Episode 34 – Beta-Alanine


Key Topics Covered

Background

  • Beta-alanine is an amino acid, however is not used in the production of protein.
  • It is naturally produced by the liver.However, supplementation for some athletes can be beneficial
  • The benefits of beta-alanine supplementation don’t directly come from beta-alanine, they come from the increase in muscle carnosine that occurs.

How It Works

  • Explained: When beta-alanine is consumed it is converted into carnosine by joining with histidine.Carnosine helps to maintain the acid-base equilibrium of the blood. Meaning, it helps prevent pH from dropping by buffering H+ ions, which in turn helps to reduce feelings of fatigue.
    • Supplement carnosine? It appears that carnosine is metabolised too quickly before we can reap benefits from it.
    • Supplement histidine? Humans already have enough histidine circulating in the body, so it’s not very beneficial.
  • Simplified: It helps prevent that feeling of “lactic acid build-up.”
  • This allows one to train at a higher intensity for longer.
  • It also aids vasodilatation a bit too.

beta alanine banner

Who It Benefits

  • Beta-alanine is most beneficial if training to near maximal capacity.
  • It seems to help most for exercise that is 60-240s. Realistically it can benefit anyone exercising at capacity for 1-10 minutes.
  • Example: CrossFit is where this supplement shines and is often used.

How Much Does it Help

  • Dosages of 4-6g of beta-alanine per day have been shown to increase muscle carnosine by up to 64% after 4 weeks. This number increases to 80% after 10 weeks.
    • It’s suspected that the longer Beta-alanine is taken, the greater the benefits. There are no long-term studies to show the benefits when MAX saturation is achieved at this moment.
  • Another study showed that consuming 12g/day for 2 weeks increased muscle carnosine by up to 64%.
  • For gym-goers, it appears that individuals are able to perform one or two additional reps in the gym when training in a range of 8-20 reps.
  • A meta-analysis on the topic found that athletes improved in performance by 2.85% on average. This is actually quite a bit in comparison to most supplements.
  • Time to exhaustion style studies show more benefit; >10% improvement in performance. But this is not really relevant for race condition sports.

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How to Take It

  • Typical dosages are 4-6g per day – taken daily.
  • Split over multiple dosages e.g. 4x per day, if needed to prevent paraesthesia.
    • Paraesthesia is the main side effect and is completely safe, but may be uncomfortable. Some people experience this sensation in extreme amounts, others don’t feel it at all.
    • This is probably the main limiting factor when studies are experimenting at higher dosages.
  • Taurine depletion might be a possible side effect, but that hasn’t been identified in practice yet.
  • Theoretically, studies are significantly underdosing beta-alanine since carnosine levels are almost always increasing still at the end of the study. The underdosing is to avoid the paraesthesia. Therefore, if you could have more, you might get more benefit than that 2.85% identified on average.
  • Slow-release beta-alanine could be another option to minimise paraesthesia.

 

Relevant Links/ Resources

Studies Mentioned

Meta-analysis: Effects on B-alanine sports supplementation

Effects on Two B-alanine dosing on Muscle Carnosine Elevations

Useful Resources

Naturias – slow releasing beta-alanine

Related Blog Posts

Beta-alanine: A Simple Guide Covering Everything You Need to Know

Supplements for CrossFit: A Dietitians Guide

Supplements for Bodybuilding and Powerlifting: Everything You Need to Know