Beta Alanine as a Pre-Workout Supplement – Good or Bad?

Amino acid beta-alanine naturally occurs in the body, and is one of the most trusted and popular pre-workout supplements. On ingestion, Beta-alanine converts to carnosine, a compound which boost workout performance through improved muscle endurance, giving Beta-alanine the ability to improve muscle buffering capacity, and delay the onset of fatigue during anaerobic exercise.

Beta-alanine has been shown to play a vital role in the synthesis of carnosine, a molecule that improves the endurance of muscle during anaerobic activities. Similar to creatine, carnosine is naturally present in the muscle, but can be optimized through supplementation.

This role has made beta-alanine popular among athletes such as bodybuilders, wrestlers, and football players, who are usually engaged in anaerobic training, and despite being a relatively new supplement, beta-alanine is currently one of the most widely used ingredients in pre-workout formulas.

Essentially, pre workout supplements are formulated to provide the following results:

  • improve performance during workout
  • increase strength and stamina
  • Increase the endurance levels so you can maximize your workouts
  • Improve the rate of protein synthesis
  • Intensify sense of focus
  • Boost nutrient delivery, absorption, and assimilation

How Beta-Alanine Helps as a Pre Workout Formulas

Bodybuilders use beta alanine in pre-workout supplements so they can train more effectively, helping them to gain lean muscle mass faster. Likewise athletes, who also take this supplement to improve stamina and similar physical performance indicators.

However, research has found that taking a beta alanine pre-workout supplement right before exercise may not be as effective as using it on a regular loading phase schedule, because, it can take up to 14 days for muscle carnosine levels to increase to peak levels, following the use of a beta alanine supplement.

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Effects of Beta Alanine Pre-Workout Supplements

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) states that there are more than 500 commercial products out there in the market containing beta alanine. Pre-workout supplements that contain beta-alanine may also contain creatine, caffeine, Branched Chain Amino Acids, other amino acids, vitamins and herbal extracts, to increase energy, workout capacity and muscle protein synthesis.

Beta alanine is mainly used to increase stocks of carnosine inside the muscles. Carnosine can found throughout the body, but is principally concentrated inside the fast twitch muscle tissues.

In a study, it was discovered that routine supplementation with pure beta alanine for 10 weeks caused an 80 % increase in muscle carnosine stores. The carnosine stored inside the muscles is available to buffer accumulations of hydrogen protons (H+) during periods of intense physical work.

Hydrogen ions are released during glycolysis, the lactic acid cycle and certain other biological processes, resulting in pH levels imbalance in the body system. When intramuscular pH drops under 7, the tissues become acidic (muscular acidosis), a condition which causes the muscles to lose their contractile capacities.

Then fatigue sets in, often accompanied by a feeling of burning in the muscles. However, carnosine buffers the H+ ions, restores pH balance and help to delay the onset of fatigue.

In several research studies, taking beta-alanine to increase carnosine levels has been shown to improve measure of fatigue as well as increase mean power output during workouts and intense physical activities. This can indirectly have a positive effect on lean muscle mass and body composition ratios, since more workouts means more fat loss.

Nonetheless, carnosine is appraised to contribute to only a small percentage of total muscle buffering capacity, a level that is not enough to explain its noticeable benefits. Researchers now suggest that carnosine must act through additional mechanisms, which is yet to be uncovered.

Dosage for Pre-Workout

Research has suggested that taking 4-6 grams doses of beta-alanine for 4-10 weeks is ideal, but because there is currently no known limit to how much carnosine can be stored in muscle, supplementing with larger doses for longer durations may also work equally, if not better.

Single-ingredient beta-alanine supplements supply 0.5 – 0.75 g per capsule or per serving.

Pre-workout formulas ideally supplies 1 – 2 g per serving

A study showed that ingesting beta-alanine along with a meal, proved to be more effective than supplementing in-between meals. This led to a 23% higher rise in muscle carnosine levels after 46 days. However, more research is needed to establish this hypothesis.

Side Effects

The only reported side effect of beta-alanine supplementation is a tingling sensation of the skin called paresthesia. But in order to avoid this effect, one should take multiple low doses, or use a sustained-release formula of Beta alanine.

Available Forms of Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is typically sold in pure powder or capsule form. It is found either by itself or mixed with other ergogenic compounds such as creatine. CarnoSyn is a patented form of beta-alanine found in a variety of supplements, and also available as a sustained release form. This suatained released version slowly releases beta-alanine once ingested.

Conclusions

Beta alanine pre workout supplements work over time to increase intramuscular reserves of carnosine, which, when available in the muscle tissues buffers against hydrogen atoms and restores acidic pH to optimal levels.

Follow the dosing instructions on the labels of the products you may select, and ensure to do your research to ensure that you choose a reputable, high-quality pre-workout supplement.

Andrew
 

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