What is Beta-alanine (β-alanine)?
β-alanine is an amino acid that is naturally made by the body but also found in animal products (especially chicken breast meat and fish). β-alanine is important in the production of a protein called carnosine which can buffer (“soak up”) acid by-products produced during high intensity exercise.
β-alanine and performance
During high intensity exercise, energy production results in an increase in hydrogen ions that increase the acidity in the muscle (decrease muscle pH) which can cause fatigue and impair performance. Carnosine acts by “soaking” up these hydrogen ions to regulate muscle acidity (pH) and increase fatigue resistance and potentially increase training capacity and performance.
Athletes that may benefit from β-alanine supplementation
Activities involving short, high intensity efforts of exercise are most likely to benefit from β-alanine supplementation. Examples include:
- Short (1-7 minutes) sustained high intensity sports (e.g. rowing, track cycling, swimming, middle distance running)
- Sports that involve repeated high intensity efforts of exercise (e.g. resistance training, team sports, racquet sports)
Recommended dosing strategy
The optimal dosing strategy for β-alanine is still being refined. Early research suggested that chronic loading over 6-12 weeks was ideal however; more recent research suggests that shorter 4-8 week periods may produce similar results. Trained individuals may have a better loading response than untrained individuals. A sustained or slow release form of (β-alanine) or splitting the daily dose over two doses (e.g. morning and evening) as well as taking the supplement a meal with a meal can help to maximise uptake into the muscles. After stopping supplementation, it takes ~15 weeks for muscle carnosine levels to return to starting concentrations.
Potential side effects
Some athletes report skin tingling (paraethesia) but this seems to be reduced with slow release preparations or split dosing strategies.
The incorporation of β-alanine into an athlete’s nutrition plan should be considered on an individual basis. Working with an Accredited Sports Dietitian will help to ensure that the most appropriate dosing strategy and best results are achieved.
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