Should I supplement with beta alanine?
September 28, 2021
What does it do?
Believe it or not, It is not a pre-workout supplement, although many supplement companies put it in the their “pre-workout” products. Beta alanine works to increase carnosine levels in the skeletal muscle. Carnosine is made up of 2 amino acids, L-histidine and B-alanine, once combine the molecular structure creates something called a imidazole ring, hang in there with me. This ring structure is the key because it acts as an intracellular buffer in the skeletal muscle. As you exercise you increase the acidity within the muscle, but when you have enough of this imidazole buffering ring it can help to bring the acidity levels down, thus delaying the onset of fatigue (1).
Who will it benefit?
Those who train between 30 seconds to 10 minutes, beta alanine supplementation will benefit performance (3). As well as intermittent intensity such those with hard pushes, interval work or repeated sprints during a race or longer training session. In addition it does seem to have a greater effect in those who are “untrained” more so than those who are “trained” athletes which makes sense because trained individuals have less room for improvement and they already have substantial training adaptations. With that being said the small effect that can be seen in trained athletes can be the difference between first and second place.
- 4km cycling
- 2000 m rowing
- 800 meter running
- 100 & 200 meter swimming
- Intermittent intensity training or racing
- Combat sports
- Team sports: football, rugby, hockey, soccer, water polo
- Cycling or running with sprint efforts or hill climbs
- Final stretch of race research showed an increase in peak power output, mean power output and final power output (4)
Research has shown that beta alanine research is not strong for strength training sessions.
What is the necessary dose?
Acute short term dosing is likely not effective. Research has shown more of a chronic supplementation of 6.4 grams per day for 24 weeks is where you reach peak muscle carnosine saturation.
In a study they compared the same total dose over two different time periods, one group looked at the intake of 6 grams over 4 weeks, while the other looked at a 12 gram dose for 2 weeks and both studies saw similar increases in muscle carnosine (1).
When can I start to see improvements in performance?
As mentioned above depending on how you dose, you can likely see max saturation of carnosine levels in up to 24 weeks.
When will the results go away?
This is reflective of the amount of muscle carnosine, once you completely stop beta alanine intake the muscle carnosine content drops pretty quickly, 4 weeks you will have a significant drop and by 12 – 16 weeks it will be back to baseline. If in the off season may want to continue with maintenance dose 1.2 – 1.6 grams per day of beta alanine.
Do I need to load?
As mentioned above, you can load to increase muscle carnosine saturation levels more quickly.
What is a good brand?
We suggest choosing a supplement that is third party tested and is clear of banned substances such as the brands below:
Give it a try!
Let us know if you give it a go by tagging us on Instagram, and tell us how you feel in your performance!
- Harris RC, Sale C. Beta-alanine supplementation in high-intensity exercise. Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:1-17. doi:10.1159/000342372
- Church DD, Hoffman JR, Varanoske AN, et al. Comparison of Two β-Alanine Dosing Protocols on Muscle Carnosine Elevations. J Am Coll Nutr. 2017;36(8):608-616. doi:10.1080/07315724.2017.1335250
- DE Salles Painelli V, Nemezio KM, Pinto AJ, et al. High-Intensity Interval Training Augments Muscle Carnosine in the Absence of Dietary Beta-alanine Intake. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018;50(11):2242-2252. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001697
- Van Thienen R, Van Proeyen K, Vanden Eynde B, Puype J, Lefere T, Hespel P. Beta-alanine improves sprint performance in endurance cycling. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(4):898-903. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31818db708