Beta-Alanine Every Question Answered

In this article, CSN will aim to answer any question about beta-alanine. It will answer all of the below questions.

  1. What is beta alanine?
  2. How does beta alanine help performance?
  3. Why don't you simply take carnosine directly instead of beta-alanine?
  4. Can you get enough beta-alanine/carnosine from food? 
  5. How many grams of beta-alanine should you take a day?
  6. How long does it take to see the effects of beta alanine? 
  7. Can I take creatine and beta-alanine together? 
  8. Should vegans and vegetarians take beta-alanine?
  9. Are there side effects of beta-alanine?
  10. Why does beta-alanine cause paresthesia?
  11. How to stop the beta-alanine itch?
  12. When should I take beta-alanine?
  13. Do I need to cycle beta-alanine?  

What is beta-alanine?

The human body utilises about 20 different amino acids. Some of these are essential (these have to be consumed as our bodies cannot build them from anything) and some are non-essential (they can be created as by-products of other bodily reactions and synthesised from our diet).

However, sometimes not enough non-essential amino acids are created to benefit athletic performance from this form of production.

Beta-alanine (as opposed to regular alanine) is a different type of amino acid than most as it is not thought to be utilised in the construction of proteins

How does beta-alanine help performance?

Beta-alanine helps people perform better by indirectly acting as a lactic acid buffer.

The reason I say indirectly is that it is actually carnosine that acts as the buffer and beta-alanine is used within the chemical reaction to produce carnosine.

Given the role of carnosine in buffering acid accumulation in muscle, most studies have focused on high-intensity activity that leads to acid build-up. One study looked at a group of healthy male adults who supplemented with beta-alanine at doses ranging from 4g to 6.4g per day. 

Muscle biopsies were taken from the leg to measure the accumulation of muscle carnosine, and a performance test was given before and after supplementation to determine the effects on work and power during high-intensity exercise.

After four weeks, beta-alanine increased muscle carnosine levels, and by 10 weeks, carnosine levels were almost two-fold higher than baseline.

Further, beta-alanine resulted in a 16% increase in total work done during an all-out cycle test that lasted about 2.5 minutes.

In another study, beta-alanine supplementation increased total work done during a strength training session by 20%.

Why don't you simply take carnosine directly instead of beta-alanine?

Our muscle is not able to take up carnosine directly because it’s largely destroyed in the gastrointestinal tract. That’s why researchers have focused on the precursor beta-alanine, which is directly taken up by muscle and then converted to carnosine

Can you get enough beta-alanine/carnosine from food? 

Unfortunately, not all of us are able to really eat the number of meat products, needed to improve carnosine levels to the point of athletic improvement nor could most physically consume that degree of food. 

Furthermore, the sheer cost of eating such a substantial amount of food should be enough for you to look to supplements instead.

How does carnosine work in the body by CSN

How many grams of beta-alanine should you take a day?

To get all the benefits of beta-alanine Cardiff Sports Nutrition recommends is 3 to 6 grams of beta-alanine per day, every day. That is the clinical range that has produced the results in most studies.

So, if you are a woman weighing 9 stone – look towards the lower spectrum of around 3 grams beta alanine. Alternatively, if you are a man pushing 14 stone, look towards 4.5 to 6 grams per day.

How long does it take to see the effects of beta-alanine? 

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.

Can I take creatine and beta-alanine together? 

Creatine supplementation has been shown to offer a variety of benefits including increased strength, power and lean muscle mass. These are clearly valuable advantages for those engaged in weight training, sporting pursuits and any physical activity regimes. 

Beta-alanine has also been demonstrated by research to boost strength and power, increase lean muscle mass and improve endurance. 

Interestingly, despite these supplements being potent training aids in their own right, their effectiveness has been proven to enhanced when studies combined the two together. This makes for a potent combination for anyone looking to enhance strength, endurance, power and lean muscle mass.

One study found that participants that combined Creatine and Beta Alanine improved body composition in terms of increased muscle mass and decreased body fat to a significantly higher level than those supplementing with Creatine alone and/or taking a placebo.

Check out CSN's creatine range

Should vegans and vegetarians take beta-alanine? 

Athletic performance of some individuals, especially vegetarians and vegans, might benefit from supplementation with beta-alanine. 

Carnosine is synthesised in animal tissues and is not contained in any plant foods. One study has shown vegetarians to have 50% or less carnosine in muscle tissue.

As previously stated beta-alanine will increase carnosine levels in the muscle and replenish whats missing in a plant-based diet.

Vegan-friendly beta-alanine is readily available.

Related article - How to maximise growth as a vegan

Are there side effects of beta-alanine

Studies show that if you are supplementing >10mg per kg of body weight then you can be at risk of paraesthesia. This is a temporary nerve disturbance and is essentially “pins and needles” (the feeling you can get when you sit on your foot or lean on your arms). This is perfectly normal and is safe.

It will feel like flushing and be tingling on your skin and can be disconcerting for some people. If you do feel uncomfortable with the sensation then I would always suggest reducing the amount you take each time.

Why does beta-alanine cause paresthesia

Beta-alanine causes paresthesia because of nerve endings underneath the skin being over stimulated and firing at a higher rate than normal rate. It is not a cause for concern and is experienced by the majority of beta-alanine users.

How to stop the beta-alanine itch

Naturally, the next question is can the beta-alanine itch be controlled. Yes, it can with a bit of effort. While beta-alanine naturally itches less and less for the longer you take it, you can also break the doses down into smaller quantities to avoid itching.

To reduce the tingles, and boost the overall efficiency of the intake – it’s recommended but not necessary to break apart your 3-6 gram dosage into 4 servings. That means, if you are taking 4 grams beta alanine per day, you can take 1 gram at a time, 4 times a day.

When should I take beta-alanine?

You need to be supplementing beta-alanine at regular intervals throughout the day. Spreading your intake like this means your levels of carnosine remain high, producing the desired effects in your training sessions. 

Beta-alanine can provide an acute stimulant response and i, therefore,e a good candidate for being consumed pre-workout. CSN also recommends you take one of your doses of beta-alanine before your gym session, you get to take advantage of the shorter term effects of beta-alanine too. These include increased mental focus and nervous system response. 

If you take a pre-workout supplement, you might already be taking it this way, so check the label on the back and account for this with your daily dosage.

Furthermore, do not take any before going to sleep, as the stimulant properties may keep you awake.

Just remember, the performance benefits from beta-alanine are based upon raising muscle carnosine concentrations over time. Thus, the time of day you consume beta-alanine isn't nearly as important as consistently consuming beta-alanine each day

Do I need to cycle beta-alanine?

The effect of beta-alanine on carnosine peaks at about 12 weeks according to current research. Continued use of the beta-alanine maintains this raised level of carnosine without raising it further.

After an extended period of use, you may find that your sensitivity to beta-alanine's effect on your nervous system is reduced. This is a possible reason to cycle beta-alanine but is not linked to any health risks.