Beta-alanine is an amino acid found in muscle tissue doesn’t have direct involvement in muscle protein synthesis.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid found in muscle tissue doesn’t have direct involvement in muscle protein synthesis. Rather, it acts as a natural buffer within the body, by reducing the lactic acid build-up in muscles that lead to fatigue. It does this by pairing with fellow amino acid, histidine, forming carnosine – a dipeptide. Because of its capacity to reduce acidity muscle acidity, carnosine (or beta-alanine) is often featured in pre-workout products.
Carnosine production relies heavily on the availability of beta-alanine, rather than histidine. In order for this to take place, beta-alanine intake must be at a significant level. Classed as a non-essential amino, beta-alanine can be synthesised by the body, but it doesn’t occur in many foods; thus, for the full effects of carnosine to be realised, supplementation (of beta-alanine) is required.
Fundamentally, carnosine works to filter the hydrogen ions that accumulate in the muscles. This can help to delay muscle exhaustion, so that ultimately, you can achieve maximum results from your workout. Unlike creatine, carnosine isn’t thought to increase muscle strength; as such, its use is best suited to short ‘bursts’ of intense exercise, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), including weights.
Endurance doesn’t seem to be overly influenced by carnosine, though some research suggests that it can reduce lactic acid build-up to some degree in runners, swimmers, cyclists etc. This means that supplementing beta-alanine may positively influence anaerobic performance, and helping to lessen fatigue.
Taking 4-6g per day of beta-alanine for around four weeks is said to muscles increase muscle stores of carnosine, maximising its benefits. A word of caution: if you use pre-workouts, you’ll often find beta-alanine as a listed ingredient; if you wish to supplement further, you’ll need to reduce your dose accordingly.
A common side-effect of beta-alanine use is something known as paresthesia (this is much less scary than it sounds!), which creates a ‘prickling’ sensation akin to ‘pins and needles’. This is usually experienced in the face – especially the lips and cheeks, as well as the scalp and ears, though some people feel it in the chest, arms and other extremities. This subsides after a few minutes of consumption; though it can be alarming, or at the very least – irritating, it is completely harmless.
You can come across beta-alanine in powder form, which you can easily add to your shakes and pre-workouts, or as capsules.