Beta Alanine supplementation for 8 weeks failed to increase muscle growth, strength, and muscle endurance with a bodybuilding style workout with 12 reps and 1 minute rest periods. Beta Alanine is probably best used with high-intensity exercise with short rest periods such as rest-pause training, CrossFit, dropsets, or high rep training (>20-30 reps).
DOES BETA-ALANINE INCREASE MUSCLE GROWTH ARTICLE OVERVIEW
- The study set out to answer, “Does Beta Alanine Increase Muscle Growth?”
Beta alanine tingles commonly occur with beta alanine supplementation.
Studies have found that beta alanine supplementation can increase maximal strength, power, and muscle endurance..
Prolonged consumption of beta-alanine doesn’t seem to enhance muscle growth when compared to a placebo. It’s likely that beta-alanine is most effective when paired with high-intensity workouts that have brief rest intervals, like rest-pause training, CrossFit, drop sets, or training with high repetitions (exceeding 20-30 reps).
UPDATE: META-ANALYSIS ON BETA ALANINE FINDS NO BENEFIT FOR MUSCLE GROWTH
Beta-alanine (BA) is commonly found in most pre-workout supplements combined with other ingredients, such as creatine, EAAs, caffeine, etc., to build muscle. It has been suggested to improve training adaptation by enhancing the ability to train at a higher intensity with less muscle fatigue.
BA is noted for its ability to boost intramuscular carnosine concentrations, which augments the fatigue threshold and improves high-intensity exercise performance during strength training.
Beta-alanine is a pre workout ingredient that causes beta alanine tingling that some people either love or hate. Many energy drinks and pre workout formula/proprietary blends contain beta alanine for improving muscular endurance. Some lifters will choose pre workouts without beta alanine because they despise the tingling sensation that occurs.
New Beta Alanine Study
Beta-alanine has been shown to increase repetitions to fatigue by buffering intracellular acidosis during intense exercise, thus increasing the ability to perform more volume, which may be helpful for muscle growth. A study by Hoffman et al. found that the use of beta-alanine and creatine for 10 weeks resulted in greater training volume, thus potentially having an indirect effect on reducing fat mass and increasing lean muscle mass(9).
A recent review of 19 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) showed that beta-alanine supplementation increases athletic performance(10). A few studies have shown improvements in muscle mass with beta-alanine supplementation. In contrast, most studies have failed to show improvements in muscle mass with beta-alanine supplementation.
Some bodybuilders may ask why am I not gaining muscle despite using beta alanine. A recent meta-analysis compared 20 studies with over 492 participants on the effects of beta-alanine and muscle growth, fat mass, and % body fat changes. The study found that regardless of the dosage used (1.64-8.4 grams per day), beta-alanine supplementation failed to improve muscle growth and changes in fat mass.
The study duration (8 ≥ or 8 < weeks) and exercise type (resistance, endurance, and combined training) showed no significant changes following beta-alanine supplementation in body composition.(11) It should be mentioned that a 2004 study found that the combination of creatine and beta-alanine resulted in greater increases in lean muscle mass and reduced body fat compared to creatine alone. Thus, beta-alanine may be best combined with creatine monohydrate for optimal effects on body composition, and beta-alanine use alone may not result in changes in body composition.
WHAT IS BETA ALANINE?
When beta-alanine (BA) first hit the supplement scene, it was referred to as the next creatine monohydrate. Just about every pre-workout on the market contains BA to improve performance, but what is BA exactly, and more importantly, will it help you grow bigger muscles?
BA increases muscle carnosine levels, which buffer hydrogen ions that build up during high-intensity exercise. Using BA between 4 and 24 weeks is safe and can increase skeletal muscle carnosine content by up to 200%.(1) Beta-alanine is most effective for high-intensity activities lasting from 30 seconds up to 10 minutes.(2) Prior to the popularity of beta-alanine, athletes used sodium bicarbonate to regulate pH levels. However, large amounts of sodium bicarbonate can lead to significant stomach discomfort.
Beta Alanine and Buffering
Mitigating the buildup of hydrogen ions and managing metabolic stress during intense workouts can enhance athletic performance. This is because elevated hydrogen ion levels lead to muscle fatigue and hinder optimal performance. (3) Research indicates that supplementing with beta-alanine can boost maximum strength, power output, and muscle endurance. (4, 5) Considering that beta-alanine can enhance performance by allowing for more repetitions, it’s logical to infer that over a training cycle, beta-alanine could promote muscle growth, especially since training volume is linked to muscle hypertrophy. (6)
Studies on Beta Alanine
Previous studies have found that BA combined with creatine monohydrate results in increases in muscle strength, performance, and increases in lean mass.(5) Relatively few studies have examined the effects of BA use and long-term muscle growth, but a new study provides insight into the relationship between BA and muscle growth.
Researchers had well-trained subjects perform an 8-week resistance training protocol and received either 6.4 grams of BA a day (i.e., 4 doses spaced throughout the day) or a placebo. The subjects could squat at least 125% of their body weight and bench at least 100% of their weight, so these were not newbie lifters or untrained subjects. The resistance training protocol was a typical bodybuilding type protocol to produce muscle growth. They performed 12 reps per set with 1-minute rest periods.
At the end of the study, the training volume, muscle strength, and muscle endurance were not different between the two groups. Surprisingly, muscle growth was not different between the two groups either. See the chart below. Does this mean that BA supplementation is not worth it? Using BA supplementation should be used for exercises lasting more than 60 seconds. A previous meta-analysis found that BA supplementation resulted in no differences in performance when exercise protocols lasted less than 60 seconds. (7)
This study suggests that BA will not enhance performance with low-to-moderate rep training (< 12 reps) and rest periods longer than a minute. A 2019 study found that subjects performing 10-12 reps with 90-120 second rest periods did not improve performance or increase muscle mass.(8) BA is better used with high rep training for muscle growth (i.e., 20-30 reps) or high-intensity exercises with short rest periods such as rest-pause training, dropsets, supersets, etc. BA would benefit Cross-Fit athletes and others who perform high-intensity circuit training routines to buffer metabolic stress.