What to Expect From
Since the first published human study in 2006, beta alanine (BA) has quickly grown into one of the most popular sports supplements on the market (1).
Yes it has been shown to work and be safe, but it has also been shown to have a strange side effect.
Want to know what you'll experience when taking BA? Read on...
NOTE: The below only applies of you are correctly dosing BA. If you are taking BA as part of a pre-workout,
chances are you aren’t dosing it properly. To find out more click here:
Lower Lactic Acid = Higher Performance
BA has been shown to increase muscle carnosine concentrations (2, 3), a substance that "buffers" or reduces muscle lactic acid build up caused by intense exercise (4). Acidity is thought to play a big factor in causing muscle fatigue, so it’s no surprise that taking BA results in improved performance in athletes participating in strength and power sports, where the acid "burn" is frequently experienced (5).
Studies have shown that it can take as little as 2 weeks of regular BA use to increase muscle carnosine (6). Better still, it looks like this doesn’t stop, with studies of up to 24 weeks showing continued carnosine build up (7).
Improved Cognitive Function &
A Crazy Study on Soldiers
Carnosine is found in other parts of the body, such as the brain. Where the lactic acid theory may not run as true in these tissues, there does seem to be some interesting benefits. One is increased alertness and cognitive function when training (8).
As if math wasn't stressful enough on its own, a 2015 study on soldiers had them undertake a complex math test following a 30-metre sprints and a shooting accuracy test... while in combat gear... beside people firing guns (9). This crazy study found that those who had taken BA did better than those who didn't.
BA's stimulatory effect may also work after just a single dose. A group from Texas A&M found that a simple BA pre-workout is all it took to see evidence of improved perception and readiness to perform (10).
Creatine has also been shown to improve your cognitive performance, read more here.
The Catch... A Side Effect
There is a common and very noticeable side effect of taking BA: Paresthesia (2). Parasthesia is a sensation of tingling of the skin. It’s like having prickles run up your arms and over your face.
Yes, it sounds strange and a little unnatural, but Studies have shown there to be no negative outcome of parasthesia, and BA has an excellent safety profile to date (9). Some report even liking the strange sensation.
Paresthesia generally disappears within 60–90 minutes (11), and it can be almost avoided by reducing dosage or taking it with real food/on a full stomach (2).
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. Hill et al. (2007) Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. 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. Culbertson et al. (2010). Effects of beta-alanine on muscle carnosine and exercise performance: a review of the current literature. Read the research
6. Stellingwerff et al. (2012): Effect of two beta alanine dosing protocols on muscle carnosine synthesis and washout. Read the research
7. Saunders et al. (2017): Twenty-four Weeks of β-Alanine Supplementation on Carnosine Content, Related Genes, and Exercise. Read the research
8. Hoffman et al. (2015): Beta alanine supplementation and military performance. Read the research
9. Hoffman et al. (2015): Beta alanine ingestion increases muscle carnosine content and combat specific performance in soldiers. Read the research
10. 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
11. Stellingwerff et al. (2012): Optimizing human in vivo dosing and delivery of b-alanine supplements for muscle carnosine synthesis. Read the research