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Improve Your Training Performance - Beta-Alanine


Before we get started - I want to mention that today's post is NOT for newbies and beginners that are at the start of their fitness journey. If you are this person, please check out my other posts to help you get started!

As a lot of you are in the gym making gains or out on the streets pounding the concrete it may be prudent to give yourself an edge to help improve your capacity to push the human body further than you thought possible.

Beta-Alanine is a supplement I’ve recommend to a lot of clients who have moved passed the beginner stage of their nutrition and training journey and are looking for something to get them performing even better.

So what is it?

Beta-Alanine is a naturally occurring amino-acid (protein) that your body is able to create on its own, or that is consumed in our diet.

Namely meats like chicken and turkey.

It’s used by the body to make something called carnosine which is located in our skeletal muscles. This helps protect against the build-up of hydrogen ions during intense exercise (the burning feeling you get when you are pushing heavy weights or when you are sprinting/rowing/cycling/swimming at an intense capacity.)

This rise in acidity dramatically lowers pH levels within muscle cells which effects enzyme function and the effectiveness of muscle contraction.

In essence, Beta-Alanine can help to protect against muscle fatigue.

But what do the studies say?

One study investigated the effect Beta-Alanine had on 17 elite rowers (sixteen male, one female.)[1] The study wanted to see if there was an advantage in supplementation of Beta-Alanine.

When compared to placebo, the Beta-Alanine group had improved times with an average of 4.3 seconds faster over a 2000 metre rowing distance.

Another study [2] looked at elite swimmers in a real-world setting against lab conditions. Again there were signs of improvement, especially over a four week period.

But no substantial benefits after a 10 week period.

Are the any down sides?

Yes - the downside is that it’s not great for short bursts of exercise. In a meta-analysis, exercise that lasted less than 60 seconds showed that the shorter time span would not greatly affect pH levels when compared to longer durations. [3]

So sprints or lifting weights at less than a 60 second duration will not be effected by carnosine levels in the muscle. Fourteen of the studies the meta-analysis confirmed this. [3]

The bigger picture

To give context to the results of the studies we just looked at it will look a little something like this:

A 1,500 metre sprint = a time improvement of around 6 seconds

If you solely lift weights give it a miss because you generally don’t exceed 60 seconds unless you are focusing on extremely slow reps, or some form of circuit session. The same goes if you are into increasing strength due to the generally low duration of exercise.

But what about long distance exercise like marathon training or OCR’s?

The truth is that it’s probably worth skipping again as there is currently not enough evidence to suggest aerobic training will be enhanced over a long-duration of activity. The sweet spot is probably around the 60 second to 3 minute mark and unless you plan on running a marathon in under 3 minutes save your money for other more beneficial supplements!

If you do train in this 60 second – 3 minute zone e.g. HIIT, short to medium distance exercise like the 1500 meters, or Crossfit style training then Beta-Alanine could be a viable option for you.

You’re giving me the tingles!

One thing to note is that there is a completely harmless side effect known as paraesthesia. This is where you get tingles under the skin (like when you when have leaned on your arm for a while and you get pins-and-needles). This is also affected by how much you take so it is dose dependent if you get this side-effect.

Still intrigued? Then go for 5 grams per day and stick to a short-term period as anything over 10 weeks may not be effective and long term supplementation is currently unknown because it’s only been around recently.

Awesome Supplements currently sell a pre-workout that has a bunch of research supported performance aids if you want good quality (plus you can use my discount code for some money off - ANGEL05)

If your diet is on point, and your lifestyle is in balance then this will be a great addition to your supplement stack.

For more spine-tingling supplement tips to improve performance head on over to Facebook or Instagram (@richardangelofficial)

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20671038

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23201763

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22270875

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