Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid which means that it is synthesized by the body. The body uses it to produce carnosine, which helps improve exercise performance. It is mostly used by athletes and hardcore fitness buffs.
- 1 How it’s Purported to Work
- 2 Some Benefits
- 2.1 Delayed Muscular Fatigue in Longer-Duration Exercises
- 2.2 Delayed Muscular Fatigue in Shorter-Duration Exercises
- 2.3 Increased Ventilation Rate
- 2.4 Increased Muscle Endurance in the Elderly
- 2.5 Reduced Fatigue in Strength Training
- 2.6 Possible Improvement in Body Composition
- 2.7 Possible Anti-Aging Effects
- 2.8 Side Effects
- 2.9 Recommended Dose
- 3 Product Recommendations
- 4 Final Thoughts
How it’s Purported to Work
During high-intensity exercise, the body breaks glucose down for fuel. This produces lactic acid. The lactic acid, in turn, turns into lactate which produces hydrogen ions. These ions increase the acidity in your muscles even further which blocks the breakdown of glucose. Your muscles have now lost their fuel source and they become fatigued.
This is where carnosine comes in: It acts as a buffer and helps reduce the acidity in muscles during strenuous exercise. So basically, beta-alanine helps lower muscle fatigue, thereby improving performance.
But does it actually work? The short answer is YES!
Delayed Muscular Fatigue in Longer-Duration Exercises
This 2015 study found that there were definite benefits to beta-alanine supplementation. It reports that subjects who took four to six grams of beta-alanine daily for two to four weeks had significant improvement in exercise performance on short, one- to four-minute drills.
They went on to report that beta-alanine had a positive effect on neuromuscular fatigue, thereby improving physical performance, especially in older study participants.
Other studies have found similar effects of taking beta-alanine. Essentially, supplementing with it daily significantly improves the time to exhaustion in that subjects were able to exercise longer. In the case of this study, participants were either given beta-alanine or a placebo. Those who were given beta-alanine were able to significantly improve their 2000 m rowing performance.
It’s interesting to note that the addition of baking soda – a substance that neutralizes acid – enhanced the beneficial effects of beta-alanine.
Delayed Muscular Fatigue in Shorter-Duration Exercises
Beta-alanine supplementation has been found to be effective in enhancing performance in shorter-duration exercises by delaying muscular fatigue in the same way it does with longer-duration exercises.
In this 2012 study, 39 students were either given a beta-alanine supplement or a placebo daily for six weeks. Researchers found that those who received the beta-alanine were able to increase their time to exhaustion during HIIT (high-intensity interval training) from 1.168 seconds to 1.387 seconds.
This may not seem like a significant difference. However, if you’re sprinting and you consistently find yourself 0.2 of a second ahead of your competition when crossing the finish line, the difference will
Similarly, this study supplemented rowers with either a placebo or five grams of beta-alanine daily for seven weeks. At the end of the trial, researchers found that the athletes who were given beta-alanine were 4.3 seconds faster in their performance than the athletes who received a placebo. This is definitely a significant difference!
Increased Ventilation Rate
Research has shown some positive effects of beta-alanine supplementation on ventilation rate. Do you ever find that during high intensity workouts, you just can’t catch your breath? Beta-alanine has actually been found to facilitate an increased breathing rate by elevating muscle carnosine levels. Basically, less acid in your muscles leads to easier breathing. The increase in rate is about 14%.
Increased Muscle Endurance in the Elderly
As people age, they often lose muscle mass and as a result, muscle endurance diminishes. This study found that older adults who were given 80 mg of beta-alanine three times per day for 90 days had a significant increase in muscle endurance compared to those who only received a placebo.
While most seniors are unlikely to be bodybuilders or elite athletes, this increase in muscle endurance has an important benefit for them. Seniors who have better muscle endurance are far less likely to fall. They are also more likely to be healthier as they would have an easier time engaging in physical activity.
This benefit leads to more independence and a greater likelihood of independent living which, in turn, leads to benefits in psychological health.
Reduced Fatigue in Strength Training
Researchers have found that beta-alanine supplementation leads to reduced fatigue in strength training. When examining its effects on college football players, they discovered that the athletes’ subjective perception of fatigue while lifting weights was significantly diminished. Furthermore, the subjects taking beta-alanine enjoyed a significantly higher training volume for all resistance training exercises.
While beta-alanine didn’t directly result in an increase in strength or muscle mass, one can assume that a perception of less fatigue can lead to a greater likelihood of strength training in the future.
Possible Improvement in Body Composition
While findings are not consistent across studies, some research shows that taking beta-alanine can change body composition for the better. This study determined that beta-alanine supplementation can lead to a significant increase in lean muscle mass when combined with HIIT.
However, these findings have not been consistently replicated. Unfortunately, this study did not find any significant changes in body composition in its participants after several weeks of
Possible Anti-Aging Effects
While further research is needed, initial studies seem to show that beta-alanine has significant antioxidant effects on muscle and brain tissue. Some research also indicates that carnosine increases nitric oxide production which is associated with improving immune function and slowing the aging process.
Beta-alanine isn’t known to have any serious side effects. The most commonly reported one is paraesthesia which refers to tingling of the skin, particularly the face, neck, and back of the hands. It isn’t known to be dangerous. This phenomenon is generally only seen in doses of 800 mg or higher.
The effect increases as dosage increases and the tingling typically subsides about an hour after taking
Beta-alanine is also associated with a decline in taurine levels. Animal studies have shown that taurine levels can drop by 50% as a result of beta-alanine supplementation.
The recommended dose for this supplement is between two and five grams per day. If you are concerned about paraesthesia, you can try dividing the total amount into several doses throughout the day.
Taking beta-alanine with a meal can result in a more significant increase in carnosine levels. This can be especially helpful if you’re having to decrease your dose due to paraesthesia.
BulkSupplements Pure Beta Alanine Powder
This product has a 4.8-star rating on this site. It contains nothing but beta-alanine powder. The recommended dose is 500 mg up to three times per day. While this is shy of the general recommended dose of two and five grams per day, I’d recommend consulting with a healthcare practitioner before exceeding the dose recommendation on the package.
The manufacturer’s claims include the fact that it’s lab tested for verification and guaranteed purity. The health claims are reasonable and well within what I’ve reviewed in this article.
NOW Beta-Alanine Capsules
This is a reasonable alternative if you’d rather take your beta-alanine in capsule form. Like the above product, it has a good customer satisfaction rating on this site. A serving of three capsules contains 2.25 g of beta-alanine which is within the recommended dose for effectiveness.
In addition to beta-alanine, the product contains rice flour, gelatin, stearic acid, and ascorbyl palmitate. The manufacturer’s claims — supports muscular endurance and helps delay muscle fatigue – are in line with research findings.
With its proven effectiveness and lack of serious side effects, beta-alanine is a good option to try if you’re looking to increase your exercise endurance. When taken at the recommended dose, it should help put off muscle fatigue and help you feel less winded with few to no side effects.
If you’re an older adult, you may want to consider taking it daily in order to improve your quality of life by reducing your chances of having a debilitating fall.
Health enthusiast, runner, protein nut. Owen likes to write about protein, particularly alternatve supplementation and supplement comparisons.