So what is beta-alanine? To briefly describe, beta-alanine is a non essential amino acid which is produced naturally in our bodies and also comes from the consumption of high protein food such as red meat, fish and chicken. Beta-alanine helps the body produce carnosine, which is usually found in fast twitch muscles. Carnosine can assist the muscles with delaying fatigue and muscular failure which may help with increasing muscle strength, endurance and reducing that burn feeling we may get when performing exercise.
Considering this information, it may be obvious to see why a lot of supplements on the market these days may contain beta-alanine as one of their ingredients. So how effective is it? Many studies have been completed in order to answer this question. One of the studies conducted tested fifty recreational trained men split into two groups, a beta-alanine and a placebo group, to measure the effectiveness of beta-alanine supplementation on high-intensity running performance. The beta- alanine group consumed two 800mg tablets 3 times in a day where the placebo group consumed maltodextrine at the same dosage amount.
The men then completed three high speed runs to exhaustion with 15 minutes rest between runs. From the results it was shown there were no significant performance differences between the two groups on high intensity running lasting from two to five minutes.1
Some key factors may have played a part in the study in why no performance differences were noted. One being the dosage, and secondly the study was unclear how long the men actually consumed beta-alanine for. They may have only taken the supplement that day and none before hand, raising the concern that the beta-alanine may have not had a chance to even take effect on the men's bodies.
A similar study was also conducted but this time test subjects consumed a higher dosage of the supplement each day and also consistently ingested it over 42 days. In this study 46 recreationally active men were assessed on high intensity interval training (HIIT). The men were split into two groups , one group which consumed beta-alanine and the other which took a placebo. All subjects supplemented four times per day (total of 6 g/day) for the first 21-days, followed by two times per day (3 g/day) for the subsequent 21 days, and engaged in a total of six weeks of HIIT training consisting of 5-6 bouts of a 2:1 minute cycling work to rest ratio.
After the first 21 days significant improvements in maximum oxygen consumption, time to fatigue and total work done were achieved by all the test subjects, however, in the second 21 days the beta-alanine group achieved further improvements on these measurements PLUS an increase in lean body mass compared to the placebo group.2
After looking at the two studies we can see that either the increased dosage, the amount of time taking the supplement or a combination of both may play a significant role on the effectiveness of consuming beta-alanine.
So now we have seen how beta-alanine can help in increased exercise performance, let's look at the effects it may have on body composition. In the following study, 15 college football players consumed either four grams of beta-alanine in powdered capsule form or a placebo and took part in an exercise regime consisting of eight weeks of high-intensity interval, repeated sprint, and resistance training. After eight weeks the results showed that the beta-alanine group increased lean muscle mass by an average of 0.95kg over the placebo groups gain of 0.45kg. These results suggest that beta-alanine supplementation can be effective in stimulating additional lean muscle gains after a short two month period of use.3
Clearly in the last two studies we can see a trend starting to develop that may suggest that consuming beta-alanine supplementation daily for weeks at a time may actually assist with improving our exercise performance and also increase body composition gains. After reading the above information it can be safe to say that beta-alanine may not be a waste of money and may actually be very beneficial for us.
1. Smith-Ryan AE, Fukuda DH, Stout JR, Kendall KL. High-velocity intermittent running: effects of beta-alanine supplementation. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jul 12. [Epub ahead of print]
2. 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;6:5.
3. Kern BD, Robinson TL. Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1804-15.
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