Beta Alanine: Is it an Important Supplement for Athletes?

Many athletes and sports enthusiasts turn to supplements to achieve better results. Although there are many supplements that are well-researched and proven to be effective in performance and recovery, there are still many supplements that advertise false claims. Beta-alanine is a supplement that has gained popularity across all sports. This article will explore the science-backed research on beta-alanine and its potential benefits.

Key takeaways:

What is beta-alanine and how does it work?

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, which means the body can produce it. It comes from animal proteins like beef and chicken. In the liver, beta-alanine pairs with histadine to form carnosine. The role of carnosine is to help neutralize acid and balance pH levels in the skeletal muscle.

Lactic acid builds up during high-intensity exercise. When the lactic acid is buffered, this delays fatigue time, specifically in the skeletal muscle, allowing the body to continue the activity at that intensity for longer periods of time. Research shows that beta-alanine may be helpful for athletes during high-intensity exercise ranging from 1 to 10 minutes.

How can it be beneficial?

  • Endurance training. Research indicates that beta-alanine supplementation may help endurance training due to the delayed onset of fatigue. One study demonstrated that beta-alanine supplementation was shown to improve a 30-second sprint capacity by 11% at the end of a 2-hour cycling race.
  • Muscle power. Studies have also found a positive effect of beta-alanine on muscular power. One study showed beta-alanine's positive effect on repeated isokinetic knee extensions and a reduction in fatigue. Overall, beta-alanine seems to have added benefits during activities that require maximal contractions or effort.
  • Antioxidant benefits. Carnosine is an antioxidant, which could improve or delay the onset of symptoms for diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and possible other effects of aging.
  • Improved blood sugar. Beta-alanine and carnosine may play a role in improving glycemic control and insulin resistance for people with diabetes and obesity. Although the results are promising, more research needs to be conducted in this area.

Who can benefit from it?

Beta-alanine has been shown to improve high-intensity exercise performance. Therefore, any athletes who train and perform at high intensities may benefit. Some activities include sprint runs, swimming, or cycling. Other forms of exercise that beta-alanine supplementation could support include HIIT workouts or boxing.

In addition, the diabetic population may benefit from beta-alanine due to its possible ability to regulate blood sugar. The older population may also benefit due to muscle carnosine reduction with age and the powerful antioxidant effects that it holds. In addition, women tend to have less carnosine than men, so they may benefit as well.

Safety considerations and possible drawbacks

Ingesting beta-alanine, typically in large doses, can cause paraesthesia. This is a tingling sensation usually in the extremities, face, chest and abdominal region.

Although harmless, the feeling can be uncomfortable for some people. Ways to combat this would be to consume smaller doses, consume less frequently, or use an extended-release product.

Dosage and timing

According to research, a recommended dose of roughly 3.2-6.4 grams per day divided in two doses is optimal. If paraesthesia occurs, more frequent doses every 3-4 hours of smaller doses of 0.8-1.6 grams or an extended release formula may be an option. In order for the supplementation to show effectiveness, it should be taken consistently for at least 4 weeks.

Although further research is warranted, there may be benefit to consuming beta-alanine with a carbohydrate-rich meal or caffeine to increase its effectiveness.

Final thoughts

In the sports nutrition world, beta alanine has emerged as a top supplement in the industry. For an athlete specifically looking to improve their endurance and/or power, beta alanine has promising effects.

Nutrition Tip
Although research shows that beta-alanine may be effective for a wide variety of athlete populations, it should never replace a well-balanced diet containing a variety of macro and micronutrients.

Overall, beta-alanine can be used as an added boost to current dietary, training, and lifestyle habits. It is important to consult with a registered dietitian or other healthcare professional before beginning a supplement protocol.

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