Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. Dietary source of beta-alanine includes pork, meat or chicken. Our body utilises it to synthesize carnosine. During high-intensity activities, carnosine acts as a buffering agent and helps maintain pH in skeletal muscles. It also reduces the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles thereby preventing fatigue and enhancing stamina. Naturally, carnosine concentration has been shown as higher in fast-twitch muscle and also among males as compared to females.
Due to its potential to enhance athletic performance, beta-alanine is popularly used as an ergogenic ingredient in sports supplements. Lactic acid is produced as a by-product of anaerobic glycolysis. As a result of lactic acid, hydrogen ions are formed. Excess of hydrogen (H+) ions creates an acidic environment which in turn adversely affects muscle contraction. Carnosine acts as a buffer and reduces acidity during vigorous exercise.
A study conducted by Jose et al also claimed the same that beta-alanine was effective in augmenting exercise performance. 6.4 mg of beta-alanine was given to strength athletes for 5 weeks. It was observed that muscle carnosine concentrations of athletes were higher. Similarly, carnosine also increases muscles fibres’ sensitivity to calcium which is required for appropriate muscle contraction.
In another study, athletic performance was significantly improved by 2.85% as compared to the placebo group, on the consumption of 179 g of beta-alanine throughout the study. When beta-alanine was discontinued, it took approximately 6-15 weeks for the values to return to normal. Even having the potential to boost athletic performance, there are some side effects associated with beta-alanine. One of the common effects which athletes experience is paraesthesia or tingling sensation. This effect is not observed in all and primarily associated with the consumption of higher doses, more than 800 mg of beta-alanine. Some strength athletes prefer taking pre-workouts having beta-alanine to experience this paraesthesia as it gives them a rush or pushes them to perform better.
Another side effect of beta-alanine is that it causes a decrease in the levels of taurine concentrations. Both taurine and beta-alanine share the same transport mechanism to reach the skeletal muscle. Therefore, beta-alanine prevents the transport of taurine by binding with the transporter. Although there is only a little evidence in the studies to support this claim. Some researchers also say that taurine levels are not affected by the levels of beta-alanine.
To sum up, we can say that if consumed in recommended dosages, beta-alanine is safe to use. It evokes an ergogenic effect when taken during high-intensity interval training. It delays fatigue and gives an additional kick to stamina. Beta-alanine also improves muscle contractions thereby allowing athletes to give their maximum output. To enjoy the benefits of this non-proteogenic amino acid - beta-alanine, always consume it in the recommended amount.
Hobson. R.M, Saunders. B, Ball. G, et .al (2012),Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance, Amino Acids. Referred from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3374095/
Maté-Muñoz. José Luis, H. Lougedo. Juan, Garnacho-Castaño. Manuel V, et al.(2018),Effects of β-alanine supplementation during a 5-week strength training program, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Retrieved from:https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0224-0
Trexler. Eric T, Smith- Ryan. Abbie E, R. Stout. Jeffery, et al, International society of sports nutrition position stand. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4501114/