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Enhancing performance with Beta-Alanine

Do you get that 'tingling feeling' when you hear that word?

When taken in high doses (more than 800mg) beta-alanine(BA) can result in a harmless side-effect called paraesthesia. This strange tingling usually occurs in the neck, face or back of the hands and disappears within about 60-90 minutes.

Don't let that deter you!

Beta-alanine has some major benefits as a sports supplement for a variety of disciplines such as SOCCER, CYCLING, ROWING, SWIMMING, SPRINTING, POWER LIFTING, SPORT CLIMBING, AND MILITARY TACTICAL TRAINING.

The performance benefits don't come directly from BA, but rather from it's ability to increase carnosine levels.

In the human body, concentrations of carnosine are highest in muscle tissue. However, the brain has quite high concentrations too.

Carnosine is found predominantly in red meat, pork and chicken, with smaller amounts in fish. Carnosine works as an intracellular proton buffer. This means that carnosine can soak up the hydrogen ions produced during high intensity exercise, and restore the pH levels, allowing you to maintain your exercise intensity.

At a high exercise intensity we build up a large amount of hydrogen ions, causing the muscles to become more acidic(muscle acidosis). This drop in the pH cause muscles to tire and fatigue to set in.

This is when BA shines!! It helps enhance performance by reducing or delaying fatigue.

Further support for the buffering role of carnosine in skeletal muscle comes from the higher concentrations found in fast-twitch muscle fibres. (Harris et al. 1998)


The free radicals (ROS) produced during this process may contribute to muscle- fatigue and exercise-induced muscle damage. An additional benefit of carnosine is it's ability to act as an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals. There is some interesting potential for BA supplementation in the older athletic population and it may also prove to be a great tool in the healthy ageing toolbox.


* A daily loading phase with supplementation of 4 to 6g of BA for at least two weeks has been shown to improve exercise performance. 4 weeks is the recommended protocol.

* Take BA with a meal during the loading phase to optimise uptake.

* It takes at least two weeks for BA supplementation to show meaningful increases in muscle carnosine content.

* Doses of 4-6g per day have been shown to increase muscle carnosine concentrations by up to 64% after 4 weeks, and up to 80% after 10 weeks (Harris RC et al 2006; Hill CA et al. 2007)

* Combining BA with Sodium Bicarbonate and BA with Creatine has also shown benefits.

* There is an inter-individual response to supplementation. High responders seemed to have a greater increase in muscle carnosine. Vegetarians and vegans often have a high response due to their low intake of dietary carnosine.

* Carnosine supplementation may be an inefficient method as ingested carnosine is ultimately metabolised before reaching skeletal muscle. (Gardner ML et al 1991)

* BA may decrease levels of taurine.

See you at the finish line!


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