If you are a regular exerciser you may be familiar with the slight burn associated with muscle fatigue. This is due to the build up of lactic acid in your blood stream. The uncomfortable burning feeling is your body's way of telling you that you are going out of homeostasis. Lactic acid buildup occurs when there is not enough oxygen for your body to keep generating energy from other pathways. Unfortunately, lactic acid can build up in your blood stream faster than your body can process it, this is where beta alanine comes in.
Beta alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine. (1) When ingested beta alanine turns into carnosine which acts a a ph buffer in the body. Under high intensity exercise conditions when blood ph goes up carnosine is released to attempt to bring the ph back to normal (reduce acidity of lactic acid). A 2011 meta-analysis showed that beta alanine supplementation can increase exercise capacity of exercises lasting 60 - 240 seconds. (2) Exercise below 60 and above 240 did not see as great of an effect. This increase in exercise capacity means a few extra reps of a given resistance training set or a few more steps of a high intensity sprint. While not a night and day difference, these small increases in exercise capacity can accumulate over time. The study did not see major increases in exercise performance.
Increase in exercise capacity may allow an individual to complete 1 or 2 extra reps when training in the 8-15 rep range (1)
- This increased volume over time can lead to increased hypertrophy and training adaptations
- While the data does not strongly support increases in lower intensity exercise capacity, higher-intensity endurance exercises such as rowing or sprinting have been shown to yield benefits of beta alanine supplementation (2)
- Beta alanine is shown to buffer lactic acid in endurance athletes as well, but the ergogenic effects are just not as great
Beta alanine builds up in the body over time, so it is not beneficial to take an initial mega-dose. The 2011 study supports supplementation of 2-5 grams per day (depending on body mass) to see ergogenic benefits. Beta alanine supplementation is not timing-dependent, meaning you do not necessarily have to take it right around your workout. If you have ever supplemented with beta alanine before you may have felt a slight tingling feeling in extremities of your body. This is called paresthesia and is a harmless side effect that can be eliminated by taking smaller doses throughout the day. (1) Many pre workouts contain beta alanine so make sure you read the label if you are already taking a pre workout. Many times they do not provide a efficacious dose which is also something to be aware of.
Like any sports supplement, beta alanine is no "magic pill" that drastically enhances your performance. Supplements can be seen as only ~5% of the overall picture following proper nutrition and training protocols. Always be sure to consult with your physician before taking any sports supplements. If you found this post informative please don't hesitate to share it. If you have any other common sports supplements that you would like me to highlight in the supp series please comment below! And until next time BE ELITE!
- Hobson, R. M., B. Saunders, G. Ball, R. C. Harris, and C. Sale. "Effects of β-alanine Supplementation on Exercise Performance: A Meta-analysis." Amino Acids 43.1 (2012): 25-37. Web.