I wanted to continue with my review series of sports supplements. Last week, I discussed Branched Chain Amino Acids and today I will focus on Beta-Alanine.
What is it?
Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning our body can produce it. Although it’s also found in chicken, beef, soybeans, etc.
What are the benefits?
When we are working in short bursts of high intensity, we reach an anaerobic state, where we break down glucose to create ATP (fuel for our muscles). Lactic acid is a byproduct of this process which causes muscle fatigue. Beta-Alanine is used to create Carnosine, which buffers the acid thereby delaying the onset of muscle fatigue and potentially increasing performance.
Who is it good for?
Beta-Alanine is most effective for increasing the time to exhaustion in short burst activities (1-4 minutes). Activities such as rowing, swimming, team sports, etc. benefit the most.
There is some research to support the use of Beta-Alanine in longer duration activities, although no effect has been proven for activities lasting longer than 25 minutes yet.
Many people use Beta-Alanine for strength training. Currently, the research shows improvements in feelings of fatigue and training load, however, there have not been significant improvements in strength or performance with supplementation versus a placebo. More research in this area is needed to establish if Beta-Alanine is effective.
Beta-Alanine is widely found in pre-workout supplements. However, it does not need to be taken pre-workout. In fact to maximally increase carnosine concentrations in skeletal muscle, Beta-Alanine should be taken in divided doses to reach 4-6g daily over 2-4 weeks.
Beta-Alanine appears to be safe for supplementation, although long-term supplementation studies are not yet available.
It does create an interesting side effect called paraesthesia, IE tingling (or in my case extreme itchiness). This side effect can be reduced by either using a time release form of Beta-Alanine or dividing the dosage throughout the day.
Beta-Alanine may be useful for short burst, high-intensity activities by delaying the onset of fatigue and improving the time to exhaustion. However, it’s important to note that the work must be put in to see the results. Improved performance will only be seen by pushing to exhaustion.
With supplementation, it’s always important to consider the person taking it. Beta-Alanine could provide improved performance to high level athletes that could mean the difference between a gold or silver medal at the Olympics. But to the weekend warrior, the effects are likely minimal and supplementation is unnecessary.