Beta alanine is one of the most widely used and well researched supplements on the market...
... It's also one of the most misused.
Research on beta alanine is considered pretty conclusive: Published human studies show time and time again it improves performance in short bout bursts of exercise like a 100m sprint, a 500m row sprint or a 10 rep max set (1).
In all of these studies participants took beta alanine daily at a dose of between 2 to 6 grams per day, Yet, in the real world, beta alanine is most commonly used in or as a pre-workout supplement - something that is rarely taken daily.
Why is beta alanine so commonly found in a pre-workout?
“Pre-workout” supplements are a subcategory of sports supplement that aim to prepare you to perform at your best. Their use and relevance is much debated (1) but primary goals are to physiologically and mentally fuel and stimulate the body. For this reason ingredients like caffeine, creatine and amino acids tend to be included.
Along this line, there are two reasons why beta alanine is a common inclusion here. The first is a side effect called paresthesia.
Paresthesia is a sensation of warm tingling in the skin caused by nerve ending stimulation and is very noticeable. Secondly, some athletes report paresthesia being a similar sensation to that of a stimulant. Studies also point to beta alanine giving an "improved perception of readiness to perform" shortly after taking it (4,5).
Does beta alanine work as a pre-workout?
Paresthesia and a perception of readiness aside, let’s cut to the chase... does taking a single dose of beta alanine also lead to an improvement in performance?
A 2015 study on single dose beta alanine supplementation in female cyclists tried to answer this question. The cyclists did wingate testing after either a placebo or a single dose of beta alanine. Where those taking the supplement did report a lower perception of exertion, there was no performance improvement compared to the placebo group. These results were replicated in a 2017 study looking at a multi-ingredient pre-workout that included beta alanine. Again the subjects felt better going into the workout, but failed to do better (5).
In comparison, a 2014 study on football players found that taking beta alanine daily for a month significantly increased their wingate test performance (7).
So the answer is: You’ll feel better, but you are unlikely to perform better. The best way to get the most out of beta alanine is to take it daily for an extended period of time.
How to take beta alanine to get the best results?
To ensure you get the most out of beta alanine, we consulted the science. In 2015 a comprehensive review of all beta alanine studies by the international Society of Sports Nutrition. They concluded that:
"Daily supplementation with 4-6g of beta-alanine for at least 2 to 4 weeks has been shown to improve exercise performance, with more pronounced effects in [intense exercise] lasting 1 - 4 min in duration"
The same group concluded that beta alanine as part of a pre-workout product may be effective, but only if the dosage is in the 4-6g range and it’s taken daily. If the thought of taking your pre-workout daily isn’t a pleasant one, check out our very high quality, single ingredient beta alanine.
1. Trexler et al. (2015): International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. Read the research
2. Harris et al. (2006): The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Read the research
3. Hoffman et al. (2015): Beta alanine ingestion increases muscle carnosine content and combat specific performance in soldiers. Read the research
4. Baguet et al. (2010). Beta-alanine supplementation reduces acidosis but not oxygen uptake response during high-intensity cycling exercise.Read the research
5. Jung et al. (2017) Effects of acute ingestion of a pre-workout dietary supplement with and without p-synephrine on resting energy expenditure, cognitive function and exercise performance. Read the research
8. Jung et al. (2017): Effects of acute ingestion of a pre-workout dietary supplement with and without p-synephrine on resting energy expenditure, cognitive function and exercise performance. Read the research