Beta-alanine…Trust The Tingle
Renowned for inducing a tingling sensation, beta-alanine has become one of the most popular sports nutrition ingredients and is included in most pre-workouts and various recovery blends. In addition, fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders looking to temporarily increase their muscle size and vascularity (muscle pump) consider beta-alanine supplementation a vital element to their success. Continue reading to explore the science behind 'the tingles' and how supplementing beta-alanine can transform your exercise performance.
What is Beta-alanine?
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid produced endogenously in the liver and acquired by consuming poultry and meat (Trexler et al., 2015). Beta-alanine acts as a precursor to the formation of carnosine, a dipeptide (a combination of two amino acids) that helps to buffer lactic acid build-up during intense exercise.
Lactic acid build-up can cause muscle fatigue and decrease performance; therefore, increasing muscle carnosine levels through beta-alanine supplementation can delay fatigue and enable longer, more intense workouts.
In addition, Beta-alanine has been shown to increase the synthesis of muscle proteins and the production of anabolic hormones (e.g. growth hormone, testosterone), which can further enhance muscle growth and improve overall athletic performance.
Who benefits from Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine may benefit a variety of people, including bodybuilders, athletes, the general population and people with various cognitive impairments. Some of the benefits of beta-alanine supplementation include:
- Increased endurance: Beta-alanine can help delay muscle fatigue, allowing athletes to perform at high intensities for longer periods. Therefore, it may benefit endurance sports such as running, cycling, or swimming.
- Improved power and strength: Beta-alanine has been shown to increase power output and strength, which can help athletes in sports such as weightlifting, powerlifting, or sprinting.
- Enhanced muscle growth: Beta-alanine can help increase muscle mass, which may benefit athletes in contact sports (rugby, afl, hockey) or bodybuilding, where larger muscle mass may provide an advantage.
- Improved recovery: Beta-alanine helps to buffer lactic acid build-up and, therefore, can help to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery after intense exercise. This may allow athletes to train more frequently and at higher intensities.
- Improved athletic performance: The combination of increased endurance, strength, and muscle mass, helps to improve overall athletic performance for a wide range of sports.
Beta-alanine is best for high-intensity, short-duration sports such as weightlifting, sprinting and team sports like basketball and soccer.
Note: Beta-alanine supplementation should be combined with a well-designed training program and a proper diet to achieve the best results.
Beta-alanine is a promising supplement that may offer numerous benefits for improving exercise performance. Studies show that consuming between 4-6g/day causes a 64% increase in muscle carnosine concentrations after four weeks (Harris et al., 2006), and up to 80 % after ten weeks (Hill et al., 2006).
- Recommended dosage: 3-6g/day. Research suggests dividing the daily total (3-6g) into smaller doses and consuming it at different times throughout the day (e.g. Consuming 1-2g, 2-3 times a day)
- Optimal absorption: ensure you have the supplement with a carbohydrate-rich meal or a carbohydrate supplement.
Note: To avoid the 'tingling' sensation, a dose of 0.8-1.6 grams of beta-alanine every 3-4 hours is recommended or using a sustained-release formula.
Is the 'tingling' normal?
Beta-alanine is considered a safe and well-tolerated supplement; however, like most supplements or medication, there are some potential side effects.
- Paresthesia (tingly/itching sensation on the skin): This is the most common side effect of beta-alanine and usually disappears 1 hour after taking the supplement. It is caused by increased levels of carnosine in the muscles. Some people may experience more intense tingling sensations due to a genetic variation, different metabolising speeds and increased/decreased sensitivity to beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine is safe for most people, but some individuals may have allergies or other health conditions that make it unsuitable. Therefore, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before taking sports, vitamins or mineral supplements, especially when pregnant, breastfeeding, or living with a pre-existing medical condition.
If you want to add Beta-alanine into your supplement regime, you could buy the isolated ingredient or a pre-workout blend that contains Beta-alanine. Below are some of the best products for those wanting to see the benefits of Beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine blends (pre-workouts)
- Zombie Labs - Pumpz - non-caffeinated
- Conduit pre-workout gummies - caffeinated
- Broken Arrow by REPP sports - caffeinated
Beta-alanine is a safe and popular dietary supplement that increases muscle carnosine levels, which helps to reduce fatigue, increase power output and improve overall athletic performance. It is most commonly used by athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts but also provides countless benefits outside these domains.
- Examine.com. (2022, September 28). Beta-alanine health benefits, dosage, safety, side-effects, and more: Supplements. Examine. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://examine.com/supplements/beta-alanine/
- Harris, R. C., Tallon, M. J., Dunnett, M., Boobis, L., Coakley, J., Kim, H. J., Fallowfield, J. L., Hill, C. A., Sale, C., & Wise, J. A. (2006). The absorption of orally supplied β-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids, 30(3), 279–289. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-006-0299-9
- Hill, C. A., Harris, R. C., Kim, H. J., Harris, B. D., Sale, C., Boobis, L. H., Kim, C. K., & Wise, J. A. (2006). Influence of β-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids, 32(2), 225–233. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-006-0364-4
- Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Stout, J. R., Hoffman, J. R., Wilborn, C. D., Sale, C., Kreider, R. B., Jäger, R., Earnest, C. P., Bannock, L., Campbell, B., Kalman, D., Ziegenfuss, T. N., & Antonio, J. (2015). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Beta-alanine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y
- Saunders, B., Elliott-Sale, K., Artioli, G. G., Swinton, P. A., Dolan, E., Roschel, H., Sale, C., & Gualano, B. (2016). Β-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(8), 658–669. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2016-096396
Teigen Faux, Exercise Physiologist (Honours)
Stephen Brumwell, Nutritionist (ANTA #40048) for Scientific Accuracy