Sports Nutrition Supplement: Beta-Alanine
Everything you need to know about beta-alanine and if it’s right for you
In the world of sports nutrition, once daily nutrition and sport specific nutrition strategies are in place, athletes are often wondering what else they can be doing to boost their performance.
Supplementation can be beneficial in some situations and beta-alanine is one of those more common supplements that may be of use.
What is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is used in the body to produce carnosine. Carnosine is a substance that helps to buffer acid in the muscles. This helps to improve muscle endurance and reduce fatigue.
Beta-alanine has become a common dietary supplement, used by athletes and bodybuilders, to help improve training and performance.
Can I Get Beta-Alanine from Food Sources?
Beta-alanine is found in a variety of food sources! Meats like chicken or beef contain the highest concentrations of beta-alanine naturally. Other food sources include: fish, pork, dairy products, quinoa, and lentils.
Vegans and vegetarians may benefit more from supplementation of beta-alanine as they have a reduced variety of food sources of beta-alanine.
The Benefits of Beta-Alanine | Would Supplementation Help Me?
Beta-alanine can only do so much for improving sport performance. You still need to ensure that you are eating adequate amounts, eating frequently enough, and also planning your nutrition strategies around your training and competitions. If you have already been taking care of the sports nutrition basics, then you are more likely to see the benefit from beta-alanine supplementation.
Beta-alanine helps to improve performance in short-duration, high intensity exercises.
So this means that is would be most beneficial in weight lifting, high-intensity interval training, in sports that include big power outputs such as jumping and sprinting, and in team sports that require short-energy bursts (soccer, hockey, basketball, etc).
Where beta-alanine is likely to fall short is in endurance sports such a long distance running or cycling. These types of sports tend to use a different energy system and so fatigue results for different reasons making beta-alanine supplementation less effective.
Is Beta-Alanine Safe?
Beta-alanine is considered safe and is typically well tolerated when taken in recommended doses.
It is recommended to speak to a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition, before taking dietary supplements such as beta-alanine. They can help you make the most of your supplementation routine.
What are the Side Effects of Beta-Alanine?
The most common side effect is a temporary tingling sensation on the skin called parethesia. This is a harmless side effect that is caused by the increase in carnosine levels in the muscles.
Other potential side effects include itching, flushing, headaches, and burning although these are less common.
Some people do experience nausea or dizziness with beta-alanine supplementation, especially if taken on an empty stomach or in higher doses.
Choosing a Beta-Alanine Supplement
There are many beta-alanine supplements available. The best one for you is going to be individual to your preferences and needs. However, there are some considerations to look at:
- What is the dose per serving?
- What form is the supplement in? (Powder, capsule)
- Are there other ingredients in this supplement that I need to consider?
For the majority of my athletes, I do not recommend taking a beta-alanine supplement that is part of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine and caffeine like substances.
The recommended dose of beta-alanine will vary some between athletes and also depends on the specific product you are using.
The most common dosage recommended is between 2-5 grams per day. Ideally, this dose is split up into 2-3 servings taken with meals each day.
However, most people will start with a lower dose and build up over time as this will reduce the chance of experiencing side effects like muscle tingling and itching.
Beta-alanine takes time to be effective because it has to slowly build up in the muscles. It will take several weeks of consistent use to reach peak levels of carnosine in the muscles from beta-alanine supplementation.
Additionally, beta-alanine supplementation should be cycled. This means that you do not supplement it forever. It should be taken for a period of time and then take a break to allow your body to maintain the Beta-alanine benefits without relying on this external source. A knowledgeable dietitian can help you target the timing of when you cycle on this supplementation as you want to ensure you are timing it to when you need peak performance.
If you are curious about performance nutrition or how a supplementation routine may impact your training, please reach out to our team at Health Stand Nutrition to see if we can help.
Wondering how to fuel your body so you can perform at your best? Our Sports Nutritionists can help.
Our Sports Nutritionist team specializes in performance and results driven nutrition strategies for athletes and recreational fitness enthusiasts.
Since we are dietitians (not salesy supplement marketers), we can also provide you unbiased professional advice about supplements you are curious about. Our university training as Registered Dietitians and access to scientific databases for the latest research cuts through the misinformation and gets you the reliable facts.
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Fitness enthusiast and lover of all things food, Jana is passionate about helping her clients improve their relationship with food and their body. She is a strong, motivational leader. Jana also offers the balance of a warm, supportive coaching style to nudge her clients from their comfort zone while feeling safe and supported. She specializes in mental health, eating disorders, body image and sports nutrition.