Beta-Alanine Supplements FAQ
What is Beta Alanine and Where Does it Come From?
Beta alanine is a natural beta amino acid that acts somewhat as a precursor to Carnitine.
Typically available in powder form, beta alanine is a common ingredient in many pre-workout formulas as it can help to significantly reduce the accumulation of lactic acid during training.
This lactate buffering effect of beta alanine makes it a highly effective and increasingly popular supplement – either in a formula or as a standalone powder – for many bodybuilders and other athletes.
Production of Beta Alanine
Beta alanine is formed in vivo as a result of degrading dihydrouracil and carnosine, and although it is not used to synthesize any major proteins or enzymes it does form an important component of the peptides carnosine and anserine, as well as pantothenic acid.
It is interesting to note that although carnosine is a relatively popular supplement, it is broken down in the gut when taken orally into the constituents Histidine and beta alanine, which means that only 40% or so can be used as beta alanine.
For this reason we can see that supplementing with pure beta alanine rather than carnosine would be far more effective as a means of reducing lactic acid accumulation.
What Types of Beta Alanine are There?
As mentioned above, beta alanine is available in powder form as part of pre-workout supplements or as a standalone product.
How does Beta Alanine Work and What are the Benefits?
Simply put, beta alanine works by increasing the pH levels within muscle tissues, which is to say that it reduces acidity.
The forceful muscle contractions that occur during resistance training result in an accumulation of lactic acid within the muscle tissues, which is essentially a byproduct or waste product formed by the utilization of glycogen (stored glucose within the muscles).
The primary benefit of beta alanine is its application during workouts consisting of higher-rep sets because this is where most people tend to feel the ‘burn’ often associated with lactic acid buildup.
So it should be quite evident that a reduction of lactic acid accumulation within the muscle tissues will help us to crank out more reps, especially towards the end of high-intensity sets where we may be approaching failure.
The further we can push our muscles, the more we will be stimulating a hypertrophic response, so beta alanine definitely has some very relevant application in the field of bodybuilding.
Which Supplements Work Well With Beta Alanine
We recommend using beta alanine as part of a pre-workout or intra-workout formulation.
For this reason, you would be best using it alongside some creatine, BCAA or whey protein hydrolysate, arginine, and perhaps some form of low-osmalarity carbohydrate product such as Glycofuse by Gaspari Nutrition which includes highly-branched cyclic dextrins.
This will give you everything you need to fuel your workouts, recover like a champ, and give every single set 110% in the process.
Who Can Benefit from Using Beta Alanine and How?
Anyone engaging in work involving repetitious contractions that will cause lactic acid production will benefit from using beta alanine.
The most obvious answer to this question is the bodybuilder who is looking to take their workouts to the next level by achieving extra reps where lactic acid buildup would previously have held them back.
Smaller muscle groups such as the deltoids and calves respond incredibly well to increased time under tension through the use of extended sets, supersets, or simply high-rep sets in general. This is also true of the quadriceps, so those of you who are using high-rep ‘widowmaker’ sets or something like a leg press drop set will also benefit greatly from adding beta alanine to your workout drink.
Although not statistically significant, 2009 a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed how wrestlers and college football players gained or retained more lean mass while dropping weight than those who were given a placebo.
The researchers concluded with the following statement: “Supplementation with beta-alanine appears to have the ability to augment performance and stimulate lean mass accrual in a short amount of time (8 weeks) in previously trained athletes. β-alanine may magnify the expected performance outcomes of training programs with different metabolic demands.”
Does Beta Alanine Have any Side Effects?
The most common side effect reported by users of beta alanine is a strange tingling or prickly feeling in the skin. This is caused by paresthesia which is a type of neuropathic pain experienced with doses ranging from 10 – 40mg p/kg of bodyweight.
Although paresthesia is a kind of neuropathic pain, the tingling caused by beta alanine could hardly be described as ‘painful’ per se, so this should not be cause for concern in first-time users.
What’s more, this tingling sensation is short lived, typically going away after several days of use.
Note: We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
How and When Should I Use Beta Alanine?
As with any supplement you are advised to always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Beta alanine should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, nor should it be used by individuals under the age of 18.
Consult your doctor or physician prior to using beta alanine if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or if you are currently using prescription medication.
Please note that this FAQ has been neither written nor reviewed by a doctor or medical authority of any kind.
How Much Beta Alanine Should I Use?
Again, always refer to the usage instructions on the beta alanine supplement you buy.
For best results, studies have suggesting using multiple doses of 400 – 800mg spaced evenly over a period of eight hours for 4 – 10 weeks.
Choosing the Right Beta Alanine Supplement
In terms of the variety that is available, beta alanine is a very simple supplement.
The only real decision you have to make is whether you want to purchase your beta alanine as a standalone product or as part of a pre-workout formula.
If you have the budget and knowledge then it is usually preferable to put together your own pre-workout or intra-workout formula, so in this case you would be far better off purchasing a simple beta alanine powder to add to your mixture.
If you would like more information on this supplement in order to make a more informed decision then be sure to check out our supplement reviews covering products that include beta alanine as one of the ingredients.
Reading through our reviews, especially reviews of pre-workout supplements, will give you a far clearer understanding of exactly which type of product is most suited to your budget and your requirements.
Please note: This guide has not been written or reviewed by a doctor or medical professional and is therefore not to be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or illness. Nor should it be used as medical reference.