Beta-Alanine is a modified version of the amino acid “alanine”. It has demonstrated ability to improve muscular endurance from both an aerobic and anaerobic standpoint. When the supplement is consumed, it turns into carnosine, which is beta-alanine’s active metabolite, and provides defense against exercise-related lactic acid production (reference 2). Through this process, beta-alanine improves intra-set muscle endurance (ability to squeeze out a few extra reps) as well as the ability to extend overall workout duration (last longer in the gym). Athletes can usually attribute feeling a “tingling” sensation from their pre-workout powder if it contains material doses of beta-alanine.
Beta-Alanine is essential to Carnosine synthesis, which allows for protection against lactic acid buildup (reference 4) as described above. One study lasting seven weeks and involving elite rowers demonstrated improved athletic performance from supplementation with beta-alanine over a placebo (reference 3). Like other supplements, clinical studies of idiosyncratic use have varied in efficacy. One important takeaway is that beta-alanine appears to benefit ALL athletes, regardless of gender or level of experience (references 6-7).
There have been no confirmed detrimental or truly negative side-effects from large doses of beta-alanine. The only noteworthy side-effects from large doses of the supplement were the “tingling” sensations (paresthesia), which are benign. Additionally, studies on other animals have led physicians to suspect that since beta-alanine and the amino acid taurine share the same “transporter”, a shortfall of taurine can result from excessive beta-alanine supplementation.
Beta-Alanine is an example of a supplement that seems to work extremely well independently. With that said, multiple studies have shown that when combined with the supplement creatine, beta-alanine can have an even greater impact on reducing muscular fatigue (reference 5) as well as increased lean body mass. Each of these supplements may be just as effective on an individual basis, and therefore the synergies are not fully proven. Again, limited studies support the idea that when combined with creatine, athlete’s peak power production is slightly enhanced (reference 1).
Typical doses of beta-alanine are effective anywhere between 2.6g/day and 6.4g/day, as these represent the range for dosing in the studies referenced above. Studies also suggest that sustained-release formulations of beta-alanine are recommended to avoid paresthesia symptoms and loss of the supplement through urine (reference 8).
1. Hoffman J, et al Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes . Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2006)
2. Abe H Role of histidine-related compounds as intracellular proton buffering constituents in vertebrate muscle .Biochemistry (Mosc). (2000)
3. Baguet A, et al Important role of muscle carnosine in rowing performance . J Appl Physiol. (2010)
4. Baguet A, et al Beta-alanine supplementation reduces acidosis but not oxygen uptake response during high-intensity cycling exercise . Eur J Appl Physiol. (2010)
5. Zoeller RF, et al Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion . Amino Acids. (2007)
6. Walter AA, et al Six weeks of high-intensity interval training with and without beta-alanine supplementation for improving cardiovascular fitness in women . J Strength Cond Res. (2010)
7. Kern BD, Robinson TL Effects of β-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players . J Strength Cond Res. (2011)
8. Nestec Ltd., Vevey/S. Karger AG, Basel. Effect of β-alanine supplementation on high-intensity exercise performance.