Fitness fans and gym gurus may have heard of beta-alanine. It’s one of the most popular sports supplements, with many people choosing to use it as a way to enhance their workouts.1
But is taking beta-alanine supplements worth it and should you include this amino acid in your workout routine? We’ve got everything you need to know below.
What is beta-alanine?
Beta-alanine is a type of amino acid. It’s naturally produced by the body (the liver, to be exact).2
However, we can get it externally from food or supplements too.
This Non-Essential Amino Acid (NEAA) is the building block for a molecule called carnosine. Carnosine is stored in our cells and releases when there’s a drop in pH. This molecule helps to protect against acid around the body, like lactic acid production during workouts.3
Beta-alanine supplements are usually marketed as sports performance enhancers. However, it is possible to increase your intake through diet as well. In addition to performance, it’s thought that there could be other health benefits too, although research is still underway.4
How does beta-alanine affect the body?
If you’re wondering about the benefits of beta-alanine, it’s important to remember that research is still ongoing. In terms of beta-alanine supplements, there isn’t an agreed standard or conclusive research.5,6,7
That means you might not get the results you want if you choose to use a beta-alanine supplement.
Nevertheless, it’s thought that beta-alanine could help to:
- Improve your endurance8
- Improve performance in HIIT sessions9
- Improve your muscle mass10
Remember, though. While some studies have been conducted on humans, others were animal studies and may not precisely reflect how beta-alanine works. It’s always worth talking to your doctor before starting a new supplement to be sure that it’s right for you.
Dietary sources for beta-alanine
Nothing beats a healthy and balanced diet. While the body produces beta-alanine itself, we can increase our intake by eating the right types of food. Proteins
are usually the best way to get amino acids into the body, so you must include the recommended daily allowance in your weekly meal plans.11
Some food sources for beta-alanine include:
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’ll be especially important to be sure that you’re getting enough protein. Look for protein-rich plant sources to be sure you’re getting the right nutrients.12
If there are gaps in your protein intake or you want to try supplements, there are a range of options on the market. They’re usually available in powders, tablets, or capsules. Always follow the instructions on the label and ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there can be a tingling or itching side-effect to taking beta-alanine supplements. This is called paraesthesia and is thought to be related to the dosage amounts.13
If you experience this side-effect, consider lowering your dosage or stop taking beta-alanine supplements altogether.
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Last updated: 6 November 2020