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  • Creatine VS Beta-Alanine

    There are literally thousands of supplements out there suggesting to do much of the same thing -- get you strong, muscular, and lean as hell.

    And two of the most common are Creatine and Beta-Alanine.

    In fact, both of these compounds appear in a multitude of different pre-workout supplements because research indicates that they are both effective.

    Which begs the question -- do you really need them both, or is one better than the other?

    Creatine and Beta-alanine: What are they?

    To work out whether one of these common supplements is better than the other, it is first important to gain an understanding of what they actually are.

    And first up is creatine.

    Creatine is a compound found naturally occurring in the human body, where it is synthesised from small protein molecules called “amino acids”. Most of the creatine found in your body is stored within your muscle tissue. It is then released during exercise to produce energy during short, explosive efforts.

    One thing to note is that the amount of energy you can produce via creatine is limited, because it is dictated by the amount of creatine you have stored in your muscle tissue -- which is exactly where creatine supplements enter the equation.

    By increasing the amount of creatine you have stored in your muscle, they increase the amount of energy you can produce during intense exercise. This can lead to a couple of extra reps per set at a given weight, which has obvious benefits in the gym environment.

    Pretty cool, right?

    Next up we have beta-alanine.

    Beta-alanine is a unique amino acid that is naturally found in your muscles and brain. Under normal circumstances, it combines with another amino acid called “histidine” to form a compound called carnosine.

    And this is important, because carnosine helps reduce the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles during exercise, which staves off fatigue.

    But much like creatine, the amount of beta-alanine stored in your muscle tissue is relatively small compared to the amount of histidine. This limits the production of carnosine, and puts a ceiling on your ability to buffer lactic acid during exercise.

    As a result, supplementing with beta-alanine can cause an immediate increase in carnosine production, which improves your fatigue resistance during exercise.

    Creatine and Beta-alanine: What are their benefits?

    So, we have two very different compounds that impact your body in two very different ways. Which really makes you wonder -- what are their benefits when it comes to boosting the results of your training?

    The Benefits of Creatine

    I mentioned above that creatine supplements ultimately saturate your muscle cells with creatine, which improves your energy production capabilities. I also went on to suggest that this could improve your gym performance acutely by allowing you to lift more weight.

    Well, the research indicates that this is completely true.

    Evidence has repeatedly shown that supplementing with creatine can cause vast improvements in strength during your gym sessions [1] -- and while lifting more weight is cool itself, this has further benefits when taking a longer term perspective.

    Over the duration of a long term training program, lifting more weight every single session will place your muscular and nervous systems under more mechanical load. This stimulates greater training adaptations, leading to improvements in strength.

    In fact, in one study, individuals who supplement with creatine saw improvements in strength that were 8% greater than people not taking creatine -- despite performing the exact same training program [2].

    Moreover, this was just a short term study. When we extrapolate these effects over years of training, the results become astronomically larger.

    But wait, there's more.

    Because creatine allows you to lift more weight, it causes an immediate increase in the amount of total volume you lift per session (think of volume as sets x reps x load). This is important, because training volume has been shown to be one of the largest predictors of muscle growth.

    As a result (and much like strength), combining creatine supplementation with a longer term training program has been shown to cause larger improvements in muscle size than simply training alone [3].

    The Benefits of Beta-alanine

    Now, as discussed above, beta-alanine works in a very different manner to creatine, where it increases the production of carnosine within your muscle tissue. This, in turn, directly limits the build of lactic acid during exercise.

    As a result, it has been shown to improve muscular and aerobic endurance, while limiting fatigue during training [4].While having more energy during training is unquestionably a good thing, you should understand that the implications of this are quite large.

    Let's say that you can normally perform 3 sets of 8 repetitions on the bench press at 80kgs -- but, when you supplement with beta-alanine, you can do 3 sets of 10 reps.

    This can also cause large increases in volume load across the duration of a training session. In fact, it is for this reason that beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to enhance muscle growth and fat loss significantly when combined with training [5].

    Do Creatine and Beta-alanine Have any Side Effects?

    OK, so they both offer some pretty positive benefits -- but do they have any side effects?

    To keep consistent with the theme of this article, we will kick off creatine.

    If you have been around the traps for a while then it is highly likely that you have heard some anecdotal reports that creatine can cause some nasty side effects, including kidney damage, muscle cramps, dehydration, and even diarrhea.

    However, evidence would suggest that this is not really the case [6].

    A previous study in athletes has shown that up to 5 years of creatine supplementation does not have any adverse effects on renal function. Now, I must admit that while we do not have any idea what happens after 5 years of supplementation, it is likely to be pretty safe. Nonetheless, we encourage you to check with your medical practitioner before supplementing with creatine.

    Moreover, while some people may experience some symptoms of dry mouth and increased thirst during the first week or so, that tends to disappear pretty quickly.

    In short, creatine is one of the safest supplements on the planet.

    And beta-alanine?

    Well, much like creatine it appears to be very well tolerated in humans.

    In fact, the only notable side effect that people experience is something called “paraesthesia”, which describes the “tingling” sensation that occurs on the face, neck and back of the hands after taking beta-alanine [7].

    While this may be slightly odd, it is something that normally disappears pretty quickly, and only occurs with higher dosages.

    Creatine VS Beta-Alanine: Who Wins?

    And the winner is.... *drumroll please*... both and neither.

    Evidence has shown time and time again that both of these compounds have the ability to improve the results of your training. However, because they work through very different mechanisms, they are hard to compare directly.

    I mean, creatine helps you lift more weight, and beta-alanine helps you perform more reps -- both of which will improve muscle growth and strength development in a big way.

    In fact, because they do improve gym performance by two very different mechanisms, I would argue that they both complement each other perfectly. As a result, it is probably in your best interest to take both of them if you want to optimise the results of your training.

    And look, no one is saying that you can only have one -- so why not take both?

    Key Points

    Both creatine and beta-alanine are some of the safest supplements that you can get your hands on. And given that they have both been shown to help improve muscle strength and size, they both deserve a place in your supplement regime.

    So what are you waiting for? Give them a go and let us know what you think.

     

    References

    1. Mills S, Candow DG, Forbes SC, Neary JP, Ormsbee MJ, Antonio J. Effects of Creatine Supplementation during Resistance Training Sessions in Physically Active Young Adults. Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1880.
    2. Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(4):822-831.
    3. Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):33.
    4. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids, 43(1), 25-37.
    5. Kern, B. D., & Robinson, T. L. (2011). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1804-1815.
    6. Poortmans, Jacques R., and Marc Francaux. "Adverse effects of creatine supplementation." Sports Medicine 30.3 (2000): 155-170.
    7. Trexler, Eric T., et al. "International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.1 (2015): 1-14.
  • Boost Your Gains: 5 Health Benefits of Beta Alanine

    One of the most commonly added ingredients in workout supplements, beta alanine is an amino acid that is characterized by the tell-tale tingling and flushing feeling you get from taking it. Why is there such a fascination with beta alanine in the fitness supplement world? Is it just another cheap filler additive to throw on a label or is there real benefit to adding it to your pre, intra, and post-workout supplements?

     

    Let's take a look at the top 5 health benefits of beta alanine and how it can help you with performance, gains, and overall wellness.

     

    1. Boost Performance with Beta Alanine

    Regardless of fitness goals, everyone wants to improve their performance. Better performance means better workouts. Better workouts translate into more lean muscle tissue or more calories burned. If you're an athlete, performance means victory. Beta alanine has been shown across a variety of studies to promote overall performance.

     

    One study published in Amino Acids looked at a collection of studies on beta alanine, concluding that in every study, beta alanine was shown to improve the performance of the subjects taking it to varying degrees. (1)

     

    2. Beta Alanine Increases Endurance

    Continuing with the point above, no one wants to be performing a workout then run out of fuel halfway through. Missing out on your workouts may potentially mean missing out on muscle building and fat burning. This is where endurance comes in and beta alanine may be able to help boost your workout endurance.

     

    In a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, beta alanine was shown to delay the onset of muscle fatigue while boosting the anaerobic threshold of the subjects. (2)

     

    Tired of wasting time looking for the perfect workout supplement? Why not create your own? Now you can with the Amino Z Supplement Builder! Try it today!

     

    3. Beta Alanine Increases Carnosine Levels

    One of the unique benefits of beta alanine is its ability to increase levels of carnosine within the body. Carnosine is a popular anti-aging compound that is also very useful for the development of muscle mass and strength building.

     

    If carnosine is so important then why don't people just supplement directly with carnosine? It's not that simple. Carnosine is notorious for having poor digestibility in the body. Beta alanine is the way around this. Once ingested, beta alanine is converted into a usable and effective form of carnosine. (3)

     

    4. Boost Strength with Beta Alanine

    For those of you who are strength and power lifters, you know that every kilogram counts. Supplements can offer you that extra boost you need to crush your personal bests. Beta alanine is one of the most effective supplements you can take for strength.

     

    A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism demonstrated that when subjects supplemented with a blend of beta alanine and creatine, they saw dramatic improvements in body composition and overall strength gains. (4)

     

    5. Beta Alanine and Muscle Mass

    That same study mentioned above also demonstrated that when subjects supplemented with a blend of beta alanine and creatine, the amount of lean muscle mass they gained was much greater than those taking a placebo. What's more, the beta alanine and creatine users also saw an elevated level of testosterone. (4)

     

    Make Your Own Beta Alanine Supplement

    You can achieve your fitness goals with beta alanine but you'll want to make sure you are getting exactly what you need in your supplement. How can you guarantee you're getting high quality beta alanine at a proven dosage level? By making your own! With the Amino Z Supplement Builder you can create your very own beta alanine supplement! Try it today!

     

    References

    1. Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):25-37. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z. Epub 2012 Jan 24.

     

    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;42(6):1162-73. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c74e38.

     

    1. Saunders B, DE Salles Painelli V, DE Oliveira LF, DA Eira Silva V, DA Silva RP, Riani L, Franchi M, Gonçalves LS, Harris RC, Roschel H, Artioli GG, Sale C, Gualano B. Twenty-four Weeks of ?-Alanine Supplementation on Carnosine Content, Related Genes, and Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 May;49(5):896-906. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001173.

     

    1. Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Aug;16(4):430-46.
  • The Benefits of Beta-Alanine Supplementation

    Beta-alanine has a range of effects on fitness, strength and lean muscle tissue. We discuss the benefits of beta-alanine supplementation in detail.
  • The Benefits and Uses of Beta Alanine

    We discuss the benefits of beta alanine supplementation. Will using this supplement help you reduce muscle fatigue and improve performance?
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