By Chad Kerksick, PhD ProSource
Don't look now, but the popularity of beta-alanine continues to soar. Riding the crest of a wave of support from some very interesting recent science and a swell of anecdotal reports from dedicated users of this super amino, beta-alanine is rapidly moving into the first rank of pre-workout-maximizing catalysts.
In fact, the growing trail of supportive scientific research tell us that beta-alanine certainly has reserved its seat at the table of "best dietary supplements for strength and power athletes" that also includes creatine monohydrate, branched-chain amino acids and whey protein isolate. Beta-alanine's popularity stems largely from the fact that it has been shown to help improve a wide variety of exercise performance. So what type of performance is best matched with the unique benefits of beta-alanine?
Recent Studies Highlight Beta Alanine's Role as a Performance Enhancer
Research from two recent studies builds upon the rapidly growing body of literature that indicates adding beta-alanine to your diet can improve single bouts of endurance exercise as well as increase a number of parameters linked to competitive groups of boxers or mixed martial arts competitors. The first of these studies involved 39 young active students. One group consumed five doses of beta-alanine per day. Each dose provided 400 mg of beta-alanine, which equated to a significant dosage of 2,000 mg each day, while another group ingested a placebo. Both supplements were taken for 6 weeks and before and after the supplementation period, and the participants were required to complete a maximal oxygen consumption test. When beta-alanine was consumed, a significant increase in the maximal amount of oxygen consumption was found along with a reduction in the levels of lactate found throughout the body. Most importantly, the authors concluded that beta-alanine supplementation can reduce lactate concentrations throughout various points of this exhaustive exercise test .
Another recent study took a more direct approach and examined the impact of beta-alanine supplementation in sixteen amateur boxers. The fascinating thing about this study is that performance was measured as part of simulated boxing matches that consisted of three rounds of boxing of similar duration and limited recovery between rounds. Changes in lactate and heart rate were measured, but more practically they also measured punch force, total punches thrown and accumulative punch force. Beta-alanine use was linked with greater punching force as well as more punches being thrown .
You're not a boxer? Instead you shoot some hoops and mainly lift weights at your gym? You think these results don't apply to you? Think again! Boxing is an extremely challenging sport from a metabolic perspective and on those days when you are trying to complete as many repetitions as you can with as much weight as possible you also are going to place a tremendous burden on your muscle's ability to repeatedly contact forcefully. It is for these types of workouts that beta-alanine consistently proves its worth.
Not all studies indicate beta-alanine can be helpful and most consistently the likely reason for this is because the exercise bout which the research study utilized was intense enough, but too short or the exact opposite [3, 4]. In this respect, an article published in 2010 highlighted this fact that only intense bouts of exercise that span up to a minute or so are likely to see the greatest benefit from beta-alanine use .
A recently published article in 2012 took the approach of summarizing a large group of studies already published on beta-alanine. This article considered several different patterns of supplementation and involved over 350 research subjects. When all of these measures were considered, the authors concluded that beta-alanine significantly improved outcome measures when compared to a placebo. In particular, beta-alanine improved and maximized the capacity to perform maximal exercise and in a similar manner as was mentioned before, the authors of this article concluded that the most powerful effect for beta-alanine was seen when the exercise bouts lasted 1- 4 minutes and exercise bouts that lasted less than 60 seconds were not affected any more than a placebo .
Beat Fatigue With Beta-Alanine
Clearly, Beta-alanine has secured its place as an effective dietary supplement that can improve a number of aspects of performance. In this respect, a number of published, well-controlled scientific studies indicated that supplementation is an effective dietary strategy to improve and maximize the performance of intense, maximal exercise, especially workouts or protocols that involve longer exercise bouts or repeated exercise bouts with limited recovery .
[Editor's Note: This is a good time to mention that beta-alanine is a popular ingredient in many pre-workout supplements. As is so often the case, however, many manufacturers include negligible trace amounts of this key workout facilitator in their unquantified "proprietary" formulations. A superior-quality product like BioQuest's AndroFury contains a clinically validated 1000mg dose of premium beta-alanine (in addition to a full-spectrum, protodioscin-rich T-boosting main ingredient, and a host of other performance maximizers) to ensure you get the full endurance-enhancing effect. Should you prefer to add beta-alanine individually to your supplementation regimen, ProSource has you covered there as well. ProSource brand Beta Alanine is premium-grade material of the highest purity available, ideal for raising your intensity and postponing fatigue during extra-productive workouts.]
The scientific evidence in support of beta-alanine is compelling. This means that you should consider using beta-alanine if you participate in any sport that involves short, intense bouts of exercise over an extended period, such as boxing or mixed martial arts or (most especially) weight-training. Beta-alanine supplementation can assist you in your resistance training and may help you to be able to lift more sets and reps , which overall will maximize the training stimulus in your muscles and as a result they should grow bigger and stronger.
Are you ready to go the distance with optimum power? Prepare the way with beta-alanine!
1. Artioli, GG, et al. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. 2010. 42(6): p. 1162-73.
2. Donovan, T, et al. beta-alanine improves punch force and frequency in amateur boxers during a simulated contest. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2012. 22(5): p. 331-7.
3. Ducker, KJ, et al. Effect of beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate supplementation on repeated-sprint performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 2013.
4. Ducker, KJ, et al. Effect of Beta-Alanine Supplementation on 2000 m Rowing Ergometer Performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2012.
5. Ghiasvand, R, et al. Effects of Six Weeks of beta-alanine Administration on VO(2) max, Time to Exhaustion and Lactate Concentrations in Physical Education Students. International journal of preventive medicine, 2012. 3(8): p. 559-63.
6. Hobson, RM, et al. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids, 2012. 43(1): p. 25-37.
7. Hoffman, JR, et al. Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. 2008. 28(1): p. 31-5.
8. Saunders, B, et al. beta-alanine supplementation improves YoYo intermittent recovery test performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2012. 9(1): p. 39.