Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

about us





Sprint a tiny bit faster and do a few more reps with beta-alanine

The effects of the amino acid beta-alanine [structure below] are not statistically significant in this study by American sports scientists. Nevertheless, according to the researchers, they are interesting. At a slightly higher dose, or if used for slightly longer, the results would have been significant.

Let's refresh our memories. In the muscle cells, the enzyme carnosine synthetase attaches beta-alanine to histidine, another amino acid. The result is the dipeptide carnosine. Carnosine is a performance enhancer in high-intensity physical exertion. Histidine is present in fairly large quantities in muscle cells, as is the enzyme. So the limiting factor in the production of carnosine is beta-alanine.

The researchers gave two dozen trained strength athletes a placebo or 4.5 g beta-alanine in three 1.5 g portions each day, in between meals.

After thirty days the researchers got their subjects to sprint 200 yards three times in succession on a sports field. The subjects rested for two minutes between the sprints. The beta-alanine group [BA in the figure below] ran a tiny bit faster than the placebo group [P in the figure below]. The difference was not significant, however.

Sprint a tiny bit faster and do a few more reps with beta-alanine

The researchers also got their subjects to do squats and bench presses. The subjects had to do four sets, each consisting of six to eight reps working to failure. The total number of reps that the subjects made was higher in the beta-alanine group than in the other group. The figure below shows the training volume for the bench-press sets during three training sessions.

Sprint a tiny bit faster and do a few more reps with beta-alanine

The higher training volume in the first training session was the only statistically significant effect that the researchers found. Nevertheless they have a feeling that the amino acid works: all trends point in the same direction.

The athletes took a daily 43 mg beta-alanine per kg bodyweight. In an experiment with endurance athletes that showed more successful results, the dose was between 50 and 80 mg per kg per day. [Amino Acids. 2007;32(3):381-6.]

In another successful experiment, in which football players were given creatine with beta-alanine, a daily dose of 34 mg per kg bodyweight was sufficient. [Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Aug;16(4):430-46.] But in that experiment the athletes took the supplement not for 30 but for 70 days on the trot.

"Results of this study raised questions regarding a need for supplement dose to be prescribed relative to body mass", the researchers conclude, "suggesting that further research is warranted concerning dose-response effects of beta-alanine supplementation in trained vs untrained subjects."

The research was partially financed by Natural Alternatives International, a manufacturer of nutritional supplements. Natural Alternatives also provided the beta-alanine that the researchers used in their experiment.

Nutr Res. 2008 Jan;28(1):31-5.

Beta-Alanine makes interval training more effective 11.07.2010
Beta-Alanine boosts aging muscles 20.05.2009
Beta-Alanine for a faster final sprint 29.03.2009