July 17, 2013
In a meta-analysis of 15 beta-alanine studies, scientists concluded “there is a significant effect of beta-alanine supplementation on all exercise measures.”
Praise that high is very rare. Many supplement ingredients only benefit a few aspects of athletic performance. An exception to this pattern, beta-alanine is an ingredient many sports scientists and exercise enthusiasts can’t help but applaud.
Curious why beta-alanine earns so much respect in the sports nutrition community? Check out this list of beta-alanine’s top 5 benefits.
1. Increase Muscle Carnosine Concentration
How much beta-alanine is present determines how much carnosine muscles can make. Not surprisingly, then, studies show taking beta-alanine increases carnosine levels.
Participants in one study took beta-alanine supplements for either 4 or 10 weeks. The 4-week group had a 58.8% increase in muscle carnosine. Even better, the 10-week group had over 80% more muscle carnosine at the study’s conclusion.
A 2007 beta-alanine study used trained sprinters as study volunteers. According to a separate study, trained sprinters possess higher carnosine concentrations in general. Despite their already high carnosine concentration, sprinters in the 2007 study increased carnosine in two leg muscles by 37% and 47%.
2. Reduce Fatigue
Because beta-alanine stimulates carnosine production, it also decreases fatigue. Carnosine’s main role in muscle cells is reducing acid buildup, which leads to tired muscles.
Football players in a 2008 study reported feeling less fatigued after taking beta-alanine for 30 days. After using beta-alanine for 28 days, women in another study performed high-intensity cycling for 2.5% longer without reaching exhaustion.
Scientists specifically measured changes in lactate buildup caused by taking beta-alanine supplements. Lactate, or lactic acid, is a marker of oxidative stress, a major contributor to muscle fatigue. Those who took beta-alanine for 6 weeks had 22.5% less lactate in their muscles after a cycling test than the placebo group.
3. Promote Lean Muscle Gains
More carnosine and better endurance are great, but they aren’t the primary goal of many regular exercisers. Many athletes hope they walk away from the weight bench with bigger muscles. Don’t worry: beta-alanine does that, too.
Two groups of college-level athletes, both wrestlers and football players, gained muscle after taking 4 grams beta-alanine daily for 8 weeks. The football players added almost twice as much muscle as the placebo group. The wrestlers in this study not only gained 1.1 pounds of lean muscle but also lost weight without losing muscle.
Of course, these results depended on regular exercise, not just taking beta-alanine. Still, it’s hard to ignore muscle increases that measurable.
4. Improve Athletic Performance
As it boosts carnosine, increases endurance, and builds muscle, beta-alanine produces marked effects on many aspects of athletic performance.
Scientists performing a meta-analysis of beta-alanine studies calculated this ingredient could improve 1,500 meter run time by approximately 6 seconds. If you look at the race times in the men’s 1,500 meter final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an improvement of 6 seconds is enough to put the last place finisher on the medal stand with a bronze.
Football players were able to lift a greater training volume following 30 days of beta-alanine supplementation. In another study, hold time and momentum each increased by over 13% for men performing knee extensor exercises who had supplemented with beta-alanine.
But, don’t forget these beta-alanine athletic benefits depend on regular exercise, usually at a high intensity level.
5. Enhance Benefits of Creatine
In the study, college football players took placebo, creatine, or creatine and beta-alanine for 10 weeks. While creatine alone improved lean muscles gains more than placebo, creatine and beta-alanine produced the best effects. The creatine-beta-alanine combination built more muscle and reduced body fat better than either creatine or placebo.
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