What Is Beta-Alanine?
Runner athlete starting running at start of run track on blue running tracks at outdoor athletics and fiel stadium. Sprinter. Sport and fitness man running sprinting.

What Is Beta-Alanine?

Beta Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is often taken as a supplement by athletes. This product combines with Histidine, which is another amino acid, in the body to create Carnosine. The Carnosine is then stored in the skeletal muscles. The claims of Beta Alanine are that it reduces the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles during exercise, heightening athletic performance. Additionally, producers of this supplement claim that this reduced acidity leads to reduced fatigue and increased muscle strength. Muscular fatigue is a multifactorial phenomenon occurring with high-intensity exercise that is not completely understood. However, it has been established that acute high intensity anaerobic physical activity results in a decrease in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules, creatine phosphate stores, and glycolytic substrates that are needed for energy metabolism in the muscle cell. High intensity exercise can also lead to an increase in intracellular metabolites such as adenosine diphosphate, inorganic phosphate, hydrogen ions, and lactate. The ergogenic aid is Beta Alanine. It’s a naturally occurring beta amino acid, in which amino acid is found at the beta position from the carboxylate group. This ergogenic aid is very helpful to some athletes with regards to their performance as it enhances the exercise performance. Also, this ergogenic aid is mostly used for activities which require power or strength such as sprinting or weight lifting. Supplementation of beta alanine also reduces the chance of fatigue during exercise and maintains muscular endurance. Beta-alanine is part of molecule called carnosine which helps buffer the acid produced inside of muscles. Carnosine can be found mainly in type IIa and IIx muscle fibers. It has been shown to improve performances in short term exercises and can be found in many food, especially meats.

People that would use this supplement would be athletes or other people looking to improve their athletic performance. This product would appeal to these people because it is thought by many exercise enthusiasts that lactic acid contributes to the sore feeling experienced in the muscles after high intensity workouts.  It would also appeal to these people because if Beta Alanine helps reduce muscle fatigue, people would be able to work out longer, harder, and more frequently.

The effects of BA

The effects of BA supplementation on performance has been explored is severe exercise. For instance, Gross et al (2007) sought to determine whether BA supplementation increases intramuscular carnosine and buffering capacity and reduces acidosis during severe cycling, whether high-intensity interval training (HIT) enhances aerobic energy contribution during severe cycling, and whether HIT preceded by BA provides greater benefits. The sample consisted in sixteen active men who performed incremental cycling tests and 90 severe cycling tests at three points: before and after BA supplementation, before or after placebo supplementation, and after 11-days HIT block consisting in 9 sessions of 4×4 min which followed supplementation. Carnosine was measured via MR spectroscopy and energy contribution during severe cycling was an estimation based on O2 deficit. Biopsies from m. vastus were taken pre-and post-test. The results show that BA increased carnosine in leg muscle (32 ± 13 %, d = 3.1), buffering and incremental cycling capacity were not affected, BA increased during the severe cycling, BA increased aerobic energy contribution (1.4 ± 1.3 %, d = 0.5), which was concurrent with a reduction in O2 deficit (−5.0 ± 5.0 %, d = 0.6) and muscle lactate accumulation, while pH remained unchanged. No group difference was found between adaptations to the training (increased buffering capacity) and glycogen storage. These results suggest BA did not affect buffering to a significant extent but provides positive effects on severe exercise metabolism.

BA creatine appear to enhance performance by increasing mean power and delaying fatigue and this enhancement is effective in young sedentary men. BA supplementation has no effect on muscle carnosine content and intramuscular pH during incremental or high-intensity intermittent knee-extension. In a severe exercise condition, BA does not affect buffering to a significant extent but provides positive effects on severe exercise metabolism. In female MA, BA can improve lower-body exercise performance.

While the effect of BA on physical performance has been researched extensively in the last years and much of the mechanisms that underlay this effect is understood to a significant degree, there are several potential areas of research that are worth exploring. For instance, future studies could seek to determine whether the effects of BA+creatine on performance can be replicated and whether similar or better effects could be obtained by combining BA with another compound. Future studies including female subjects are also recommended, as much of the studies of the effects of BA on performances has been conducted on male subjects. Finally, it seems relevant that future studies would explore the effects of BA on physical performance on heterogeneous samples, such as on groups that can be differentiated based on age, ethnicity, health status, and other variables.

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