What Is It?
Beta Alanine, otherwise known as 3-aminopropionic acid, is a non-essential amino acid which acts as a precursor to the dipeptide Carnosine. Carnosine is found mostly in the skeletal muscles and is primarily responsible for the acid base equilibrium, especially during high intensity exercise. It is produced by the body, inside the body, by breakdown of ingested histidine class amino acids:Carnosine and Anserine. In the liver the Carnosine and Anserine are converted into free form Beta Alanine, which is then taken to the skeletal muscles by the enzyme ATPGD1 subsequently converting it back into a usable form of Carnosine. While the ATPGD1 enzyme is mostly found in the muscles, it is also found in smaller quantities in the brain. The highest Carnosine foods include beef, pork, and fish that dwell in deep, low oxygen water. Unfortunately, the body produces relatively little free form Beta Alanine through the ingestion of Carnosine. As a result, high levels of intramuscular Carnosine are generally found only in those with high red meat and deep sea wild fish diets. For that reason, those on vegetarian and vegan diets generally have less than optimal Carnosine levels.
What Are Its Benefits?
The main advantage to supplementing with Beta Alanine, as opposed to just eating foods high in Carnosine, is that Beta Alanine, in particular CarnoSyn®, is much more efficiently utilized by the body for increasing muscle Carnosine levels. As stated above, consumed Carnosine must first be broken down by the body into Beta Alanine before being converted into Carnosine in the muscles. When Carnosine is broken down it is broken down into both L-Histadine and Beta Alanine. Some of the intact Carnosine (1.5-14%) is also expelled in the urine. With all these factors in mind, ingested Carnosine has been found to be a very inefficient and minimally effective way to produce free form Beta Alanine and increase muscle Carnosine.
Beta Alanine you say?
The benefits of Beta Alanine remain substantial with studies pointing to increased muscle endurance, especially in fast twitch muscles, decreasing of muscle fatigue, an increase in muscular strength, and a noticeable energy boost in many people. That energy boost makes it a great choice to stack with caffeine or for those trying to cycle off of stimulants. Beta Alanine really shines in exercise ranging from 1-4 minutes. This can include high intensity, high rep weight training, sprinting, high intensity interval cardio, and CrossFit. One recent study in the UK took a group of amateur boxers and gave them 1.5 grams of Beta Alanine 4x per day over a 4 week period. The results were staggering. After only 4 weeks of high dose Beta Alanine the boxer’s punch force increased by an astonishing 20 times. The speed and frequency of the punches also quadrupled at the end of the study. The results however were only noticed when rest times in between training sets were under 2 minutes.
Besides working as a performance enhancer, Beta Alanine also has several secondary benefits. Carnosine, besides being found in the muscles is also found in smaller concentrations in the brain. Supplementation of Beta Alanine increases these levels of Carnosine in the brain. Not only that, but it can also significantly boost brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) as well. Carnosine found in the brain acts as a potent neurological antioxidant (and whole body antioxidant) that can protect from free radicals that may damage brain cells and synapsis. Some studies have also pointed to a mild anxiolytic effect from Beta Alanine supplementation, however this is still being debated. And finally, Beta Alanine has also been found to play a rudimentary role in anti-aging.
How Can You Benefit From This?
There are dozens of ways in which you, the busy college student can benefit from this supplement. The two most important ways would be during intense exercise sessions and for overall health. If you do nothing but lift heavy with low to medium rep ranges and long rests in between sets, then this might not be the supplement for you. For those of you who do circuit training, CrossFit, HIIT, and other high intensity workouts that last between one and four minutes without resting, then this could be the supplement to end all supplements. It’s also a great supplement for certain types of athletes as well. Football team, I’m talking to you. It will increase your endurance, your sprints will improve, your strength will improve, you will be able to dial up the intensity in every single thing you do, all while taking shorter rests. Trying to get that all out 20 minute chest workout in before class or before a date with a smoke-show you met last night at a rager? Beta Alanine will now become your go to supplement for going beast mode in the gym.
By dialing up the intensity of your workouts and increasing the strength of your level II fast twitch muscle fibers, you will begin to see faster results, and in the long term you will have more gains, or losses, if fat loss is your goal.
Still not convinced that you want to take this supplement? Think about all the partying you do. Think about all the drinking and possibly even illegal substances you consume. All those substances produce free radicals which damage parts of your brain. While much of this might be temporary, long term partying will result in some level of permanent brain damage. By keeping brain Carnosine levels high, you will be warding off many of these damaging free radicals. Antioxidants kill free radicals so get as many of them as you possibly can.
Finally, since muscle Carnosine levels decline as you get older, supplementing with Beta Alanine can produce anti-aging effects, keeping you looking and feeling younger. It also supports healthy levels of testosterone, keeps cortisol levels at bay even after intense exercise, and adds a healthy boost to growth hormone levels.
Built with Beta Alanine.
The dosing and the frequency of dosing Beta Alanine can vary from person to person. Daily doses can range anywhere from 2000-5000mg per day. Studies have found benefits to even higher doses, however too much Beta Alanine can lead to Taurine deficiency since they are antagonists of each other. Many who have tried Beta Alanine know about the signature “Beta Alanine tingles” or paresthesia. Unfortunately, this side effect is pretty much unavoidable. For those of you that can handle the tingles, one or two 2000-3000mg doses per day is all you will need. If the tingles are just too much for you and are driving you mad, you can still reap the benefits of Beta Alanine with relatively little discomfort. One option is to get a timed release Beta Alanine supplement. However, these are not too commonly found, so your best bet is to split your Beta Alanine into four small doses throughout the day between meals. Those four doses should all be between 800-1000mg. Timing is not as important with Beta Alanine. Just make sure you are taking it consistently every day, as it takes a bit of time for muscle Carnosine to increase. While you will feel the tingles of the Beta Alanine immediately, don’t expect significant results until about 3-4 weeks of daily use. Beta Alanine can be taken indefinitely, however there comes a point when the benefits level off and Carnosine levels in the muscles and brain cease to increase any further.
Note: Studies of under 6.4 grams of Beta Alanine per day have not shown any noteworthy risks for Taurine deficiency.
Beta Alanine can be found in many shapes and sizes. It is often found in pre workouts, energy drinks, intra workouts, amino acid blends, as well as in plain powder and capsule form. When choosing a Beta Alanine supplement, it is important to make sure that the Beta Alanine contained in the product is in fact CarnoSyn®. If it is not specifically CarnoSyn® it could be nothing more than L-Alanine or a completely bunk product.
When it comes to Beta Alanine powder, there are no specific brands that are better than one another. As long as it says CarnoSyn® it will work fine. I personally like the NOW Sports Beta Alanine 500g ($24 – Amazon) because it’s extremely inexpensive as compared to other, bigger named brands. In addition, NOW is quite well known for being a fairly consistent company when it comes to quality supplements, but without all the fancy labeling and exaggerated claims.
If you prefer capsule form, NOW Sports is once again the way to go. While there are many cheaper brands of Beta Alanine capsules, there is no guarantee they will be of decent quality as none say “CarnoSyn®” on the ingredient label. Expect 120 (750mg) capsules to run you around $16. Unfortunately this is quite a premium over the pure powder as it only weighs out to a total of about 90 grams. I would not recommend the capsule form. However, if that’s what you prefer, go for the NOW Sports.
As far as Beta Alanine containing intra workouts go, I love Controlled Labs Purple Wraath. While the Beta Alanine is in a blend, I do think the dose is probably in the 1500-2000mg per scoop range. I have taken the product before and the tingles from it are quite intense. If you’re looking for an intra-workout and Beta Alanine supplement combined into one, this would be my pick. It is a bit pricey at around $60 for 90 serving, but compared to other intra workouts (per serving) it’s not a bad price. If you are going about your workouts stimulant free, Purple Wraath can also act as a solid caffeine free pre workout as well. For intra workout 1 scoop is all that is needed. However if you do not take a caffeinated pre workout in addition to your intra workout, go with the 2 scoops per day. That will cover your pre workout, aminos, and Beta Alanine all in one supplement.
And of course, a discussion about Beta Alanine is never complete without everyone’s favorite topic; pre workout! Pre workout is pretty much the “drug” of choice among lifters. While some will just use it as intended, many of us will use it for just about everything, whether it’d be for lifting, a morning or afternoon pick-me-up, or even when we go out partying so we can go beast mode on the dance floor. Pre workout is pretty much the all in one, golden supplement that can be used in just about any setting. So what does this have to do with Beta Alanine? Well many pre workouts contain Beta Alanine, and if you choose wisely you can get your entire day’s dose of Beta Alanine from this one source. While I do not have a specific favorite pre workout at this time, I do recall getting very intense tingles from Top Secret Pump Igniter ($25 – 30 servings). Most of the Beta Alanine containing pre workouts have roughly 1.5 grams of Beta Alanine per scoop. There are plenty of other pre workouts that are very good, but that is an entirely different discussion
Beta Alanine is without a doubt the strongest natural performance enhancing drug money can buy. Unfortunately, this is not all that well known of a fact. Many people are just scared away from it due to the tingles. In fact, there are pre workouts out there that specifically market their products “Beta Alanine free” or “tingle free,” as if Beta Alanine is a bad thing. I am here to tell you that it is nothing of the sort. Beta Alanine is the holy grail of workout supplements. It is as important to the athlete as Creatine is to a bodybuilder during a bulking phase or a powerlifter who’s trying to hit a new PR. Are you a hard-gainer who works three times as hard as everyone else and still can’t gain mass? Grab some Beta Alanine and turn up the intensity to levels you never imagined possible.
Women, this product is for you! Vegetarians, vegans, and people who can’t eat pork or red meat for religious reasons, this will be your new saving grace! And all the others that just want something to give them a bit of a boost: get some d*mn Beta Alanine and go destroy your next training session. Remember, do not get discouraged if you don’t see instant results! There is a pre loading phase. It will take a few weeks. If you give it a chance, I promise you will not be disappointed.