The term Paraesthesia might leave you wincing because it sounds similar to paralysis or paraplegic, but rest assured it is by no means related. Some of you may have heard of this condition and know that it’s not at all as severe as it sounds. Yes, it does share a similar name to the abovementioned because of the prefix ‘para’, but mercifully that is where the similarities end! How many of you reading this have suffered ‘pins and needles’? If your answer to that was yes, then you have suffered Paraesthesia…so the tingling feeling you get when you lay on your arm too long, hit a nerve or hold your hand above your head for a prolonged period is technically known as Paraesthesia.
Beta- alanine is a natural amino acid, but is not involved in the synthesis of proteins. Instead its main role is thought to be in the production of Carnosine which has several key functions, chiefly buffering the acidity of the blood in the muscle. Carnosine is also an antioxidant, increases cellular sensitivity to calcium supporting muscle contraction, and more recently has been recognised as a neurotransmitter (Tiedje, Stevens, Barnes, Weaver, 2010).
Supplementing with Beta- Alanine
The use of Beta- alanine as an ergogenic aid in sport has increased significantly in the last few years, it is without doubt one of the most fashionable and widely accepted supplements out there. It’s impact on the supplement industry is likened to that of creatine’s when it first burst onto the scene. Beta- alanine can significantly increase endurance and increase the acute receptivity to training. Beta- alanine’s efficacy is attributed to its ability to reduce the acidity of the muscle during exercise helping to maintain the contractility of muscle fibres, but also because of it’s neuroexcitatory properties.
Neuroexcitatory properties – ‘Tingling’ feeling
If you’ve consumed Beta- alanine before then you may be familiar with the associated tingling feeling you can get in the extremities such as your ears, fingers and toes. However, Paraesthesia as it’s technically known is a phenomenom that affects approximately 25% of users that have consumed a dose of approximately 800mg of Beta- alanine. Higher individual doses can cause an exaggerated tingling sensation, although many people actually like this because they can ‘feel the supplement working’. So rest assured if some of you don’t feel the tingling sensation, then it doesn’t mean it isn’t working for you…it will! Some people find Paraesthesia particularly unpleasant, and will notice significant tingling after a dose of 2000-3000mg.
Should you be worried?
There’s absolutely no reason to be, but if you are concerned on an individual basis then do stop taking Beta- alanine and consult your Doctor. Beta- alanine is deemed to be completely safe, so should you find the Paraesthesia effects off putting then consider taking smaller doses of around 400- 800mg spread out over the day in order to saturate the muscle with Beta- alanine (similar to how you would with creatine) in order to stay below the Paraesthesia threshold.
Tiedje, K, E., Stevens, K., Barnes, S., Weaver, D, F. (2010). β-Alanine as a small molecule neurotransmitter. Neurochemistry International. 57: 3 pp 177-188.
Tipton, K, D. & Luc van Loon, J, C. (2013). Nutritional coaching strategy to modulate training efficiency. Nestle Nutrition Institute. Basel: Karger.