Is Beta-Alanine an effective amino acid for exercise, strength training, and muscle growth?
Beta-Alanine, B-ALA, or β-Alanine, is an amino acid that supports skeletal muscle. Beta-alanine is an endogenous amino acid that is not essential, meaning the body can produce it on its own. Poultry and beef contain great amounts of this amino acid. Beta-Alanine, unlike most amino acids is not used as a building block for proteins. Instead, it works to support skeletal muscle. It does so by combining with histidine – an essential amino acid – to form carnosine. Carnosine reduces lactic acid accumulation in your muscles during exercise, leading to improved athletic performance. This is why Beta-Alanine is present in many Preworkout Supplements and Energy Drinks.
Why would you supplement with a non-essential amino acid?
Does Carnosine help with athletic performance?
Carnosine is a protein abundant in skeletal muscle, or type 1 fast twitch muscle. (vs type 2, or slow twitch muscle fibers)
You can think of these as muscles that help you explode in the first few steps of a sprint as type 1 and muscles, and the muscles that keep your posture, like your back and abdominal muscles, as type 2 slow twitch muscles. Within muscles, carnosine primarily works to buffer the hydrogen ions created under anerobic metabolism as a byproduct of lactic acid production. It is more powerful than the other two major buffers, sodium bicarbonate and inorganic phosphate – making up 40% of the buffering capacity within muscles.
Why would acid accumulation be bad for your muscles and your body?
H+ accumulation disrupts the resynthesis of phosphorylcreatine – the compound within muscles that offers phosphate to make ATP under sustained activity. ATP is necessary as an energy molecule to fuel muscle contraction and relaxation. High levels of H+ in your blood also cause increased feelings of fatigue and exertion. H+ reaches peak accumulation at about 4 minutes of exercise, the same timeframe in which carnosine is most effective.
Carnosine acts as an antioxidant
Antioxidants work to scavenge free radicals and singlet oxygen, effectively reducing muscle fatigue and exercise-induced muscle damage. Cnosine chelates transition metals – like copper and iron. These metals can be harmful by creating free radicals – another culprit of oxidative stress. So, carnosine is a multi purpose antioxidant. Carnosine also acts as a powerful anti-glycating agent – meaning it stops sugars from attaching to unwanted structures in your body. Glycated compounds are highly associated with poor effects of aging and complications of diabetes mellitus, as well as kidney and eye damage.
What do you feel when you supplement with Beta-Alanine and what are the long-term effects?
Beta-Alanine significantly increases time to exhaustion by up to 15% – meaning you can exercise longer at higher capacity and has been shown to boost training volume and reduce subjective fatigue. Research currently suggests that Beta-Alanine has the greatest potential to improve performance in high-intensity exercise lasting over 1 minute. Beta-Alanine has also been shown in multiple studies to reduce measured neuromuscular fatigue by up to 20%. In tactical athletes, such as those in the armed forces, Beta-Alanine supplementation improves peak power, marksmanship, target engagement speed and cognitive function. If you are an older adult, B-ALA is especially effective in decreasing neuromuscular fatigue! Beta-Alanine can help maintain and increase lean muscle mass – an important biomarker for elderly health and longevity.
How should you take Beta-Alanine if you want to be more powerful and focused?
Are there any unwanted side effects of taking Beta-Alanine?
The only reported effect from those who have taken Beta-Alanine is parasthesias or tingling, mostly of the face, neck and back of the hands. But this has mostly been reported by those taking 800mg of Beta-Alanine and the feel disappears within an hour of onset. That sounds a little scary – scientists thought so too. Extensive research has shown these parasthesias or tingles are not actually harmful to the body. Beta-Alanine causes your peripheral sensory nerves to send false signals causing the tingling experience. In animal studies with exorbitant amount of supplementation, Beta-Alanine decreased the amount of taurine in muscles, another amino acid, but this has never been shown to occur in humans at any dose. Beta-Alanine can cause mild elevation of an enzyme called Alanine aminotransferase, an enzyme that can be a biomarker of liver dysfunction. Consult your doctor if you have a liver disease before starting Beta-Alanine.