I was recently asked to write a review about Beta-Alanine from the folks over at Blonyx Biosciences. I’ve dabbled with Beta-Alanine in the past for a few weeks here and there, but never done a solid job of sticking with it long enough to have a good opinion. This time I gave it one full month of following the Blonyx guidelines.
What is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine (BA) is a slightly modified form of the amino acid alanine, that most notably forms carnosine when combined with histidine. Carnosine does some pretty cool things in the muscle, mostly by buffering hydrogen ions (meaning the pH of the muscle fiber). This is important when it comes to acidosis induced muscular fatigue. There have been a number of studies on beta-alanine showing some pretty nice performance induced effects for efforts somewhere in the 1-3 minute range. This makes sense considering that those time frames are most commonly associated with the biology that carnosine would affect. If you want to dig into the articles, check these out reviews which summarize things pretty nicely:
One might ask why not just take carnosine instead of BA. Well, if you were to do so, carnosine would be broken down into BA and histidine in the intestine (mostly…) and then absorbed through the intestine where it could reform into carnosine again. Histidine is not typically limiting, so taking BA makes the most sense ultimately. Its also important to note that BA supplementation is extremely safe with very little to no side-effects other than some tingling in the skin which can be annoying.
Life would be so much easier if every single study gave the same result, but that of course just does not happen. This study tested BA effects on a sprint interval training program. What the data shows was that BA supplementation resulted in a significantly enhanced amount of carnosine in the muscle fibers, but that no performance effect was observed for the volunteers. The authors conclude that either the training stimulus overrode the effect of BA or that BA does not impact this style of training. So what are we to make of this study in the face of many others saying BA enhances performance? Well, there are a couple things that stand out to me. The first is the BA dose that they were given (3.2 g/day). There are certainly studies that show effects with this dose, but in general it does seem like there is stronger data associated with a 6 g/day dose. Of course, all of this also should be controlled for the size of the athlete, meaning that a 190 lb man should be taking more than a 150 lb man. The other thing to consider when looking at these BA studies is the intensity of the exercise routine. In my opinion, BA supplementation produces more consistent results if the exercise routine is VERY intense, but if the stressor is more in line with a recreational exercise routine (see this link), then the evidence does not support BA as being useful. This makes sense, as most recreational exercisers do not push deep into muscle fatigue in the same way that a competitive sprinter would.
So overall, I think that if you’re into Crossfit or even moreso GRID, then a Beta-Alanine supplement makes some sense. GRID athletes essentially live in the 1-3 minute time range for their sport, and while Crossfit of course extends into much shorter and longer time frames, athletes DO generate a significant amount of acidosis during many workouts. Of course there are MANY other sports that BA could be beneficial for. Blonyx themselves lists sports like rowing, short distance cycling, soccer and rugby. What I would say is that if you are a RECREATIONAL athlete, I don’t know that BA is for you and would instead put my money into something like creatine instead.
Here’s how my experience went.
- I split my BA intake into two doses, one in the morning and one after training.
- With each dose, I noticed a tingling specifically in my scalp which lasted for 15-20 minutes. Over the weeks, as my body “loaded”, this sensation became less and less. This is VERY typical for BA supplements.
- I did not notice any large benefits in the first 14 days, but after that I did have performance improvement. Now, I’m not saying all of that was due to the BA, in fact in a case study its really dangerous to try and say that X caused Y. What I can say is that I kept other variables as steady as I possibly could and only changed the BA intake. Much of my training is based off of every minute on the minute style using barbell lifts and gymnastics as it forces me to get a lot of work done quickly (life is crazy these days). I generally push hard for 10-40 seconds and then rest for the remainder of the minute. I’m certainly not generating high levels of acidosis in the first few minutes but by the end, there’s generally a good burn. In general, these workouts seemed to go better for the last 2 weeks of my BA supplementation routine.
If you do decide to take BA, here how I would do it.
- Take 14 milligrams per every kilo of body weight daily. This comes out to be about 6 grams for an 85 kg person.
- Split that dose into two servings per day and dissolve in about 8 ounces of water.
- Take it with food, specifically with some carbohydrate sources.
- In general, I wouldn’t take it before bed.
Overall, I’d say cheers to Blonyx for creating another high quality, well researched supplement.