BETA ALANINE SUPPLEMENTS: YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE
Along with other proven basics such as high quality protein powders, creatine monohydrate, fish oils and certain vitamins and minerals, beta alanine is one of the rare supplements out there with a comprehensive body of research to support its effectiveness in bodybuilders and athletes.
This complete beta alanine review will cover everything the average trainee needs to know when it comes to beta alanine supplements.
I’ll discuss what it is, what it does, proper usage (dosage, timing, mixing and product selection), potential side effects, along with my personal recommendations regarding the supplement.
Let’s dive in…
What Is Beta Alanine And What Does It Do?
Beta alanine is a non-essential amino acid and is a precursor to a substance called “carnosine” which is found primarily in fast-twitch muscle fibers.
In order to fully understand how beta alanine benefits gym-goers and athletes, we need to look at the primary function of carnosine, which is to buffer hydrogen ions.
Hydrogen ions are a by-product of muscular contractions and are formed when ATP is broken down. (ATP stands for “adenosine tri-phosphate”, and it is the usable energy molecule within the muscle)
As hydrogen ion concentrations rise, the PH of the muscle falls and it becomes more acidic. This rise in acidity is what causes that burning sensation you feel in your muscles during prolonged moderate to high intensity activities such as weight training and cardiovascular exercise.
You’ll start to feel increasingly fatigued and will eventually hit “muscular failure”, which is the point when muscular contractions can no longer be achieved.
This is where beta alanine benefits you…
Beta alanine increases intramuscular levels of carnosine, which has a “buffering” effect on the hydrogen ions in the muscle tissue.
As a result, the point of muscular failure is prolonged, allowing you to perform additional reps on each set and/or improve your performance on cardiovascular activities like running, rowing, swimming etc.
Beta Alanine Studies: What Does The Research Say?
Quite a few studies have been conducted on beta alanine up to this point showing statistically significant improvements in training performance during moderate to high intensity activities in the 60-240 second range.
It should be noted that if your training program is centered around activities lasting a shorter time than this (for example, if you primarily train using rep ranges lower than 8), then beta alanine supplements likely won’t have any significant effects for you.
If you’re interested in checking out some of the research first hand, here is a collection of the relevant beta alanine studies that you can review for a variety of categories…
How To Take Beta Alanine (Dosage, Timing, Brands)
Although you’ll find all sorts of different recommendations everywhere you look, proper beta alanine use is actually very straightforward…
How Much Beta Alanine Should You Use?
At a dosage of 3.2-6.4 grams daily, beta alanine supplementation has been shown to increase intramuscular levels of carnosine by up to 64% after 4 weeks and 80% after 10 weeks.
However, research has shown that the lower end of the beta alanine dosage is just as effective, and my recommendation is to keep it simple and just stick to 3 grams daily. Not only will this save you some money in the long run, but it will also reduce the effects of the “histamine response” which I’ll address shortly.
1 teaspoon is equal to 5 grams, so you’ll want to take a little bit less than that.
There is no need for beta alanine cycling or loading – just take your 3 grams once per day continuously and leave it at that.
What Should You Mix Beta Alanine With?
Beta alanine does not need to be mixed with any special liquids or other concoctions in order to be properly absorbed.
Just add it to whatever drink you prefer, whether it be juice, a protein shake, your pre-workout drink or anything else. Beta alanine is tasteless so you won’t even know it’s in there.
When To Take Beta Alanine
Although you’ll find many pre-workout supplements that include beta alanine in their ingredient lists, the truth is that beta alanine does not exert any immediate effects on training performance and can actually be taken at any time of the day.
The positive beta alanine effects that you’ll experience are the result of consistent daily supplementation over the long term, which gradually raises and sustains elevated levels of carnosine in the muscle tissue.
From there, that elevated carnosine will be available for use any time your body needs it, so there is no added benefit to specifically taking beta alanine before or after a workout.
What Is The Best Beta Alanine Supplement?
There are many high quality beta alanine brands out there to choose from, and aside from comparing prices to find the most economical choice, the only real factor to take into account is how the beta alanine is sourced.
Check the product label and always go with a product that sources the beta alanine from “CarnoSyn”. This ensures that you’re getting a pure, high quality source of real beta alanine as opposed to the regular l-alanine that some shady companies will use in order to cut costs.
Although there are many CarnoSyn based products out there, here are a few I would recommend in no particular order…
Beta Alanine Side Effects
All beta alanine research conducted up to now has shown the supplement to be safe for use when taken within the recommended dosage.
There is one side effect you will likely experience though, and that is the “histamine response”, otherwise referred to as the “beta alanine tingles” or “beta alanine itch”.
This is a totally harmless prickling/flushing sensation that is felt on the surface of the skin as a result of nerve endings which are stimulated and begin firing at a higher than normal rate.
The “tingles” usually begin around 15 minutes after ingestion and can continue for around 30-60 minutes before subsiding.
Some users actually enjoy this beta alanine side effect and specifically use it before their workouts for the perceived stimulatory effect it gives off. However, if you do find it uncomfortable, keep in mind that the histamine response is always strongest in new users and will gradually wear off over time.
In addition, you can significantly reduce this effect by simply splitting your beta alanine dosage up into divided servings and/or taking it with a meal.
Should You Supplement With Beta Alanine?
Beta alanine is what I would consider to be a “tier 2” supplement, meaning that it certainly is not essential but can be optionally used by those looking for an extra edge.
There is plenty of research available showing noteworthy beta alanine benefits through consistent supplementation, but as with all “natural” fitness supplements, the effects are still only going to be relatively modest in the big picture.
Proper training and nutrition are by FAR the most critical aspects of any muscle building, fat burning or athletic training program, and supplementation is simply there to give you a few percent of added results.
So, to people asking “should I take beta alanine”, my answer is “yes” if…
1) You already have the basics covered (such as a good protein powder, creatine monohydrate, fish oil, multivitamin) and are willing to spend a bit of extra cash on a supplement that will deliver a slight edge to your workouts.
2) A reasonable portion of your training is spent on activities lasting 60-240 seconds. This would mean weight training sets performed roughly in the 8-15 rep range, or cardiovascular activities involving moderate length bursts of higher intensity activity.
However, if you’re a bodybuilder or powerlifter who mostly trains in lower rep ranges, beta alanine supplementation is likely not going to be worth it for you.
Beta Alanine Review: Quick Recap
So, here’s a very quick recap of this complete beta alanine guide…
1) Beta alanine increases intra-muscular levels of carnosine which buffers the buildup of hydrogen ions in the muscle tissue. The result is improved performance on activities lasting 60-240 seconds in duration, such as moderate rep range weight training (8-15 reps per set) and moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise.
2) My recommended beta alanine dose is 3 grams taken once per day (no loading or cycling is required) at whatever time is most convenient, and mixed with any drink of preference.
3) Always choose beta alanine supplements sourced as “CarnoSyn” in order to ensure proper purity, quality and potency.
4) A common side effect of beta alanine use is the “histamine response”, which is a harmless tingling sensation on the skin. This effect will reduce over time and can be further lowered by splitting up the dosage and/or taking beta alanine with food.
5) Beta alanine is not an “essential” muscle building or performance boosting supplement, but can be used as an optional add-on for those who already have the basics covered and just want something extra for a few percent of added results.
I hope you found this complete beta alanine review useful, and if you have any questions just leave them in the comments below.
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