Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to improve high-intensity exercise performance, but only during all-out exercise lasting between 1 and 4 minutes. There does not seem to be a significant benefit for shorter or longer exercise times. Beta-alanine also does not appear to help in team sports with more intermittent activity. Cyclists may benefit from beta-alanine during a 1-4 minute surge later in a race, but more research is necessary to confirm this potential benefit.
How to Use Beta-Alanine
To use beta-alanine, studies have typically used supplementing strategies of multiple doses of 400 mg or 800 mg, administered at regular intervals for up to eight hours (4-8 times a day), over periods ranging from 4 to 10 weeks. The reported increase in intramuscular carnosine content after a 10-week supplementing strategy is, on average, about 80%, with a range of around 20% to 200%. Some athletes may benefit more than others, but changes in buffering capacity result in measurable changes in buffering capacity.
Is Beta-Alanine Safe?
Beta-alanine appears to be safe with the only side effect that is frequently reported being "pins and needles." Beta-alanine usually comes in a slow-release form, which means it is absorbed slower and over a longer period, taking care of most of the symptoms.
Beta-alanine is one of the few supplements that can be backed up by evidence of efficacy, multiple studies reproducing the effect, and a clearly described and plausible physiological mechanism. However, it primarily applies to the window of 1-4 minutes. Therefore, whether or not beta-alanine can help an athlete's performance depends on the event's duration.
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- Blancquaert L, Everaert I, Derave W. Beta-alanine supplementation, muscle carnosine, and exercise performance. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015, 18(1):63-70