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.
Studies that evaluate beta-alanine for improved athletic performance generally use 3 to 6 g daily doses for at least a month. However, doses up to 12 g daily are used especially to reduce inflammation after intense physical and mental stress. Manufacturers typically recommend doses from 2-8 g daily, spitting into even doses of 2 grams throughout the day.
Beta-Alanine for Exercise Performance
Beta-alanine by itself appears to have very limited ergogenic properties. However, when it is absorbed into the skeletal muscle it combines with histidine to form carnosine. It is carnosine which appears to provide the ergogenic benefit observed in studies . Carnosine maintains of acid-base homeostasis through enhanced intra-muscular hydrogen ion (H+) buffering capacity .
Hoffman J. et al.  examined the effect of 30 days of beta-alanine supplementation (4.8 g per day) on resistance exercise performance and endocrine changes were examined in eight experienced resistance-trained men. At the end of 4 weeks of supplementation, a 22 % (p < 0.05) difference in a 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. A study in elite soldiers demonstrated that 4 weeks of beta-alanine supplementation during an intense military training period was effective in enhancing lower-body jump power and shooting accuracy . Kim et al. noted significantly greater increases in total work done by highly trained cyclists after a 12-week beta-alanine supplementation compared to training only. In addition, beta-alanine appears to support a 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. In sixteen untrained collegiate females, 3,4 g of beta-alanine daily for 8 weeks was found to give rise to a larger number of leg press repetitions executed with a load equivalent to 65% of the individual’s one-repetition maximum (1RM) . Maté-Muñoz, et al.  were the first to evaluate the effects of beta-alanine supplementation on power output (force and velocity). They reported that 5 weeks of supplementation with 6.4 g/day of beta-alanine compared with placebo during strength training led to increases in power output for loads equivalent to 1RM, kilograms lifted at 1RM, power output gains at maximum power, the number of sets executed and the pre-post gain in kilograms lifted at 1RM in an incremental load test.
There are studies that show no performance benefits [7,8]. However, results from 2012 meta-analysis  reported that beta-alanine supplementation elicits a significant ergogenic effect on high-intensity exercise, particularly in exercise capacity tests and measures, and where the exercise lasts between 1 and 4 min. It is even described as class A supplement based on the level of evidence shown for its beneficial effects on sport performance by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) .
There are some concerns that beta-alanine and taurine may counteract each other, however, to date there is no human data to support taurine decreases with beta-alanine supplementation.
In twenty soldiers (20.1 6 0.6 years) from an elite combat unit, a high-dose of 12 g/day beta-alanine for 7 days, between 2 intensive periods of navigational training and restricted sleep, enhanced the anti-inflammatory response .
Because carnosine is located in other excitable tissues other than skeletal muscle (such as the brain and heart), it may also have additional physiological roles .
Recently beta-alanine has been investigated as a potential therapeutic intervention after intense physical and mental stress. Studies in soldiers have demonstrated the efficacy of 30 days of beta-alanine supplementation on improved performance and cognitive function [12,13] and also combat-specific performance . Some further limited evidence has recently been presented suggesting that beta-alanine supplementation may enhance cognitive function and promote resiliency during highly stressful situations . These results are believed to be related to the role that elevated muscle carnosine levels have on enhancing muscle buffering capacity and in its potential role as an antioxidant . It has also been suggested that elevations in carnosine may play a role in cognitive function, however, this needs further research .
Synergetic Effect with Other Nutrients
Superstack: Beta-alanine and Creatine
Creatine supplementation alone has been shown to reduce fatigue in anaerobic exercise  thus beta-alanine supplementation may further reduce the rate of fatigue in muscles.
Hoffman, J. R. et al  examined the effects of creatine and creatine plus beta-alanine on strength, power, body composition, and endocrine changes. Thirty-three male underwent a 10-week resistance training program and was randomly assigned to either a placebo (P – 10.5 g/day of dextrose), creatine (C – 10.5 g/day ), or creatine plus beta-alanine (CA – 10.5 g/day creatine monohydrate and 3.2 g/day of beta-alanine) group. Lean body mass and body fat percentage changes were greater in CA group compared to C or P group. Strength improvements were greater in CA and C groups.
Creatine with beta-alanine appeared to have the greatest effect on lean tissue increase and body fat composition.
Studies are reporting that sodium bicarbonate supplementation enables execution of a greater training volume. It has also been reported that sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine have a synergistic effect that is not observed with each supplement alone. It is suggested that sodium bicarbonate might potentiate the effects of b-alanine by increasing training volume which promotes further adaptations with regards to strength training .
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
- Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “Effect of High-Dose, Short-Duration β-Alanine Supplementation on Circulating IL-10 Concentrations During Intense Military Training.” Journal of strength and conditioning research (2018).
- Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “β-alanine supplementation improves tactical performance but not cognitive function in combat soldiers.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11.1 (2014): 15.
- Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “β-Alanine ingestion increases muscle carnosine content and combat specific performance in soldiers.” Amino Acids 47.3 (2015): 627-636.
- Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “β-Alanine supplementation and military performance.” Amino acids 47.12 (2015): 2463-2474.
- Hobson, Ruth M., et al. “Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis.” Amino acids 43.1 (2012): 25-37.
Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “Effect of low-dose, short-duration creatine supplementation on anaerobic exercise performance.” J Strength Cond Res 19.2 (2005): 260-4.
Hoffman, J. R., et al. “Effect of creatine and ß-Alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes.” Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab 16 (2006): 430-446.
- Harris, Roger C., et al. “The absorption of orally supplied β-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis.” Amino acids 30.3 (2006): 279-289.
- Australian Institute of Sport. ABCD Classification System. 2017. http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/supplements/classification. Accessed on 16.5.2018
- Outlaw, Jordan J., et al. “Effects of β-Alanine on Body Composition and Performance Measures in Collegiate Women.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research30.9 (2016): 2627-2637.
- Maté-Muñoz, José Luis, et al. “Effects of β-alanine supplementation during a 5-week strength training program: a randomized, controlled study.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 15.1 (2018): 19.