Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is produced naturally in the body. The ingestion of beta-alanine, the rate-limiting precursor of carnosine (beta-alanyl-l-histidine), has been shown to elevate the concentration of carnosine in muscles , decrease fatigue and increase total muscular work done. [2,3] Beta-alanine supplements are claimed to boost the production of carnosine and, in turn, boost athletic performance.
Benefits of Beta-Alanine for Exercise
Hoffman J. et al.  examined effect of 30 days of beta-alanine supplementation (4.8 g per day) on resistance exercise performance and endocrine changes was examined in eight experienced resistance-trained men. At the end of 4 weeks of supplementation a 22 % (p < 0.05) difference in total number of repetitions performed was seen between beta-alanine and placebo. So, the study concluded that beta-alanine supplementation can significantly improve muscular endurance during resistance training in experienced resistance-trained athletes. No hormonal output differences were noticed between groups.
Kim et al. noted significantly greater increases in total work done in highly trained cyclists after a 12-week beta-alanine supplementation compared to training only. In addition, beta-alanine appears to support significant increase in total work done in trained as well as untrained population . Stout et al.  conducted a study that examined the effects of twenty-eight days beta-alanine supplementation on physical working capacity at fatigue threshold. The findings suggested that beta-alanine supplementation may delay the onset of neuromuscular fatigue.
It should be noted that studies evaluating performance benefits of beta-alanine supplementation are equivocal (uncertain). There are studies that show no performance benefits [7,8]. Furthermore, it has been shown that beta-alanine and taurine counteract each other.
Beta-Alanine Side Effects and Risks
Paresthesia (sensation of tickling) is to date the only side effect from oral b-alanine ingestion . The severity and duration of paresthesia is dose-dependent. According to WebMD.com : “Beta-alanine may interact with some heart medications and with drugs for erectile dysfunction. And its safety has not been established for children, people with particular diseases or conditions, or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”
(Other common names: Beta-alanine Ethyl Ester, Beta-amino Acid, 3-aminopropanoic acid, 3-aminopropionic Acid, b-Ala, B-alanine, β-alanine)
- Dunnett, M. and R.C. Harris. Influence of oral b-alanine and L-histidine supplementation on the carnosine content of the gluteus medius. Equine Vet. J. Suppl. 30:499-504, 1999.
- Derave W, Ozdemir MS, Harris R, Pottier A, Reyngoudt H, Koppo K, Wise JA, Achten E. (August 9, 2007). “B-alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters”. J Appl Physiol 103 (5): 1736.
- Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA. (2007). “Influence of b-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity”. Amino Acids 32 (2): 225–33.
- Hoffman, J., et al. “B-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise.” Int J Sports Med 29.12 (2008): 952-8.
- Kim HJ, Kim CK, Lee YW, Harris RC, Sale C, Harris BD, Wise JA. The effect of a supplement containing B-alanine on muscle carnosine synthesis and exercise capacity, during 12 week combined endurance and weight training. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006;3:S9.
Stout, Jeffrey R., et al. “Effects of twenty-eight days of b-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on the physical working capacity at neuromuscular fatigue threshold.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 20.4 (2006): 928-931.
Smith, Abbie E., et al. “Effects of β-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval training on endurance performance and body composition in men; a double-blind trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 6.1 (2009): 1-9.
Kendrick IP, et al. ” The effects of 10 weeks of resistance training combined with beta-alanine supplementation on whole body strength, force production, muscular endurance and body composition.” Amino Acids 2008, 34(4):547-54.
- Caruso, John, et al. “Ergogenic Effects of β-Alanine and Carnosine: Proposed Future Research to Quantify Their Efficacy.” Nutrients 4.7 (2012): 585-601.
- Vitamins & Supplements – B-Alanine. Retrieved from WebMD.com at 6. May 2013