How To Use Beta-Alanine: Train Harder With This Unique Amino Acid!
How To Use Beta-Alanine: Train Harder With This Unique Amino Acid!
If you could train harder and longer, what could you achieve? This article contains real information, not science-fiction. It's scientific FACT!
Exercise physiologists recently made a quantum leap with ground-breaking research on the role of specific performance enhancing supplements. At the center of this research is a special type of amino acid called Beta-Alanine (β-Alanine).
Just like creatine before it, the proof of its efficacy is abundant and very clear cut. The studies that show the incredibly powerful effects of β-Alanine were performed with humans and not data interpolated from rat studies like MOST other new supplements.
All of this makes β-Alanine a unique, powerful, clinically proven and very useful addition to practically anyone's supplement program. However, the most exciting evidence is that β-Alanine has exponential synergism with other scientifically proven supplements such as creatine, BCAA's and more.
Why is this so exciting? It is because when stacked and applied correctly, they can produce massive improvements in YOUR performance. Get ready because the future of human performance enhancement is here.
What Can Beta-Alanine Do For Me?
β-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that significantly increases strength, lean body mass and muscular endurance by helping manage the pH of the muscle cells.
In other words, it helps buffer the acidic build up that can occur in muscle, which allows you to maintain your strength, speed and power for a longer period. In essence, you can train harder and longer because of it.
There is also plenty of evidence to show that it is incredibly synergistic with creatine. Therefore, when used/stacked properly, this new supplement can be an amazing tool to help you take your training to new levels, resulting in new personal records and added lean muscle.
How Does Beta-Alanine Work?
β-alanine and Histidine combine in the body, increasing the level of an important dipeptide called Carnosine. Carnosine is important because it helps keep your muscles from becoming too acidic.
Nearly 20% of the muscles pH buffering capacity come from this compound. β-alanine is the precursor of carnosine, and carnosine levels are limited by the amount of β-alanine your muscles have available. Studies have shown that supplementing with β-alanine increases muscle carnosine concentrations, which decreases fatigue in athletes and increases total muscular work performed.
This happens because muscles function best in a very narrow pH range (See graph). Exercise can quickly cause an increase the acid level of your muscles. When this happens (acidosis), muscular performance suffers and muscle cramps happen much easier.
Furthermore, if the pH drops too low, muscle work stops completely. So, keeping your muscles in an optimal pH range is immensely important. Staying in this optimal range allows your muscles to keep contracting at the same power level for a longer duration, enhancing strength, speed and endurance.
A researcher, Dr. Roger Harris, believes β-alanine can double the buffering capacity within your muscles. This is a huge statement with big implications for every type of athlete.
Dr. Harris proved his theory in a study he conducted where he reported a monstrous 64% rise in muscle carnosine levels after just 4 weeks of daily β-alanine supplementation. Subsequent studies confirmed his results with one study showing that after 10 weeks, muscle carnosine increased by an average of more than 80%!
Other studies showed a very significant 16% boost in total work capacity performed on a stationary bike. This research shows us that β-alanine is extremely effective in fighting fatigue by boosting the body's energy systems and vastly increases endurance.
So why not just take Carnosine? Carnosine is digested very poorly. When you ingest it, the body hydrolyzes (breaks it back down) it into β-alanine and Histidine anyway. Then your body synthesizes it back into carnosine again. Since your body usually has plenty of histidine already then it makes much more sense to just take β-alanine.
Who Should Use Beta-Alanine?
As you are starting to understand, boosting Carnosine levels with β-alanine is extremely beneficial for athletes. It is very useful for anyone involved in athletic activities where strength, power and muscular endurance are needed.
It's for athletes participating in weight training who want to increase strength/lean body mass as well as athletes participating in speed or endurance events who want to prolong the onset of fatigue. It is also helpful for anyone who has hit a training plateau and is looking for something to bump them to the next level.
* Ratings as of article's date of publication
The research for β-alanine clearly shows it is a powerful supplement that when combined with specific other supplements significantly increases strength, lean body mass, power and muscular endurance.
Research also shows that supplementing with β-alanine for as short as 4 weeks with as little as 1.6g/day has a dramatic effect on athletic performance in numerous categories. It also shows that supplementing with Beta Alanine for longer duration with higher dosages (12 wks or more @ 3.0+g/day) has an even greater effect on performance.
Furthermore, these same studies show it is best results occur when using β-alanine consistently for at least three months. There is NO evidence to suggest that cycling off β-alanine would be necessary or beneficial.
A Summary Of Some Of The β-alanine Studies
- Increased the work capacity of athletes
- Increased strength and reduced fatigue
- Increased endurance
The combination β-alanine and Creatine is synergistic and increases workout volume, increases lean muscle mass and may reduce body fat.
- Combining Creatine and β-alanine can have a dramatically positive effect on performance for explosive type movement (sprinting, weight lifting, etc.) as evidenced by an incredible increase in power output over creatine alone.
The Most Common Mistakes In Using Beta-Alanine
Using β-Alanine By Itself To Improve Performance
As proven above, there is a synergistic effect when stacking creatine and β-alanine. There is almost certainly an even greater synergism when you take other research into account on amino acids, protein and glycogen replenishment. If results are what you want, then read on for how to create a great performance stack.
Too Large Of A Dose All At Once
Many athletes report a "prickling sensation" (pins and needles) - called paresthesia when using a serving larger than 1000mg at a time. The prickling is a result of β-alanine binding to nerve receptors, activating them and causing them to discharge/fire. This sensation may begin approximately 15-20 minutes after ingesting β-alanine and may continue for 1-1.5 hours. Furthermore, Dr. Stout has found in his research that one large dose doesn't work as well as divided doses.
Using β-Alanine To Enhance The Feeling Of "Pump" For Athletes
Many athletes experience intense vasodilation/pumps from β-alanine if they take more than 1000mg at a time. While this may feel good for some, it usually causes most people to stop their reps or sets short because of this "pump" feeling.
This means less work was actually performed and less adaptation will occur. Therefore, diminishing the training effect and subsequent results. To illustrate this point, think of a cyclist whose legs get too pumped going up their first hill. As a result, they fatigue early and perform worse. Using the proper dosage in the right timing will help avoid this scenario.
- Kreider Richard, PhD, Nutritional Strategies to Optimize Performance and Prevent Overtraining
- Baylor University - presented at 2008 ISSN conference, Weir Joseph, PhD, Physiology of Fatigue, Des Moines University - presented at 2008 ISSN conference
- Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O'kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke M.(2006), Effects of 28 days of β-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion. Amino Acids, 1-6
- Harris RC, Tallon MJ Dunnett M, Boobis L, Coakley J, Kim HJ, Fallowfield JL, Hill CA, Sale C, Wise JA (2006) The absorption of orally supplied ?-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids, March
- Harris RC, Dunnett M, Greenhaf (1998) Carnosine & Taurine contents in individual fibers in human vastus lateralis muscles. J Sports Sci 16: 639-643.
- Kim HJ, Kim CK, Lee YW, Harris RC, Sale C, Harris DB, and Wise JA (2006) The effect of a supplement containing ?-alanine on muscle carnosine synthesis and exercise capacity, during 12 wk combined endurance and weight training. J. Inter. Soc. Sports Nutr. 3(1): S9
- Stout JR, Cramer JT, Mielke M, O'Kroy J, Torok D, and Zoeller RF (2006) Effects of 28 days of β-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on the physical working capacity at neuromuscular fatigue threshold J Strength Cond Res (in press)
- Stout JR, Cramer JT, Zoeller RF, Torok D, Costa P, Hoffman JR (2006) Effects of β-alanine supplementation on the onset of neuromuscular fatigue and ventilatory threshold in women. Amino Acids. J Strength Cond
- Suzuki Y, Ito O, Takahashi H, Takamatsu K (2004) The effect of sprint training on skeletal muscle carnosine in humans. Intl J Sport Health Sci 2: 105-110.
- Suzuki Y, Ito O, Mukai N, Takahashi H, Takamatsu K (2002) High Level of Skeletal Muscle Carnosine Contributes to the Latter Half of Exercise Performance during 30-s Maximal Cycle Ergometer Sprinting. Jpn J Physiol 52:199-205.
- Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J., Effect of creatine and β-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Dept. of Health and Exercise Science, College of New Jersey, Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Aug;16(4):430-46.
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