With literally hundreds of different supplements available and so many that are based on bogus claims and ridiculous hype, it’s almost impossible to find even one that delivers results. If you've rummaged through the garbage of the supplement scrap heap, you know that finding any science or real-world proof is a waste of time. Beta-Alanine is the exception. Finally, a supplement that actually lives up to its claims! Beta-Alanine efficacy is backed by major university, peer-reviewed studies performed on humans, not a cell, rat or goat study upon which other products typically base claims. The science behind beta-alanine is simple, it makes sense and it works.
What is Beta-Alanine and where do we get it?
Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid and is the only naturally occurring beta-amino acid. Not to be confused with regular alanine, beta- alanine is classified as a non-proteinogenic amino acid, as it is not believed to be used in the building of proteins.
The greatest natural dietary sources of beta-alanine are believed to be obtained through ingesting the beta-alanine containing dipeptides: carnosine, anserine and balenine, rather than directly ingesting beta-alanine. These dipeptides are found in protein rich foods such as chicken, beef, pork and fish. It is predominantly through ingesting the dipeptide carnosine that we ingest most of our beta-alanine, as the two other dipeptides are not found nearly as plentiful in our typical coniferous diet. However, obtaining beta-alanine through these dipeptides is not the only way, as our bodies can synthesize it in the liver from the catabolism of pyrimidine nucleotides which are broken down into uracil and thymine and then metabolized into beta-alanine and B-aminoisobutyrate. Of course, it can also be ingested through direct supplementation which is the focus of this article.
Below is a list of the benefits from beta-alanine, supported by peer-reviewed university research, published in reputable science journals.
Benefits of Beta-Alanine as supported by scientific studies:
Increase Muscular Strength & Power Output.
Increases Muscle Mass
Increase Anaerobic Endurance
Increases Aerobic Endurance
Delay Muscular Fatigue- Train Harder & Longer
What causes our muscles to lose strength, power and endurance during intense exercise?
When we exercise, especially when it’s high intensity exercise, our bodies accumulate a large amount of hydrogen ions (H+), causing our muscles’ pH to drop (become more acidic). This process is occurring whether you feel a burn or not.
As our muscles pH quickly drops, so does their ability to contract forcibly and maintain a high level of performance throughout your workout session. Not being able to perform and maintain forceful muscular contractions and push your body to the limit during your workout session, seriously hampers your ability to maximally overload your muscles and force new muscle gains.
In a nutshell, H+ causes your muscles pH to drop, in turn decreasing your strength and causing you to fatigue faster. These limitations stop you from adequately overloading your muscles and forcing NEW muscle gains.
Beta-alanine’s performance benefits are not direct but realized through its ability to boost the synthesis of carnosine. Researchers have shown that when supplementing with beta-alanine for just 4 weeks, we can increase our carnosine concentration by 42-65%. Longer beta-alanine studies going up to 10-12 weeks, show carnosine concentrations increased up to 80%. This is a tremendous increase in an already powerful intracellular buffer. It is this large increase in buffering capacity within our muscles that is largely responsible for the strength, lean body mass, power and muscular endurance gains that researchers are seeing from beta-alanine studies.
How much Beta-Alanine is needed to cause performance increases?
Research has shown that you can take an amount between 3.2 grams and 6.4 grams per day to significantly boost carnosine levels and improve performance. The most recent research suggests using 4-5 grams a day.
Take home message:
By boosting carnosine concentrations, with beta-alanine, our type 2 muscle fibers can soak up more H+ and stay in an optimal pH range. By keeping our type 2 muscle fibers in an optimal pH range, they are better able to maintain maximal strength and endurance throughout your workout session and bring on new muscle gains! You can supplement with Beta-Alanine as a stand-alone supplement or make sure you pre-workout supplement contains it!