Beta-alanine is one of the most common ingredients you will find in a pre-workout supplement, but many don’t understand what it is and how it works.

In fact, a recent study showed that 65% of athletes couldn’t state beta-alanine’s benefits and only a small number understood the correct protocol required in terms of beta-alanine supplementation.

So let’s take a look at just what beta-alanine is!

How does beta-alanine work?

Beta-alanine supplementation increases muscle carnosine levels. Intense physical exercise causes an increase in hydrogen ions which, in turn, causes the muscle tissue to turn more acidic, impairing the muscle’s performance. The elevated carnosine levels help the body reduce the level of hydrogen ions in the muscle tissue, thereby improving overall performance primarily by delaying the onset of fatigue.

Your body does produce its own supply of carnosine but not to the level required where you will see improvement in your exercise performance. Do not be tempted to just purchase and use a carnosine supplement to improve your physical exercise performance; this will not work because your body will break down most of this supplement before it even reaches your muscle tissue. Supplementing with beta-alanine is the best way to supply your muscles with the carnosine required to improve performance.

To achieve the full benefit of beta-alanine supplementation you should take it every day for at least 28 days. After this you could well feel like you have more energy and have the ability to work out for longer. You’ll feel these benefits most acutely whilst doing the following activities:

  • Cycling
  • Running
  • CrossFit
  • HIIT
  • Rowing
  • Weight training

The ‘tingles’

A lot of companies add beta-alanine into their pre-workout supplements, and as a side effect of this, many users get a tingling sensation. This isn’t exactly the pre-workout taking hold, but is more as a result of increased blood flow to extremities.

What can I stack it with?

In terms of improving high-intensity training performance, it is a good idea to combine beta-alanine with creatine. It has been shown in studies that individuals who supplemented with both beta-alanine and creatine demonstrated superior endurance than those who consumed only one of the two.

Lead image: Eugeniusz Dudzinski via Getty Images.

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