Beta-alanine is a non-essential beta-amino acid that is produced naturally in the body. Since our body is able to make non-essential amino acids, we don’t need to take them from food sources.
Beta-alanine is used for boosting exercise capacity and athletic performance, building lean muscle mass, and enhancing physical functioning in the elderly.
What are amino acids?
Protein makes up 20% of our body. It is very important in almost all biological activities in the body, and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.
A big part of muscles, cells and tissues are made up of amino acid. Amino acids carry out many crucial functions in the body, like giving cells their shape. They also play a vital role in the transport and storage of nutrients. They influence the function of organs, glands, arteries and tendons. Furthermore, amino acids are necessary for healing wounds and repairing tissue, specifically in the bones, muscles, hair and skin and for the removal of all sorts of waste products produced during metabolic processes.
Beta-alanine does not seem to possess many extraordinary attributes; however, beta alanine is the rate limiting precursor to carnosine. In other words, the amount of beta alanine determines the amount of carnosine the body can synthesize. Carnosine is a very interesting substance that research suggests exhibits many health promoting properties. Carnosine is composed of 2 amino acids: L-histidine and beta-alanine. You might be asking why not just take a carnosine supplement. Excellent question! However, enzymes circulating throughout the body, except in muscle, break down carnosine into its basic components: beta-alanine and L-histidine. Thus, it makes better sense from an efficiency standpoint to supplement with beta-alanine.
Potential Benefit of Beta-Alanine for Musculoskeletal Health
Beta-alanine may lead to strength gains 5,6,7,8
Loss of strength and poor performance in recreational and sporting activities are frequent symptoms of chronic muscle and joint disease. Research suggests carnosine is an important compound to help thwart the build-up of lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis occurs when your muscles do not have enough oxygen to generate the necessary energy to fuel exercise. In this setting, the muscle becomes too acidic and stops functioning properly. Carnosine is extremely effective at neutralizing the acid build up. Carnosine may help you to perform at a more intense level for a longer period. This may help you experience greater gains in strength and muscle mass.
Researchers from The College of New Jersey examined the effect of creatine plus beta-alanine supplementation on resistance training. Compared to both the placebo and creatine only group, beta-alanine plus. Creatine group demonstrated greater strength improvement. (Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006;16(4):430–46.)
Beta-alanine exhibits antioxidant properties 9,10,11,12,13
Oxidative stress is a driving force behind progression of joint and muscle disease. Carnosine has been shown to disarm free radicals and detoxify metals that can cause irreparable harm to muscle and joint tissue. Moreover, carnosine may help prevent lipid peroxidation, a process in which fat is oxidized causing direct harm to muscle and joint cells.
Investigators at the University of North Carolina examined the blood of participants after running for 40 minutes. Findings suggest a reduction in lipid peroxidation, a marker of oxidative stress. (Smith-Ryan AE, Fukuda DH, Stout JR, Kendall KL. The influence of beta-alanine supplementation on markers of exercise-induced oxidative stress. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014;39(1):38–46. doi:10.1139/apnm-2013-0229.)
Beta-alanine may lesson neuromuscular fatigue 14,15,16,17
Fatigue and lack of endurance are common findings in chronic joint and muscle injury. Investigation implies beta-alanine may delay the onset of fatigue during activity. While the exact mechanism is unknown it likely involves the acid buffering and anti-oxidant properties of carnosine.
Investigators at the University of Oklahoma examined the effects of ninety days of beta-alanine supplementation on the physical working capacity at the fatigue threshold in elderly men and women.These findings suggested that Beta-alanine supplementation improved muscle endurance in the elderly. (Stout JR, Graves BS, Smith AE, Hartman MJ, Cramer JT, Beck TW, et al. The effect of beta-alanine supplementation on neuromuscular fatigue in elderly (55–92 Years): a double-blind randomized study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:21. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-21.)
Beta-alanine may protect against protein damage due to sugar molecules 18,19,20,21
Sugar induced destruction of muscle and joint proteins are a hallmark of certain types of chronic joint and muscle disease. Research suggests carnosine preferentially reacts with these destructive sugar compounds protecting the joint and muscle from debilitating damage.
High doses of beta-alanine may trigger a tingling feeling called paresthesia. It’s a harmless side effect, and it can be avoided by using a time-release formula or by consuming smaller doses (0.8–1 g) several times a day.
Beta-alanine may interact with certain heart medicines and with erectile dysfunction drugs. Additionally, its safety hasn’t been instituted for children, people with certain diseases, or for females who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It is advised that you talk to your doctor before taking beta-alanine.
What are the best natural sources for beta-alanine?
Certain foods can raise the accumulation of beta-alanine in your body, but you may find it hard to regularly ingest the similar amount used in studies by consuming regular diet only.
Food sources of beta-alanine and carnosine include:
- Poultry (especially, white meat like in chicken breasts)
A top loin steak can give you almost 3 grams of alanine. Other beef cuts rich in alanine include top round roast, which has around 2 grams of alanine in every 3 ounces. With all the negative publicities about red meat, beef can still be part of a balanced and healthy diet if you stick to the lean cuts. Pick beef that provides less than 95 mg of cholesterol, 10 grams of fat and no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat. Do no consume more than two 3-ounce servings each week.
Chicken and turkey are some of the most abundant natural sources of alanine. Just one cup of roasted chicken breast gives you over 2 grams of beta-alanine, while 3 ounces of turkey breast (cooked) provides less than 2 grams per serving. To replicate the amount of beta-alanine in supplemental form that displayed an association between this amino acid and greater muscle carnosine levels found in studies, you would need to eat around 4 - 6 gm daily.
Roasted soybeans, sometimes commercially available as soy nuts, have almost 3 grams of alanine in a serving of only 1-cup. Pick unsalted over salted types, as each cup of the salted type contain 280 mg of sodium, while roasted unsalted soybeans has just 7 grams a cup. If you don’t like soy nuts, try mixing soy flour into baked goods. Just 1 cup of soy flour (defatted) contains more than 2 gm of alanine. To utilize it in yeast bread recipes, substitute between 10 - 30% of the wheat flour needed with soy flour.
Yellowtail fish, in a serving of 3-ounce, contain more than one gram of alanine. Pink or Coho salmon, tilefish, mackerel, haddock, rockfish, tuna, herring and rainbow trout are also loaded with alanine. Try to make it a habit of eating a minimum of 2 servings of fish weekly; that’s according to the American Heart Association advice. Young children, pregnant or breastfeeding females, and women who plan on conceiving shouldn’t consume more than 12 ounces of fish per week, and they should stick to the fish that has low-mercury levels such as canned light tuna or salmon.
- Harris RC, Tallon MJ, Dunnett M, Boobis L, Coakley J, Kim HJ, et al. The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids. 2006;30(3):279–89. doi:10.1007/s00726-006-0299-9.
- Dunnett M, Harris RC. Influence of oral beta-alanine and L-histidine supplementation on the carnosine content of the gluteus medius. Equine Vet J Suppl. 1999;30:499–504.
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- Suzuki Y, Nakao T, Maemura H, Sato M, Kamahara K, Morimatsu F, et al. Carnosine and anserine ingestion enhances contribution of nonbicarbonate buffering. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(2):334–8. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000185108.63028.04.
- Baguet A, Koppo K, Pottier A, Derave W. Beta-alanine supplementation reduces acidosis but not oxygen uptake response during high- intensity cycling exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010;108(3):495–503. doi:10.1007/s00421-009-1225-0.
- Kendrick IP, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Kim CK, Dang VH, Lam TQ, et al. The effects of 10 weeks of resistance training combined with beta-alanine supplementation on whole body strength, force production, muscular endurance and body composition. Amino Acids. 2008;34(4):547–54. doi:10.1007/s00726-007-0008-3.
- Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006;16(4):430–46.
- Decker EA, Crum AD, Calvert JT. Differences in the antioxidant mechanism of carnosine in the presence of copper and iron. J Agric Food Chem. 1992;40:756–9.
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- Smith AE, Stout JR, Kendall KL, Fukuda DH, Cramer JT. Exercise-induced oxidative stress: the effects of beta-alanine supplementation in women. Amino Acids. 2012;43(1):77–90. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-1158-x.
- Smith-Ryan AE, Fukuda DH, Stout JR, Kendall KL. The influence of beta-alanine supplementation on markers of exercise-induced oxidative stress. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014;39(1):38–46. doi:10.1139/apnm-2013-0229.
- Stout JR, Graves BS, Smith AE, Hartman MJ, Cramer JT, Beck TW, et al. The effect of beta-alanine supplementation on neuromuscular fatigue in elderly (55–92 Years): a double-blind randomized study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:21. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-21.
- Smith-Ryan AE, Woessner MN, Melvin MN, Wingfield HL, Hackney AC. The effects of beta-alanine supplementation on physical working capacity at heart rate threshold. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2014;34(5):397–404. doi:10.1111/cpf.12111.
- Stout JR, Cramer JT, Mielke M, O'Kroy J, Torok DJ, Zoeller RF. Effects of twenty-eight days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on the physical working capacity at neuromuscular fatigue threshold. J Strength Cond Res. 2006;20(4):928–31. doi:10.1519/R-19655.1.
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