Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that can be synthesized by the human body in the liver. Beta-alanine is a commonly found ingredient in pre-workout supplements used for improving exercise performance, since it has been shown to increase muscle carnosine levels in skeletal muscle (Trexler 2015). Muscle carnosine serves as a buffer to regulate muscle acidity levels during intense exercise activity. This increase in muscle carnosine stores can reduce fatigue during high-intensity exercise and may therefore improve performance in strength and power sports.
Current evidence suggests that supplementing with beta-alanine significantly increases muscle carnosine concentrations and may improve anaerobic exercise capacity. A systemic review with meta-analysis by Dolan et al. (2017) found an overall significant ergogenic effect of beta-alanine supplementation on exercise. The results demonstrated that beta-alanine supplementation improved both exercise capacity and performance with improvements in capacity being almost double that of performance.
Another systematic review examining performance found moderate-high quality evidence that supplementing with beta-alanine may improve athletic performance. These improvements in performance were demonstrated by increases in total work done and power output, decreases in feelings of fatigue and perceived exertion, and positive effect on muscle carnosine concentration and body composition. (Quesnele 2014)
Beta-alanine supplementation appears to be safe for healthy individuals within the recommended dose of 4-6g daily. However, a commonly reported side effect is paraesthesia, or a tingling sensation felt on the skin. While this is a harmless effect, it can be avoided by taking smaller doses or using a sustained-release formula. (Trexler 2015)
Beta-alanine has been shown to increase muscle carnosine content serving as an intracellular buffer to reduce fatigue and improve exercise performance. Greater improvements are seen with exercise capacity rather than performance, specifically with exercise durations of 30 sec-10 min. Supplementing with beta-alanine may be useful for high-intensity and short duration exercise, but limited studies examine the potential benefit on endurance performance. Further research is necessary to determine effects on lower intensity/aerobic exercise and endurance. (Dolan 2017, Trexler 2015)
Dolan E, Elliott-Sale K, Artioli GG, Swinton PA, Roschel H, Sale C, Artioli GG, Gualano B, Saunders B (2017). β-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49, 84.
Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Hoffman JR, Wilborn CD, Sale C, Kreider RB, Jäger R, Earnest CP, Bannock L, Campbell B, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Antonio J (2015). International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-alanine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 30.
Quesnele JJ, Laframboise MA, Wong JJ, Kim P, Wells GD (2014). The effects of beta-alanine supplementation on performance: A systematic review of the literature.International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24(1), 14-27.