A STRONG FINISH
By Kimberly J. Retzlaff | Friday, September 10, 2010 12:53:30 PM America/New_York
Performance with Beta Alanine
Beta-alanine has quickly become a favorite performance supplement based on the simple fact that it works. This nonessential amino acid has proven itself time and again in studies for enhancing performance in trained athletes and regular joes alike.
The bulk of the recent research has focused more on how it works rather than if it works. The gist is this: beta-alanine increases muscle carnosine content, which helps stave off muscle fatigue. Of course, there's more to the story than that.
In the body, beta-alanine and another nonessential amino acid, L-histidine, are used together to synthesize carnosine. Beta-alanine is the rate-limitor of that reaction, though, which means that its availability determines how much carnosine can be produced, as noted in the June 2010 Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
The Brazilian researchers who wrote this research review noted that carnosine regulates muscle pH, acting as a buffer against intramuscular acidosis, which contributes to fatigue. Thus, by increasing carnosine levels, beta-alanine helps to delay fatigue and enhance high-intensity anaerobic performance.
In addition to affecting muscle pH, carnosine may also decrease oxidative damage and improve what's known as excitation contraction coupling -- that i s, the muscle's basic contractile responses -- according to researchers at Ghent University in Belgium. The March 2010 report in Sports Medicine also indicated that taking beta-alanine supplements can boost carnosine by up to 80 percent. Interestingly, muscle carnosine declines with age and women tend to have lower concentrations than men, according to the researchers, who hypothesized that vegetarians probably have low levels, too, since the primary dietary source of beta-alanine is meat.
Some of the same Belgian researchers studied beta-alanine supplementation to see how it affected different muscle types and reported their findings in the March 2009 Journal of Applied Physiology. They recruited 15 untrained men who took 4.8 grams per day of beta-alanine or placebo. The guys in the supplement group showed significant increases in carnosine content in soleus (39 percent), tibia lis (27 percent), and gastrocnemius (23 percent) muscles. The increased carnosine declined by 2 percent to 4 percent per week after the participants stopped taking the supplement, which the researchers said showed carnosine is a stable compound in skeletal muscle.
Another team from the University of Ghent showed that elite rowers who took 5 grams per day of beta-alanine for seven seeks had increases in carnosine content in soleus (28.2 percent) and gastrocnemius (45.3 percent) muscle tissue. The ir report in the July 2010 Journal of Applied Physiology showed that the increase in muscle carnosine correlated with significant competitive performance improvements.
Research with beta-alanine typically involves dosages from 4.8 grams to 6.4 grams per day, split into four or so doses. Taking a single dose higher than 800 milligrams can cause a tingly sensation called paresthesia. This side effect isn't dangerous and it goes away after plasma levels of the amino decrease during metabolism. Tingliness also can be minimized by using an extended-release formula or taking smaller doses.
Not surprisingly, supplement manufacturers have taken a keen interest in recent scientific investigations involving beta alanine and have responded by bringing ever more potent and purer forms of the amino to market while also incorporating it more widely into new formulations. ProSource's own Beta Alanine product is justly celebrated for its high-quality sourcing and remarkable purity. Given beta alanine's growing reputation as a key element in the postponement of fatigue, it is also becoming a more common ingredient in the newest generation of pre-workout supplements. BioQuest's new NO potentiator AlphaFury has been generating widespread interest focused on its GlycoCarn active ingredient (a breakthrough alternative to the industry standard arginine-based vasodilators), but it also contains a significant dosage of beta alanine, included specifically for its effect on exercise stamina.
Athletes looking to "go the distance" with maximum strength and intensity should make it a point to look into beta alanine, a powerful research-backed performance agent.