1. What is Beta-Alanine and where does it come from?
Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid found naturally in both foods such as chicken, beef, pork, fish and it naturally occurs in the body. When taken orally, it provides the types of effects that excite scientists and make bodybuilders and other athlete’s salivate. In reality, it makes anyone who takes there training seriously start to drool — anyone who wants to be bigger, faster, stronger and more defined.
When beta-alanine enters the muscle cell, it becomes what we call the “rate limiting substrate” to carnosine synthesis. By rate limiting, we mean that without beta-alanine, carnosine does not get produced.
Carnosine was discovered in Russia in 1900, but it wasn’t until over 50 years later that the first research on carnosine and its effects on muscle buffering where published. Recently (2003) researchers have been studying Beta-Alanine examining its effects on exercise performance and lean muscle mass. Carnosine on the other hand helps stabilize muscular pH by soaking up hydrogen ions (H+) that are released at an accelerated rate during exercise. Our bodies work to keep our pH in balance by utilizing various buffering systems. Buffers largely work by soaking up H+ to maintain optimal pH balance, which we need to function most effectively. As mentioned above, our muscles function best in a specific pH range. When pH drops below that range, so does muscular performance. By helping to keep us in a more optimal pH range, our muscles can continue to contract forcibly for a longer time.
2. What does Beta-Alanine do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
Much of Beta-Alanine’s effects come through boosting the synthesis of an intramuscular dipeptide (two amino acids) called carnosine. Carnosine is made up of two amino acids, beta-alanine and histidine, and is a powerful intracellular buffer. Carnosine is found in both type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers, though significantly in higher concentrations in type 2 fibers (the fibers we primarily use in high intensity strength workouts and which are most responsive to growth). To function effectively, muscle cells rely on buffers like carnosine to avoid becoming acidic (low pH) during exercise. If you want your muscles to remain strong and maintain powerful contractions, they need to be in an optimal pH range. If they don’t and the pH drops below that optimal level, you have significantly less strength and fatigue more quickly.
You know this is happening when you feel that familiar burn in your muscles or even when you’re lifting heavy and reach muscular failure. Muscle pH has dropped and it’s largely a result of an increase in hydrogen ions (H+) which build up when you break down the high energy compound ATP during exercise. Wouldn’t it be nice to knock out a few more reps? If you had more carnosine in your muscles, you would. Without it, your energy and endurance decline rapidly and your strength suffers. The breakdown of ATP and the subsequent rise in H+ concentrations occurs in our all of our energy systems but is most prevalent in an energy system called glycolysis which also produces lactic acid. Lactic acid releases H+ ions, contributing further to the pool of H+ that’s filling your muscles from the breakdown of ATP. With the presence of H+ pH drops fast as does muscular performance.
Beta-Alanine efficacy is backed by major university, peer-reviewed studies performed on humans and not animals which other products typically base there claims on. The science behind Beta-Alanine is simple, it makes sense and it works.
Benefits of Beta-Alanine as supported by scientific studies:
- Boosts Muscular Anaerobic Endurance
- Increase Exercise Capacity so You Can Train Harder & Longer
- Boost Explosive Muscular Strength & Power Output.
- Increases Aerobic Endurance
- Increases Muscle Mass
While Beta-Alanine is largely responsible for the majority of the performance benefits, there are a few other ingredients that may enhance Beta-Alanine, or be enhanced by Beta-Alanine as well as boost a power antioxidant called glutathione that recent research shows may fight cellular fatigue. Some of these supportive ingredients act as direct precursors to the powerful antioxidant, glutathione and some work to support optimal carnosine levels.
- N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC): increases glutathione levels inside the cell which is a power antioxidant that fights cellular fatigue. Interestingly Beta-Alanine has now been shown to increase the synthesis of glutathione by increasing the availability of its precursor cysteine. Beta-Alanine and NAC work perfectly together.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E has been shown to increase carnosine levels more than carnosine alone. Carnosine has been shown to increases Vitamin E antioxidant ability. These two operate hand in hand.
- Alpha-Lipoic-Acid: Finalizing this HIGHLY synergistic formula, alpha-lipoic-acid is utilized as a highly versatile antioxidant that boosts other antioxidants like Vitamin E and Glutathione.
3. Who needs Beta-Alanine and how much should be taken? Are there any side effects or symptoms of deficiency?
You can conclude from the facts given that beta alanine might be one of the most versatile amino acid supplement discovered — whether you’re an endurance athlete, bodybuilder, powerlifter, or just someone who wants to get bigger, stronger or leaner.
Remember, it’s a simple pathway for success: H+ increases with all types of activity, shutting off muscle contraction.
With beta-alanine we can absorb it, and can literally become “better” at every one of those activities. We can be stronger, we can run faster, we can run longer. We can lift heavier weights for more reps, we can be bigger and leaner. I think the greatest attribute of beta-alanine is that it will benefit all types of athletes — not just bodybuilders and fitness competitors.
Beta-Alanine benefits typically occur in as little as two weeks, although some individuals will notice benefits within one week. As carnosine levels increase, the benefits will follow. The most dramatic results are generally experienced within the 3-4 week range but they don’t stop there. Recent research is now showing carnosine levels continue to increase for a minimum of 12 weeks which is why we recommend staying on Beta-Alanine for at least three months to optimize your carnosine levels. A practical dose of Beta-Alanine should not exceed 10mg/kg per dose which is about 800mg for a guy.
Immediate benefits: Many users experience intense vasodilatation/pumps from the very first dose of Beta-Alanine. Because Beta-Alanine increases carnosine and carnosine is a powerful precursor in generating nitric oxide synthase (a group of enzymes necessary for making the powerful vasodilator nitric oxide), this is an added, immediate benefit of Beta-Alanine.
As far as any side effects or symptoms of deficiency some people may notice a tingling sensation on the skin in the first few weeks directly after ingestion that lasts about an hour. Eventually this subsides after a few weeks of supplementation. It is caused by how Beta Alanine binds to nerve receptors. It is not felt by everyone, so it is not a sign of it working or not.
Original Research Article by: Nick Saliba © 2007.
Jay Hoffman; Nicholas A. Ratamess; Jie Kang; Gerald Mangine; Avery Faigenbaum; Jeffrey Stout (2006) Effect of Creatine and ß-Alanine Supplementation on Performance and Endocrine Responses in Strength/Power Athletes. IJSNEM, 16(4).
Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O’kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke M. (2006) Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion. Amino Acids, 1-6
Harris RC, Tallon MJ Dunnett M, Boobis L, Coakley J, Kim HJ, Fallowfield JL, Hill CA, Sale C, Wise JA (2006) The absorption of orally supplied §-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids, March.
Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA (2006) Influence of b- alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity Amino Acids.
Suzuki Y, Ito O, Takahashi H, Takamatsu K (2004) The effect of sprint training on skeletal muscle carnosine in humans. Intl J Sport Health Sci 2: 105-110.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.