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Beta-Alanine

    beta

    Beta-alanine is an amino acid.[1] However, it is not used to create proteins or muscle tissue. Instead, beta-alanine is used to increase muscle carnosine concentrations. Muscle cells release carnosine to reduce acid buildup, which contributes to muscle fatigue.[2]

    The body is capable of making beta-alanine on its own. Consequently, beta-alanine is considered a non-essential amino acid.[1] In fact, very few food sources contain beta-alanine.[3]

    Although beta-alanine is a natural amino acid, the supplemental form is created in a lab. Natural Alternatives International, Inc. owns the patent for creating beta-alanine. This company creates and sells beta-alanine under the brand name CarnoSyn.[3]

    Beta-alanine’s main benefit is increasing carnosine production.[3] Scientific studies report significant increases in muscle carnosine content following beta-alanine supplementation.

    A Belgian study measured carnosine concentration in two leg muscles before and after 4 weeks of daily beta-alanine intake. Carnosine concentration increased by 37% and 47% in the two muscles.[4]

    In a study performed by scientists in the UK, daily doses of 6.4 grams beta-alanine and a resistance training program increased muscle carnosine levels. This study also showed resistance training alone does not increase carnosine concentration.[5]

    Because increased carnosine reduces acid buildup in muscle cells, beta-alanine reduces fatigue and improves endurance.[2] Several studies confirm beta-alanine’s fatigue-reducing effects.

    In one study, men took 4.8 grams beta-alanine daily for 4 weeks. At the end of the study, they tested beta-alanine’s effects by performing several exercises, including 5 sets of 30 knee extensions. Those who took beta-alanine instead of placebo had more power during the fourth and fifth sets, indicating decreased fatigue.[4]

    In a later study, football players also reported feeling less fatigued after taking 4.5 grams beta-alanine a day for 3 weeks. This fatigue reduction occurred after anaerobic power tests but not during sprint exercises.[6]

    Studies show women also experience reduced fatigue after taking beta-alanine. During one study, women taking beta-alanine were able to work out longer before reaching exhaustion.[7]

    Further research indicates beta-alanine provides the largest benefit for exercises lasting between 60 and 240 seconds. Exercises longer than 240 seconds also benefit but not as measurably. Exercises shorter than 60 seconds are not enhanced by beta-alanine.[8]

    Using beta-alanine also improves lean muscle gains during periods of weight loss.

    A study showing this effect used college wrestlers and football players. They took 4 grams beta-alanine each day and performed high-intensity training and weight lifting 5 days a week for 8 weeks. While both the beta-alanine and placebo groups lost weight, the beta-alanine group experienced greater lean muscle gains.[9]

    Recent preliminary studies suggest beta-alanine also functions as a neurotransmitter. This may explain why athletes taking beta-alanine sometimes anecdotally report it provides an energy boost similar to caffeine.[3] Further research is needed to confirm this effect of beta-alanine.

    Some dosages of beta-alanine cause tingling sensations.[1] This sensation can last 60 to 90 minutes.[3] Based on research, scientists calculate 800 mg beta-alanine as the lowest dose likely to cause tingling.[10] Though it’s somewhat unpleasant, this tingling sensation is harmless.[10]

    Flushing is another side effect of high beta-alanine dosages.[1] Flushing is a feeling of warmth or itching on skin, usually on the face or head.[3]

    Tested beta-alanine dosages range from 3.2 to 6.4 grams per day.[1]

    Effective dosages fit in a narrower range, between 4 and 5 grams a day.[2] Experts recommend spacing these dosages throughout the day to avoid side effects.[2]

    Dosages as high as 20 to 30 g per day have been used safely. However, people taking these dosages do experience tingling.[10]

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