What's So Special About Beta Alanine?
Beta-Alanine - What is it?
Written by Scott Mosher
is a non-essential amino acid that's naturally occurring, meaning that it can be synthesised from other sources in the body.
- It's an adapted form of alanine, an amino acid.
- it's a pre-curser of carnosine which is the active metabolite, it is most abundant in skeletal muscle.
- It acts as an intramuscular buffer.
What does it do?
- When beta-alanine is supplemented, it increases carnosine concentrations in the skeletal muscle (Harris et al, 2006).
- This increase in carnosine causes an increase hydrogen ion buffer effect to occur, this helps to stabilize muscle pH homeostasis. In return, reducing the acidity build up in a working muscle, thus reducing fatigue (Hobson et al, 2012).
With all of that scientific part out of the way, it basically aids the removal of lactic acid in working muscles. You may wonder why beta-alanine is turned into carnosine, which seems to be the main compound molecule for aiding this lactic acid build up. So why can't we just supplement carnosine itself?
Well, unfortunately not, this is because when carnosine is consumed it is broken down before it successfully reaches muscles for uptake. Whereas when beta-alanine is ingested in combination with L-histidine (a plentiful essential amino acid), it is successfully converted into carnosine.
- It has been reported to increase muscular endurance/improve high intensity exercises, in performance that last's up to 240s. This is mainly exercises or activities that use the anaerobic glycolysis pathway - this is when you start feeling the burn pushing through to those final reps, or that last 100 meters.
- This means that it can be very effective for sprint events, resistance exercise till failure, high intensity circuit training and other events that require you to work through the anaerobic glycolysis pathway, 'The Burn'.
- It has been established to increase resistance training performance, in terms of repeitions completed and training volume which increases up to 22%. In addition to these improvements in body composition and lean mass, it was concluded to have enhanced with a positive impact on lean tissue growth (Hoffman et all, 2006, Stout et al, 2006)
Supplement form and dosage
Beta-alanine can be purchased as a single supplement or mixture, such as in pre-workout formulas. It can come in a premade pill form, which is usually between 800mg-1g, or powder which is usually a 3-5g scoop.
- Between 2-6g/day has been utilised effectively across multiple studies.
- Large single dosages however can cause an effect called paraesthesia (Harris et al, 2006). This is a harmless side effect that causes tingling/prickly feelings on the skin (this side effect can vary from person to person). However, some people may feel discomfort due to this.
- To combat this slightly discomforting side effect, micro dosing can be used to reduce/avoid paraesthesia. It's recommended that 800mg-1g can be taken 3-5 times a day to reduce the side effects.
- Additionally, beta-alanine can be taken in conjunction with a meal to enhance the uptake and muscle carnosine levels (Stegen et al, 2013).