The Ultimate Guide to Beta Alanine Supplementation: Your Research-Based Answer to Improved Performance

The Ultimate Guide to Beta Alanine Supplementation: Your Research-Based Answer to Improved Performance

This article discusses how beta-alanine works, who should take it, how much you should take, and studies supporting its use to increase endurance performance

What Is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine is a natural, non-essential amino acid that’s a popular ingredient in many pre-workout and other sports nutrition supplements. In your body, beta-alanine can produce carnosine, which acts as a buffer to hydrogen ion accumulation and protects cells against oxidative damage. Studies on beta-alanine supplementation have found it improves endurance exercise performance, increase muscle carnosine levels, and reduce lactic acid levels. (3,6)

What Are Natural Sources of Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine is naturally found in beef, poultry, and fish.

Who Should Take Beta-Alanine?

The three most common reasons people take beta-alanine are to improve performance in endurance exercise, increase muscle carnosine levels and as a pre-workout supplement.

Beta-alanine is often taken when training for an event such as a time trial, gran fondo, marathon, or triathlon, as it can help delay fatigue. Other typical uses for beta-alanine are combining with creatine or caffeine for added benefit in athletic performance. Beta-alanine may also be useful for those who lift weights with the intention of getting stronger and leaner.

Vegans have almost 50% lower carnosine levels as a result of their reduced meat intake, suggesting beta-alanine supplementation may provide an even more dramatic effect on their performance. (8)

How Much Beta-Alanine Should You Take?

One commonly referred to number is 2-5 grams per day, divided into two does throughout the day, one 3 hours before activity, and one dose after your workout to replenish stores.

This isn't a number that should be taken as gospel; however, since dosage depends on the exogenous amount a user gets through other foods, like meat, and body size. Large, muscular individuals on a vegan diet might require more beta-alanine, while smaller-framed individuals that eat a lot of meat might require less.

Salty Beets contains 1 gram of beta-alanine per scoop and is designed to be taken 3-4 times per day over long efforts. This helps reduce the tingling sensation, known as paresthesia, experienced with large doses.

Interestingly, taking a similar amount of carnosine does not increase muscle carnosine more than β-alanine alone (Derave et al., 2007). This is because carnosine levels are quickly reduced by carnosinase found in plasma.

The timing of dosing is NOT important. Beta-alanine is commonly placed in pre-workout supplements, but it’s a supplement that builds up in the body overtime and effects are not acutely manifested after ingestion.

How Does Beta Alanine Work?

There are 130 studies on beta-alanine and its effects on exercise performance. It’s been studied for its role in improving endurance exercise performance, increasing muscle carnosine levels and its potential to reduce lactic acid accumulation.

Beta-alanine works by increasing muscle carnosine levels. The body combines it with L-histidine, which is then converted into carnosine. Carnosine is a naturally occurring protein that acts as a buffer against hydrogen ion accumulation and protects cells against oxidative damage. To increase muscle carnosine levels, beta-alanine supplementation should be taken for 4-8 weeks to optimize the desired effects.

Carnosine (b-alanyl-L-histidine) is a naturally occurring dipeptide consisting of the amino acids L-histidine and beta-alanine. Because β-alanine dipeptides are not found in proteins, they can be stored at relatively high (millimolar) concentrations.

In fact, beta-alanine is the limiting amino acid in carnosine synthesis, which means that its presence in the blood is directly related to muscle carnosine levels.

Because beta-alanine supplements increase carnosine levels, they help muscles lower acid levels during exercise. Carnosine reduces the accumulation of lactic acid in muscles during exercise, thereby reducing fatigue and improving exercise performance (5). Carnosine may improve muscle mass and function in older adults (5).

In one study, researchers showed that beta-alanine supplementation can be used as a nutritional strategy to improve 10K performance by reducing blood lactate buildup. (4) The group supplementing with beta-alanine reduced their 10k time by 169 seconds, on average. The comparison group taking a placebo only reduced their time by 54 seconds, with the difference between the groups being statistically significant.

Another study of trained cyclists found that four weeks of supplements increased total work completed by 13%, increasing an additional 3.2% after 10 weeks (7)

Overall, 15 placebo-controlled studies showed that supplementation with beta-alanine resulted in a small, but statistically-significant improvement (2.85%). For elite athletes, this is an amount that can make the difference between victory or defeat. (1)

Beta Alanine In a Nutshell

Beta-alanine is a well-studied supplement that when added to your training program can increase muscular endurance and increase work capacity.

Cited Sources


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