Beta-alanine is a naturally-occurring beta-amino acid that shares a similar chemical structure with both GABA and L-glycine. It helps to stimulate the production of carnosine by mixing with the essential acid L-histamine, which in turn works to moderate levels of acidity (pH) in muscle tissues, allowing athletes to delay the onset and severity of muscle fatigue during high-intensity activities.
According to a study by the the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) "daily supplementation with 4 to 6 g of beta-alanine for at least 2 to 4 weeks has been shown to improve exercise performance", and that "beta-alanine attenuates neuromuscular fatigue....and may improve tactical performance".
What Is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine, also known as 3-aminoproplonic acid, is known as a non-essential amino acid because it can be naturally produced within the body. Beta-alanine can also be derived from dietary sources such as beef, chicken, pork, and seafod, and through supplementation.
Beta-alanine works by bonding with histidine, another amino acid, to produce carnosine (also known as L-carnosine), a dipeptide molecule that's found in high concentrations throughout the tissues of the brain and muscles. Carnosine has been shown to act as a neurotransmitter, helping to improve cognitive functioning by reducing oxidization within the brain.
When consumed as a dietary supplement, beta-alanine is absorbed into skeletal muscle via the bloodstream, where it then binds with L-histidine to form carnosine.
As people age, naturally-occurring levels of beta-alanine and other non-essential amino acids within the body begin to decline, which some researchers believe is linked to age-related muscle degeneration, fatigue, and dementia.
A study on the effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle fatigue in participants aged 55-92 years old concluded that "BA supplementation....improves muscle endurance in the elderly" as a result of improved "intracellular pH control", which in turn may "have importance in the prevention of falls" among older adults.
Researchers are also reviewing reports that beta-alanine may have a positive impact of children with autism following unconfirmed reports that supplementation with beta-alanine improves neurotransmitter functioning among children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Recommended Dosages and Side Effects
There are currently no standardized recommended dosages for beta-alanine supplementation available from the FDA, therefore, users should consult with their doctor and review manufacturers' recommended dose information before taking products containing beta-alanine.
Studies of beta-alanine supplementation use daily dosages ranging from 2400 mg (800 mg x 3 daily) up to 4.8 grams per day.
Supplementation with moderate dosages of beta-alanine is considered to be safe, and the only reported side effect is the development of acute paresthesia - an uncomfortable burning, itching, or hot flush sensation that manifests on the scaple, ears, and/or face. Parasthesia related to beta-alanine supplementation tends to disappate within about 60-90 minutes of onset, and the risk of suffering from "pins and needles" sensations can be reduced by cutting back on the dosage of beta-alanine.
Products That Contain Beta-Alanine
Beta-alanine is readily available from drug stores other retailers who specialize in natural supplements. It can be found in a variety of products, including:
Now Sports Beta-Alanine Powder - 2,000 mg (2g) beta-alanine per serving
Optimum Nutrition Threshold (Powder) - 1.6 g beta-alanine per serving; also contains L-Histidine, Silicon Dioxide, DiMagnesium Phosphate
Prolab Nutrition Beta-Alanine Extreme - 800 mg beta-alanine per 2-capsule serving; also contains 75 mg L-Histidine per serving
GNC Pro Performance Beta-Alanine - 3200 mg beta-alanine per 4-tablet serving; also contains cellulose, mica, caramel color