What is beta-alanine and who can benefit from it?
Beta-alanine is a popular supplement found in many pre-workout drinks, known as training drinks. But what is beta-alanine and who can benefit from it?
Studies suggest that beta-alanine can help maintain muscle acid-base balance during anaerobic exercise like sprinting or strength training. The most significant benefit of beta-alanine has been observed during short-duration, high-intensity exercise lasting between 1 to 4 minutes. The recommended daily dose of beta-alanine is 4-6 grams per day.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that forms carnosine in muscles. Carnosine is a peptide that helps buffer the body's acid-base balance. Muscle carnosine levels can be increased by consuming carnosine or beta-alanine. While carnosine can be obtained from the diet, the daily intake of carnosine in people following a staple diet is low at only 0.25-0.75 grams per day. Carnosine supplements are available in the market, but beta-alanine has been the focus of research due to its lower cost.
The benefits of beta-alanine are numerous. Intense exercise like running or strength training can cause muscle fatigue due to impaired neural control, reduced energy stores or excessive muscle acidification. Beta-alanine increases muscle carnosine levels, which reduces acidification during intense exercise and improves performance. Ingesting beta-alanine for four to ten weeks can increase muscle carnosine levels by up to 80%. Beta-alanine has been shown to improve knee extension strength, exercise work efficiency, and prevent fatigue during high-intensity endurance training like HIIT. Research also suggests that beta-alanine ingestion can increase muscle growth and lean mass. When taken with creatine, beta-alanine can enhance endurance performance and increase lean mass while reducing fat percentage more effectively than creatine alone.
A common side effect of beta-alanine is a tingling sensation felt in the fingers, ears, and nose after ingestion, which is a normal and healthy allergic reaction. To avoid this tingling, it is recommended to divide the daily dose into several smaller doses. Beta-alanine should be consumed for at least four weeks to increase muscle carnosine levels and improve performance. Long-term research on the side effects of beta-alanine is limited, but the small number of studies are promising and suggest that it is a safe supplement (Kerksick et al. 2018).
Beta-alanine is especially useful for those training for endurance sports like skiing, running, cycling, or rowing. It can also benefit power sports like strength training for muscle growth, functional training, or body composition training.
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