Beta Alanine: How Does It Work?
Our athletes want to win, and to be honest, we get a thrill from watching them win. They pay us to get a competitive edge. Beta-Alanine can certainly provide an advantage. But what’s with the tingling skin? Let’s get into who should take it, and what it does.
Beta-alanine helps high-intensity athletes perform better.
If that sounds like creatine, you’re close. They both help stuff like sprinting and Crossfit, but in very different ways. So don’t confuse the two. I will explain how it works and how much to take. Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid (tiny protein) that reduces exercise-induced acidity in our muscles.
It helps us make carnosine, which buffers (neutralize) acidity in muscles, particularly during high-intensity exercise. Muscles don’t like being too acidic. They can’t do their job as well. It’s also uncomfortable for the athlete!
Here are the Two Potential Benefits:
Increased Max-Effort Endurance: Beta-alanine delays the onset of muscle fatigue in high-intensity activities like Crossfit, F45, Rugby, Soccer, MMA, and Hockey. This delay in fatigue means higher F45 scores, more productive hockey shifts, and longer spirts at top speed.
Top-Up of Vegetarians and Vegans: Since beta-alanine is not abundantly found in plant-based foods, individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets may benefit from supplementation to optimize carnosine levels in muscles.
Some people will take it and there will be no effect. That happens with supplements sometimes.
4 to 6 grams per day. It’s often suggested to split this dose into smaller servings to reduce the likelihood of paresthesia (skin tingling). For example, taking 1-2 grams of beta-alanine three times per day with meals.
Tingling: Individual responses to beta-alanine supplementation can vary. Some people may experience a tingling sensation known as paresthesia, especially at higher doses, but it is generally harmless.
GI: In some cases, beta-alanine supplementation may lead to mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea or stomach upset. This is not common but can occur in some individuals.
Interaction with Taurine: Beta-alanine and taurine share the same transport system in the body. Some studies suggest that high doses of beta-alanine may interfere with taurine absorption, although the clinical significance of this interaction is not fully understood.
Interaction with Certain Medications: Beta-alanine may interact with medications that affect the central nervous system. If you are taking any medications or have underlying health conditions, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using beta-alanine supplements.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: As with many things, there is limited research on the safety of beta-alanine supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While we want our moms-to-be to be in the gym for sure, it’s not exactly the time to be breaking PR’s in the gym given the biomechanical changes going on. So Beta-Alanine might be harmful, and even if it’s not, it would be a waste of money anyways given the lack of maximum effort in pregnancy training. That said, during breastfeeding, max effort training is possible, but maybe it’s not good for the breastmilk/baby. We don’t know.
Supplementation recommendations are a small part of how we help athletes. If you want a full program, reach out to myself or Tracy: Book an assessment with me or a discovery call.
Written by: Kyle Byron, BSc Human Nutrition
Fact Checked by: Tracy On, Sport Dietitian