Beta-Alanine: The Unknown Amino Acid
You’ve probably never heard of Beta-Alanine in the bodybuilding world, but some exciting new research has made it an up and coming supplement star.
A 10-week study on the effects of Beta-Alanine was conducted on 33 football players and was published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. The results of the study showed that the group of players that supplemented with beta-alanine plus creatine gained more muscle and lost more fat than the creatine or placebo group. So now that we have some backing let’s get to know about the science behind the research.
What is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-Alanine is actually a non-essential amino acid, but unlike its cousins, Beta-Alanine hasn’t been linked to aid in protein synthesis. So how, you ask, does this help with muscle growth and development? The benefits of supplementing with Beta-Alanine are indirect; Beta-Alanine actually helps boots the production of Carnosine within the body.
Carnosine is contained in both slow and fast twitch muscles fibers. As a refresher, fast twitch muscle fibers are what you use for short term explosive actions experienced in resistance training. While slow twitch muscle fibers are used mostly during aerobic or long term exercise.
To summarize, Carnosine is responsible for keeping the pH in your on body (on a cellular level) in check. When we exercise the pH in our bodies become more acidic due to the build up lactic acid, as more glucose is metabolized. If the lactic acid levels in our body become too high, our muscles cramp up. In order to workout longer and harder, we need to keep out bodies in that magic pH zone for longer durations and that’s where Carnosine comes into play. Having an abundance of Carnosine in your muscle fibers means you can fight off acidity in the body, leading to harder workouts and bigger gains.
Why can’t I just supplement with Carnosine?
You can, but believe or not, this is actually an inefficient way of raising Carnosine levels in your body. Research has shown that supplementation with Beta-Alanine increases Carnosine in your body more than direct supplementation with Carnosine. This is because your stomach acids tend to break down Carnosine more easily than Beta-Alanine. As a result, you would have to intake a lot more (and pay a lot more) to get same results as you would with simply supplementing with a source of Beta-Alanine.
- International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2006 Aug;16(4):430-46