Clayton's Health Facts: Beta-Alanine.

Clayton South, SPN (ISSA), is a recognized expert in the bodybuilding / fitness industry with over 150 bodybuilding, fitness and nutrition publications to his credit.

What Is It?
And Where Does It Come From?

β-Alanine (C3H7NO2) is a nonessential amino acid and is the only naturally occurring beta amino acid.

Whereas á-Alanine is found in many food sources including eggs, meat, chicken, plants and some dairy products, β-Alanine is made in the body by the enzyme beta-ureidopropionase via β-Alanine Synthase. β-Alanine is a breakdown product from carnosine and is also a component in pantothenic acid (Vitamin B-5).

It's sometimes called 3-aminopropionic acid.

What Does It Do?
And What Scientific Studies Give Evidence To Support This?

Whereas á-Alanine helps the body use simple sugars like glucose for energy and plays a role in protein synthesis and enzyme production, β-Alanine does not play a role in protein synthesis and enzyme production. Instead, as a carnosine breakdown product, β-Alanine increases intramuscular carnosine concentrations. Carnosine is a dipeptide - meaning that it is two amino acids bound together that plays a critical role in athletic performance.

During exercise, a working muscle undergoes an intramuscular pH balance change. As immediate energy system fuel is broken down to power muscular movements, hydrogen ions accumulate and lower the intramuscular pH levels, producing acidosis - an acidic state that triggers inflammation and muscular failure.

Carnosine plays a critical role in the muscular failure process because it acts as a buffering agent that buffers muscle tissue from acidity, thereby delaying muscular failure.

As a carnosine breakdown product, β-Alanine can also be used as a carnosine precursor. When used as a supplement ingredient, β-Alanine is taken up by skeletal muscles and, together with histidine, is resynthesized into carnosine by an enzyme called carnosine synthetase. Research shows that β-Alanine supplementation can increase intramuscular carnosine levels by up to 64%!1,2

An increase in intramuscular carnosine levels can increase the buffering capacity of a muscle by up to 20%. By increasing the lactate threshold, β-Alanine supplementation can result in a dramatic delay of fatigue and failure3, and considerable improvements in muscular working capacity and performance.

Recent scientific research demonstrates that β-Alanine produces additional benefits when supplemented with creatine monohydrate.4 One study showed that β-Alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation produced a synergistic effect whereby total power output was dramatically increased5 and fat-free mass gain, strength increases and body fat reductions were greater than with creatine monohydrate supplementation alone.6

It's thought that β-Alanine enhances the effects seen with creatine monohydrate supplementation because of its ability to increase a carnosine concentrations and increase the ability of the anaerobic energy system.

Who Needs It?
And What Are Some Symptoms Of Deficiency?

β-Alanine is not an essential nutrient and no symptoms of deficiency have been established.

By contrast, á-Alanine deficiencies, although rare, are marked by neurological deficiency, seizures, hypoglycemia, diabetes, hepatitis and even death.

How Much Should Be Taken?
And Are There Any Side Effects?

Strictly follow label directions. Studies show that maximum benefit is observed after 10 weeks of use.7

Consult your physician before using any dietary supplement.

Although rare, the genetic disorder hyper beta-alaninaemia has been reported and β-Alanine should not be used by people with this condition.

At high doses, a slight skin flushing effect can sometimes occur. This effect is harmless and goes away by lowering dosage amounts.

Scientific References

  1. Dunnett M & Harris RC: Influence of oral beta-alanine and L-Histidine supplementation on the carnosine content of gluteus medius. Equine Vet J 30: 499 - 504, 1999.
  2. Harris RC, Tallon MJ, Dunnett M, Hill C, Boobis L, Coakley J, Fallowfield J, Kim HJ, Wise JA. The absorption of β-Alanine into blood and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. In Press. Amino Acids (2006).
  3. Tallon MJ, Harris RC, Boobis L, Fallowfield J, Wise JA. The carnosine content of vastus lateralis is elevated in resistance trained bodybuilders. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19: 725-729, 2005.
  4. Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O'kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke M. Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion. Amino Acids. 2006 Sep 5.
  5. Harris, R. FASEB. Effect of Combined Beta-Alanine and Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation on Exercise Performance
  6. Hoffman J, Stout JR, et al. Effect of creatine and ß-Alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. In Press. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2006).
  7. Hill, Harris, Kim, Harris, Sale, Boobis, Kim, Wise. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity.Amino Acids. 2006. July 28