Beta-alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine. It’s a non-essential amino acid so can be made in the body. Large doses of beta-alanine can result in a tingling feeling called paraesthesia and are often used in pre-workout stacks.
Carnosine, the active metabolite of beta-alanine, is most abundant in skeletal muscle. Given this, it makes sense that meat is the main dietary source of carnosine and beta-alanine. Levels of both are positively correlated with the amount of metabolic activity the animal underwent during its life, and are higher in landbound animals than in poultry.
Beta-alanine has been shown to enhance muscular endurance, with many people reporting being able to perform 1-2 additional reps when training in the 8-15 rep range or 60–240-second range. Beta-alanine supplementation can also improve moderate-high intensity cardiovascular exercise performance, like rowing or sprinting but its benefits on the aerobic-anaerobic transition zone (60-100% VO2max) haven’t been meta-analysed yet.
When beta-alanine is ingested, it turns into the molecule carnosine, which acts as an acid buffer in the body. Carnosine is stored in cells and released in response to drops in pH as an intracellular buffer. Muscle fatigue results from the accumulation of metabolites like hydrogen (H+) ions, that reduce the muscle pH and affect muscular function. Increased stores of carnosine can offer protection from exercise-induced lactic acid production and the subsequent drop in pH.
One issue is that dietary carnosine has a very low bioavailability in muscle tissue due to the presence of carnosinase, a carnosine degrading enzyme, in plasma. Due to this relationship, supplementation has become the go-to method for increasing muscle carnosine levels. This increase occurs with repeated consumption over time in order to accumulate carnosine in muscle, which lacks carnosinase. This means that the supplementation of beta-alanine, when it comes to timing and regularity of dosages, can be thought of very similarly to creatine whereby a daily dose over time yields beneficial results.
While beta-alanine is a popular ingredient in pre-workout stacks, supplementation isn’t actually timing-dependent. This means we can get around the tingly face by taking smaller doses (0.8–1 g) several times a day whilst still achieving the same benefits as taking a 2-5g dose once a day.
TLDR – daily supplementation of beta alanine in the region of 2-5g a day can provide benefits in reducing muscle fatigue and in turn improving performance when doing volume and muscle growth through greater ability to perform volume