The masses know beta-alanine for its tingles, but we look at beta-alanine as the unofficial ingredient of the century. Simply stating that beta-alanine helps build muscle and increase endurance is an understatement. When properly dosed, Beta-alanine is one of the few proven, highly effective supplements in the world of bodybuilding – right there besides Creatine and Citrulline Malate.
Why We Take Beta Alanine
Beta alanine has become the supplement that it is today because of its relationship to carnosine. In the body, carnosine is utilized as a lactic acid buffer, enzyme regulator, and even free-radical fighter. For a bodybuilder or athlete, increased carnosine levels means more endurance, and greater power during times where performance would suffer due to muscle fatigue.
Beta Alanine Vs Carnosine
As you can see, carnosine is great for athletes. But, there is a problem. We can’t simply take carnosine, as a large amount is degraded in the body by carnosinases long before carnosine can enter our muscles. Luckily, we have beta-alanine. When combined with histidine, beta alanine can be made into carnosine within the body. In fact, beta-alanine is believed to be the rate limiting step in carnosine production; making its supplementation more beneficial for intermuscular carnosine boosting overall [study].
Note – Beta-alanine is proving to be massively successful on the performance side of carnosine supplementation. However, there are still studies suggesting pure carnosine to be more beneficial as a rejuvenating and age-extending supplement. These are animal models, but if interested take a look:
Researchers find giving 5% carnosine drinking water reduced visible signs of aging in mice – link.
Researchers find giving carnosine to fruit flies extended lifespan 20% – link.
These results are interesting supports for pure carnosine. However, there are more economical supports for beta-alanine as well. That’s because, in comparison to beta-alanine, pure carnosine is very expensive. So, for a human to take an effective dose of pure carnosine on a daily basis is significantly more expensive than the same effective dose of beta alanine. Supplements combining beta alanine and pure carnosine may be a preferred option in the future.
Here we will cover:
- Why Beta Alanine Tingles/itches/burns
- How to take Beta-Alanine for Bodybuilding
- How Beta-Alanine Builds Muscle and Supports Endurance
- Effective Beta-Alanine Dosages
- Taking Beta Alanine with Creatine
Why Beta Alanine Tingles/itches/burns
If you have taken beta-alanine or a supplement that contains it, then you have felt the beta alanine itch. Depending on the person, it can feel like anything from a light warm sensation all the way to a tingly itchiness that isn’t pleasant. Either way, we recommend you push through it as the benefits of beta-alanine much outweigh this temporary experience.
But, why does it happen, and is it safe? Yes, beta-alanine tingles are safe. And what is happening in your body, is that a specific G-coupled protein receptor on certain neurons near your skin detect beta alanine and get confused/excited [study]. It’s really quite interesting. For a long time, it was hypothesized that the itching was a histidine response, but it turns out that this receptor does not respond to histidine counterparts, just good old beta-alanine and heat.
Make Beta Alanine not Itch
Naturally, the next question is can the beta-alanine itch be controlled. Yes, it can with a bit of effort. While beta-alanine naturally itches less and less for the longer you take it, you can also break the doses down into smaller quantities to avoid itching.
How to take Beta-Alanine for Bodybuilding and its Benefits
Bodybuilding is the most common place where beta alanine is utilized regularly. By increasing intermuscular levels of carnosine, bodybuilders are able to train harder and longer allowing for greater muscle growth.
Bodybuilding on its own effectively increases carnosine levels in muscle naturally. However, supplementation with beta alanine takes those carnosine increases to a new level. Most clinical studies have found that taking between 3-6 grams of beta alanine per day over the course of a month can increase carnosine levels by as much as 80% [study, study].
That’s a massive increase that can benefit bodybuilders and endurance athletes alike. But, how does this translate into physical performance increases and ultimately muscle gains from taking this supplement?
How Beta-Alanine Builds Muscle and Supports Endurance
In itself, beta-alanine does not build muscle, and beta alanine does not increase max strength. Disappointed? We aren’t. That’s because beta-alanine does increase endurance by effectively buffering lactic acid build and also improves myofibrilar calcium sensitivity [study].
That means, that by supplementing with beta-alanine over time – you are going to improve your 3rd, 4th, and 5th sets in the gym by a significant amount. Those times when most guys fail, lower the weight, or simply give up – you’re going to get extra reps at higher weight. That right there means more muscle.
Effective Beta-Alanine Dosages
Beta alanine is awesome, as you can see. But how do you properly dose it to get these effects? Well, your really not going to experience these awesome benefits from your mainstream pre workout that includes 2 or less grams of beta alanine per serving (Transparent Labs Bulk does a good job at 4 grams, though).
What you need, to get all the benefits – is 3 to 6 grams of beta alanine per day, every day. That is the clinical range that has produced the results which we have discussed above. So, if you are a girl coming in at around 100 pounds – look towards the lower spectrum of around 3 grams beta alanine. Alternatively, if you are a man pushing 200 pounds, look towards 4.5 to 6 grams per day.
To reduce the tingles, and boost overall efficiency of the intake – it’s recommended but not necessary to break apart your 3-6 gram dosage into 4 servings. That means, if you are taking 4 grams beta alanine per day, you can take 1 gram at a time, 4 time a day.
Thoughts on Beta Alanine with Creatine
Both creatine supplements and beta alanine produce impressive strength training results on their own. When combined, it appears that this trend continues and amplifies – producing an even greater strength endurance increase.
In a recent study, researchers evaluated the performance of athletes either taking creatine, creatine and beta alanine, or placebo. At the end, performance was found to be increased among both creatine and creatine with beta alanine groups. However, creatine with beta alanine had the largest increase in strength endurance [study].
These effects may only be cumulative, and not multiplicative – but the benefit is clear and worth taking seriously.
Wrapping it all up on beta alanine supplementation
For beta alanine, the science is there – when taken properly it works! Chances are, if you are a bodybuilder then you already take beta alanine in your pre workout. But, it’s not enough. You’re going to want to get up into the 3-6 grams per day range in order to really reap the benefits.
The benefits of taking beta alanine are not immediate strength increases or muscle growth. But, it is increased endurance and the ability to continue lifting heavy weights for longer periods of time. That, over a few weeks will allow you to build more muscle and increase strength, by effect.