If you have your way, you’d probably be in the gym as long as you want and train as hard as you want. But the problem is, your body usually has the final say on this matter. And when it gets exhausted, you'll have to give it a rest and you’ll be left wishing there’s some way to extend your workout session. Fortunately, there is a way—it’s called beta-alanine.
What is Beta Alanine?
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that’s making waves in the fitness and bodybuilding scene. While most amino acids function as building blocks of protein, the body uses beta-alanine, along with L-histidine, to synthesize carnosine, a compound stored in the muscles and brain, which helps reduce muscle fatigue.
Understanding How it Works
Generally, your muscles have an abundant supply of L-histidine and low supply of beta-alanine. This limits the production of carnosine. By taking a beta-alanine supplement, your body will make use of the L-histidine glut and increase the production of carnosine by up to 58% in four weeks and 80% in 10 weeks, according to a study conducted at the University of Chichester.
During intense training, your body keeps up with the high energy demand by breaking down glucose into lactic acid through anaerobic glycolysis. This is usually where the action starts. And as you put more effort into the exercise, your muscles become more acidic with the lactic acid build-up. Muscle acidity diminishes your body’s ability to breakdown glucose and your muscles will have a hard time contracting. Then, the classic case of muscle fatigue sets in, putting an end to your workout.
Benefits of Carnosine
Muscle fatigue is the one limiting condition that prevents anyone to train as hard and as long as they’d like to. This is where carnosine saves the day. This compound hijacks the natural process by acting as the buffer against the buildup of hydrogen ions, which cause acidity in the muscles.
Furthermore, a study has also discovered that high carnosine concentration in the muscles is correlated with a higher percentage of Type II fast-twitch muscles. This kind of muscles has always been associated with the explosive athletic performance of sprinters.
Other Health Benefits of Carnosine
Aside from its obvious benefit during training, carnosine has other health benefits as well. For one, it is an antioxidant. Thus, it helps neutralize free radicals, those molecules that damage the cells and causes a wide range of diseases.
It also facilitates nitric oxide production. This molecule is an excellent vasodilator so it helps increase blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and promote overall heart health.
People well over the age of 50 may also benefit from carnosine, as it can help improve their muscle function. Additionally, it may also treat or prevent memory loss, glaucoma, and complications from diabetes. Thus, carnosine could be a vital part of an extensive anti-aging supplement program.
Why Not Take Carnosine Instead?
With all the benefits of carnosine, you may be wondering, why not supplement with carnosine? When you take a carnosine supplement, your body will just break it down to beta-alanine and histidine. Since beta-alanine is the limiting factor in the synthesis of carnosine and there’s an existing abundant supply of L-histidine already, taking a beta-alanine supplement is a more efficient method of increasing carnosine levels in your muscles. Plus, your body will do away with the extra process of the initial breakdown of carnosine.
Benefits of Beta-Alanine on Training
Several studies have shown beta-alanine’s positive impact on enhancing workout performance. Here are the various ways it does this.
A study involving 15 individuals discovered that people taking beta-alanine supplement exhibits enhanced physical performance and stamina as opposed to individual taking placebo supplementation. Further, researchers found out that improvement is more significant in exercises lasting 60-240 seconds or more. Thus, this supplement is particularly helpful if you use drop sets, forced sets, and supersets in your routine.
In a study conducted involving 30 strength-trained individuals divided into two groups, researchers found out that the group taking beta-alanine supplement manifested significantly improved power output compared to the group taking a placebo. This study shows that beta-alanine was effective in improving strength as seen by the group’s ability to lift increased loads.
Promotes Muscle Growth
Increased training volume promotes muscle growth. When you consistently use your muscles to do more work than it previously had, you are building more muscle mass. By improving your stamina and endurance during workouts, beta-alanine helps you train harder and for longer, allowing you more opportunity to build those muscles.
Additionally, in one study, it was discovered that beta-alanine supplementation caused a significant increase in lean body mass after three weeks of training.
Other Health Benefits of Beta-Alanine
Aside from its favorable effect on your exercise regimen, beta-alanine may have other health benefits as well. Although more experiments are needed to conclusively establish this amino acid’s other health benefits, several studies have shown this beta-alanine’s use in alleviating symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. In addition, beta-alanine exhibits anti-tumor property and may improve the cognitive function of people under stress.
How to Take Beta-Alanine
Although beta-alanine is usually taken as a pre-workout snack, it’s actually not a timing-dependent supplement. It’s typically taken in combination with other supplements like creatinine and sodium bicarbonate.
The recommended dosage is 4-6 grams of beta-alanine per day for at least 4 weeks, according to The International Society of Sports Nutrition. But you have to divide this into multiple doses of no more than 800 grams. When taken in doses greater than this, you may experience paresthesia, an unusual sensation characterized by the tingling of the skin.
Another side effect of beta-alanine is decreased taurine levels, as both amino acids will have to compete against each other for muscle absorption.
If you want to delay muscle fatigue and improve your routine, beta-alanine can help enhance performance during your workout. It is safe and effective and so it continues to be a buzzword in the bodybuilding circles. Just make sure you choose a high-quality and potent product with a premium form of beta-alanine.