What Does Beta Alanine Do In Pre Workout? (Science-Backed)

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Beta-alanine is sometimes added to pre-workout supplements and is one of the few performance-enhancing ingredients backed by strong evidence. However, pre-workouts may not contain enough beta-alanine to boost your performance.

Key Takeaways

  • Beta-alanine’s main role is to delay fatigue. It does this by increasing muscle carnosine levels and reducing lactate and hydrogen ion accumulation.
  • An optimal dose is between 4-6 grams per day and should be consumed for 4-12 weeks to maximize its effects.
     
  • Most of the benefits of beta-alanine are seen in sprint and power-based performances lasting 30 seconds to 10 minutes. 

What Is Beta-Alanine?

What is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is produced naturally by the body and found in certain foods.

It is well-known for its exercise performance-enhancing effects, like fatigue reduction, which improves muscle endurance and strength in short-duration exercises.

It is most commonly taken as a dietary supplement, either on its own or combined with other supplements in a stack (i.e. pre-workout supplements).

How Does Beta-Alanine Work?

How does Beta-Alanine work

Once Beta-Alanine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine, it travels into the muscle cells coupled with histidine (another amino acid). 

Both amino acids are used to make carnosine, a protein that acts as a buffer (like a shield) against acid buildup to delay fatigue.

When you exercise at higher intensities, you require energy quickly so your body undergoes energy production using anaerobic glycolysis (energy production without the presence of oxygen). 

This energy system produces ATP (energy) and some waste products such as lactate and hydrogen ions.

The accumulation of hydrogen ions in particular contributes to muscle fatigue (often described as a burning sensation or cramps), reducing the ability to perform well at a higher intensity for more extended periods.

Carnosine helps to buffer these hydrogen ions by binding to them, which delays fatigue so that you can work at higher intensities for longer periods.

Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to increase carnosine levels in muscles by up to 80%.

The Benefits Of Beta-Alanine For Exercise Performance

the benefits of beta-alanine for exercise performance

The two benefits of beta-alanine supplementation are:

1. Better Power/Sprint Performance

Many studies have shown that supplementing with beta-alanine results in small performance benefits during both continuous and intermittent exercise bouts of 30 seconds to 10 minutes in duration.

These benefits relate to ~2 – 3 % performance improvements in non-elite subjects and ~0.5 – 1% increases in elite subjects, mostly in sports that require bursts of maximal effort. 

For example, sports like sprinting, weightlifting, and CrossFit, and sports that involve repeated bursts like football, hockey, and basketball. 

This also includes sprinting at the end of exhaustive endurance exercises, for example in cycling events requiring a final sprint at the end of a 2-hour race. 

2. Improved Time Trial Performance

There is some evidence (however not sufficient in longer endurance events) suggesting that beta-alanine supplementation might be beneficial in time trial events, for example in running, as it reduces the feeling of fatigue.

One study, in particular, found that beta-alanine supplementation improved a 10-km running time trial and reduced lactate concentration in physically active, healthy adults. This study used doses of 5 grams for 23 days. 

Are There Any Side Effects Of Beta-Alanine in Workout?

A meta-analysis on the effects of beta-alanine suggests that there are no major adverse effects on human health with beta-alanine supplementation (at doses of 4-6 g per day).

The only minor side effect reported, which included 101 human studies, was paresthesia (a tingling sensation of the skin soon after ingestion), however, this is not a cause of concern and is temporary.

In short, there is no evidence to suggest that beta-alanine is harmful to your health and is therefore deemed safe to consume based on appropriate dosages.

How To Properly Use Beta-Alanine In Your Pre-Workout Routine

While beta-alanine is commonly found in pre-workout supplements, taking it on and off, or once in a while in a pre-workout is not the optimal way to be consuming it. 

The best way to use beta-alanine to help increase muscle carnosine stores, according to sports nutrition standards, is through long-term, daily supplementation (non-training days included).  

As such, here are the ISSN and IOC recommendations, followed by an example of a beta-alanine routine to put these recommendations into practice.

Recommendations

  • International Society Of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). The ISSN suggests a dose of 4-6 grams per day for at least 4 weeks. Dividing this dose into smaller amounts of 1.6 grams is the preferred way to reduce tingling (paresthesia). 
  • International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC recommends ~65 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day over 10-12 weeks. The dose should be split into quantities of 0.8–1.6 grams and ingested every 3–4 hours. 

Beta-Alanine Routine Example

Here’s how beta-alanine can be added to an 80 kilograms (176 pounds) athlete’s routine:

  • Daily dose: 80 kg x 0.065 (65mg) = 5.2 grams of beta-alanine per day (if consuming 65 mg per kilogram of body weight.
  • Split the daily dose into smaller doses: 5.2 g / 4 = 1.3-gram doses 4 times a day
  • Dose timings: 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, and 8 pm
  • Consumption: Take each dose with a caloric drink, meal, or supplement (e.g. juice, smoothie, protein shake, yogurt, pre-workout).

Pre-Workout With Clinical Dose of Beta-Alanine

Some pre-workouts on the market have a clinical dose of beta-alanine in their formula.

Our top recommendation for a pre-workout containing clinical doses of beta-alanine is:

Transparent Labs Bulk

Transparent Labs Bulk
  • 4g of beta-alanine per serving size (1 scoop = 20.5g).
  • Falls within the recommended daily dose of beta-alanine (4-6g). 
  • Tip: To avoid the tingling sensation it might be best to divide the serving size into 3 (7g).

Read our Transparent Labs Bulk Review

Beta-Alanine Powder From Bulk Supplements

BulkSupplements Beta Alanine 1kg

As mentioned, it’s important to take beta-alanine every day for a long period of time to maximize its effectiveness.

As such, you may want a separate beta-alanine supplement (outside your pre-workout) so that you can continue to take a regular dose on non-workout days.

We’ve written previously that there are drawbacks to taking pre-workout every day. Therefore, taking pre-workout on non-workout days is not an effective way to consume beta-alanine long-term.

You can buy beta-alanine powder from Bulk Supplements, which provides 3g of beta-alanine per scoop (we recommend taking 1.5-2 scoops to get a clinically effective dose).

Myths and Misconceptions About Beta-Alanine

Myth #1: Beta-Alanine Is A Stimulant

One misconception about beta-alanine as part of a pre-workout supplement is that it is bad for your health and heart, as it is thought to work as a stimulant like caffeine.

Reality: This is not true, as many athletes (recreational and elite) use pure beta-alanine at recommended doses to improve performance, and in fact, there is strong evidence to support this as a safe performance-enhancing supplement in healthy athletic populations.

Myth #2: Beta-Alanine Must Be Taken Around Workout

Another misconception is that beta-alanine has to be consumed only around workout times (e.g. pre-workout).

Reality: This is not true, as consistency in daily beta-alanine consumption over time is more important than the specific time of day at which it is taken if the goal is to maximize carnosine levels in the muscles.

What Is Beta-Alanine Usually Combined With?

Beta-alanine is usually combined with other ingredients to maximize its effects, whether it’s with a supplement, or a meal/snack.

With Carb and Protein Rich Meals

Research has shown that taking a beta-alanine supplement paired with a meal could have better effects than taking the supplement on its own.

“Combining beta-alanine consumption with a meal during beta-alanine loading has been shown to be effective for further augmenting muscle carnosine levels”

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal

As such, it might be advantageous to consume beta-alanine with meals for improved absorption rather than in between meals.

For example, you could take your beta-alanine with a bowl of oatmeal mixed with fruit, honey, and Greek yogurt. 

With Creatine and Sodium Bicarbonate Supplements

Beta-alanine is frequently incorporated in single or multi-ingredient supplements, notably those containing creatine and sodium bicarbonate.

Creatine can boost the supply of energy in the body and muscles by producing more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in cells, and according to evidence, combining it with beta-alanine can lead to enhanced athletic performance.

Sodium bicarbonate, like beta-alanine, acts as a buffer against hydrogen ion buildup in the body and muscles. 

Research indicates that using sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine in conjunction might further amplify this buffering capacity, resulting in additional performance improvements.

You could make your own pre-workout supplement by combining beta-alanine, creatine monohydrate, and baking soda.

BulkSupplements Beta Alanine 1kg
BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate

What Are Natural Sources of Beta-Alanine?

What are natural sources of beta-alanine

Natural food sources that are rich in beta-alanine include:

  • Red meat (e.g. beef, pork, and lamb)
  • White meat (e.g. turkey and chicken)
  • Fish (e.g. tuna and trout)

Other natural food sources with smaller amounts of beta-alanine include:

  • Eggs 
  • Dairy
  • Legumes
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Green vegetables, like spinach and seaweed 

If you consume a variety of these foods in your diet, you can get sufficient amounts of beta-alanine, with supplements elevating levels even further.

Note: As beta-alanine is found in larger quantities in meat and fish, vegetarian and vegan athletes might find it harder to keep beta-alanine levels elevated from food alone, meaning supplementation will be necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Have To Cycle Beta Alanine?

There is no evidence to indicate that you have to cycle beta-alanine, so there is no need to cycle on and off. It appears that taking beta-alanine consistently for longer periods produces better results than taking it every once in a while.

Does Beta Alanine Expire?

Yes, it does expire. Ensure you check the expiration date on the label. Using beta-alanine past its expiration date might not be harmful, however, it might have reduced effectiveness.

Keep in mind that like many supplements, it can degrade over time, particularly if it’s exposed to heat and humidity.

Can You Take Beta Alanine Every Day?

Yes, you can take beta-alanine every day. Consuming it daily over many weeks is recommended to optimize muscle carnosine levels, which mitigates hydrogen ion accumulation during periods of high-intensity exercise.

Does Beta Alanine Have Caffeine?

No, it does not have caffeine. While they are found together in supplements to enhance performance, they have different effects.

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that delays fatigue by buffering hydrogen ions in the muscles, and caffeine is a natural stimulant found in various products that increases alertness and energy.

Does Beta Alanine Give A Pump?

It is challenging to attribute a “pump” effect directly to beta-alanine as it is often taken together with other single or multi-ingredient supplements.

Research has shown improvements in feelings of energy and focus when these formulations (containing beta-alanine) are ingested immediately before exercise.

Learn About Other Supplements

References

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Lancha Junior, A. H., Painelli, V.deS., Saunders, B., & Artioli, G. G. (2015). Nutritional Strategies to Modulate Intracellular and Extracellular Buffering Capacity During High-Intensity Exercise. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 45 Suppl 1, S71–S81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0397-5

Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids. 2007 Feb;32(2):225-33. doi: 10.1007/s00726-006-0364-4. Epub 2006 Jul 28. PMID: 16868650.

Dolan, E., Swinton, P. A., Painelli, V. S., Stephens Hemingway, B., Mazzolani, B., Infante Smaira, F., Saunders, B., Artioli, G. G., & Gualano, B. (2019). A Systematic Risk Assessment and Meta-Analysis on the Use of Oral β-Alanine Supplementation. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 10(3), 452–463. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmy115

Van Thienen R, Van Proeyen K, Vanden Eynde B, Puype J, Lefere T, Hespel P. Beta-alanine improves sprint performance in endurance cycling. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Apr;41(4):898-903. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31818db708. PMID: 19276843.

Santana, J. O., de Freitas, M. C., Dos Santos, D. M., Rossi, F. E., Lira, F. S., Rosa-Neto, J. C., & Caperuto, E. C. (2018). Beta-Alanine Supplementation Improved 10-km Running Time Trial in Physically Active Adults. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 1105. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.01105

Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Hoffman JR, Wilborn CD, Sale C, Kreider RB, Jäger R, Earnest CP, Bannock L, Campbell B, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss TN, Antonio J. International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Jul 15;12:30. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y. PMID: 26175657; PMCID: PMC4501114.

Maughan, R. J., Burke, L. M., Dvorak, J., Larson-Meyer, D. E., Peeling, P., Phillips, S. M., Rawson, E. S., Walsh, N. P., Garthe, I., Geyer, H., Meeusen, R., van Loon, L. J. C., Shirreffs, S. M., Spriet, L. L., Stuart, M., Vernec, A., Currell, K., Ali, V. M., Budgett, R. G., Ljungqvist, A., … Engebretsen, L. (2018). IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. British journal of sports medicine, 52(7), 439–455. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099027

STEGEN, SANNE1; BLANCQUAERT, LAURA1; EVERAERT, INGE1; BEX, TINE1; TAES, YOURI2; CALDERS, PATRICK3; ACHTEN, ERIC4; DERAVE, WIM1. Meal and Beta-Alanine Coingestion Enhances Muscle Carnosine Loading. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 45(8):p 1478-1485, August 2013. | DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31828ab073

Laura Gilsanz, Jaime López-Seoane, Sergio L. Jiménez & Helios Pareja-Galeano (2023) Effect of β-alanine and sodium bicarbonate co-supplementation on the body’s buffering capacity and sports performance: A systematic review, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 63:21, 5080-5093, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2021.2012642

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About The Author

Giulia Rossetto

Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist. She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta). Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals. She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).

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