Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or gym newbie, chances are you’ve come across a number of supplements already – everyone seems to be on the train these days, with their protein and creatine shakes. But if you delve a little deeper, you start to uncover a world of supplementation just waiting to be explored…and there are some real gems out there.
Beta Alanine happens to be one of them. Heralded by some as ‘the new Creatine’ (this isn’t strictly true as they serve different purposes), it’s sure to become much more popular as people begin to understand and experience the benefits it can deliver.
Beta alanine is a nutritional supplement widely used by athletes and bodybuilders to improve performance. This nonessential amino acid occurs naturally in the body and is found in foods such as chicken, beef, pork and fish. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, the primary fuel for muscle growth. Beta alanine alone, however, cannot be synthesized into a protein. Its role is to promote high intramuscular concentrations of carnosine, a small molecule composed of the amino acids histidine and alanine. Carnosine acts as a buffering agent, helping maintain an optimal muscle pH range, thus delaying the onset of muscular failure.
Carnosine’s main function is to buffer hydrogen ions. Hydrogen ions are a by-product of muscular contractions and are formed when ATP is broken down. (ATP stands for “adenosine tri-phosphate”, and it is the usable energy molecule within the muscle)
We’ve all been there. We’re training hard but performance starts to drop and eventually we hit a wall. Our muscles and body are telling us they’re done, there’s nothing more left in the tank. The classic deep-leg-burn sets in and it’s game over. But what if there was a supplement which could delay (not prevent) this process? Well maybe Beta Alanine is that hero…
In order to understand how Beta Alanine works, we need a quick recap in exercise and human physiology. To fuel your muscles during training you rely on both carbohydrates and fat. When the body breaks down carbohydrates, the body’s primary source of energy, lactic acid is released as a by-product. During this process a hydrogen ion escapes, and it’s this increase in ions that causes a drop in the pH in muscle tissue – meaning it becomes more acidic (this is when you feel the burn). This acidity is what limits the muscles ability to contract fully, causing our performance to drop and our bodies to feel drained.
Beta alanine increases intramuscular levels of carnosine, which has a “buffering” effect on the hydrogen ions in the muscle (particularly in the fast twitch muscle fibers which are most responsive to growth). This means that the point of muscular failure is prolonged.
In various studies, Beta Alanine has been found to help:
- Increase exercise/workout capacity
- Increase aerobic and anaerobic endurance
- Increase muscle mass (as a result of increases in workout capacity and endurance)
- Break training plateaus
Research suggests that taking approximately 3 – 6g of Beta Alanine per day can significantly boost carnosine levels and improve performance. If you’re serious about taking your training to the next level, why not add Beta Alanine to your supplement mix and see how it impacts your overall output and recovery?