Beta-Alanine: The Endurance Supplement
Beta -Alanine is a non-essential amino acid , which our body is able to produce independently to meet organic needs. To date, this amino acid is known and used above all as an ergogenic supplement due to its effects on performance, but in reality its characteristics allow us to exploit it to improve various types of resistance , both when we talk about aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Let's discover together all the properties of this very interesting amino acid.
Beta-alanine: functions and effects
Unlike other supplements, Beta-Alanine can boast many studies to support its effectiveness: when used as a food supplement in sports it is really useful , and its intake has various benefits for the athlete .
First of all, Beta-Alanine acts as a " buffer ", ie as a buffer to limit and counteract the acidity produced by muscle contraction (acidosis). When we practice high-intensity physical activity, there is in fact an increase in the production of hydrogen ions (H+): if these ions accumulate in the muscle cells, the cellular pH is consequently decreased, creating an acidic environment that can compromise muscle contraction, thus increasing our perception of fatigue . Substances that, like Beta-Alanine, are defined as buffers or tampons act by delaying this very process and slowing down the onset of post-exercise tiredness.
But how does Beta-Alanine work at the molecular level? The buffering effect is actually an indirect consequence of the activity of this amino acid. In fact, Beta-Alanine combines organically with Histidine , forming a dipeptide known as Carnosine . Carnosine is a non-protein nitrogenous compound, which is deposited in our body mostly in the muscles, where it performs its function as a muscle buffer , balancing the pH of the muscle under stress and prolonging its work capacity.
But if Carnosine is the real muscle buffer, why take Beta-Alanine? The answer is to be found in the bioavailability of Beta-Alanine, decidedly greater than that of Carnosine, which when integrated easily undergoes degradation and therefore remains "less usable".
Where to find Beta-Alanine and recommended doses
It is not possible to find Beta-Alanine as a free molecule in foods, but it is possible to obtain it in the form of a dipeptide (Carnosine) above all by consuming meat and fish , therefore foods of animal origin. Those who follow a vegetarian and vegan diet will therefore have a lower amount of Carnosine in their muscles than those who follow an omnivorous diet. In order to achieve the necessary requirements for improving resistance parameters, athletes often resort to dietary supplementation of Beta-Alanine, as a single molecule or as a component of pre-workout supplements. However, the effects of this molecule are appreciable in the chronic (long-term) way: in fact, at least 4 weeks of intake are necessaryto saturate the stocks of Carnosine inside the muscle, taking from 2 to 6g of Beta-Alanine per day (even when not training).
Efficacy of Beta-Alanine as a Performance Supplement
The efficacy of Beta-Alanine has been demonstrated for efforts of at least 30 seconds , a relatively short time frame (when compared to endurance activities). In this sense, Beta-Alanine can also prove to be really useful for those who practice strength training in the weight room, especially if the activity involves performance of resistant strength and muscle endurance (the muscle's ability to resist under load over time). It is therefore easy to deduce for which type of sportsmen Beta-Alanine is truly indispensable: we are talking about all those athletes called to carry out intense efforts, prolonged and which can generate high levels of catabolites (the "waste products" such as lactic acid or hydrogen ion). Cyclists, runners, calisthenics athletes or even team sports such as Calcium, basketball or volleyball. In fact, by enhancing anaerobic resistance, it delays the onset of tiredness and fatigue , allowing the athlete to perform more work and more repetitions.
How to take and side effects of Beta-Alanine
Despite the proven efficacy and safety of this supplement, a " side " effect linked to the intake of Beta-Alanine is the sensation of tingling (or itching) which occurs a few minutes after ingestion. Known as paresthesia , this sensation is fully reversible and reduces with continued use of the amino acid. Per some it can be annoying: one way to reduce or avoid it is to divide the overall intake into 2-3 daily intakes, preferably after meals.
Beta-Alanine has been shown to effectively support performance during high-intensity exercise by buffering skeletal muscle pH and consequently delaying lactic acid-induced muscular acidosis. This translates into better strength and sprint performance , with greater contrast to the onset of fatigue and more endurance . It is therefore useful in cycling, athletics, cross-training, but also in many team and outdoor sports. In conclusion, we can without fear define it as a supplement in the service of resistance .
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