Beta-alanine is a popular supplement among athletes, and for good reason. Research has found that this amino acid may benefit performance and support overall health - both of which are high priorities for dedicated athletes and gym-goers. What’s more, many fitness enthusiasts report being able to accomplish more reps or perform endurance sports for longer periods of time when supplementing with beta-alanine.
Sounds good, right?
But many more people haven’t even heard of this amino acid, don’t know how it impacts their training, and aren’t sure how to integrate it into their daily nutrition. So, today we’ll uncover what it is, what those beta-alanine benefits are, and when to take it for maximum impact.
What Is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine (3-amino propionic acid) is a non-essential amino acid that is produced naturally by the body and is a component of carnosine, anserine, and vitamin B5. It takes part in many metabolic processes, the most significant for athletes is the reduction of lactic acid accumulation in the muscles.
During strenuous exercise, lactic acid is produced and broken down by your skeletal muscles. And - as you’ve probably experienced during a workout - the longer you exercise, the more difficult it becomes for your body to break it down in a timely manner. Lactic acid is largely responsible for that “burn” you feel when you’ve been running, lifting weights, or participating in another endurance sport.
Beta-alanine combines with histamine to become a dipeptide molecule named carnosine. This molecule is stored in bulk in your muscles and brain tissue and is used to buffer lactic acid accumulation, which decreases discomfort and fatigue and improves athletic performance. While the body has natural stores of carnosine, high-intensity athletes (who use much higher levels of amino acids than the average person) may get a nice boost by eating foods or supplements that contain extra beta-alanine.
5 Benefits of Beta-Alanine for Athletes
Beta-alanine benefits may include increased endurance ability, decreased fatigue, and improved overall wellness. Runners, cyclists, rock climbers, and other endurance athletes may find beta-alanine effects particularly useful before a challenging workout or competition.
And, it may be even more important for vegan and vegetarian athletes who have less of this animal-based protein stored in their muscles due to their plant-based diet.
1. It May Help you Exercise Longer Before Getting Tired
You may be familiar with the term “time to exhaustion” (TTE). This refers to the amount of time a person can engage in an activity before they are overcome with fatigue. Whether that’s 10 minutes or 2 hours depends on a host of factors, like your diet, sleep patterns, general fitness and more.
Regardless of those factors, though, beta-alanine may just be one way to increase your TTE through increasing carnosine stores and decreasing the negative impact of lactic acid on your muscles.
A 2015 study found that cyclists who took daily beta-alanine supplements for 10 weeks were able to work 13% more than those who took the placebo. This was replicated in another study where 20 male cyclists were able to increase their “time to exhaustion” by 13% or more after a month of taking beta-alanine daily.
2. It Could Increase your Effort In Short, High-Intensity Exercise
Muscle acidosis (the process where glucose is broken down into lactic acid) doesn’t just limit the amount of time one can do a high-intensity activity, but it can impact how hard you go in the moment. This is especially relevant in endurance activities as well as challenging short-duration exercises like HIIT or Crossfit.
In a study done on the impact of beta-alanine on high-intensity interval training, researchers found that taking beta-alanine supplements for 6 weeks improved the TTE for participants by 19%. Another study done on rowers found that 7 weeks of beta-alanine supplementation was linked to faster speeds in 2,000-meter races.
3. It May Help Increase Muscle Endurance Specifically in People Over 55+
Beta-alanine may benefit those who are aged 55+ by increasing muscle endurance, which can help our fit friends with their training goals. But it also has quality-of-life applications that last well beyond your training years.
By improving muscle endurance, older adults may be able to reduce the risk of falls and increase their capacity for independent living. A double-blind randomized study on adults ages 55-92, researchers found that beta-alanine supplementation was associated with the delayed onset of neuromuscular fatigue in older men and women.
Plus, when taken with protein, you’ll experience that you stay full longer, aiding in any weight loss efforts you may have this year.
4. It May Help You Build Lean Muscle Mass
By reducing your time to exhaustion, you are able to get in longer, more difficult workouts. As such, your goals are easier to reach - especially when beta-alanine is paired with a high-quality pre-workout protein supplement, like our Frog Fuel Ultra liquid protein shots.
But don’t take our word for it.
In a double-blind trial, 46 men were assessed for peak O2 utilization, time to exhaustion, ventilatory threshold, and total work done. Half of the group was then given either 1.5 grams of beta-alanine or a placebo four times a day for 21 days. They were also asked to participate in a 6 week routine of HIIT workouts. Not surprisingly, the researchers observed significant improvements in all the participants in the areas measured. But there was an additional improved lean body mass in those taking the beta-alanine.
5. There Could Be Possible Antioxidant, Anti-Aging Properties
You may not be taking a workout supplement to look younger, but if it happened, it wouldn’t hurt, right? Consider this just one more positive beta-alanine effect.
The key is carnosine, which is what happens when you combine beta-alanine with histamine.
Studies have found that carnosine may act as an antioxidant in neutralizing free radicals, supporting the body’s immune system, and reducing the effects of oxidative stress on your skin and body. Carnosine may also elevate nitric oxide production, which improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to cells throughout the entire body. More nutrients and oxygen mean, fuller, more supple skin. This, in turn, helps to preserve the body’s youthfulness and delay the onset of aging.
If your interest is piqued, it’s worth noting here that collagen protein has become widely known in the past couple of years because of its potential anti-aging qualities. Aside from offering you a complete protein source, collagen is a vital ingredient in healthy nails, hair, and skin. This is one visible difference our customers notice when they start taking a daily collagen protein supplement that contains beta-alanine.
Which Foods Contain Beta-Alanine?
Like what you’re reading but lost on how to eat in order to get these beta-alanine effects? We’ve got a cheat sheet for you.
Beta-alanine is found most densely in animal products such as fish, chicken, beef, and pork. And, when you consume beta-alanine in your diet, it is most often already combined with other molecules to form carnosine. Free beta-alanine is only found in very small amounts in meat, or in supplement form.
Here are the top food sources of beta-alanine:
- Poultry. Turkey and chicken are some of the richest sources of beta-alanine. In 3 ounces of turkey breast, there are 2 grams of alanine. The same can be found in 1 cup of rotisserie chicken breast.
- Soybeans. Soybeans have 3 grams of alanine in every cup. You can purchase soybeans to munch on as a snack, or use soy flour in your recipes.
- Beef. Loin beef fillet, top roast, ground beef, or other lean cuts provide a good amount of alanine and other proteins.
- Fish. A 3-ounce serving of yellowtail fish has an estimated 1 gram of alanine. Other types of fish with high protein and alanine include rainbow trout, tilefish, rockfish coho salmon, pink salmon, haddock, mackerel, herring, and tuna.
Because beta-alanine is found mostly in animal products, it is not surprising that vegetarians and vegans have an average of 50% less carnosine than people who eat meat. For athletes following a plant-based diet, beta-alanine supplements may be particularly helpful in achieving optimum results in sports and fitness.
However, since collagen can only be found in animal proteins, our Frog Fuel products are not vegetarian or vegan. We do, however, have several customers on plant-based diets who still enjoy getting the nutrients they need with Frog Fuel. It’s their one flex food and it’s a worthy one if you ask us.
When To Take Beta-Alanine to Maximize Its Effects
Beta-alanine turns into the molecule carnosine the moment it’s ingested, which becomes an acid buffer in the body.
For this reason, most athletes choose to take a pre-workout beta-alanine supplement before stepping into the gym. However, scientifically speaking, the timing of beta-alanine supplementation is actually not super important. This is because beta-alanine turns to carnosine and is stored in the muscles. It doesn’t simply disappear if you don’t work out shortly after (such as with caffeine).
Your carnosine stores are still there several days after supplementing with beta-alanine. Even better news, research has found that muscle stores of carnosine only decrease by 2% each week after you’ve stopped taking regular beta-alanine supplements.
What is important is that you’re taking it consistently.
The recommended daily dose of beta-alanine for endurance athletes is between 2-5 grams. You can spread this into multiple doses throughout the day, or take all at once if desired. Large doses of beta-alanine may cause a side effect of “tingling in the extremities” (paraesthesia). Though experts agree this is a harmless side effect.
Citrulline Malate Goes Well With Beta-Alanine
Beta-alanine and citrulline malate - both active ingredients in Frog Fuel Ultra liquid protein shots - are an excellent pairing for those living an active lifestyle. Citrulline malate is the amino acid citrulline combined with malate, an organic salt. It assists with multiple biochemical reactions in muscle tissue, including reducing lactic acid and ammonia buildup, increasing nitric oxide production, and increasing ATP energy.
Like beta-alanine, it just may enhance performance during endurance exercise or regular gym workouts.
What’s the Best Beta-Alanine Supplement For Athletes?
When it comes to fueling your body - and your workouts - it’s important to choose a supplement that is high quality and contains only trusted ingredients that will help you reach your goals.
Our Ultra line of supplements take the benefits of beta-alanine along with other active ingredients and packages them into a convenient, ready-to-drink pouch. In this liquid form, you can consume Frog Fuel easily without any water, mixing, or shaker bottle required. These can be taken every day throughout the day for maximum endurance benefits and just before or during a workout for an energizing kick.
In conclusion, beta-alanine effects occur most notably during a workout, when you’ve realized you’ve pushed past that burn and can now workout longer than last time. Some customers even report a stimulant-type response when taking beta-alanine, so we recommend multiple smaller doses throughout the day. And, even though the stores will stay in your body for a few days, a pre-workout beta-alanine supplement will kick in as soon as you take it, making it a great addition to your pre-gym routine.Ready to ramp up your workout?