Beta alanine benefits athletes involved in short, high-intensity exercise will benefit from beta alanine supplementation. Studies have found that beta alanine results in improved performance in sprinters, rowers, bodybuilders, football players, soccer players, etc.
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO BETA ALANINE BENEFITS BEFORE EXERCISE
- Beta alanine benefits athletes involved in short, high-intensity exercise will benefit from beta alanine supplementation.
- There does not seem to be any beneficial affect of beta alanine on increasing muscle mass.
WHAT IS BETA ALANINE?
Beta alanine is a very popular supplement used by athletes and bodybuilders alike. Carnosine (i.e., beta-alanyl-L-histidine), the active metabolite of beta alanine, is found in high sources in muscle. Carnosine also appears to possess antioxidant properties, reducing free radicals. (Boldyrev et al., 2013)
Carnosine levels are lower in vegetarians, and when meat eaters switch to a vegetarian diet, there is a reduction in muscle carnosine levels.(Baguet et al., 2011) Beta alanine is a nonessential amino acid found in high amounts in meat, pork, poultry, chicken broth, and fish. (Abe et al., 1985; Gil-Agustí et al., 2008; Yeum et al., 2010)
Beta alanine is combined with the amino acid L-histidine to produce carnosine. In muscles, beta alanine supplements increase carnosine levels in the muscle. (Derave et al., 2007) If carnosine is the main ingredient, why not just take a carnosine supplement rather than a beta alanine supplement?
Beta alanine increases muscle carnosine better than carnosine supplements. (Everaert et al., 2013) Thus, beta alanine is the limiting factor for increasing muscle carnosine levels.
WHAT DOES BETA ALANINE DO?
Beta alanine acts as a buffer and reduces muscle burning sensations during exercise (i.e., increased hydrogen ions), improving exercise performance and muscle endurance. This buffering effect leads to a reduction in fatigue and a delay in exhaustion which can lead to an increase in short-term, high-intensity exercise. (Artioli et al., 2010)
BETA ALANINE SUPPLEMENTS CAN BE BENEFICIAL FOR EXERCISE >60 SECONDS
Beta alanine benefits athletes involved in short, high-intensity exercise will benefit from beta alanine supplementation. Studies have found that beta alanine results in improved performance in sprinters, rowers, bodybuilders, football players, soccer players, etc. (Bishop et al., 2004; Derave et al., 2007; Kern & Robinson, 2009)
Exercises of 60-240 seconds improved performance, while exercises outside this range had no benefit. (Hobson et al., 2012) Beta alanine does not seem to benefit aerobic performance.(Brisola & Zagatto, 2019)
Many pre-workouts with beta alanine also use creatine monohydrate. A pre workout supplement with beta alanine can improve athletic performance and reduce muscle fatigue, whereas supplementing with creatine alone has little benefit. (Stout et al., 2006)
THE BETA ALANINE TINGLE: LOVE IT OR HATE IT
One annoying beta alanine side effect is a tingling sensation (i.e., completely harmless). If you have ever taken beta alanine, you will notice a tingling sensation all over your body. Some people love how it makes them feel, and they feel that their pre-workout has kicked in. Others hate it and despise the feeling that it has.
This tingling is harmless but commonly affects the face, neck, chest, and arms. This effect is when a larger-than-normal dosage is taken. You can take smaller doses of beta alanine to enhance performance without the tingling feeling that comes with a larger dose., but you can take smaller dosages of beta alanine and get the same performance-enhancing benefits without the intense tingling sensation. (Hobson et al., 2012)
BETA ALANINE DOSAGE
The dose of beta alanine to improve performance in studies is 3.2-6.4 grams per day. (Perim et al., 2019) Smaller doses of 0.8- 1.6 grams per day can be taken multiple times daily, improving performance without the tingling sensation.
There are also sustained-release beta alanine supplements that do not have tingling effects but can improve performance. (Church et al., 2017)
DOES IT INCREASE MUSCLE MASS?
Most bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts take beta alanine to gain muscle. Even though beta alanine can increase performance, there does not seem to be an effect on muscle growth. A recent literature review found that beta alanine did not result in gains in muscle mass. (Ashtary-Larky et al., 2022)
A new 2022 study found that basketball players taking 6.4 grams of beta alanine or a placebo for 8 weeks had increased peak power but no changes in lean muscle mass. (Turcu et al., 2022)
Beta alanine is a great supplement to improve performance during high-intensity exercise lasting 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Studies have shown that beta alanine can enhance performance in sports such as cycling, sprinting, swimming, and soccer. It can also help increase muscle by increasing the total amount of workout volume. More research needs to be conducted on beta alanine and its role in muscle hypertrophy.
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Ashtary-Larky, D., Bagheri, R., Ghanavati, M., Asbaghi, O., Wong, A., Stout, J. R., & Suzuki, K. (2022). Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on body composition: a GRADE-assessed systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 19(1), 196-218. https://doi.org/10.1080/15502783.2022.2079384
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Perim, P., Marticorena, F. M., Ribeiro, F., Barreto, G., Gobbi, N., Kerksick, C., Dolan, E., & Saunders, B. (2019). Can the Skeletal Muscle Carnosine Response to Beta-Alanine Supplementation Be Optimized? Front Nutr, 6, 135. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00135
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