After a long day at work, I did not have much energy left when finally I got to my gym. As the time I spent working out decreased due to fatigue, so did my results. I tried energy drinks and coffee but was left feeling jittery instead of energized. Everything changed when I learned about beta-alanine.
What is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine is simply a non-essential amino acid. This is different than the majority of other amino acids because your body does not require beta-alanine for synthesizing proteins. When combined with histidine, the result is the production of carnosine. Once produced, your body stores carnosine in your skeletal muscles. While you are exercising. the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles is decreased by carnosine resulting in a better athletic performance.
What Does it Do?
Your muscles usually contain a low level of beta-alanine and a high level of histidine. This limits your body’s production of carnosine. Using a beta-alanine supplement has been shown to increase the level of carnosine in your muscles by approximately 80 percent. Beta-alanine is important during exercise and physical activity for the following reasons:
Beta-alanine enhances glycolysis or the process of breaking down glucose. When you are performing high-intensity exercises, glucose is your main fuel source.
The breakdown of glucose is blocked due to muscle acidity, decreasing the ability of your muscles to contract. I have, and I’m sure you have, experienced the resulting fatigue.
Your muscle’s pH levels are reduced by hydrogen ions causing them to become more acidic. Beta-alanine helps reduce acidic muscles by increasing your levels of carnosine. This decreases your fatigue while you are working out.
While you are exercising, glucose is broken down by your muscles into lactic acid. Once converted into lactate, hydrogen ions are produced to increase the effectiveness of your workout.
Carnosine helps protect your body from the effects of acid. This decreases your muscle acidity while you are working out. Beta-alanine increases your carnosine levels.
Why Take Beta-Alanine?
If you are interested in increasing your muscle performance for short to medium durations while enhancing your energy level, beta-alanine is both ideal and consistent. I have found beta-alanine to be extremely effective for exercise routines lasting a minimum of 60 seconds. The effectiveness is significantly less for exercises lasting between 10 and 50 seconds. This is because shorter periods require a greater demand on your ATP-phosphocreatine system.
A good example is one of the first published beta-alanine studies I read about, regarding athletic performance. Half of the participants were given a placebo, the other half received either a dosage of 800 mg of beta-alanine or the same dosage in addition to 20 grams of creatine monohydrate four times each day. The maximum power and energy output for a cycling test lasting 10 minutes significantly increased for all participants given beta-alanine as opposed to the placebo group.
According to the study, the most significant improvements were noted during the first and fourth minutes of the experiment. I read about another study about amateur boxers. After using six grams of beta-alanine each day for four weeks, their punch force increased 20 times. These earlier trials suggest beta-alanine consistently increases strength, performance during high-intensity exercises, muscle power output, peak oxygen uptake, and training volume.
Another study was conducted more recently for a competitive soccer team. Each player received 3.2 grams of beta-alanine per day for 12 weeks. When compared to players taking a placebo, the performance of the soccer players improved more than 34 percent. When the responses of the participants were analyzed, the results showed those consuming beta-alanine improved a maximum of 72.7 percent. The improvement of the group taking a placebo was a maximum of 14.7 percent.
I have learned the impact of beta-alanine is most effective for high-intensity, CrossFit, interval, bodybuilding, HITT, and one to five minutes of exhaustive training with rest periods a maximum of two minutes.
What is it Used For?
The most common uses of beta-alanine include improving muscle endurance and reducing fatigue. There have been a lot of reports stating between one and two additional gym repetitions were possible when beta-alanine is used for eight to 15 repetition sets.
Beta-alanine can also improve moderate to intense exercise programs for cardiovascular health such as sprinting and rowing. When you ingest beta-alanine, it is transformed into carnosine which performs as an acid buffer.
Your body stores carnosine in your cells for release when your pH levels drop. You can help compensate for drops in your pH levels from dieting by increasing your stores of carnosine. When your body is in ketosis, your ketone production can also result in a drop in your pH levels. Carnosine also provides you with prevention from some lactic acid production induced through exercise.
Benefits of Beta-Alanine
Beta-alanine naturally occurs in your body. This means it is a non-essential amino acid biosynthesized by the average healthy adult to ensure normal functions. When the anserine or carnosine in your body is broken down in your skeletal muscles, heart, and brain, your body begins producing beta-alanine internally as a byproduct of your amino acid alanine conversion to pyruvate. You also produce beta-alanine while you are digesting.
Your intestinal microbes remove carbon atoms from aspartic acid during digestion. If your production of beta-alanine from these pathways is insufficient or your diet is not providing your required intake, taking a beta-alanine supplement is important. Beta-alanine is necessary to support your physiological functions. A lot of athletes use a beta-alanine supplement because it is an integral part of the slow and fast-twitch types of muscle fiber.
When you are exercising, intracellular acidosis can be prevented by carnosine through a hydrogen ion buffer. This buffer helps to maintain a normal cell pH for your muscles during short-term and intense activities. You have a minimum of six physiological processes requiring this amino acid to ensure optimal health. This includes both non-athletes and athletes.
Beta-alanine provides you with numerous health benefits including the following.
Carnosine as an Antioxidant
One of the main contributors to the death and aging of the tissues and cells in your body is cellular oxidation. You can see the effects on your skin. During these processes, carnosine takes on the role of an antioxidant. Free radicals are scavenged to decrease the negative effect on your DNA molecules, tissues, and cells.
Mitochondrial Function Support
All of the energy your body uses is generated by your mitochondria. Harmful glycation and free radicals have a negative effect on your cell’s mitochondrial function. The anti-glycation function and antioxidant activity of carnosine combine to provide your body with an optimal mitochondrial function.
Eliminating Excess Metals
Carnosine is capable of binding to excess iron, copper, and zinc ions accumulating in your amyloid-beta proteins. This helps remove excess metals in your body to decrease their toxicity. This is the reason the analysis of carnosine is being conducted to determine the therapeutic uses for neurological disorders.
The most popular benefits for athletes include the following.
One of the key benefits of beta-alanine is enhancing the endurance of both your stamina and muscles while you are training.
In order to build your muscles, you must challenge them with more work than performed in the past. This is because your muscles require the right training stimulus to enable them to adapt. When you include a surplus of calories, the result is muscle growth. To be successful, you need to improve your stamina while you are working out. This is where beta-alanine is important because it gives you the ability to work out harder and longer.
Once you start increasing your number of muscle-building reps, you can achieve the muscle growth you desire. Research has proved using beta-alanine will decrease your muscle fatigue while enhancing your muscle growth.
In the past, the belief was beta-alanine was only capable of increasing endurance but not strength. I read some new research claiming beta-alanine can also increase your strength. The study conducted involved 30 men participating in resistance training. The men were separated into two groups with one given a placebo and the other beta-alanine for five weeks. The results showed the group receiving beta-alanine had a 19 percent increase in squat strength.
Short Duration Exercises
In most instances, the duration of exercises performed at a high intensity is limited by muscle acidosis. This is why your performance improves for exercises lasting between one and three minutes when you are taking beta-alanine. The results of one study showed using beta-alanine for six weeks resulted in a time to exhaustion increase of 19 percent for HITT training.
Another study I read involved 18 rowers. After seven weeks of supplementation with beta-alanine, their speed improved by 4.3 seconds in comparison to the placebo group. This result was for a 2,000-meter race requiring more than six minutes to complete. When beta-alanine is used for resistance training, fatigue is decreased and training volume is enhanced.
Increasing Time to Exhaustion
According to studies, your TTE or time to exhaustion can be improved with beta-alanine. This means you will be able to exercise for a lengthier time period. A study was conducted with cyclists as participants. After taking beta-alanine for four weeks, the participants were able to cycle 13 percent longer. After 10 weeks, this figure increased an additional 3.2 percent. Another study was conducted with 20 men completing a cycling test. After using beta-alanine supplements for four weeks, their TTE decreased between 13 and 14 percent.
How to Take It?
A lot of stacks for pre-workouts contain beta-alanine. This ingredient has become extremely popular due to its effectiveness. Although your supplementation is not time-dependent, the recommendation is taking smaller doses more often. If you take a large dose, you may experience paresthesia. Although this is harmless, you will feel a tingling sensation. You can eliminate this by taking a dosage of 0.8 grams several times each day or using a supplement with a time-release formula.
Sources of Beta-Alanine
There are several natural sources of beta-alanine in the foods you eat but the amount is not always high enough for athletes. The majority are derived from different forms of balanine, anserine, and carnosine dipeptides. When these are broken down during the process of digestion, the amount of available beta-alanine in your body increases.
Unless you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you derive beta-alanine from the consumption of animal proteins. The best sources of carnosine include beef and pork. To obtain anserine, your best food options include venison and tuna.
You will find beta-alanine in the majority of fitness supplements in addition to all of the foods listed above. The patent holder for the beta-alanine manufacturing process is Natural Alternatives International. According to numerous research trials, most fitness supplements containing beta-alanine are effective. Many supplements contain other supplements in addition to beta-alanine including creatine and sodium bicarbonate.
Sodium bicarbonate is actually baking soda. This will enhance your performance while exercising by decreasing the amount of acid in your muscles and blood. Numerous studies have been conducted regarding the combination of sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine. The results show this specific combination offers benefits when your performance is inhibited by muscle acidosis.
Creatine increases your availability of ATP to improve your performance for high-intensity exercises. When beta-alanine and creatine are combined, you receive numerous benefits including improved lean muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance.
Consuming a large dosage of beta-alanine triggers a side effect called paresthesia often referred to as the tingles. This can occur if your dosage of beta-alanine exceeds two grams. I have experienced this sensation and felt tingling in my fingertips, ears, and lips. This side effect is harmless and will disappear once your body has reached saturation.
You may or may not experience paresthesia from a larger dose of beta-alanine. The specific reaction is extremely different for every individual. Taking smaller doses more often is beneficial for another reason as well. You will help prevent an oversaturation of your body’s uptake receptors while improving your absorption rate.
The standard dosage recommended for beta-alanine is between two and five grams each day. Taking your dosage with a meal can increase your level of carnosine to maximize the benefits you receive from working out. To avoid paraesthesia, the recommendation is taking a dose of beta-alanine between 0.8 and 1.6 grams every three to four hours throughout the course of your day. I have found supplements containing beta-alanine work better for replenishing the carnosine levels in my muscles than carnosine alone.
Should I be Supplement Beta-Alanine?
I have read a lot of published research supporting the effectiveness of beta-alanine for muscle endurance, decreasing fatigue for exercises from five seconds to more than four minutes, and improving exercise performance. I have felt the positive effects of beta-alanine for myself. If you are a serious participant in baseball, CrossFit, gymnastics, weight lifting, football, track and field, or volleyball, I strongly recommend beta-alanine.
If you exercise or play sports on a regular basis, beta-alanine is beneficial. Since most of the people I know are not athletically inclined or teenagers anymore, I recommend considering using beta-alanine to increase your physical performance.
I recommend beta-alanine for reducing muscle fatigue and enhancing your athletic performance. Most people are unaware beta-alanine also has anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties. Although you can get beta-alanine from some of the foods you eat, the chances are high that athletes will be unable to consume a large enough quantity. Beta-alanine is an effective and safe supplement for improving your performance while exercising.