Beta-alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine. It binds to histidine in the brain and muscles to form carnosine. Because beta-alanine increases carnosine in the body it helps muscles resist acid build-up.
What do beta-alanine supplements do?
When you take beta-alanine your body turns it into the molecule carnosine, which acts as an acid buffer. When your body notices drops in pH it then releases carnosine as a protective mechanism. In regards to exercise, this is important because it mitigates the impact lactic acid will have in the muscle.
What this means is that supplementing beta-alanine will improve your muscular endurance. If you train with weights, you can expect to perform one or two additional reps when training in the 8–15 rep range. This might not sound like a lot at first, but keep in mind that intermediate and advanced lifters sometimes don’t see any progress for weeks.
Also, keep in mind that women and vegetarians naturally have lower amounts of muscle carnosine than men and meat-eaters. Therefore, they will benefit more from beta-alanine supplementation.
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How should you take beta-alanine?
Your standard dose is between 2–5 g. You often see it beta-alanine used as a pre-workout supplement, but its effect is actually not time dependent. This means its more important that you take it regularly and not at which time of day.
Large doses of beta-alanine can result in a sensation of tingling under your skin called paresthesia. This side effect is harmless, but if you want to avoid it, take several smaller doses (of up to 1g) throughout the day instead of one large dose.