How many times have you taken a pre-workout supplement and a few minutes later you started feeling itchy? Some people say it feels like their skin is tingling or that their ears are getting warm and itchy. Have you ever felt like this? Don’t worry, there is no need to go see a doctor. The supplement you took probably has Beta Alanine as one of it’s main ingredients.
What Is Beta Alanine?
Beta Alanine is a non-essential amino acid and the only naturally occurring beta-amino acid. Beta Alanine is NOT the same thing as Alanine. It is classified as a non proteinogenic amino acid, which means it’s not responsible as a building block of protein. As with most supplements there is a way to obtain Beta Alanine naturally. If you consume large amounts of beef, chicken, or pork in your diet, then you get a fair amount of this when the body digests these foods.
What Does It Do?
Research has shown that by supplementing Beta Alanine, athletes have shown an increase in muscular strength and output, an increase in muscle, improved muscular aerobic AND anaerobic capacity, and it helps delay muscle fatigue (work harder and longer). Studies have also shown a significant increase in muscle carnosine better than other popular supplements such as creatine. In four weeks of BA supplementation, muscle carnosine levels have shown significant increases of over 50% in 4 weeks and more as the time taken increases. Why are muscle carnosine levels important you ask? When you are putting your body through a grueling, high-intensity workout, Hydrogen starts to build up in the muscles. If Hydrogen starts to build up in your muscles, it can start to drastically lower the pH in your muscles. With lowered pH levels, the ability for muscles to contract properly and maintain a high power output as the high intensity work continues also starts to drop. By not having enough gas in the tank you are not able to push the body to its full potential and can limit the amount of progress the body makes from workout to workout. Bottom line, Beta Alanine increases muscle carnosine which in turns combats muscle fatigue during hard workouts allowing you to work out harder and longer.
Who Would Benefit From Beta Alanine?
If you are any type of athlete that is looking to get more out of training, Beta Alanine has been shown to be able to help you. Muscle carnosine concentration levels have been shown to have a direct correlation with the number of type II muscle fibers in the body (those are the fast twitch-explosive ones). From sprinters to bodybuilders, MMA fighters to distance runners , or weightlifters to CrossFitters, if you work out and want to bust a plateau or simply want to train longer or harder, BA is a good choice of supplement for you.
As with all supplements that are on the market, the question of safety has been raised about Beta Alanine being safe. All research and top professionals in the field have all answered with a resounding YES. While there are no long term studies done on BA supplementation (as with most supplements) there have been no side effects that raise a concern for caution. The biggest issue I have seen when it comes to Beta Alanine supplementation is how long you should be taking it. It is recommended that there should be an on and off cycle of anywhere to 4-9 weeks, but research has simply shown that going longer than this period won’t cause harm. It is simply suggested to cycle on and off because your muscle carnosine levels can only increase as high as their ceiling allows them to go. After that nothing really happens. Besides, taking a break from it during deloading periods of training can save you some cash, so why not? Timing Beta Alanine intake is an interesting thing. Most pre workouts are starting to include it in their supplement so chances are, you are already taking it. If not, mixing it in with your pre training shake is not a bad idea. But since this supplement increases muscle carnosine, the time that it is consumed isn’t as important as making sure it is taken regularly. Another great aspect of supplementing Beta Alanine is it has a dosage regulating quality. Remember the first few sentences of the article where I talked about feeling itchy and warm? That’s the supplement telling you you’ve had enough. The recommended dosage is 800 mg or less (which is about half of what some pre workouts contain in one scoop). You don’t need to take a lot of it in order to feel the effects. Less than a gram of the stuff will get those job done.
In The End
Bottom line, Beta Alanine is a great supplement for athletes and should be included in your arsenal. It has been shown to be one of the most effective and researched supplements since creatine and in some cases beats out creatine in effectiveness. Beta Alanine itself is relatively inexpensive and easily accessible and you take 1/5 of the amount that you would with creatine so it lasts longer saving even more money. For the last two reasons mentioned Beta Alanine has been a staple in my supplement plan since my college days. Before training I mix some beta alanine, HMB+creatine, some BCAAs and a bit of caffeine and I am good to go. Get yourself some and try it out. Remember that the itchy (more like tingling) is normal and that a supplement is simply that, a supplement. Nothing takes the place of sound nutrition, plenty of sleep, and staying hydrated to continue training the way you need to. I recommend and take Optimum Nutrition’s brand, but any other brand should work just as well.