We have all heard the countless supplements on the market containing Beta-alanine in them…. but what does it actually do? Beta-alanine is a natural amino acid, the reason it is called beta is the beta isomer of the non-essential amino acid alanine. Unlike traditional amino acids, beta-alanine is not used for the synthesis of proteins, its main function appears to be the synthesis of carnosine, which is a dipeptide found in high concentrations in skeletal muscle.
Now you may be asking yourself, so what? Carnosine has a number of important physiological activities in muscle tissue. It serves as a primary PH buffer, increases cellular sensitivity to to calcium, which is a trigger in muscle contractions, and acts as an antioxidant. Carnosine continues to have physiological benefits through the protection of muscle proteins from oxidation and glycation (reaction of sugars with proteins).
So lets talk some more science, during intense bouts of exercise, your body will use both aerobic and anaerobic energy cycles leading to the use of ATP, during this processes a by-product will be created called hydrogen ions. ATP-associated hydrogen ions are primarily responsible for the lowering of your muscles pH during exercise. This effect leads to fatigue, which no one wants, thus through the consumption of beta-alanine which synthesizes carnosine we can create a buffer that helps keep muscles within an acceptable pH range for a longer period of time.
What does this all mean?…… You will have the ability to workout longer and harder with the supplementation of beta-alanine… no brainer right??
Now you may be asking why not simply sell carnosine if it is such a great contributor to prolonged exercise. L-carnosine itself has proven to be inefficient for increasing muscle carnosine levels. Studies have proven that large amounts of carnosine does not increase the carnosine availability in the blood stream, only very small amounts appear to stay intact, the enzyme carnosinase is believed to be responsible for the lack of carnosine in the blood stream.
Overall the physiological benefits beta-alanine can provide are impressive!! Providing pH buffering abilities, enhancing muscle endurance, increasing muscle mass and strength, and improving overall aerobic and anaerobic performances.
The following are just a few insights into the scientific proof beta-alanine is a great nutritional supplement.
 Effects of beta alanine supplementation and high intensity interval training on endurance performance and body composition in me; double blind trial. Smith AE, Walter AA et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6:5
Improving females performance through Beta-alanine
Studying women and sport has become a growing topic of research over the past decade, here is yet another prime example, a study authored by, Strout J, Cramer J, Zoeller R, et al. titled “Effects of b-alanine supplementation on the onset of neuromuscular fatigue and ventilatory threshold in women” provides significant physiological advantages to beta alanine supplementation.
This study examined the effects of 28 days of b-alanine supplementation on the physical working capacity at fatigue threshold (PWCFT), ventilatory threshold (VT), maximal oxygen consumption (VO2-MAX), and time-to-exhaustion (TTE) in women.
Twenty-two women aged 27.4 with a standard deviation of 6.1 years participated and were randomly assigned to either the b-alanine (CarnoSynTM) or Placebo (PL) group. Before and after the supplementation period, participants performed a continuous, incremental cycle ergometry test to exhaustion to determine the PWCFT, VT, VO2-MAX, and TTE.
There was a 13.9% increase in ventilatory threshold , 12.6% increase physical working capacity at fatigue threshold and 2.5% increase in time to exhaustion, respectively for the b-alanine group, with no changes in the placebo group. In addition there were no changes for maximal oxygen consumption in either group.
Results of this study indicate that b-alanine supplementation delays the onset of neuromuscular fatigue (PWCFT) and the ventilatory threshold (VT) at sub maximal workloads, and increase in TTE during maximal cycle ergometry performance. However, b-alanine supplementation did not affect maximal aerobic power (VO2-MAX).
In conclusion, b-alanine supplementation appears to improve sub-maximal cycle ergometry performance and TTE in young women, perhaps as a result of an increased buffering capacity due to elevated muscle carnosine concentrations. If that isn’t enough proof… don’t you worry, we have more!
Beta-alanine improves elderly health
First we looked at beta-alanine supplementation for women, now let’s transition into those who are older. A study authored by Strout J, Graves B, Smith A, et al. titled The effect of beta-alanine supplementation on neuromuscular fatigue in elderly (55–92 Years): a double-blind randomized study” brings light to the aging population of our North American Culture.
Aging is associated with a significant reduction in skeletal muscle carnosine which has been linked with a reduction in the buffering capacity of muscle and in theory, may increase the rate of fatigue during exercise.
Supplementing beta-alanine has been shown to significantly increase skeletal muscle carnosine, as mentioned previously. The purpose of the study listed above, was to examine the effects of ninety days of beta-alanine supplementation on the physical working capacity at the fatigue threshold (PWCFT) in elderly men and women.
The authors used a double-blind placebo controlled design, twenty-six men (n = 9) and women (n = 17) (age ± SD = 72.8 ± 11.1 years old) were randomly assigned to either beta-alanine (BA: 800 mg × 3 per day; n=12; CarnoSynTM) or Placebo (PL; n=14) group. Before and after the supplementation period, participants performed a discontinuous cycle ergometry test to determine the PWCFT.
Significant increases in PWCFT (28.6%) from before to after supplementation were found for the beta-alanine treatment group (p < 0.05), but no change was observed with placebo treatment. These findings suggest that ninety days of beta-alanine supplementation may increase physical working capacity by delaying the onset of neuromuscular fatigue in elderly men and women. Proving that Beta-Alanine supplementation is not just for the big dudes in the gym. It’s for EVERYONE!
The authors suggest that through beta-alanine supplementation, our aging populations can improve intracellular pH control, and improve muscle endurance. They also believe, beta-alanine supplementation could have importance in the prevention of falls, and the maintenance of health and independent living in elderly men and women. Which is a MASSIVE concern for our aging baby boomers.
The supplementation of beta-alanine has proven time and time again to be a significant contributor to Ph buffering…… increases in cellular sensitivity to to calcium, which is a trigger in muscle contractions….. and acts as an antioxidant. NOW THAT’S BANG FOR YOUR BUCK!
Check out Labrada Nutrition’s BA-Endurance product.Packed with over 1600mg of Beta Alanine per serving.
Increases Muscular Endurance and Stamina, delays muscle fatigue, helps you train longer and with more force.
If you prefer your Beta-Alanine as part of an “All-in-One, my favorite product on the market is Labrada Nutrition SuperCharge.
One of very few pre workouts that actually tells you the amounts of beta-alanine you get per serving.
About the Author
Coach Chuck Dertinger is an accomplished fitness and nutrition expert, holding a Masters Degree in Science with a concentration in Exercise Physiology. Chuck lives, breaths, and loves to promote healthy lifestyle choices. He went from skinny to brawny gaining over 50-lbs of muscle in a couple of years through the use of sound training and nutrition tactics. Feel free to add him on Facebook and ask any questions with relation to nutrition or exercise.