Beta Alanine: Function and Use in Sports

Do you want to take a beta alanine supplement to improve your performance? Here we explain how it works and what its main benefits are.

Last update: 04 December, 2021

Beta Alanine is a nonessential amino acid; that is, it is a substance that the body can synthesize and its direct intake in the diet is not necessary. However, it is present in some foods, such as chicken, beef, turkey, pork, and fish.

In the case of athletes, this substance is of great help. In particular, acts in the formation of carnosine, essential for the muscles and the brain. In fact, it acts as an energy and endurance enhancer. How does it work? What are its main applications? We detail them below.

Function of beta alanine in the body

The main function of beta alanine goes hand in hand with carnosine. It is a dipeptide, which means that It is made up of two amino acids, which are beta alanine and L-histidine.

Histidine is more abundant than beta alanine. Therefore, if there is a limitation in carnosine production, one of the possible factors is a decrease in the amount of beta alanine in the body.

Its functions range from acting as an antioxidant to helping memory and learning processes. According to a publication in the journal Nutrition Hospital, in sports, beta alanine and L-histidine help improve calcium sensitivity in muscle fibers and regulate the pH.

Beta alanine is used as an adjuvant to increase muscle mass.

Benefits of beta alanine

Beta Alanine has various properties. Some are attributed to him like the increase of the muscular mass and the explosive force. However, more studies are needed to prove it. The main benefit found in sports is that it is able to reduce fatigue and increase sports endurance.

In order to understand how it causes these effects, we must explain what happens in the muscles during exercise. Muscle fatigue occurs due to a build-up of lactic acid that prevents the muscle from contracting and relaxing. This happens because the glucose present in the muscle is transformed into lactic acid when there is an oxygen deficiency.

In high intensity and medium and long duration sports it was found that supplementation with beta alanine can reduce acidosis in the muscles.

Related studies

Domínguez conducted a study in trained swimmers in which beta alanine supplementation was applied for 5 weeks. At first, they took 3.2 grams a day, and lastly, they ingested 6.4 grams. At the end of the study it was observed an improvement in the trend time in the 100-meter freestyle event.

It has also been determined that the supplementation of beta alanine with creatine increases the ventilation threshold of athletes. A study was conducted in 55 men, who were randomly divided into 4 groups. One ingested a placebo, another creatine, the third beta alanine, and the fourth beta alanine with creatine.

Before ingesting the supplement, a graded exercise test was performed to determine the oxygenation rate of the muscles, the exhaustion time and the ventilation threshold. This test was also done after supplementation. An improvement was found only in participants who took beta alanine supplementation with creatine.

In another study, beta alanine supplementation was found to improve burnout time in young women. In particular, a group of 22 women divided into two; some ingested placebo and others beta alanine. They were given an exercise test before the study and after.

The results showed that there were an increase in the respiratory threshold of 13% in those who ingested supplementation with the amino acid. In those who took the placebo, no significant changes were found.

Therefore, as there is a higher concentration of oxygen, the transformation of glucose into lactic acid decreases. Remember that glucose becomes acid only when there is no oxygen present.

It has been observed through studies that beta alanine contributes to improving athletic performance.

Beta Alanine Consumption Recommendations

Dietary supplements are substances that contain ingredients such as amino acids, herbs, vitamins, or enzymes, dedicated to improving the health and physical capabilities of the body. Of course, beta alanine has some recommendations for use to avoid possible harmful effects.

The recommended dose is between 4 and 6 grams daily, for 4 weeks, since this is enough to increase muscle carnosine concentrations. In this way, acts as a preventive of intracellular acidification. In general, this dose is considered safe for most healthy adults.

Its intake is recommended as part of pre-training. That is, between 30 and 60 minutes before exercise. Its type of administration is variable and depends on what the container that contains it says.

So far, the only known side effect is tingling, which can be mitigated using lower doses. It has been observed that its use with other types of supplements can be beneficial, but in the right amounts. To establish this, it is essential to consult a sports nutrition specialist.

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