If you've purchased a pre-workout before, you might have noticed it on the ingredient list: Beta-Alanine. It is used a lot in these products, but is also available in pure powder form.
Let's have a look at what it is, what it does
and what causes the side-effect ;-)
What it is
In short, beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that your body can make it by itself. When you ingest beta-alanine, it enters the skeletal muscle cells via the bloodstream where it binds with the essential amino acid called L-Histide. Together, they form carnosine. And that is what you want to happen.
Carnosine is mostly found in the muscle and brain tissue. It mainly works as a very potent antioxidant, protecting muscle cells against the buildup of hydrogen ions. The higher the levels of hydrogen ions, the lower the Ph levels in your muscles, the faster you fatigue.
So in short: beta-alanine supplementation --> carnosine --> higher Ph levels --> less tired.
What it does
It has already been explained in the previous paragraph, but basically supplementing with beta-alanine will increase the muscle-performance up to medium duration (over 60 sec.)
Various studies have shown an increase in muscle power over a period of multiple weeks. In sports such as crossfit for example, where intense activities are between 1-5 minutes with less than 2 minutes of rest in between, athletes will generally benefit from beta-alanine supplementation.
The most known side-effect of taking beta-alanine, is that after about 10 minutes of ingesting, you will experience a tingly feeling, which usually is in the face, ears or other body-parts. Some describe it even as itchy, but this differs per person. The effect can last up to an hour, depending on the dosage.
New users will probably experience a stronger effect, this can gradually lessen after longer time of use.
The "itch" is caused by the beta-alanine binding itself to the nerve receptors in your skin, causing them to fire off more rapidly. More on that topic can be found here. Don't worry, it is harmless.
The recommended dosage is between 2-3 grams daily, taken about 30-40 minutes before the work-out. If the itchy feeling is too distracting, you can divide it up into smaller dosages throughout the day.
How to take it
There are various way to take beta-alanine, like mentioned before, it is in a lot of pre-workout products, however it is more difficult to determine the right dosage this way.
Most pre-workouts contain beta-alanine. Another option is to take it in powdered form, and add it to your PWO drink. Or, for even easier dosage, take it in tablets.
To conclude, beta-alanine is a very helpful supplement for athletes looking to increase their muscle power, muscle mass and increase muscle endurance.
Especially women, vegetarians and people that have trouble gaining muscle, will benefit from taking beta-alanine.