When creatine first came out, it only had a little bit of research behind it. Plenty of my colleagues said, reasonably, that they weren't going to accept it until there was more research. But guys like me, who were both in the gym and the lab, realized right away that it was extremely effective. Over the years the research has piled up, and now both camps can agree: no doubt about it, creatine is safe and effective.
CarnoSyn beta-alanine is on the track creatine was a few years ago. I've been talking about it for years, and now the research is piling up to show just how effective this amino acid is for muscle strength, muscle power, endurance, muscle growth, and possibly even fat loss. It's one of the hottest supplements on the market, and it's also one that consistently lives up to expectations.
Jim Stoppani Expert Guide CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine
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Beta-alanine, I can say with plenty of experience, is great. And CarnoSyn is without a doubt the best beta-alanine you can use. Here's what you need to know in order to get the most out of this proven performance-boosting supplement.
What is it?
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is produced naturally in the liver. You also get it in your diet from meat sources, such as beef and poultry. In the body, beta-alanine, whether from the liver or ingested from food or supplemental CarnoSyn, is taken up by the muscle fibers and combines with the amino acid histidine to form the dipeptide (a two amino acid protein) carnosine. Carnosine provides nearly all the benefits associated with CarnoSyn beta-alanine.
What does it do?
CarnoSyn beta-alanine combines with the amino acid histidine in muscle cells to form carnosine. Having higher levels of carnosine increases performance by increasing the muscle's buffering capacity of hydrogen (H+) ions. These are produced when lactic acid levels rise during intense exercise, such as weight training.
That lactic acid breaks down into hydrogen ions. When there are a lot of hydrogen ions in the muscle, it increases the acidity of the muscle. When the acidity increases, your ability to contract the muscle decreases. The muscle loses the ability to contract with a force, and it loses endurance. So by buffering these hydrogen ions, carnosine keeps your muscles contracting stronger for longer.
Beta-alanine also has some benefits that are separate from those of carnosine. Because of its structure, beta-alanine is now being recognized in the lab as a neurotransmitter, which means that it increases nerve firing in the central nervous system. This is one reason why many people experience a boost in alertness and energy from beta-alanine that is weaker than but similar to caffeine.
This is just one reason why it's a good idea to take beta-alanine before workouts and why it is found in numerous pre-workout products. It's also the reason why beta-alanine often causes that prickling sensation or "pins and needles" feeling in the skin—known as paresthesia. This feeling is completely normal and harmless, and increases with higher doses of beta-alanine.
What are the physique and performance applications?
The main reason we take beta-alanine is to buffer hydrogen ions, allowing you to maintain muscle strength and power during a workout. This doesn't mean you can take beta-alanine, walk into the gym, and increase your bench press by 20 pounds, though.
Let's take a typical chest workout as an example. Say you start with the bench press, move to the incline press, then do the dumbbell press, flyes, and cable crossovers, maybe 3-4 sets of each exercise. As you start the workout with the bench press, you're not fatigued yet. You've got a lot of energy, and you feel strong. As you keep going, your chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps get fatigued. If you came back and did your bench press at the end of your workout, you'd notice that your strength is significantly lower than where you were at the start.
That's muscle fatigue. You need to recover several hours, if not days, to get back to where you were at the beginning of that workout, as far as strength and endurance go. Beta-alanine helps you minimize that strength loss as you go along in your workout. So it's not the kind of endurance where, say, a runner will really benefit from it on a long run. It's more like strength endurance, if you will.
One of the studies that showed this was performed on boxers. Researchers had boxers simulate 3-minute rounds, and at the end of each round, they had them do a punching power test with a force transducer which measured the force of the punch. They found that when the boxers took beta-alanine they maintained significantly better punching power in the later rounds. That's similar to the strength and power you want to maintain during your workout.
Maintaining better strength later on in a workout can be crucial to not only your strength gains, but your muscle growth. It could also help with fat loss, because you're able to do more work. This would help you not only burn more calories during the workout, but also after the workout.
How Should I Take It?
There's a lot of confusion about dosing when it comes to beta-alanine—both when and how much is required. It's all over the place, depending on who you listen to and what research you look at. Some people say that the "minimum dose" is 3.2 g, and others say it is 4 g. When it comes to CarnoSyn, the branded form of beta-alanine, the minimum dose is 1.6 g.
However, this comes with a caveat. It takes longer than a single day's dose to reach muscle saturation levels of beta-alanine. This is the same with creatine: It goes to the muscle, but you don't start seeing much in the way of effects until your muscles are saturated with creatine. Research has shown it's similarly important to keep those beta-alanine levels topped off, if you will.
So if you take 1.6 g of beta-alanine, you still get the same effects as if you took 3.2 grams or 4 grams, but it might take you a bit longer before you start seeing those results. This is why I recommend taking two doses of 1.5-2 g per day, one before you work out, and the other post-workout.
Since the uptake of nutrients, such as amino acids like beta-alanine, improves around workouts, I recommend taking the first dose 30-60 minutes before training. Research shows that blood levels of beta-alanine peak within 30 minutes of supplementing with it, and it completely leaves the circulation within 3 hours of consuming. So it makes sense to get a 2-3 g dose of beta-alanine 30-45 minutes before workouts and then immediately after.
Why not take it all at once? If you take a 4 g dose of beta-alanine, you're almost definitely going to get that tingling feeling. Some people like that feeling; others don't when it becomes excessive. It's harmless, but in this case, it's also avoidable.
There have also been a number of studies which show the effectiveness of split daily doses of beta-alanine. In most cases, they concluded that any two times of day work. So why do I say pre- and post-workout is best? A major reason is convenience. Are you honestly going to stop when you're in the middle of your day, at work or at school, and say, "Oh, I need a dose of beta-alanine?" No. When during the day will you stop to focus on supplementation? Maybe when you wake up first thing in the morning, but more likely, it's pre- and post-workout.
I often get asked if it's necessary to take beta-alanine on a rest day. If you're doing one of my programs like Shortcut to Shred, where you work out six days per week, taking that one day off is fine. It won't affect your muscle saturation levels. If you're doing a program like Shortcut to Size, where you only work out four days per week, I would recommend taking a dose or two on at least one and maybe two of your rest days.
How should I stack it?
CarnoSyn beta-alanine is almost a standard ingredient in pre-workout mixes these days, and with good reason. The slight mental boost it can impart goes well with caffeine and other amino acids like tyrosine and huperzine to increase clarity and focus.
Beta-alanine also works well with creatine. One study found that when a group took beta-alanine along with creatine for 12 weeks, it gained significantly more muscle than a group taking just creatine. So it seems to enhance creatine's muscle-building effects, if you will.
In the same study, the subjects in the beta-alanine and creatine group also lost body fat while gaining muscle without changing their diet or workout program. The creatine-only group lost no body fat. So in my book, taking it with creatine is a no-brainer.
Are there any side effects?
Aside from the paresthesia, there are no significant side effects of taking CarnoSyn beta-alanine. That said, I can't tell you how many people have emailed me saying, "Oh my god, I took beta-alanine, and something's wrong with my lips and my ears." They don't like it. If you feel the same way or suspect you might, I would definitely recommend spacing out your doses.
What's the bottom line?
I can't tell you how many athletes have told me that CarnoSyn beta-alanine was a game-changer for them. If you train hard and want to get the most out of your time in the gym, I highly recommend it for your stack.
When looking for products which include beta-alanine, be sure to look for the CarnoSyn brand on the label. CarnoSyn is the only beta-alanine with more than 20 published scientific studies, supported claims, proven performance, and patent protection around the world. It's the most trusted brand when it comes to quality, purity, and effectiveness.