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What Is Beta-Alanine? The Benefits and Side Effects of Beta-Alanine Supplements

Updated on July 15, 2014

What is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-Alanine is a relatively new body-building supplement hitting the market. Different from creatine and other protein supplements that primarily focus on muscle growth and repair after intense workouts, this modified Alanine amino acid increases muscle performance during exercise.

Beta-Alanine is an important component in carnosine, a naturally occurring chemical largely found in muscle tissue and is responsible for controlling the body's pH levels. During strenuous exercise, your body's pH levels drop to acidic levels known as acidosis resulting in the burning feeling you get when your muscles are fatigued. During this time carnosine is used to regulate these levels and essentially keeps your muscles in peak performance for as long as the chemical is available. By adding more Beta-Alanine your muscles will be able to create more carnosine, thus increasing your muscle's overall potential when exercising.

What are its Benefits?

Beta-Alanine directly affects the amount of carnosine present in the body. Increasing Beta-Alanine through supplementation will result in higher levels of carnosine, thus decreasing the amount of muscle strain you will experience as well as increasing the output your muscles give. Controlled experiments were conducted with dedicated heavy weight lifters and collegiate football players to examine the exact effects of Beta-Alanine taken with creatine:

“The effects of creatine and creatine plus beta-alanine on strength, power, body composition, and endocrine changes were examined during a 10-wk resistance training program in collegiate football players. Thirty-three male subjects were randomly assigned to either a placebo (P), creatine (C), or creatine plus beta-alanine (CA) group. During each testing session subjects were assessed for strength (maximum bench press and squat), power (Wingate anaerobic power test, 20-jump test), and body composition...Changes in lean body mass and percent body fat were greater (P < 0.05) in CA compared to C or P. Significantly greater strength improvements were seen in CA and C compared to P...” -NCBI


Dr.Jose Antonio on Beta Alanine Benefits

Similar studies researched by WebMD have shown the same results claiming that the supplement "improves some measure of physical performance, especially during high-intensity exercise and strength training".

Through these controlled studies and their positive results, we can conclude that Beta-Alanine does in fact improve performance when working out.

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What are the Side Effects?

Side effects for Beta-Alanine are almost non-existent when used properly. With exercise there is no recorded negative effect other than paresthesia when taken in heavy doses. Paresthesia is best described as a light tingling and flushing of the face and is more commonly known as the sensation felt when your limbs “fall asleep”.

There are no long-term physical effect outside of paresthesia from heavy dosing, making Beta-Alanine a safe supplement to take. However even though there are no recorded side-effects, pregnant or breast feeding mothers are still advised not to take the supplement to prevent unforeseen complications.

How does Beta-Alanine and Creatine work together?

Creatine has been mentioned a few times already and has appeared in NCBI's study. For those that may not know, creatine has been the reliable supplement for athletic-minded individuals: “Creatine use is widespread among professional and amateur athletes and has been acknowledged by well-known athletes such as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and John Elway” (webMD).

There are multiple ways to take creatine. One of which is through what is called “front loading” which involves heavy dosage during the first few days to gain the maximum benefit from it early on as the supplement's effects fall off after weeks of continued use. Because it increases muscle strength, taking Beta-Alanine alongside creatine will allow individuals to lift heavier weights for longer periods increasing the overall muscle gain.

A second study by Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O'kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke M.(2006)2, analyzed the aerobic benefits of beta-alanine as a stand alone supplement compared to the creatine/beta-alanine combination. 55 subjects participated in the study, and it was revealed that “a significant time effect” was observed for the individuals supplementing with the creatine/beta-alanine combination, in 5 out of the 8 measured parameters. Simply put, researchers noted that creatine used with beta-alanine boosted endurance performance.” -MuscleandStrength

When taking creatine, you should expect some negative side effects:

“Creatine is LIKELY SAFE for most people when used at recommended doses. Creatine can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramping.

When taken by mouth in high doses, creatine is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. There is some concern that it could harm the
kidney, liver, or heart function. However, a connection between high doses and these negative effects has not been proven.” -webMD

What is the Beta-Alanine Dosage?

The recommended amount for taking Beta-Alanine supplements is between 3.2-6.4 grams daily for body builders. It is taken orally and can be found as dietary supplements at Amazon and other leading online retailers. There is no set schedule on when to take Beta-Alanine and it can be taken at small intervals throughout the day. It is, however, advised to take it in four hour intervals to avoid the paresthesia side effect mentioned above due to heavy dosing.

Beta-Alanine is very easy to use and depending on the intensity of your workout, dosage quantity will be the only variable you'll have to worry about. As for looking for a product that works: the study conducted by webMD specifically mentioned that Carnosyn was used by their volunteers who benefitted from Beta-Alanine's effects. Carnosyn is also available in 11.29oz bottles at Amazon.

Beta-Alanine can also be found combined with creatine in products such as Creatine Select and lets you benefit from both supplements without having to worry about alternating between the two supplements. This particular brand comes in a larger 16oz container and is also found at Amazon. However, when taking this particular combination expect to build the supplement schedule around creatine since beta-Alanine isn't as time dependent.

Beta-Alanine can also be bought in unflavored bulk packages of 1000g from Muscle Feast. Amazon Prime users can get this same product for around 25% off. At 1000g the package can last you almost the entire year when taken on a daily basis.

Conclusion

Beta-Alanine is an excellent body building supplement for athletic-minded individuals looking to gain more muscle. It is an affordable supplement that comes in bulk packages that will last most of the year.

Taken alongside creatine, its minimal side effects and simple daily dosage allows you to take the supplement around a creatine supplement schedule. It boosts muscle endurance allowing you to push your muscles further and with creatine, you'll be able to lift heavier weights for longer intervals. Taking Beta-Alanine is an overall benefit with few negative side effects.

© 2013 TotalHealth

Comments

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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 

      4 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Yes it's always worth keeping up with things isn't it? My new hub is published now.

    • TotalHealth profile imageAUTHOR

      TotalHealth 

      4 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

      Thanks @dwelburn glad you found it interesting. Let me know when you post your hub. I'm always looking for new info on supplements.

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 

      4 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Yes I've been researching this recently. In fact I'm just preparing a hub on creatine which also mentions beta alanine. Great info here.

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