Can Beta-Alanine help you workout harder and longer?

What is Beta-Alanine?

Protein is made from 20 different small units of amino acids.  It helps with building and repairing tissues (skin, nail, and muscles) and plays a vital part in making antibodies and insulin.  There are essential (9) and nonessential amino acids (11).  Out of the 20 amino acids, there are 9 essential amino acids that our body cannot naturally make and, therefore, need to be obtained through our diet.  Beta-Alanine is one of these nonessential amino acids.

What is its function?

Beta-alanine has been found within protein-like compound called, "carnosine" that are found in actively contracting muscles.  In high intensity competitors (power lifters, sprinters, weight lifters, etc.), scientists have found significant amount of carnosine.  Beta-alanine has been linked to preventing increasing level of lactic acid build up.  Lactic acid is the waste product that give you and me the "fatigue" feeling during a workout, especially during high intensity exercises.  In theory, if we can slow down the build up of lactic acid, then we can continue to produce power and strength before our body forces us to stop!

Where are some of the sources?

Chicken, beef, pork, fish, lamb.  Vegetarians can surely benefit from supplementation.  

Should I add it to my routine?

Different individuals have different threshold for natural muscle carnosine storage.  Therefore, it would benefit high-intensity training competitors to maximize this threshold and allow them to reach their highest potential.  Research studies have suggested 3200-6400mg per day separated over 4 or more dosages.  Although the loading phase takes usually 28 days, there have been no clear data to suggest a loading phase period.  Beware: DO NOT take more than 800mg in a single dosage, because temporary parathesia in extremities can occur at this dosage!

 

Dr. David Carfagno is a Board Certified Internist and Sports Physician, who trained at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Tri-Quoc Pham M.A. is ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and a 4th year medical student at Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine

 

Susan Kleiner, et al: Power Eating. 4th ed.

Keller I, Lang T. Food-based dietary guidelines and implementation: lessons from four countries--Chile, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa. Public Health Nutr 2008; 11:867.