Beta Alanine: Should You Use It?

Pre-workout is one of the most sold workout supplements to ever exist. Most pre-workouts have 2 very important ingredients, beta alanine and caffeine, and then a bunch of [mostly] useless fillers. L-citrulline/L-arginine can help you get a better pump through blood flow, which is certainly beneficial, but a bit overrated. In this post, I'm going to use studies to help you understand the benefits of pre-workout and if it's right for you.


this study proves beta alanine can help in strength training programs
beta alanine for building muscle?

The first thing you should understand beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is the building block of the amino acid carnosine and helps buffer acid in muscles. Beta-alanine has been proven to help in exercise in short duration, from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, according to this article (1). So, it's very effective in strength training, since your sets are only lasting 30 seconds to a minute.

A controlled study published in 2018 took 3o trained individuals over 5 weeks who were either given 6.4g of beta-alanine or a placebo. The candidates worked out 3 times per week doing 3 exercises in a circuit: back squats, barbell step ups, and weighted lunges. The first week they did 3 sets of 40 seconds per movement, resting 120 seconds. By the final week, they worked up to 5 sets of 20 seconds per movement with only 40 seconds of rest.

The group who used beta-alanine had vastly higher strength improvements versus the placebo group, but mostly in one rep max tests. This backs up my claim earlier that using beta alanine is most efficient in strength training as opposed to longer duration training.

The next important ingredient is caffeine, the most consumed drug in the world. Caffeine also helps with short duration exercise. The problem is the insane amount of caffeine (250mg+) supplement companies throw into pre workout. For many people, although it may improve workout performance, this can lead to a crash after they use it.

The rest of the ingredients more or less just make your pee more expensive, since your body won't use it. Also, if you ever see "proprietary blend" on the label, run away. Manufacturers will use cheap fillers like Taurine, and sprinkle the better, but more expensive, supplements in. The first ingredient listed in a proprietary blend is the one that is most prominent in the mix.

This is why I don't love pre-workout mixes, or the supplement industry at all for that matter. The mixes aren't always good, and they mostly cost $45 for a month supply. With that said, there is no reason you can't make your own science backed pre-workout.

You can buy a 3-year supply of beta-Alanine from Bulk Supplements from Amazon for only $18. And I highly suggest you do it. Not using beta-alanine is silly considering the benefits. The ideal dosage is 5g 30 minutes before your workout, but I normally consume it 10 minutes before mine. You can also drink some coffee before to give you some caffeine.

But what are the side effects of beta-alanine? Fortunately, the most common side effect is harmless. An overdose of beta-alanine causes itchiness of the skin. This normally happens to people when they take 5g on their first time using it, which I recommend against. You should micro-dose when starting out. Start with 1g for the first 5 times, then add 1g more every week until you can take 5g in one sitting without wanting to scratch your skin. Although beta-alanine isn't considered to be a stimulant, I experience a night of sleeplessness after using it for an evening workout.

Since that's just my personal experience, this is what I call a "personal truth." It's not backed by science, but personally I would not suggest using beta-Alanine at night for workouts.

If something is safe, effective, and affordable, then there is no reason you shouldn't be using it. And if you have any questions, you know where to find me.


Sources

  1. β-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis - PubMed (nih.gov)

  2. Effects of β-alanine supplementation during a 5-week strength training program: a randomized, controlled study - PMC (nih.gov)

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