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Beta-Alanine

Beta-Alanine


There are two distinct types of fatigue in training – one where the pump is so intense that your muscles stop contracting and feel like they’re going to explode, and the other, that won’t let you get that deadlift PR off the ground even if you tried really hard. The first type of fatigue happens when we reach a threshold in which key reactions can’t take place to remove lactic acid, and other biproducts, from the muscle.

Increasing training capacity and decreasing muscular fatigue are key to getting optimal volume into your training sessions. A failure to maximize each can do more to compromise gains than any other combination of factors. It’s in the ability to sustain workout duration and training volume that muscle protein synthesis is increased, and Beta-Alanine is one of the rate-limiting factors to breaking through anaerobic thresholds to do that. That is why ALTRD State has 3.2 grams per scoop (2 servings) of Beta-Alanine.

While a strong mind and ability to mentally push through the pain are both necessary in forcing positive change, there are times when the body is not willing to cooperate. It is in these times that supplementation can make all the difference and ALTRD State gets you through the mental and physical barriers! Beta-Alanine is one product that has been shown to specifically benefit training sustainability by increasing rate at which biproducts are shuttled out of the working muscles – helping you break through the threshold.

What is Beta-Alanine?  


Beta-Alanine naturally occurs in the body, making it a non-essential amino acid. For most people, this means that sufficient Beta-Alanine can be biosynthesized internally for proper physiological functioning. Being the only common naturally-occurring “Beta” amino acid, Beta-Alanine’s amino group is bonded to the Beta carbon rather than the Alpha carbon, which is the difference between Beta-Alanine and the 20 standard biological amino acids.

Beta-Alanine is made internally when the body breaks down Carnosine or Anserine (dipeptides located in the brain, heart, and skeletal muscles). It is also non-proteinogenic (“protein creating”), meaning it is not incorporated biosynthetically into new proteins like most other aminos. Rather, Beta-Alanine is used to facilitate various bodily reactions conducive to performance optimization. 

How Does Beta-Alanine Work?   


Beta-Alanine’s primary role in the body is to produce a compound called Carnosine.1, 16 A dipeptide molecule, Carnosine is made up of two amino acids: Beta-Alanine and Histidine. Highly concentrated in muscle and brain tissue, Carnosine has proven to be an important way to address muscular fatigue as it helps to prevent an accumulation of acid in the cells: intracellular acidosis, which disrupts the body’s normal pH balance. Carnosine does this by serving as a hydrogen ion buffer to maintain a normal muscle cell pH (a measure of hydrogen ion concentration) during intense, short duration activities.3 In this way, Carnosine reduces fatigue to bolster the bigger, stronger and more explosive fast-twitch muscle fibers.

By increasing Carnosine levels, Beta-Alanine has been scientifically proven to increase high-intensity intermittent exercise performance (the typical bodybuilding-style weight training approach) by improving the muscles ‘capacity to perform work. Whenever we train, hydrogen ions begin to accumulate in muscle tissue. This produces a drop in intramuscular pH, thus affecting a muscle’s ability to sustain multiple contractions. The more a muscle relies on glycolysis (from muscle glycogen) as a main energy source to power muscular contraction, the greater the production of lactic acid and hydrogen ions. This leads to an ever-continuing drop in intramuscular pH, a major precursor to training-related fatigue, a major reason why we tend to stop short of doing more than we are capable of.

“Beta-Alanine has been scientifically proven to increase high-intensity intermittent exercise performance”

By increasing Carnosine levels, Beta-Alanine has been scientifically proven to increase high-intensity intermittent exercise performance (the typical bodybuilding-style weight training approach) by improving the muscles ‘capacity to perform work. Whenever we train, hydrogen ions begin to accumulate in muscle tissue. This produces a drop in intramuscular pH, thus affecting a muscle’s ability to sustain multiple contractions. The more a muscle relies on glycolysis (from muscle glycogen) as a main energy source to power muscular contraction, the greater the production of lactic acid and hydrogen ions. This leads to an ever-continuing drop in intramuscular pH, a major precursor to training-related fatigue, a major reason why we tend to stop short of doing more than we are capable of.

In summary, whenever glucose is broken down for energy, a metabolic by-product called lactic acid is produced. This lactic acid is converted into another by-product of anaerobic metabolism, lactate, from which hydrogen ions are created. This conversion process causes a reduction in muscle pH, which leads to greater muscle acidity. The greater the accumulation of muscular acidity, the harder it is for the body to break down glucose for energy. As a result, fatigue sets in and the muscles lose their capacity to contract. In addition, Carnosine’s ability to remove metabolic waste from the cellular energy production cycle reduces the burning sensation that causes us to rest due to intense muscular pain (the “burn”). Simply put, Carnosine negates muscular acidosis, and therefore fatigue, thus enabling the muscles to work harder, for longer.

Why Not Supplement with Carnosine?   


Since Carnosine itself acts as a major reducer of fatigue in the body, why not supplement with Carnosine directly? Here’s why. Firstly, Beta-Alanine has been shown to be a “rate-limiting” precursor to Carnosine production, meaning that its influence is critical at the most important stage in Carnosine’s formation in the metabolic pathway (the slowest step, which requires additional energy and is highly regulated). Here, the overall rate of Carnosine conversion is determined by this slowest step, of which Beta-Alanine serves as an important component.

In addition, should supplemental Carnosine be taken instead of Beta-Alanine it’s unlikely to saturate the muscles the same way Beta-Alanine can, due in large part to the fact that much of the ingested Carnosine will be broken down during the early stages of digestion. To top it off, any Carnosine that is assimilated will be converted to Beta-Alanine and Histidine, which is then be reconverted to Carnosine – a time-consuming and highly inefficient process that ultimately yields very little usable Carnosine.

On the other hand, Beta-Alanine forgoes this multi-step process. Instead, it is automatically converted to Carnosine, which makes it a much more effective and efficient way to increase Carnosine concentrations in skeletal muscle, and therefore boost performance, compared to Carnosine itself; a fact corroborated by studies that have shown that Beta-Alanine can increase muscle Carnosine by up to 80% in as little as 10 weeks, making it one of today’s most potent supplemental fatigue-fighters.3, 7

“Beta-Alanine has been shown to be a “rate-limiting” precursor to Carnosine production”

In addition, should supplemental Carnosine be taken instead of Beta-Alanine it’s unlikely to saturate the muscles the same way Beta-Alanine can, due in large part to the fact that much of the ingested Carnosine will be broken down during the early stages of digestion. To top it off, any Carnosine that is assimilated will be converted to Beta-Alanine and Histidine, which is then be reconverted to Carnosine – a time-consuming and highly inefficient process that ultimately yields very little usable Carnosine.

On the other hand, Beta-Alanine forgoes this multi-step process. Instead, it is automatically converted to Carnosine, which makes it a much more effective and efficient way to increase Carnosine concentrations in skeletal muscle, and therefore boost performance, compared to Carnosine itself; a fact corroborated by studies that have shown that Beta-Alanine can increase muscle Carnosine by up to 80% in as little as 10 weeks, making it one of today’s most potent supplemental fatigue-fighters.3, 7

What are the Key Benefits of Beta-Alanine? 


Along with much anecdotal evidence direct from the training trenches, Beta-Alanine’s benefits have been proven scientifically, with study after study proclaiming its effectiveness in boosting muscular endurance, improving exercise capacity, and reducing fatigue.10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24

1. Improves Muscular Endurance (Time to Exhaustion) and Limits Fatigue: 

If you want to work for longer without hitting a wall, Beta-Alanine can assist. As one example, a group of cyclists found that four weeks on Beta-Alanine helped them to increase the total amount of work completed by 13% – a significant improvement that was further increased by an additional 3.2% after 10 weeks (total).

A further study showed Beta-Alanine supplementation significantly improved the 10-km running time trial and reduced lactate concentration in physically active adults.23 By improving intracellular pH control, Beta-Alanine has been shown to greatly improve muscle endurance through reducing muscular fatigue, allowing athletes to perform at a higher level, for longer and all it takes is making Beta-Alanine a staple supplement.

2. Enhances High Intensity Training Output (Anaerobic Exercise Capacity) and Strength: 

Muscular acidosis, as explained earlier, is especially limiting when it comes to high intensity, anaerobic activities – sprinting or heavy resistance training, for example. Beta-Alanine is particularly beneficial in reducing the burning sensation and fatigue associated with high intensity activities of short duration.5, 13, 25  In one study, subjects increased their total time to exhaustion by 19% during HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) protocols over a six-week period.6 Another study demonstrated that after supplementing with Beta-Alanine for seven weeks, a 4.3-second speed increase was experienced by 18 rowers who completed a 2000-meter race lasting over 6 minutes.2, 12 

Beta-Alanine supplementation was also shown to be effective at increasing power output when lifters hoisted loads equivalent to their maximal strength or lifted at maximum power output. Their increased 1RM’s (one repetition maximums) were attributed to increased strength gains arising from Beta-Alanine supplementation.14 Another study found that supplementing with Beta-Alanine made a larger number of leg press repetitions performed possible with resistance equivalent to 65% of the participants’ 1RM.15 Interestingly enough, high Carnosine concentrations tend to be found in those with a high proportion of fast-twitch fibres; the fibers most responsible for strength, power, and lifting capacity.4, 

3. Helps Reduce Cell Degradation:

Beta-Alanine can boost performance in other ways besides its ability to limit intramuscular acidosis. First, Carnosine produced by Beta-Alanine acts as an antioxidant which limits the accumulation of free radicals produced from fat oxidation.16, 17 Such oxidation, a major contributor to cellular degradation and fatigue, can put the brakes on physiological functioning and physical output. In short, Carnosine counters free radical accumulation to boost energy and protect cellular function.

Carnosine is also known to support mitochondrial function, enabling more energy to be generated by the body (as our primary energy organelles, mitochondria are crucial for performance optimization).9 Free radical formation and harmful glycation* have been shown to negatively impact mitochondrial functioning. Glycation occurs with disease and ageing when sugars are attached to proteins or fats, which can lead to an impairment in cellular function. Carnosine optimizes mitochondria function through its antiglycation and antioxidant benefits.

How Much Beta-Alanine Should I Take?:


Research suggests that Beta-Alanine dosage should range between 2-5-grams per day, though the best approach for saturating Carnosine stores is thought to be a standard dose of 3.2-grams daily.22 This 3.2-gram dose can be taken in one go, pre-workout, or divided into several 800-1600mg doses and taken multiple times per day. For best results, the divided dose schedule may be superior as it could help to improve absorption and reduce Beta-Alanine’s irritating tingling sensation.

Due to its acute stimulant response, Beta-Alanine is best consumed pre-workout. That being said, Beta-Alanine’s performance benefits come as a result of gradually rising muscle Carnosine concentrations so daily consumption is important. In addition, research has shown that Carnosine saturation can be further enhanced when Beta-Alanine is taken with meals.21   

Why does Beta-Alanine Cause a Tingling Sensation in the Skin?:


Known to be one of the safer of the supplemental performance enhancers, Beta-Alanine presents few side effects (unless you count exponentially greater workout performances as a side effect). However, there is one relatively benign effect that may cause concern for many who take Beta-Alanine in larger doses (generally over 1200 mg). Called acute paresthesia and otherwise known and experienced as “pins and needles” (a burning, itching or flushed feeling usually on the neck, scalp or face), the Beta-Alanine “tingles” are harmless and usually pass within minutes of product consumption.22 Some may not even experience them at all as this reaction tends to vary from person to person. If the tingles are too uncomfortable, try the divided dose protocol instead. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that this tingling sensation may be prevented or reduced when Beta -Alanine is taken with carbohydrates.

REFERENCES

  1. Artioli, G.G. et al. (2010). Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jun;42(6):1162-73. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20479615/
  2. Baguet, A. et al. (2010). Important role of muscle carnosine in rowing performance. J Appl Physiol (1985). Oct;109(4):1096-101. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20671038/
  3. Culbertson, J. Y. et al. (2010). Effects of beta-alanine on muscle carnosine and exercise performance: a review of the current literature. Nutrients2(1), 75–98. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257613/
  4. Derave, W. et al. (2007). beta-Alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters. J Appl Physiol (1985). Nov;103(5):1736-43. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17690198/
  5. Derave, W. et al. (2010). Muscle carnosine metabolism and beta-alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Sports Med. Mar 1;40(3):247-63. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20199122/
  6. Ghiasvand, R. et al. (2012). Effects of Six Weeks of β-alanine Administration on VO (2) max, Time to Exhaustion and Lactate Concentrations in Physical Education Students. Int J Prev Med. Aug;3(8):559-63. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3429803/
  7. Harris, R.C. et al. (2006). The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids. May;30(3):279-89. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16554972/
  8. Hill, C.A. et al. (2007). Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids. Feb;32(2):225-33. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16868650/
  9. Hipkiss A. (2010). Aging, proteotoxicity, mitochondria, glycation, NAD and carnosine: possible inter-relationships and resolution of the oxygen paradox front. Aging Neurosci2:10. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874395/
  10. Hoffman, J.R. et al. (2015).  β-Alanine supplementation and military performanceAmino Acids. 47(12): 2463–74. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26206727/
  11. Hobson, R. M. et al. (2016). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis”. Amino Acids. 43 (1): 25–37. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3374095/
  12. Hobson, R.M. et al. (2013). Effect of beta-alanine, with and without sodium bicarbonate, on 2000-m rowing performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. Oct;23(5):480-7. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23535873/
  13. McCormack, W. et al. (2013). Oral nutritional supplement fortified with beta-alanine improves physical working capacity in older adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Exp Gerontol 48(9):933-939. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23832078/
  14. Maté-Muñoz, J.L. et al. (2018). Effects of β-alanine supplementation during a 5-week strength training program: a randomized, controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 1519. Retrieved from: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0224-0
  15. Outlaw, J.J. et al. (2016). Effects of b-alanine on body composition and performance measures in collegiate women. J Strength Cond Res. 30:2627–37. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25486294/
  16. Perim, P. et al. (2019). Can the Skeletal Muscle Carnosine Response to Beta-Alanine Supplementation Be Optimized?. Frontiers in nutrition6, 135. Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00135/full
  17. Prokopieva, V. D. et al. (2016). Use of Carnosine for Oxidative Stress Reduction in Different Pathologies. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity2016, 2939087. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26904160/
  18. Stout, J. et al. (2008). The effect of beta-alanine supplementation on neuromuscular fatigue in elderly (55-92 years): a double-blind randomized study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 5:21. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18992136/
  19. Stout, J. et al. (2007). Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on the onset of neuromuscular fatigue and ventilatory threshold in women. Amino Acids 32(3);381-386. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17136505/
  20. Stout, J. et al. (2006). et al. Effects of twenty-eight days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on the physical working capacity at neuromuscular fatigue threshold. J Strength Cond Res2006;20(4):928-931. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17194255/
  21. Stegen, S. et al. (2013). Meal and beta-alanine coingestion enhances muscle carnosine loading. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Aug;45(8):1478-85. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23439427/
  22. Stellingwerff, T. et al. (20120. Effect of two β-alanine dosing protocols on muscle carnosine synthesis and washout. Amino Acids. Jun;42(6):2461-72. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21847611/
  23. Santana, J. O. et al. (2018). Beta-Alanine Supplementation Improved 10-km Running Time Trial in Physically Active Adults, Physiol. Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2018.01105/full
  24. Trexler, E.T. et al. (2015). International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine”. J Int Soc Sports Nutr(Review). 12: 3. Retrieved from: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y
  25. Walter, A. A. et al. (2010). Six weeks of high-intensity interval training with and without beta-alanine supplementation for improving cardiovascular fitness in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1199–1207. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20386120/
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