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Beta-Alanine Side Effects

What Are the Most Common Side Effects of Beta-Alanine?

Although beta-alanine is an amino acid, it doesn’t build muscle directly like BCAAs and other commonly used amino acids. Still, many athlete-targeted supplements include beta-alanine as a performance boosting ingredient.

How does beta-alanine affect exercise performance? Here’s a look at beta-alanine’s side effects, both positive and negative.

Negative Side Effects of Beta-Alanine

In years of research, study participants have experienced no dangerous side effects from supplementing with beta-alanine. However, beta-alanine causes some minor side effects in certain dosages.

One common negative side effect is paraesthesia, or tingling sensations.[9] Often people describe this as being similar to the “pins and needles” sensation you get when your foot falls asleep. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s basically harmless.[10]

The higher the dosage of beta-alanine, the more likely it is this side effect will occur. Tingling usually occurs in people who take more than 800 mg beta-alanine at once. Scientists calculated this dosage based on research data.[11] Commonly, paraesthesia resulting from beta-alanine intake lasts 60 to 90 minutes.[1]

High beta-alanine dosages also sometimes cause flushing.[9] Flushing makes skin turn red so it appears blushed. This flushing usually appears on the face, scalp, or ears.[1] Like paresthesia, flushing is harmless and subsides quickly. It is not entirely clear how much beta-alanine causes flushing, but dosages are likely similar or higher than those that induce paraesthesia.

Luckily, avoiding these beta-alanine side effects is fairly easy. Spacing beta-alanine dosages out every 2 hours or more throughout the day usually minimizes the occurrence of these side effects.[2] Taking beta-alanine on a full stomach is another way to reduce side effects.[1]

Positive Side Effects of Beta-Alanine

Dozens if not hundreds of sports supplements contain beta-alanine as either a major ingredient or a proprietary blend component. Although popularity isn’t always a reliable indicator an ingredient works, in the case of beta-alanine science clearly indicates its positive effects.

Beta-alanine’s main positive effect is an increase in carnosine production.[1] Muscles use carnosine to control acid buildup.[2] The amount of available beta-alanine determines how much carnosine can be produced.[1]

In one study, scientists measured increases in muscle carnosine after 4 weeks of beta-alanine use. The two specific leg muscles studied had increases of 37% and 47%. Those taking the placebo had only 16% more carnosine in one muscle and no carnosine increase in the other. And, these participants were highly trained 400-meter sprinters with already healthy leg muscles, so beta-alanine clearly caused the carnosine increases, not just improving their level of activity.[3]

In fact, another study confirms exercise alone cannot raise carnosine levels as quickly or effectively as taking beta-alanine does. Despite 10 weeks of resistance training, the placebo group had no improvements in muscle carnosine. In contrast, the beta-alanine group had significant carnosine concentration increases, nearly 13 mmol per kg of muscle.[4]

Having more carnosine enhances exercise in multiple ways. For instance, several beta-alanine studies show it increases muscular power and strength.[1]

College football players at training camp increased training volume by taking beta-alanine. The longer they used it, the more they increased their training volume.[5] In a separate study, men had longer hold time and bigger impulse (a measure of momentum) after taking beta-alanine for 4 weeks.[6]

Beta-alanine also improves endurance due to its fatigue-reducing effects. Both the sprinters[3] and the college football players[5] in the studies I described above experienced decreased fatigue after taking beta-alanine.

Taking beta-alanine even builds and maintains lean muscle. College wrestlers and football players taking 4 grams beta-alanine every day for 8 weeks gained 1.1 and 2.1 pounds of lean mass. The wrestlers also lost weight.[7] In another study, women combined a daily dose of 6 grams beta-alanine with high-intensity interval cycling. Lean body mass increased and body fat percentage decreased.[8]

Lastly, recent ongoing research suggests beta-alanine may also act as a neurotransmitter. In this capacity, beta-alanine likely gives an energy boost similar to caffeine.[1] Many beta-alanine users already anecdotally report this effect, but more research is necessary.

The Final Word on Beta-Alanine Side Effects

It’s hard to decide what’s better about beta-alanine: its minimal negative side effects or its consistent positive side effects. After all, beta-alanine’s negative side effects are harmless and easily avoided with proper dosing. And, its positive side effects are reliable, noticeable, measurable, and nearly innumerable.

In my opinion, beta-alanine’s positive side effects definitely outweigh its minor negative ones. Every serious athlete can benefit from making beta-alanine a part of his or her sports supplement regimen.

    References

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