Everybody is taking Beta-Alanine….and taking it wrong.

Take Beta-Alanine With Meals


Most people have caught the beta-alanine wave and those who haven’t are jumping on board to ride out the wake.  This amino acid has been shown to increase strength and more notably endurance during high repetition or long exercise intervals.  It will not create bulging veins and 1 rep PRs, but it is being used by many to create that endurance based edge in the gym, on the track, or during their game.  Beta-alanine supplementation has been researched quite a bit recently.  I stumbled across a pretty good study while surfing the web that I thought I would share with all you strength athletes out there.

 Athletes will retain higher levels of beta-alanine in the body if they take it during meals or more notably, with an insulin spike.  Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium are the guys to thank for this one.  They found that taking the amino acid when you eat leads to a quicker increase in carnosine concentration in the muscles than when taken outside of meal times.

Carnosine is a dipeptide responsible for suppressing or neutralizing the acids that are formed in the muscles when they are exercised.  You know that burning feeling in your muscles when you workout….that’s when you know that you could use a little beta-alanine (aka increasing carnosine levels) in your life.  The more carnosine in your muscles, the longer you can exercise for.  It’s pretty simple, and tremendous news for athletes.

Basically the body makes carnosine by attaching two amino acids together, beta alanine and histidine.  The body has a ton of histidine already but not beta-alanine.  That’s why taking beta-alanine from an exogenous source is a good way it increase carnosine levels in the muscles and help the athlete push farther.  We have found that creatine and l-carnitine are absorbed well when levels of glucose, amino acids, and insulin in the blood rises.  Will beta-alanine exhibit the same characteristics?

For 46 days, the scientists gave three different groups of test subjects 3.2mg of BA every day.  This is a very low dose that they are using for the study.  Usually dosing around 3-5mgs/day is optimal for performance enhancement.  (PBA) took BA four times through the day between meals.  (PBA + Meal) took their BA three times during meals.  The last group (SRBA+Meal) used a slow releasing BA supplement 30 minutes before their meals.  The researchers measured the amount of carnosine in the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the participants before and after the experimental supplementation period.

fig1 Taking BA with meals led to a quicker and higher level of carnosine in the muscle.  More specifically, carnosine rose by 57%.  In the “in between meals” group, PBA, an increase of 40% was noted.  The slow release BA supplement taken before the meal generated the same results as taking BA with a meal.

fig2The muscle cells seem to absorb BA better, on average, with a spike of insulin.  When you eat carbohydrates, your body produces insulin.  Hence why taking BA with meals tends to be more beneficial for plasma levels of BA.  Beta-alanine is mostly discarded through urine and a small amount actually reaches the muscle.  This is important to note as the more bioavailable you can “make” the supplement, the better.  Many people supplement BA with a pre workout.  This is usually to small of a dose to do anything.  According to this study, it is also suboptimal unless consuming carbohydrates at the same time.




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