Bodybuilders were given a secret weapon with the introduction of beta-alanine. The supplement industry has been looking for the next creatine for the last 10 years. They thought they found it with HMB. That fizzled quickly after research failed to support its claims. Beta-Alanine appears to be the new front runner.

What Beta-Alanine Does

Beta-Alanine is a nonessential amino acid that, along with histidine, forms carnosine within the muscle. Carnosine helps alleviate low pH within the muscle by neutralizing H+ (hydrogen ions) produced during energy production.
During prolonged periods of intense exercise (~10-60 seconds), H+ are produced from the muscle’s reliance on anaerobic glycolysis (glucose without oxygen) for energy production. The low pH is thought to be one of many causes of fatigue within the muscle by inhibiting key enzymes responsible for glycolytic reactions as well as also altering calcium’s role in muscular contractions.
In layman’s terms, it delays muscle fatigue.
More work + more time under tension = bigger, stronger muscles.

What You Can Expect with Beta-Alanine

Without question, beta-alanine increases carnosine content within the muscle. Most studies have shown a 20-40% increase in muscle carnosine levels, with one showing as high as a 64% increase.
As far as if increased carnosine levels lead to improved performance in the weight room, the research is a little less clear. A handful of studies have shown improvements in anaerobic power, anaerobic endurance, and aerobic power. Increases in muscle mass, decreases in bodyfat, fewer feelings of fatigue, and increased work have also been supported by research. It appears that the type of resistance training determines if beta-alanine improves results. Strength training with higher reps, increased time under tension, and less rest, a typical bodybuilding-type routine, tends to have the best results.

When You Should Take Beta-Alanine

Take it 2-4 times daily. It doesn’t appear that it taking it pre- or postworkout improves performance any more than taking it at any other times throughout the day.

How Much Beta-Alanine You Should Take

4-6 grams daily in divided doses. It takes as long as 4 weeks to increase carnosine conent within the muscle with this dosage.

The Downside of Beta-Alanine

If you take too much at one time, you’ll experience a tingling sensation throughout your body. It feels as if tiny needles are poking you. It’s easily remedied by taking less per dose while increasing the number of doses.

TJ’s Inside Scoop

I’m a believer. The tingling sensation is a little weird though.  The research speaks for itself. There’s very little question whether beta-alanine increases carnosine content within the muscle. The  two questions I have that haven’t been answered just yet are: 1) How big of a role does carnosine play in buffering the H+ ions from anaerobic glycolysis? Studies suggest anywhere from 7 to 40%, which is an extremely wide range. 2) How big of a role does a low pH play in muscular failure? That’s extremely muddy, and will take an entire article in itself.

In all honesty, I think it really comes down to the type of resistance program you’re using. Beta-alanine would have a bigger effect on a bodybuilding-type routine as opposed to a powerlifting-type routine. Any type of training that primarily relies on anaerobic glycolysis should benefit from beta-alanine supplementation.  Plus, from a cost-effectiveness approach, it’s a no-brainer.

What Does Beta-Alanine Stack Best With

Creatine monohydrate, protein, citrulline malate, arginine

Top Products Using Beta-Alanine

USPLabs Jack3d, MusclePharm Assault, Cellucor C4 Extreme, BSN Hyper FX, Controlled Labs White Flood