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Beta-Alanine: Best Pre Workout Supplement? (An Overview)

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

TL;DR: Beta-alanine can improve exercise endurance, reduce time to exhaustion, and improve body composition.

Beta-alanine is a powerful pre-workout supplement able to improve endurance and reduce fatigue.


In this article, I'll discuss beta-alanine, its benefits, adverse effects, dosage, and much more.


Table of Contents:


beta alanine

What Is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine.


It has been shown to be useful and effective as a pre workout supplement, when ingested it converts to a molecule called carnosine, this acts as an acidic buffer inside the body.


Carnosine is stored within cells and is released in response to pH drops in the body.


Heightened stores of carnosine can protect against diet induced drops in pH, such as those during ketosis, as well as protect from exercise induced lactic acid production, which is what is responsible for that burning feeling you get during a set!



How It Works

Histidine levels are typically high in muscles while beta-alanine levels are low, limiting carnosine synthesis. (1)


Beta-alanine supplementation has been found to increase carnosine levels in muscles by around 80%. (2, 3)


The following is the sequence of events during exercise.


  • Glucose is broken down: The breakdown of glucose begins, known as glycolysis. Glucose is the primary energy form for muscles.

  • Lactate is created: When your muscles break down glucose, into lactic acid begins to rise during exercise. This generates hydrogen ions (H+) when it is metabolised into lactate.

  • Muscles become acidic: Hydrogen ions lower the pH of your muscles, causing them to become more acidic.

  • Fatigue increases: Acidity in your muscles prevents glucose from being broken down and decreases your muscles' capacity to contract. This leads to exhaustion and fatigue. (4, 5)

  • Carnosine reduces acidity: Carnosine acts as an acid buffer, lowering acidity in the muscles during high-intensity exercise. (6)


Beta-alanine assists your muscles decrease acid levels after exercise by increasing carnosine levels. Overall tiredness is reduced as a result of this.

In summary, carnosine is increased by beta-alanine supplementation, which lowers acidity in your muscles during high-intensity exercise.



Beta-Alanine as a Pre Workout

Beta-alanine has been shown to improve muscular endurance, some people report being able to perform one or two extra reps when training in sets of 8-15 reps.


Beta-alanine supplementation may also improve moderate-high intensity cardiovascular performance, such as running and sprinting.


Pre workout usage of beta-alanine is a very common way to use this supplement, it is generally dosed at 2-5 grams a day, this can be taken all in one dose safely or split into multiple smaller doses!


However, there is one side effect which is prominent, its called paresthesia, it is a tingling effect which some people often get after taking beta-alanine, it is completely harmless though.


Effects & Benefits of Beta-Alanine Supplementation

The benefits of beta-alanine greatly outweigh the potential side effects of this supplement, which is why I recommend it.


It is great for use as a pre-workout, it may help build muscle and also has a fairly large array of other benefits, as listed below.


  • Beta-alanine may slightly improve muscular endurance. A meta-analysis was done to assess this, which resulted in a 2.85% median increase in performance. (6)

  • May be effective at reducing fatigue and increasing time-until-exhaustion. (7)

  • Possibly reduces fat mass and may possess a hypertrophic effect, however this could be due to higher work volume, it isn't clear. (8)


The side effects of beta-alanine are almost non-existent and currently consists of just paresthesia, the tingling effect some people feel, which is completely harmless.



Increases Time to Exhaustion (TTE)

Beta-alanine has been shown in studies to help you reach fatigue slower, it increases your time to exhaustion (TTE).


To put it another way, it allows you to workout for longer periods of time.


Following four weeks of beta-alanine supplementation, 20 men on a cycling test improved their time to fatigue by 13-14%. (9)


Another study of cyclists showed that taking supplements for four weeks boosted total work done by 13%, and an additional 3.2% after ten weeks. (10, 11, 6)


Improves Short-Duration Exercise Performance

Muscle acidity reduces the duration of high-intensity exercise in general.


As a result, beta-alanine is particularly beneficial during high-intensity, short-duration exercise lasting one to two minutes.


Taking beta-alanine for six weeks improved time to exhaustion by around 19% during high-intensity interval training. (12)


Another research found that 18 rowers who supplemented for seven weeks were 4.3 seconds quicker than the placebo group in a 2,000-meter race that lasted over six minutes. (13)



Body Composition

According to some research, beta-alanine may help with body composition. Supplementing for three weeks enhanced lean muscle mass, according to one research. (14)


Beta-alanine may help you lose weight by boosting your exercise volume and encouraging muscular development.


However, other studies indicate that following therapy, there are no significant changes in body composition or weight. (15, 16)



Adverse Effects

After consuming high dosages of beta-alanine, some individuals have experienced skin tingling and prickling, this is called paraesthesia and is harmless.


Some cardiac and erectile dysfunction medications may interact with beta-alanine.


Its safety hasn't been determined for children, individuals with certain illnesses or conditions, or pregnant or breastfeeding women. Therefore, it is best to avoid beta-alanine if you're young, pregnant, or breast-feeding.


Dosage

2-5 grams (2,000-5,000 mg) per day is the typically used dosage.


While beta-alanine is often seen in pre-workout supplements and does have benefits as a pre-workout supplement, supplementation is not time-dependent.


Large dosages of beta-alanine taken at once may cause paresthesia, which is a tingling / prickling sensation. Use a time-release formulation or take lower dosages (800-1,000 mg) multiple times per day to prevent this.


More Information

Below is more technical information about beta-alanine, such as other names, functions and roles, synergies, etc.


Other Names: b-alanine, β-alanine, carnosine precursor

Primary Role: Exercise performance, muscle gain

Synergies: Creatine


Things to Note

  • If you take too much too quickly or are new to beta-alanine, you may experience a tingling feeling (paresthesia), which is harmless.



 

Written by Billy White

billy white

Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.

He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.

 

References

This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.

Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.

This evidence-based overview on beta-alanine features 16 references, listed below.

1. Artioli GG, Gualano B, Smith A, Stout J, Lancha AH Jr. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2010, Jun) (Review) ✔

2. Derave W, Ozdemir MS, Harris RC, Pottier A, Reyngoudt H, Koppo K, Wise JA, Achten E. beta-Alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters. J Appl Physiol (1985). (2007, Nov) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

3. Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids. (2007, Feb) ✔

4. Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. (2012, Jul) ✔

5. Culbertson JY, Kreider RB, Greenwood M, Cooke M. Effects of beta-alanine on muscle carnosine and exercise performance: a review of the current literature. Nutrients. (2010, Jan) ✔

6. Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. (2012, Jul) (Meta-Analysis) ✔

7. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Ross R, Kang J, Stout JR, Wise JA. Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutr Res. (2008, Jan) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

8. Kern BD, Robinson TL. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. J Strength Cond Res. (2011, Jul) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

9. Hobson RM, Harris RC, Martin D, Smith P, Macklin B, Gualano B, Sale C. Effect of beta-alanine, with and without sodium bicarbonate, on 2000-m rowing performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2013, Oct) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

10. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Hoffman JR, Wilborn CD, Sale C, Kreider RB, Jäger R, Earnest CP, Bannock L, Campbell B, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss TN, Antonio J. International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2015, Jul 15) ✔

11. Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids. (2007, Feb) ✔

12. Ghiasvand R, Askari G, Malekzadeh J, Hajishafiee M, Daneshvar P, Akbari F, Bahreynian M. Effects of Six Weeks of β-alanine Administration on VO(2) max, Time to Exhaustion and Lactate Concentrations in Physical Education Students. Int J Prev Med. (2012, Aug) ✔

13. Baguet A, Bourgois J, Vanhee L, Achten E, Derave W. Important role of muscle carnosine in rowing performance. J Appl Physiol (1985). (2010, Oct) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

14. Smith AE, Walter AA, Graef JL, Kendall KL, Moon JR, Lockwood CM, Fukuda DH, Beck TW, Cramer JT, Stout JR. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval training on endurance performance and body composition in men; a double-blind trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2009, Feb 11) ✔

15. Kendrick IP, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Kim CK, Dang VH, Lam TQ, Bui TT, Smith M, Wise JA. The effects of 10 weeks of resistance training combined with beta-alanine supplementation on whole body strength, force production, muscular endurance and body composition. Amino Acids. (2008, May) ✔

16. Glenn JM, Gray M, Stewart RW Jr, Moyen NE, Kavouras SA, DiBrezzo R, Turner R, Baum JI, Stone MS. Effects of 28-Day Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Isokinetic Exercise Performance and Body Composition in Female Masters Athletes. J Strength Cond Res. (2016, Jan) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.

 

The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.


Real Muscle leads the way in terms of transparency and privacy, which is why we want to let you know that some of the outbound links in this article may be affiliate links in which we may earn a small commission through. Despite this, our product recommendations are completely unbiased.



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