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Beta Alanine
 

Beta-alanine is a non-essential Amino Acid used predominantly by athletes and strength trainers to increase lean muscle mass, Increase Strength, Increase Endurance and energy levels and delay muscle fatigue1. Unlike many other amino acids, beta-alanine is non-proteinogenic, which means it is not involved in the composition of protein. Beta-alanine is the only naturally occurring beta-amino acid and its most available source is within the dipeptide carnosine, typically found in Protein rich foods such as poultry, beef, pork and fish. Beta-alanine can also be found within the dipeptides anserine and balenine. However, digesting foods rich in Protein to raise beta-alanine levels is not particularly crucial as the liver is able to produce it within the body.

A useful endurance tool, beta-alanine is commonly consumed in supplement form by athletes and strength trainers. During exercise hydrogen ions are produced in the body, which causes the pH levels in the muscles to drop. When this happens the body will experience a slowing of movement, physical strength and intensity. This prevents the ability to push to the limit during training and achieve optimum results. Beta-alanine boosts the levels of carnosine in the body. Carnosine works by soaking up hydrogen ions (H+) to balance out pH levels. When pH levels are balanced training can continue for longer periods at increased intensity. When pH levels in the muscles are low, it means they are acidic. This symptom is commonly recognised by a burning sensation in the muscles or a general feeling of not being able to contract the muscles with much power. In order to increase results, there must be a sufficient supply of carnosine in the body1. Studies have shown that beta-alanine can increase carnosine levels by up to 40 – 80 per cent depending on how much the subject has consumed2,3. The reason beta-alanine is so popularly consumed in supplement form is because only 40 per cent of carnosine contains beta-alanine and much of it is broken down in the gastrointestinal tract. By directly consuming beta-alanine in the form of tablet or powder supplements, the body is guaranteed increased carnosine and endurance levels, as opposed to consuming straight carnosine or protein rich foods. Taking beta-alanine supplements is also more beneficial from a financial view. To take straight carnosine would require significantly larger dosages in comparison to the smaller dosage recommended with beta-alanine supplements.

A dosage of about four to five grams of beta-alanine per day is considered the optimum level for endurance training, however, anywhere between 2 and 6 grams is acceptable3. The benefits of taking beta-alanine supplements can be seen in as little as one week, but most notice the difference between three to four weeks4. It is generally recommended that beta-alanine supplements are taken for a minimum 12 week period in order to achieve the best results possible. Research has proven that this amino acid is safe to use, although it has not been around long enough in supplement form to determine whether there are any long term side effects in existence. The effectiveness of beta-alanine can be increased by taking it before and after exercise as increased blood flow during a workout delivers it to the muscles more efficiently. Consuming it with a meal high in complex Carbohydrates can also assist in achieving better results. Some people may notice a tingling sensation that can last for up to an hour post-consumption. This occurs when nerve receptors react to the Beta-Alanine. Such tingling is most likely to stop after a few weeks once the body has adapted to the supplement. Not all people will experience this feeling however, and it is not a sign that the beta-alanine is working or not working. One method to reduce any unwanted side effects is to consume multiple, smaller doses of beta-alanine, which has the same capacity to increase muscle carnosine content, but with reduced side effects.5

Beta-Alanine Supplements are commonly presented & sold as Formulated Supplementary Sports Foods in Australia. Beta Alanine is not a sole source of nutrition and should be used in conjunction with an appropriate physical training or exercise programme. Not suitable for children or pregnant women. Should only be used under medical or dietetic supervision. Always read the label prior to use.

1.      Derave W, Everaert I, Beeckman S, et al. Muscle carnitine metabsm and beta-alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Sports Med. 2010;40(3):247-263.
2.      Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, et al. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids. 2007;32(2):225-233.
3.      Culbertson JY, Kreider RB, Greenwood M, Cooke M. ‘Effects of beta-alanine on muscle carnosine and exercise performance: a review of the current literature.’ Nutrients. 2010 Jan;2(1):75-98. Epub 2010 Jan 25.
4.      Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Ross R, Kang J, Stout JR, Wise JA. ‘Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players.’ Nutr Res. 2008 Jan;28(1):31-5.
5.      Stellingwerff T, Decombaz J, Harris RC, Boesch C. Optimizing human in vivo dosing and delivery of β-alanine supplements for muscle carnosine synthesis. Amino Acids. 2012 Feb 23. [Epub ahead of print]
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