also leads to more muscle growth than participants not supplementing (15).
Such performance increases have caught the attention of the military (though don’t get too carried away)…
#4 Beta-alanine and combat performanceJay R Hoffman et al published two studies from 2014 to 2015 evaluating the benefits that military personnel may achieve from beta-alanine. He goes on to point out that military personnel are already using sports supplements, though beta-alanine may be more worthwhile. Since beta-alanine helps maintain l-carnosine levels, it can improve performance during times of extreme demand, while also preserving mental processing (16) (17).
Beta-alanine improves performance across the boardBeta-alanine’s ability to reduce lactic acid build up, specifically during times of intense exercise, have led to several performance related improvements in athletic markers (18).
Beta-alanine is advantageous to the elderly (19), and considered to be one of the pivotal natural performance enhancing supplements for athletes alongside creatine and HMB (20).
The International Society of Sports Nutrition maintains a positive outlook on beta-alanine supplementation, believing that it is safe, can increase performance, and may be advantageous alongside other supplements to improve athleticism (21).
How to take beta alanineThe two most important things about beta-alanine supplementation are that you consistently take it daily, and that you take enough (22).
You will find that many supplement makers say that 3.2 grams of beta-alanine is enough in their products… We’re not as confident in that statement as they are.
- The ideal beta-alanine dosage is 4 grams.
- You’re going to take beta-alanine every single day.
In some studies, larger dosages of beta-alanine were used (4.8 grams) effectively, however upon lowering dosage (3.2 grams), benefits reduced (24).
Therefor ensure that you are taking beta-alanine on both lifting days and off days. If you’re pre workout contains beta-alanine – that’s great. In fact, many of the best pre workouts include 4 grams of beta-alanine in them.
Beta alanine side effectsWe have not discovered any dangers of beta-alanine supplementation while compiling the research for this article.
You may notice tingling caused by beta-alanine after you take it or your pre workout – this is the ‘beta-alanine itch’ and it’s completely normal.
If you’d like to avoid this sensation, simply take beta-alanine in small dosages across the day, to meet your 4 gram recommendation.
Beta alanine supplementsBeta-alanine is already present in many pre workout supplements, however you’re going to want some for off-days if you really care about getting all the benefits.
We’re not particular about any given brand, as beta-alanine is quite basic across the board.
You’ve likely heard of Carnosyn beta-alanine though.
Carnosyn used to hold a patent for beta-alanine’s usage in sports supplements. With that patent, they made a lot of money off of beta-alanine’s usage.
Is their form better? We’re not convinced. But, maybe?
Final beta alanine reviewThe beneficial effects of beta-alanine in performance athletes is indisputable. During times of extreme exertion, beta-alanine effectively maintains l-carnosine concentrations that rapidly neutralize rising lactic acid levels. This has a net positive effect.
Compared to creatine, the effects of beta-alanine are more overt.
But overall, this is a great supplementary, anti-oxidant (25) non-essential amino acid. We consider it one of the good ones to be taking.