Beta-alanine

1) What is beta-alanine?

Beta-alanine is among the most common ingredients found in pre-workout. It is most commonly understood as an endurance or anti-fatigue ingredient in pre-workout supplements. 

Beta-alanine is one of the most well-researched dietary ingredients, with results showing improved exercise capacity and performance.  It is a naturally occurring, non-essential amino acid that is synthesized in the liver and found in meats such as beef, fish, chicken, and turkey.  Beta-alanine does not exert its ergogenic effects directly.  Rather, beta-alanine supplementation works by increasing the intramuscular concentration of carnosine.

After supplementing with beta-alanine, it can be taken up by the muscle where it binds to another amino acid, histidine, to produce the dipeptide known as carnosine.  Carnosine plays several important roles during exercise including fighting free radicals, supporting enzyme function, and aiding calcium regulation.  However, carnosine’s most well-recognized role for enhancing exercise performance is via its ability to function as an intracellular pH regulator. 

During exercise, the accumulation of hydrogen ions alters intramuscular pH leading to muscle fatigue and diminished performance.  Carnosine has been proposed to contribute up to 40% of the capacity of skeletal muscle to buffer hydrogen ions produced during high-intensity exercise.  In summary, beta-alanine serves as the rate-limiting precursor for carnosine synthesis.  Increasing the concentration of carnosine in the muscle helps regulate hydrogen ions and low intramuscular pH during exercise which helps alleviate fatigue and allow for more work to be completed.

Beta-alanine supplementation has been well-studied with evidence clearly indicating an increase muscle carnosine concentrations and improved exercise capacity and performance.  Overall, higher doses and/or longer supplementation periods seem to lead to greater elevations of muscle carnosine, however, caution is needed with high doses of beta-alanine due to its side effect.  Interestingly, beta-alanine is the pre-workout ingredient responsible for the potentially uncomfortable tingling sensation on the skin (known as paresthesia).  Although the exact cause of paresthesia is unknown, this side effect has shown to be harmless and inert.  Additionally, experiencing the tingling sensation does not mean “it’s working”.

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that promotes the endogenous production of carnosine – a dipeptide responsible for intramuscular buffering.  Regular beta-alanine supplementation has shown to improve exercise capacity and performance.

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