Beta Alanine – for boosting muscle carnosine levels and performance
Beta alanine supplementation increases muscle carnosine better than taking carnosine itself. Muscle carnosine is an intramuscular acidity buffer and antioxidant. Beta alanine increases stamina and endurance by buffering metabolic acid and waste as it is made. This means less muscle pain and greater muscle performance.
During high intensity exercise, there is a greater reliance on ATP production from glycolysis and phosphagen systems resulting in an accumulation H+, which leads to exercise-induced metabolic acidosis. This acidity has been implicated as the cause of muscular fatigue and decreased muscle contractile function. By buffering exercise-induced acidity, muscle carnosine enhances performance. Especially in events with prolonged bouts of high intensity exercise.
Muscle carnosine works as:
- Intramuscular antioxidant
- Intramuscular buffer for exercise-induced acidity
- Regulates calcium sensitivity and excitation–contraction coupling. Calcium influx
- Triggers neuromuscular junctions and can trigger contractions, twitches, taps, cramps and spams. Carnosine can prevent muscle spasms, cramping and loss of coordination.
- Protects against glycation. Glycation is a process whereby sugars attach to proteins and oxidise, causing damage to muscles, collagen and connective tissue.
The Science of Beta Alanine
In a recent study, twenty-five active males were supplemented with 6.4 grams per day of beta alanine or a placebo for a 24 week period. Every 4 week participants provided a muscle biopsy and performed a high-intensity cycling capacity test. The study found that twenty-four weeks of beta alanine supplementation increased muscle carnosine content and improved high-intensity cycling capacity. The study also found that beta alanine plays an important role in muscle carnosine accumulation and production.1
The ‘meta-analysis’ verdict on Beta Alanine
In April 2017, a huge ‘meta-analysis’ study2 (a study were they combined all studies on beta alanine) was published in the British Journal or Sports Medicine and guess what it showed? Beta alanine really works to boost exercise performance whether it be in the gym or an aerobic sport. The results of the meta-analysis showed a significant positive overall effect of β-alanine supplementation on exercise, supporting the efficacy of increased muscle carnosine to improve exercise. Exercise duration was the greatest influencing factor regarding the efficacy of β-alanine supplementation meaning the more work you put in, the better returns you got. The study went on to state that “exercise capacity and performance were both improved by supplementation, although effect sizes suggested β-alanine to be almost twice as effective at improving exercise capacity.” The key point of the study was:
- Carnosine is abundant in skeletal muscle, suggesting that it plays an important role during exercise, with a key physiological role considered to be intracellular pH regulation.
- β-alanine supplementation can increase muscle carnosine concentration and improve exercise capacity and performance.
- There may be a number of confounding factors, including exercise type, duration and mode and population, which may influence the effects of β-alanine supplementation.
Why does Beta (β) Alanine give me the ‘tingles/itch’?
β-alanine, induces itch and tingling after consumption which is harmless. It has been found in humans that the primary sensory neurons responsive to β-alanine are likely part of a histamine-independent itch neural circuit and a target for treating clinical itch that is unrelieved by anti-histamines.3