In the wide world of supplements, it is difficult to find any pre-workout cocktail that doesn't contain beta-alanine.
But what is beta-alanine, (BA), you might ask?
Well, to sum it up, BA is an amino acid that, when combined in the body with histidine, converts to carnosine. During glycolysis, the breakdown of glycogen (carbohydrates) during anaerobic exercise, hydrogen is produced and fatigue sets in. Carnosine helps buffer, or “dampen” the effects of hydrogen, which in turn increases work capacity in muscles. I have experienced huge benefits by supplementing with products that contain BA. I find that I can complete more reps and recover substantially quicker in-between sets. In fact, very few pre-workout supplements have given me as much of a notable effect like BA.
However, who benefits the most from BA supplementation?
When you talk about anaerobic activity, that's a broad spectrum. According to a meta-analysis, (1) “Effects of B-Alanine Supplementation on Exercise Performance”, researchers looked over several studies and came up with impressive results. They found that high output activities lasting 1-4 minutes had the greatest boost in performance from BA. More specifically, performance was increased from a greater workout capacity. Meaning, athletes performed longer or at a higher level before fatigue diminished their efforts. Almost a 3% increase was the average increase in capacity in those activities lasting 1-4 minutes. When applied to 1500 meter run times of the 2008 Bejing Olympics, that 3% increase would equate to the last place finisher grabbing a 3rd place finish. Research results also found that any high output anaerobic activity that lasted longer than 4 minutes benefited from BA as well. For any gym rat or WOD Warrior, BA would definitely pack a punch to daily workouts IF they are working with intensity. For those who are average workout consists of a machine circuit, superset with page 3 of the daily newspaper, BA isn't going to show much promise. (I'd suggest some CT Fletcher videos and an espresso in this case).
BA has no reported side effects. Some users, myself included, do experience a niacin like flush or “tingle” in the skin when taken. Driven Nutrition's Pre-WOD formula features BA at a proper dose for results like the ones found in the studies.
Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids, 43(1), 25–37. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z
Who Benefits From Beta-Alanine
By Casey Hildinger.
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