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Beta-Alanine Review

What is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-Alanine is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid. It is synthesized in the liver although our main source of Beta-Alanine is through our diet. Beta-Alanine is found in most protein rich meats but is found in the greatest concentrations in chicken and turkey. Beta Alanine supplementation is known to elevate the concentration of Carnosine. This is important to athletes since Carnosine acts as a buffer of intramuscular hydrogen ions [H+], and any increase in H+ leads to increased acidiosis within the muscle which is implicated in both muscle fatigue and a reduction in muscle contractile function.

Who Should Consider Taking Beta-Alanine?

Beta-Alanine appears to be of benefit to anyone looking to increase muscle Carnosine levels and thus improve the muscle ability to buffer against the build up of intramuscular hydrogen ions, enhance muscle fatigue resistance and preserve normal muscle contractile function during intense exercise. Therefore, Beta-Alanine should be of benefit to anyone involved in exercise where lactic acid/H+ accumulation has a negative effect e.g. strength training/bodybuilding, sprinters, endurance athletes, boxers, football players, rugby players etc.

Summary of Beta-Alanine's Phyiological Effects:

  • Significantly Increased levels of muscle Carnosine
  • Improved performance in repeated bouts of resistance training
  • Increased power output at the lactate threshold
  • Enhanced submaximal endurance performance
  • May help to increase/maintain muscle mass
  • Enhanced physical work capacity at the fatigue threshold

Beta-Alanine Research

Beta-Alanine Supplementation and Carnosine Levels

Research has clearly demonstrated that supplementation with Beta-Alanine is an effective means of increasing muscle Carnosine levels (Hill et al., 2007; Derave et al., 2007). The magnitude of the increase in muscle Carnosine concentration is fairly significant, with a 58.8% increase in carnosine levels after 4weeks of supplementation, and an 80.1% increase in Carnosine levels after 8 weeks of supplementation reported in the vastus lateralis of untrained subjects (Hill et al., 2007). In trained subjects the levels reported were slightly lower but still significant with a 47% increase in the Soleus muscle and 37% increase in the gastrocnemius after 4 weeks of Beta-Alanine supplementation (Derave et al., 2007).

Beta-Alanine and Resistance/Strength Training

Beta-Alanine appears to have a positive effect on resistance/strength training where repeated exhaustive contractions are performed. Research has shown that Beta-Alanine supplementation can delay muscle fatigue during the later stages of repeated exhaustive exercise (Derave et al., 2007). In this study the researchers found that Beta-Alanine enhanced work rate/reduced fatigue during the 4-5th sets of a 5 set workout. Beta-Alanine may also be of benefit for increasing/maintaining muscle mass whilst performing both high intensity interval training and heavy resistance training

Beta-Alanine and Endurance Exercise Performance

Beta-Alanine has been shown in a number of studies to enhance endurance exercise performance. Beta Alanine has been shown to increase the Total Work Done (Hill et al., 2007) power output at the Lactate Threshold (Zoeller et al., 2007) and may enhance submaximal endurance by increasing both the heart rate at the onset of blood lactate accumulation (HR@OBLA) and the %MaxHR@OBLA (Jordan et al., 2011). Long term supplementation with Beta-Alanine over a 90-day period has also been shown to physical working capacity at the fatigue threshold (PWCFT) by 28.5% in both elderly men and women (Stout et al., 2008). The enhanced endurance exercise performance is believed to be mainly due to the increased Carnosine levels following Beta-Alanine supplementation which helps to buffer against the build up of H+ which helps to enhance muscle fatigue resistance and preserve normal muscle contractile function.

Is Beta-Alanine effective?

Beta-Alanine appears to be an effective means of enhancing muscle Carnosine levels, enhance muscle H+ buffering levels, improve repeated resistance exercise and enhance endurance exercise performance.

How to take Beta-Alanine?

Most research has used a dose of between 4-6g daily. For best results split this dose into 3-4 divided doses throughout the day e.g. 4 doses of 1g of Beta-Alanine spread evenly throughout the day. Beta-Alanine supplementation appears to cause Carnosine levels to continue to rise over time with greater concentrations reported after 8 weeks of supplementation than after 4 weeks. It is not clear what the optimum duration is for Beta-Alanine cycling is but it appears that muscle Carnosine levels haven’t peak by 4weeks of supplementation so best results may be achieved through 6-8 weeks of supplementation followed by a 2-4 week break.

Beta-Alanine Side Effects?

Some people may experience a tingling sensation on the skin that generally lasts no more than 1-2 hours.

Beta-Alanine References

Derave W, Ozdemir MS, Harris RC, Pottier A, Reyngoudt H, Koppo K, Wise JA, Achten E (2007) Beta-Alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters. J Appl Physiol 2007, 103(5):1736-43.

Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA (2007) Influence of b-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids 2007, 32:225-233.

Jordan T., Lukaszuk J., Misic M. and Umoren J (2011) Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) during treadmill running: Pre/post 2 treatment experimental design. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:20

Kern B and Robinson T (2009) Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6 (Suppl 1):P2

Stout J R, Graves B S, Smith A E, Hartman M J, Cramer J T, Beck T W and Harris R C (2008) The effect of beta-alanine supplementation on neuromuscular fatigue in elderly (55–92 Years): a double-blind randomized study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2008, 5:21

Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O'Kroy JO, Orok D, Mielke M: 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, 33(3):505-10.