Is this how you feel after taking beta alanine?

Beta Alanine – It’s Not Just Pins and Needles

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If you have used beta alanine before (you probably have, it’s in a lot of pre-workout supplements) you probably noticed the pins and needles sensation shortly after consuming it.

Some people find this too irritating, and they discontinue taking beta alanine. If you are one of those people, you might want to reconsider after reading this article.

The main causes of fatigue in skeletal muscle during exercise occur in the regions of the cortex and subcortical (central fatigue) and at the level of skeletal muscle tissue (peripheral fatigue). Beta-alanine is used as an ergogenic aid for athletes, especially sports that require strength and muscle bursts. The results from some studies suggest that supplementation may improve strength, muscle volume, performance, and even the body composition of athletes.

Several studies have been done to analyze the beta-alanine potential, seeking explanations for their effect on the perception of muscle fatigue, where beta alanine has indirect benefits, through its ability to increase carnosine synthesis in muscle, which optimizes the ability of this muscle in buffering the pH and a consequent improvement in the perception of fatigue and an improvement in performance during the practice of high-intensity exercises.

According to Hoffman et al. (2010), using a dosage of 3200mg of beta-alanine can help increase strength and muscle size, increase levels of carnosine (precursor of nitric oxide synthase, a group of enzymes necessary for the production of nitric oxide) also improving performance.

Beta-alanine (β-ALA), as claimed Culbertson et al. (2010), is not an essential amino acid, which through a supplementary protocol from 2 to 6 grams per day, was shown to increase carnosine concentrations in skeletal muscle tissue in the range of 20% to 80%. Several studies have shown that the oral ingestion of beta-alanine may be capable of improving the performance of individuals in high-intensity exercise.

Beta-Alanine and Muscle Fatigue

When your muscles start to get fatigued, lactate and hydrogen ions (H +) begin to accumulate due to ATP synthesis. This process is done by the metabolism to generate energy substrate for the body’s cells. When this occurs accumulation of hydrogen ions (H +) occurs beginning the process that is called by muscle fatigue.
Thus, Sweeney et al. (2009) suggest that oral supplementation of beta-alanine is presented as an agent with high buffering capacity, training sessions would suffer less this metabolic disorder, allowing individuals to train more, both in total volume as in intensity level.

Beta-alanine effects on body composition

Beta-alanine not only improves the fatigue perception process but is also efficient in improving body composition in athletes, when ingested with creatine.

In a recent study by Hoffman et al. (2010), 33 football players with optimal level of training, were split into three different groups:

  • The first group took 5 grams of creatine twice a day.
  • The second group took the same dose of creatine with the addition of 1.6 grams of beta-alanine, twice per day.
  • The third group took a placebo solution twice a day.

The group that supplemented with beta-alanine were able to show significant increase in muscle mass and a reduction of 1.2% bodyfat, an effect that was not seen in any of the other groups.

Final Thoughts

One of the greatest benefits of beta-alanine is that it could benefit many different types of athletes, including endurance athletes, powerlifters, bodybuilders, fitness competitors, or just the individual who wishes to improve their physical performance and/or body composition.

Another important factor is that so far, in the literature, we did not observe any significant side effects regarding beta-alanine supplementation, within the amounts presented and used in the studies cited, so this can be an effective and safe way to supplement for those seeking for an improvement in physical performance, and doesnt matter if that person is a high performance athlete, or just a person who likes physical activities.

Improved strength and endurance, with no side effects, sounds pretty good to me!

CULBERTSON et al. Effects of Beta-Alanine Carnosine on Muscle and Exercise Performance: A Review of the Current Literature. Nutrients 2010, 2, 75-98. Available in: Access: 29/08/2011.

Hoffman et al. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses n strength / power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metabol 2010, 16, 430-46. Available at: Access: 27/08/2011.

KERN, B.D .; ROBINSON, T. L. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate football players and wrestles. J Strength Cond Res 2011 Jul; 25 (7):. 1804-15. Available at: Access: 26/02/2012.

SWEENEY et al. The effect of beta-alanine supplementation on power performance During repeated sprint activity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2009 Nov. Available at: Access: 30/03/2012.