Beta-alanine: Function, benefits, and sources

Beta-alanine is a popular supplement among many athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Evidence suggests that it is a safe and effective supplement that may help with delaying fatigue and improving performance.

When a person does intense exercise, acid begins to accumulate in the muscles, which can contribute to fatigue. Beta-alanine helps regulate acid in muscles and prevent this fatigue.

Taking beta-alanine supplements may mean a person can increase the length of time they can perform high intensity exercises before experiencing exhaustion.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) notes that while more research is necessary, appropriate levels of beta-alanine are safe and can help improve exercise performance.

This article discusses beta-alanine is, its function, and its potential benefits.

Learn about high intensity interval training here.

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. This means that the body produces it so that people do not have to get it through food. Typically, amino acids combine in the body to create proteins. However, beta-alanine joins with the amino acid histidine to form a dipeptide called carnosine.

The body stores carnosine in the muscles and other tissues. Carnosine helps reduce acid accumulation in the muscles during exercise, reducing fatigue and leading to better athletic performance.

In the mid-2000s, research led by Professor Roger Harris found that dietary supplementation with beta-alanine could increase the amount of carnosine available in muscles and enhance exercise performance.

Learn about essential amino acids here.

Beta-alanine and carnosine together help improve the muscles’ functionality due to various body processes during exercise. These processes are as follows:

  • Glycolysis: this is the breakdown of glucose. Glucose is the body’s main source of fuel during exercise.
  • The body produces lactate from glucose, resulting in hydrogen ion production.
  • Hydrogen ions decrease the pH level in muscles, which makes them more acidic.
  • The raised acidity makes it more difficult for the body to break down glucose, which reduces the muscles’ ability to contract, resulting in fatigue.
  • Carnosine acts as a buffer against acid and reduces the level of acid present in the muscles. This helps reduce muscle fatigue, which can reduce exhaustion and help improve performance.

Learn more about muscle soreness after exercising here.

Beta-alanine has various potential benefits. These may include:

Strength and athletic performance

Because it increases carnosine levels, beta-alanine supplementation may help improve athletic performance by decreasing fatigue and boosting endurance and performance during high intensity exercise.

Its benefits linked to strength and performance include:

  • Improvements to high intensity exercise: Muscle fatigue due to acidity levels in muscles can limit the duration of high intensity exercise. Beta-alanine may improve performance by reducing acidity. However, studies display mixed results, with some showing improved performance in high intensity exercise and others finding no difference. Other evidence indicates that beta-alanine offers the most potential for improving high intensity performance.
  • Reduces exhaustion: Beta-alanine may help a person exercise for longer periods before they become exhausted. Some evidence notes that beta-alanine supplementation can improve performance in endurance sports, such as long distance running. While the exercise type and duration of physical activity likely play a large role, evidence notes that beta-alanine provides an ergogenic effect, meaning it gives energy to help improve performance.
  • Increased muscle mass and strength: Supplementation with beta-alanine may help a person increase muscle mass by allowing them to train intensely and for longer periods. However, while some research notes that it may not change body composition significantly, other evidence indicates that it can help an individual gain strength.

Other benefits

Animal studies show that further research into beta-alanine could help:

Learn about other supplements and vitamins for athletes here.

Beta-alanine is a commonly available supplement in many sports-related products. However, it is also present in many protein sources, such as meat, fish, and poultry, albeit in lower quantities. To receive a sufficient amount to boost athletic performance, a person will likely require supplementation.

Most of the food sources that contain beta-alanine are animal products. This means people following a vegan or vegetarian diet will likely have significantly less beta-alanine and carnosine in their system and require supplementation to enhance athletic performance.

Learn more about supplements suitable for those following plant-based diets here.

A 2018 study notes that more research is necessary to identify the most appropriate dosing strategy for beta-alanine supplementation.

Some research suggests that 1.2 grams (g) of beta-alanine daily is the most effective dosage to maintain carnosine in the muscles at 30–50% above the baseline. Similarly, other sources suggest that a person may consider a loading phase of 3.2 g per day for 8 weeks, or 6.4 g per day for 4 weeks, before a maintenance dose of 1.2 g per day.

Advice includes dividing beta-alanine into 3 or 4 even doses a day and consuming them with main meals to help enhance uptake and manage potential side effects better.

People often combine beta-alanine with other supplements, especially creatine and sodium bicarbonate.

Creatine can improve performance in high intensity exercise by increasing the availability of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that every cell in the body produces. Research has found that combining beta-alanine and creatine can increase athletic performance. As such, many sports supplements may include both ingredients.

Similarly to beta-alanine, sodium bicarbonate may enhance the body’s buffer system, protecting muscles from acid. Research suggests that using sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine together may add additional improvement to this buffering capacity.

Learn more about vitamins, minerals, and supplements in our dedicated hub.

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is a common ingredient in many sports supplement products. Some evidence suggests that it may help improve athletic performance and benefit overall health.

Supplementing beta-alanine can help increase the concentration of carnosine in muscles, which regulates acids that accumulate from exercise, helping an individual avoid fatigue.

Research notes that the supplement is safe and effective in appropriate doses and is unlikely to cause any serious adverse effects.

While beta-alanine is present in protein sources such as meat, a person is unlikely to consume a sufficient amount from their diet to notice any benefit.

A person can also combine it with other supplements, such as creatine and sodium bicarbonate, to try and further enhance performance.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-does-beta-alanine-do

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