Beta-alanine (or β-ALANINE)is a compound within the amino acids group, very popular among professional athletes and physically active persons, in view of its performance-enhancing properties, especially during any high-intensity training regimen. Together with L-histidine, it forms a dipeptide called carnosine, which accounts for the main benefits of supplementation with beta-alanine. A long-term intake of beta-alanine promotes an increase in intramuscular carnosine, i.e. an intracellular buffer and a protective factor against the harmful effects of free radicals. It has been established that 3% - 6% of the consumed beta-alanine only goes to the muscle tissue, whereas the remaining 1% - 2% is excreted in urine.
The performance-enhancing effect of supplementation with beta-alanine is observed during intensive exercise regimen spanning 60 - 240 seconds. It may therefore have an application potential in such sports such as martial arts, bodybuilding, rowing, short distance running, or obstacle course running. Supplementation with beta-alanine raises the level of carnosine in the muscles, and increases the buffering capacity, which in turn reduces the level of muscle acidification and delays the feeling of fatigue. It is worth noting that the beneficial effect of supplementation with beta-alanine on physical performance in sports is noted after about 4 - 10 weeks, as this period is associated with significant muscle saturation with this amino acid and optimal increase in the intra-muscular level of carnosine.
As beta-alanine exerts no immediate effect, it is necessary to pursue its supplementation for a minimum of one or two months, or even longer. Very much like creatine, this amino acid accumulates in the muscles and only after an appreciable increase in its level may any tangible effects be expected. The benefits of long-term supplementation with beta-alanine persist for some time following the actual conclusion of its intake. The optimal daily dose of beta-alanine is likely to be around 4.8 g - 6.4 g per day, although supplementation at the rate of 2 g per day has also been corroborated by several studies.
It should also be noted that taking this compound immediately prior to the commencement of an exercise regimen is not required, and in fact it is best to take one dose during the day, and the second one before the training. One serving of the product should contain about 3 g of this amino acid.
The doses of 4 g - 6 g per day, as applied in the study protocols, revealed an increase in carnosine concentration in the muscles of up to 64% after four weeks of administration, and of up to 80% after ten weeks. The body's response to supplementation with beta-alanine depends on several factors, e.g. initial level of carnosine concentration in the muscles, individual bodily idiosyncrasies, individual level of training (slightly higher in persons pursuing regular training regimen), or dietary carnosine intake (much higher in vegetarians). Research data also indicate that athletes pursuing any endurance disciplines have higher carnosine content in their muscles.
Supplementation with beta-alanine seems safe, as this compound occurs naturally in food (mainly in poultry and red meat). Occasionally, some persons that pursue regular supplementation with beta-alanine complain of paresthesia, e.g. a tingling sensation or numbness. Most frequently paresthesia may occur when a single dose of beta-alanine is too high, though, and so it is well-worth spreading a daily dose into several smaller doses to eliminate these unpleasant sensations. It would also appear that the symptoms of paresthesia might be appreciably reduced when a slow-release type of preparation is administered instead of a regular one.
All in all, whether beta-alanine can actually help out athletes and physically active persons perform appreciably better depends to a large extent on the actual type of physical exertion being pursued. If a sporting event spans 60 - 240 seconds, supplementation with this compound is well-worth considering. It should also be emphasized at this juncture, there are not many components of dietary supplements for athletes and physically active persons that boast such an extensive body of scientific evidence corroborating overall efficacy of beta-alanine. This consequently prompts the sports nutritionists to recommend this compound to their charges who take part in sporting events as the competing entrants, highly intent on ensuring high performance and achieving top scores.
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Clinical dietitian, trainer, and speaker at numerous seminars
Godula-Hope Foundation, NZOZ GENOM
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