Amino Acids Series - Beta-alanine
What Is Beta-alanine, How and When To Supplement?
Beta-alanine is often used as a supplement to improve athletic performance and promote muscle growth. Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is naturally produced in the body and can also be found in certain foods such as chicken, beef, and fish. However, the amounts found in these foods are typically not enough to provide significant benefits which is why it can be taken as a supplement that is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, with few reported side effects.
Interestingly, there are a few studies which show that beta alanine is good for fat loss and muscle gain, which is the ‘Holy Grail’ for the bodybuilder. Weirdly, they are not directly attributed to beta alanine per se, rather, they are caused by the action of beta-alanine. Let me explain. Beta-alanine does nothing to boost muscle gain or burn fat, rather, it buffers against acid build-up which then allows the individual to work out harder and longer. The net result of this is of course greater muscle gain and fat loss. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how this result is achieved, but if you are a bit of a nerd like I am, you may want to know how the supplements actually work in the body.
Improved Endurance and Reduced Fatigue
One of the primary functions of beta-alanine is to increase the production of carnosine, a molecule that helps to buffer (reduce) the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles.
Lactic acid is a waste product that is produced during exercise, and it can cause fatigue and muscle soreness. By reducing the amount of lactic acid in the muscles, beta-alanine can help to improve physical endurance and delay the onset of fatigue during exercise.
In terms of muscle growth, beta-alanine has been shown to increase the production of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). These hormones help to stimulate muscle growth and repair, leading to increased muscle mass and strength.
In terms of athletic performance, beta-alanine has been shown to improve physical endurance and reduce fatigue during exercise. It can also help to improve muscle growth and strength, leading to improved performance in activities such as weightlifting and high-intensity interval training. One randomized controlled trial found that beta-alanine supplements improved physical endurance and reduced fatigue during exercise. It did this by increasing the production of carnosine, a molecule that helps to buffer the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles.
Another randomized controlled trial found that beta-alanine supplements increased muscle mass and strength, leading to improved performance in activities such as weightlifting and high-intensity interval training. This was due to its ability to increase the production of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which help to stimulate muscle growth and repair.
Is Beta- Alanine the Same as a Pre-Workout?
Beta alanine makes for a good pre-workout. It is one of the classic ingredients for most per-workout powders. The only problem with these pre-workout powders is that most contain high amounts of caffeine. This means that you can forget about it if you intend to train after work. Caffeine has a half life of about 3 hours so even if you hit the bed at 10pm, you are still going to have significant caffeine levels coursing through your veins that hampers good quality sleep. If you think that doesn’t affect you, caffeine can stop you from going into that deep restorative sleep. The end result is that you don’t get a restful sleep and you could wake up feeling fatigued, meaning the next day is unproductive and you may even skip your gym session, further hampering your health goals.
Supplement or Foods – How and When to Take Beta-Alanine
Beta-alanine can be found in some foods, needs to be taken as a supplement to achieve the desired effects. It is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, with few reported side effects. Try to take 1.6 to 3.2g 60 min before you work out. If you do take 3g or more, you may experience some harmless tingling and flushing. This is normal and dose dependent, meaning the more you take, the more tingles you will suffer. Some minor experimentation on the dose that works for you would be ideal.
The Take Home Message
In conclusion, beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that offers a range of benefits for athletic performance and muscle growth. This could be a welcome addition to your pre-workout routine, especially if you looking to supplement with a key ingredient found in most pre-workouts but don’t want the caffeine that often comes with it.
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