Athletes and gym goers have long had an interest in supplements and how they can help them achieve better results. The supplement game is a large industry that has well and truly become a part of the nutrition space - for better and for worse. That is why it is important that Sports Dietitian’s such as myself, aim to inform you and separate truth from myth.
One supplement that has increasingly grown in popularity in recent years is Beta-Alanine. This fancy sounding powder product is becoming a staple in the stacks of sports supplements used by athletes and weekend warriors worldwide.
Is beta-alanine safe?
How does beta-alanine help?
Does beta-alanine even work?!
In today’s blog I will breakdown beta-alanine supplementation and answer the main questions you have so that you know if it’s worth attention and what it does.
So let’s get the elephant out of the room first…is Beta-Alanine supported by research?
In a world full of supplements that don’t work, are simply money grabs, or detrimental to your health - beta-alanine stands proudly as one of the supplements that have the evidence-based stamp of approval.
However, this does not mean it should be universally taken or that it will actually be effective in your individual situation. Even within the very small (comparatively to total number of supplements) subset of “supplements that actually bloody work!”, you need to understand that individualisation is key and that just because a supplement is supported by the research does NOT mean it is right for you!
This is why this blog post is not advice. It is not me telling you how you should supplement. This is to inform you and guide you so you don’t fall for the trap of misinformation that shrouds the supplement world all too often.
In fact, let me put out a disclaimer that you should always seek doctors and Sports Dietitian advice before considering a sports supplement - to ensure it is safe and worthwhile in your individual case.
So with that out of the way. Let’s get to the fun stuff. Let class commence now!
What is it:
Beta (B)-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is typically found in a powdered form you mix in some water or liquid to consume as a drink. It is a very popular supplement among both athletes & regular gym goers (aka the weekend warriors). Interestingly, even though B-Alanine is technically a protein, it is not involved directly (key word here) in the muscle building process as it does not synthesize proteins in the body.
How does it “work”:
As mentioned, Beta-alanine doesn’t associate itself with the protein synthesises and muscle builders in your body. It likes to do a very different, specialized task in your body (which can in-directly help with muscle gains) that targets an individuals performance
Beta-Alanine, together with Histidine (which is an essential amino acid), produces carnosine which is then stored in your muscles. Carnosine then works to reduce lactic acid accumulation in your muscles during exercise which in turn leads to improved athletic performance. Essentially, beta-alanine helps produce the “Buff (ering)” Carnosine to reduce the pH in muscles and therefore reduces fatigue onset that can come on when muscle acidity (from the production of Hydrogen (H+) ions during exercise) blocks glucose metabolism and muscular contraction ability.
What could it help with:
Now that you know what beta-alanine is and how it works in the body, lets translate this to practical benefits you as an athlete/gym goer can potentially experience with b-alanine supplementation. There are 2 primary benefits that the research supports the most:
The specific regimen varies between sources and individual application is key here. However, the general consensus that I want you to use as a guidance point is that the research suggests the dosage to be between 2-6g/day, taken consistently. More specifically, the guidelines suggest the optimal way to consume your daily dosage of beta-alanine is via 0.8-1.6g every 3-4 hours, across a 2-4 week period.
Please keep in mind these are just figures that we use as a general guide and your individual regimen should be first consulted with your Sports Dietitian and doctor. You want to truly know if:
The main side-effect from beta-alanine usage is a condition called Paraesthesia - which is where you skin develops a weird tingling feeling (usually in the face, neck, and back of hands). This intensity of this effect is seen to increase with larger doses of beta-alanine so it is advised that anyone who does experience Paraesthesia should limit dosages to 800mg at a time (0.8g). However, please be aware that there is nothing to suggest that this condition is harmful in anyway. It’s just weird and annoying.
To wrap up!
Beta-alanine is a research-backed sports performance amino acid supplement that has been shown to help athletic individuals realise additional performance gains. The way it does this is via reducing acidity in the muscles and thereby reducing fatigue and increasing time to exhaustion - allowing you to go harder and longer. Dosage and timing should be tailored to you individually after consulting with a Sports Dietitian and Doctor, but the general guidelines suggest consistent intake of 2-6g/day - however breaking up individual dosages can help with reducing the side effect of Paraesthesia.
All in all, the supplement is in fact backed by research and can help people who do shorter duration, very high intensity exercise and are looking for a performance edge. Like any supplement, however, one size does NOT fit all and “works” doesn’t mean “should take”. Food for thought.
Want help executing the right nutrition strategy?
So if you are ready to take your nutrition to the next level and elevate your performance in a way that doesn’t make you want to punch your Sports Dietitian, then let’s chat.
I have developed a 90 Day Macro Sherpa program that is a 1:1 nutrition coaching experience to help start bridging the gap between where you are now and where you want to be as an athlete. In this program, I'll personally coach you using my flexible nutrition system to help you harness the power of calories and macro strategy to regain your competitive edge - think of it as a bespoke sports nutrition solution that empowers you to eat better to achieve better.
Oh and yes, I will take out the guesswork of the supplement game for you to ensure you only use supplements that can actually help you effectively and safely.
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Hi there! My name's Aleksa Gagic - i'm a Brisbane Sports Dietitian & Brisbane Sports Nutritionist. I have 7+ years experience in providing professional nutrition consulting and want to help you learn about the power of flexible nutrition.