For up to two months after taking your last capsule of beta-alanine you'll still be feeling the effects of the amino acid, sports scientists at Ghent in Belgium discovered. And the better you react to beta-alanine, the longer the supplement remains active.
The effects of beta-alanine are similar to those of creatine. Users notice that they are capable of keeping up high-intensity exertion for longer. Unlike creatine supplementation, taking beta-alanine does not lead to weight increase, but studies have shown that it can lead to an increase in lean body mass [read muscle mass] if fat mass decreases.
More and more endurance athletes, martial arts practitioners and team sports players are using beta-alanine. They benefit from increased power and strength, while maintaining weight or noticing only a small increase.
The Belgians wanted to know how long the after effects lasted after finishing a course of supplements, so they did an experiment with 20 male students. The students took 4.8 g beta-alanine or a placebo every day for 5-6 weeks. Before, during and after the course the researchers measured the concentration of carnosine in the students' muscles using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
In the body, cells attach beta-alanine to the amino acid histidine, thus creating the dipeptide carnosine. Carnosine neutralises the hydrogen ions released when muscles contract intensively. Carnosine stabilises the acidity – it's a buffer – and enables muscle cells to perform for longer at a high level.
In the figures below the researchers divided the students in the beta-alanine group into high and low responders. In the high responders the carnosine concentration rose by an average of 55 percent; in the low responders it rose by 15 percent. The carnosine level in the muscle cells of the high responders was still elevated nine weeks after stopping supplementation; in the low responders the carnosine level had returned to normal after six weeks.
When the Belgians compared their results with those of colleagues who had done similar experiments with creatine they arrive at the figure shown below. So carnosine is a more stable molecule than creatine.
J Appl Physiol. 2009 Mar;106(3):837-42.