Beta-alanine (also known as β-alanine) has become quite a popular supplement among fitness enthusiasts, gym-goers, and other kinds of athletes because it has been shown to enhance athletic performance and offer some major benefits to overall health. This article will explain everything you need to know about beta-alanine and what it can do for you.
Beta-alanine: an Amino Acid
Beta-alanine is considered a non-essential amino acid. This simply means that your body can naturally produce certain concentrations of beta-alanine on its own without any external help. However, you can also easily increase your beta-alanine levels by eating larger amounts of certain types of foods rather than relying on your body’s production alone. Higher levels of beta-alanine may produce some real beneficial effects on health and exercise performance, as we will discuss later in this article.
Some of the Best Food Sources
The best food sources of beta-alanine are considered to be meat, poultry, and fish. Since beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, it is not actually used by your body to make or synthesize proteins. Instead, together with histidine, it produces carnosine. Carnosine is a dipeptide composed of the L-histidine and beta-alanine.
Carnosine (also known sometimes as carnosyn) can then be stored in your skeletal muscles to be used by the body. Carnosine synthesis can reduce lactic acid accumulation in your muscles during exercise, which can often lead to better athletic performance.
Carnosine and anserine actually break free from food when they are digested. It is interesting to note that many vegetarians and vegans have about 50% less carnosine concentrations in their muscles compared to people who eat meat. Although most people can get sufficient amounts of beta-alanine from including more meat in their foods, dietary supplements can raise your muscle carnosine content too if you prefer not to consume meat.
It has also been found that men generally have higher muscle carnosine concentrations than women do. This seems to be the case because the enzyme that breaks down carnosine is a lot more active in the muscles of women than it is in the muscles of men.
How Does Beta-alanine Work?
In the regular state of your muscles, the histidine levels are normally high and the beta-alanine levels are normally low, which puts a limit on the production of carnosine. You can elevate the carnosine levels in your muscles by up to 80% simply by adding beta-alanine to your diet with certain foods or taking beta-alanine pills as a supplement. Specifically, this is how carnosine functions during exercise:
- Glucose is broken down: Glycolysis refers to the breakdown of glucose, which is the main source of fuel that you use during high-intensity exercise.
- Lactate is produced: As you exercise, your muscles break that glucose down into lactic acid. This is converted into lactate, which produces hydrogen ions (H+).
- Your muscles then become more acidic: The hydrogen ions reduce the pH level in your muscles, which makes them more acidic.
- Fatigue sets in: Muscle acidity blocks glucose breakdown and reduces the ability of your muscles to contract, and this causes fatigue.
- Carnosine acts as a buffer: Carnosine has a buffering capacity against the acid by reducing the acidity in your muscles during high-intensity exercise.
Since beta-alanine is a chemical that increases your overall carnosine levels, it can really help your muscles reduce their levels of acidity during all kinds of exercise. This can greatly lessen the degree of overall fatigue that you experience and it can also increase your motivation to exercise longer and harder than you did before.
Beta-alanine Can Improve Your Athletic Performance
Beta-alanine improves athletic performance by reducing fatigue, increasing endurance and boosting performance in high-intensity exercises. Several studies have shown that beta-alanine helps increase your time to exhaustion (TTE). In other words, it can sometimes help you exercise for longer periods at a time.
For example, one study in cyclists found that four weeks of supplements increased the total work they completed by 13%, and then increased that by an additional 3.2% after 10 weeks. Also, 20 men on a comparable cycling test increased their time to exhaustion by up to 14% after four weeks of taking beta-alanine supplements.
Beta-alanine can help increase the amount of muscle endurance in many older adults. In terms of resistance training, it can also boost training volume and reduce fatigue for all athletes of all kinds. However, there has been no consistent evidence that beta-alanine has much of an impact on your overall strength.
Beta-alanine is Great for Shorter-Duration Exercises
In general, muscle acidosis is a process that occurs in your body that can cause you to limit the duration of your high-intensity exercise. For this reason, beta-alanine is specifically good at helping improve your performance and reducing neuromuscular fatigue during high-intensity and short-duration exercise lasting from one to several minutes. Athletes like sprinters can benefit especially from these findings.
Stout and other researchers listed in several International Society of Sports Nutrition journal articles showed that participants supplementing with beta-alanine for 28 days improved their time to exhaustion (TTE) in a graded way. A similar study revealed that a period of six weeks of taking beta-alanine increased TTE by 19% during high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In another study, 18 rowers who took beta-alanine supplements for seven weeks were more than four seconds faster than the placebo group in a 2,000-meter race that lasted about six minutes.
Beta-alanine Improves Body Composition
Some evidence suggests that beta-alanine may have some beneficial effects on your overall body composition. Taking beta-alanine supplements for as little as three weeks can increase your lean muscle mass and make you appear slimmer and fitter.
It’s possible that beta-alanine simply improves your body composition by increasing your training volume and promoting more muscle growth. However, it is hardly a magic pill, because some studies have shown no significant differences in body composition and body weight even after many weeks of taking it as a supplement.
A Few Other Notable Health Benefits
Beta-alanine is certain to increase the carnosine levels in human beings, which does have several measurable health benefits and it might even offer more benefits than we know. Some animal and test-tube studies have indicated that carnosine even has certain antioxidant, anti-aging, and immune-enhancing properties. However, these properties of carnosine have not been researched adequately in human subjects, so it is hard to know much about them.
Beta-alanine also has a beneficial effect on the quality of sleep that you get each night. When taken as a supplement together with a product like our SANA Deep Sleep Formula, this combination can really benefit the quality of sleep that you are getting each night, which will in turn give you a lot more energy during the day.
Some other antioxidant benefits of carnosine might include neutralizing free radicals and reducing levels of oxidative stress. Certain test-tube studies have suggested that carnosine might elevate nitric oxide production, which can help fight the aging process and improve heart health. Carnosine has a beneficial effect on the quality and function of muscles in older adults.
Generally, increasing your beta-alanine intake may also have beneficial effects on health and exercise performance. When taken in conjunction with a multivitamin such as our VITAE Men’s Health Optimizer, it can lead to some noticeable benefits. VITAE was meticulously designed to amplify your performance in the office, gym, and in the bedroom. VITAE features full spectrum multivitamin, greens and superfood complex, and hormone optimizing compounds. Together with a nutritious diet, all of these ingredients can greatly improve your overall performance.
According to Natural Alternatives International, a company which manufactures nutritional supplements, the standard dosage of beta-alanine is up to 5 grams a day. Consuming any kinds of formulations of beta-alanine orally with a meal can further increase your carnosine levels. Beta-alanine supplements seem to be better at replenishing your muscle carnosine levels than if you are simply taking carnosine as a supplement by itself.
For improving your overall athletic performance, Natural Alternatives International suggests that high concentrations of up to 6.4 grams of a specific beta-alanine product can be taken as a daily dose if you are a professional or elite endurance athlete. But to avoid any side effects, you should be careful to avoid taking higher ingestions than that.
Risks and Side Effects of Beta-alanine Supplementation
Beta-alanine supplementation is considered to be safe when it is taken orally for a short period of time. Very few side effects have been reported along with moderate doses of beta-alanine. However, high doses can sometimes cause flushing and tingling. When you consume too much beta-alanine, it may lead to paresthesia, which is an unusual sensation that can be colloquially described as a “tingling of the skin.”
This type of tingling (known as paresthesia) is usually experienced in the face, neck, and the back of the hands. The intensity of this tingling can often increase with the size of the dosage. It can be avoided by taking small doses of about 800 mg at a time. Although paresthesia can feel unpleasant, there is no evidence that it is harmful in any other way.
Another possible side effect is a decline in your taurine levels. This is because beta-alanine can compete against taurine for absorption in your muscles. This can be a problem because taurine plays various important roles in your body, including regulation of water status in cells, preventing oxidation, and supporting calcium signaling in key organs. It also helps improve the functioning of cardiac, nervous, and musculoskeletal tissue.
There is some research that suggests that taking beta-alanine might be less effective than the drug veralipride at reducing hot flashes in menopausal women. However, this research is not conclusive and a lot more evidence will be needed in order to recommend the effectiveness of beta-alanine for this purpose.
When it comes to pregnancy and breast-feeding, there is not enough reliable information when it comes to the safety of taking beta-alanine (either in your food or as a supplement). However, if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, we recommend staying on the safe side and avoiding these kinds of supplements.
Taking Beta-alanine in Supplement Form
Beta-alanine is often combined with other supplements, such as sodium bicarbonate and creatine. Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, can also enhance your exercise performance by reducing the amount of acid in your blood and muscles. Many studies have suggested taking beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate in combination.
Creatine improves high-intensity exercise performance by increasing ATP availability. When used together, creatine and beta-alanine have also been shown to benefit exercise performance, reduce neuromuscular fatigue, build muscle fibers, and increase strength and lean muscle mass. The results suggest there are some benefits from combining all of these supplements, especially during exercises in which muscle acidosis inhibits performance.
Some research shows that taking beta-alanine supplements as part of a pre-workout formula can modestly improve some measurements of physical performance, especially when it comes to high-intensity exercise and strength training. Beta-alanine supplements are good at enhancing performance by increasing exercise capacity and decreasing muscle fatigue.
As noted earlier, supplementation with β-alanine causes an increase in muscle carnosine and reduces the amount of neuromuscular fatigue. This means that β-Alanine supplementation has ergogenic effects on exercise performance, specifically when it comes to high-intensity events for up to four minutes.
Beta-alanine supplements might also improve power output and physical performance that can delay neuromuscular fatigue in older adults. For example, researchers are hopeful that these benefits might lower the risk of falling, but it’s too early to know that for sure. They have strong antioxidant, immune-enhancing and anti-aging properties.
Other research shows that sports supplements containing beta-alanine, creatine monohydrate, arginine, alpha-ketoisocaproate, and leucine might increase fat-free mass and strength in men who take part in resistance training. However, not all research shows the beneficial effects of beta-alanine on physical performance.
These conflicting results might be due to the small numbers of participants in studies or the variability in doses used, duration of supplementation, variable exercise protocol, and populations studied. Most of the meta-analysis reported in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has used a specific beta-alanine supplement.
Using Beta-alanine in Your Daily Life
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. Your body uses it to produce carnosine, which helps improve exercise performance. Beta-alanine supplements increase carnosine, which reduces the acidity in your muscles during high-intensity exercise, so beta-alanine is most effective in those types of exercises. It can help reduce neuromuscular fatigue while increasing overall exercise capacity and muscle endurance.
Beta-alanine can also help increase your exercise volume. This could lead to increases in lean body mass. Beta-alanine can be obtained from carnosine-rich foods, such as meat, poultry and fish. Carnosine has antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties. It also benefits muscle function in older adults. It is generally recommended to consume no more than 5 grams of beta-alanine on a daily basis, and taking it with a meal might be even more effective.
Some common side effects might include tingling and decreases in your taurine levels. Although the data is limited, beta-alanine seems safe for healthy individuals. Beta-alanine may be even more effective when combined at the proper dosage levels with supplements like sodium bicarbonate or creatine.