If you’re new to the world of weight training and all of the strange and sometimes expensive supplements that come along with it, beta-alanine will sound foreign to you. For everyone else, they may find beta-alanine to be familiar as it’s already incorporated into several premium pre-workout blends.
What is beta-alanine?1
It’s a precursor to the amino acid carnosine, which is an essential element of muscle tissue. Beta-alanine and carnosine are found naturally in lean meats.
What can beta-alanine do for me?
- Increase lean mass gains (especially with creatine)2
- Increase muscular stamina during a workout3
- Reduce feelings of muscular fatigue
Not only does beta-alanine appear to be a good supplement for those who perform weight training with programs that favor low reps but high weight (meaning you can spend more time challenging yourself in the gym), it’s great for people who must exert their bodies between 1 and 3 minutes, such as runners, bicyclists and other activities that involve high reps, moderate durations or low to moderate intensities.
My experience with beta-alanine
I picked up a bottle of beta-alanine powder at a local vitamin store a while back, so it’s common enough. It’s available in capsules as well, but with powder I find it’s much easier to control your dosage. I don’t think it matters which brand you buy since all of the other ones I’ve seen usually just have CarnoSyn brand beta-alanine.
Based on research and experience, it’s good to use doses below 1 gram (I like taking ~500 mg) because at a higher dose there is a harmless but weird side effect of beta-alanine that causes your extremities or body to tingle. Unless you take a lot of it, which can cause annoying full-body pins-and-needles, it’s mostly been localized to the palms of my hands. I also find that the feeling goes away fairly quickly when you’re in the middle of a set anyway.
As for beta-alanine’s endurance-enhancing effects? It doesn’t seem to help me push past my max, but it definitely helps me crank out several more reps at squats and everything else. My muscles will give out before I get completely tired, which compared to a workout without beta-alanine is much more intense. My workouts definitely make me more sore, and I’m able to lift just a little bit more by the next workout.
As for mass gaining? I didn’t get buff overnight from beta-alanine, but after taking some almost daily for a month, getting to the gym at least once a week and taking some creatine and BCAA’s post-workout, other people have pointed out that my shirts are now fitting tighter around the chest and shoulders.
Additionally, the scale says I gained a modest two pounds outside of the usual fluctuation of water weight. Considering that serious weight training or getting big is not my top priority at this moment and I haven’t changed much of my diet or routine, I’d say it did something noteworthy to my lean mass.
The verdict on beta-alanine: For mass gaining, beta-alanine is definitely no substitute for eating right, but my experience says that it does what it’s supposed to.
While not mandatory, if it’s in the budget and you think it’s right for you, I’d include beta-alanine as a complementary part of a simple pre-workout stack to help crank out more reps and build up some more muscle.
Beta-alanine works on endurance too, so if you have a tendency to lose steam before you ever get to your max, I’d recommend it.
Beta-alanine structure from Wikipedia ↩
“This study also noted that the combination was able to improve the average lean mass gain and fat mass loss during an exercise regimen better than creatine in isolation, and the combination improved average weekly training intensity” ↩
“The data from the lone meta-analysis suggesting a 2.5% increase in muscular endurance during exercises between 60-240s (usually measured by time to exhaustion) seems to be a good summation.” ↩