Are you someone that wants and needs an extra boost during your workouts? There are so many supplements available–how do you know what to try and if it’s safe? As a personal trainer and nutrition coach I am always trying new or proven supplements to help me build muscle, improve athletic performance & speed recovery, and nourish my body for my active lifestyle. That said, it is important to listen to your body and be open to trying new things as your body changes over time and may need to cycle on or off of certain nutrients or supplements. I also keep an open mind as to what supplements may help our clients at Energy Fitness onsite and online reach their weight loss and fitness goals.
In this blog post I am discussing beta-alanine, which is a non-essential amino acid and is the only naturally occurring beta-amino acid. Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body, so they don’t have to be provided by food. Not to be confused with regular alanine, beta-alanine is classified as a non-proteinogenic amino acid, as it is not believed to be used in the building of proteins.
A client brought beta-alanine to my attention when she was doing an extremely low carbohydrate lifestyle for a few months. She needed something that would help give her energy for her workouts since many times she felt really weak from such low carbs available for energy. It can have the following benefits:
- Improve Overall Workout Performance
- Delay Fatigue Of Muscles (clinically proven)
- Promote The Endurance Of Muscle (exercise capacity)
- Build Strong, Lean Muscle Mass (improving physical functioning in the elderly)
While there are a great many supplements out there that people question just how much of a difference they make, beta-alanine is one that has proven to be effective time and time again.
Beta-alanine is one of the non-essential amino acids that is not easily consumed in the regular mixed diet of chicken, beef, whey, or fish. Due to this fact, it can make getting in your required dose slightly more difficult.
When it’s ingested by the body, beta-alanine will get converted into carnosine, which will then serve the purpose of increasing your stamina, strength as well as muscle development.
Side note on Carnosine: It acts as an anti-glycating agent, reducing the rate of formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs)–substances that can be a factor in the development or worsening of many degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic renal failure, and Alzheimer’s disease, and ultimately reducing development of atherosclerotic plaque build-up. Chronic glycolysis is speculated to accelerate aging, making carnosine a candidate for therapeutic potential. Do you drink or have a sweet tooth? Did you know that sugar is glycating in your body?
Back to Beta-Alanine
For those who are heavy into their training, taking this supplement will then enable them to train harder while they’re in the gym, resulting in increased muscle gains as a direct result.
Furthermore, for those who are trying to do more metabolic type of workouts by decreasing the amount of rest they’re taking between sets, this will also serve to help them recover more quickly between sets, therefore allowing them to increase the overall calorie burn and intensity during the workout.
Carnosine, when present in the body though, will work as an intracellular buffer, helping to stabilize the muscular pH and also soak up any additional hydrogen ions that are released while the exercise is taking place.
The more carnosine that’s present in your system then, the less chances you’re going to suffer from high lactic acid levels. Lactic acid build up is what causes the burning sensation and soreness post workout(s).
As with most supplements keep in mind that it typically takes about two weeks to start noticing good increases in performance, so if it’s not immediately noticeable, don’t give up on it too quickly.
Physical performance. Some research shows that taking beta-alanine modestly improves some measures of physical performance, especially during high-intensity exercise and strength training. Beta-alanine supplements might also improve physical performance and delay muscle fatigue in older adults. Researchers are hopeful that these benefits might lower fall risk, but it’s too early to know that for sure.
How much should I take and are there side effects?
Some manufacturers of product suggest taking 2-3 times day in the quantities mentioned on the jar which may be 5 grams (1 level teaspoon). On the days I exercise twice a day I take 5 grams 10 minutes prior to exercise. The effects of beta-alanine start showing after 4-6 weeks and peak at 12 week period. So if you expect instant results, this is not the product. A side effect in the short duration is slight itching, tingling or buzzing of the skin or extremities after taking it. This sensation will go away in a few days after you start taking it as the body gets used to it. I usually feel it within 12 minutes of consumption. One time I had onions as a snack (I know…weird) and took beta-alanine before I went swimming and because onions are a natural blood thinner I felt tingling on my scalp and my hands more than usual.
Cycling on and off this supplement depending on the season and my race schedule along with consuming my regular BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-Valine) has allowed me to get stronger, and add muscle by assisting me to utilize higher volume training, which on a low-carb diet is very difficult due to glycogen depletion. I am reminded of beta-alanine’s benefits most when I have to be in the off cycle of not taking it because it prevents that extreme fatigue and burning feeling in the muscle that may make you stop a few reps earlier than you need to lift more and grow stronger.
I prefer powder to pills and one with the proven Carno-syn®. The texture and flavor of the powder is similar to sugar and easily tolerable in plain old water. I like to put the powder straight into my mouth from the spoon, add a little water and then let it dissolve in my mouth three quarters of the way then swallow. Avoid getting on your lips unless you want them to tingle.
I am a Now Sports retailer and have a small pro shop but Amazon has it as well.
Amazon – about $28 and below is what they say about the product:
Beta-alanine is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately for a short time. Side effects have not been reported with moderate doses of beta-alanine. High doses can cause flushing and tingling.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For improving physical performance: 3.2-6.4 grams daily of a specific beta-alanine product (CarnoSyn, Natural Alternatives International).
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking beta-alanine if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
If you’re looking for a way to extend your workouts so you can train harder and accomplish more in each gym session, give beta-alanine some consideration. Fatigue is something that many individuals face, especially if you’re currently dieting, therefore anything that can increase levels will definitely improve your ability to continue to make progress.
We need to always be changing up our routine, whether it’s our workouts (duration, rep amount, type, etc.), our food variety consumption, and more. It’s important to cycle off of it every 12 weeks.
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