Beta Alanine, Endurance and Recovery During Exercise
February 24, 2014
One supplement that has been getting a lot of coverage in the past few years is beta alanine. Beta alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine which essentially gets converted into carnosine in your muscles. Which is a big bonus for individuals who exercise at high intensities from 1-4 minutes in duration.
To understand more about carnosine and beta alanine’s importance we need to discuss what carnosine is, how it comes to be and where we get it from in our diet.
Firstly we could get into all of the biochemistry surrounding carnosine and all it does, but I don’t want to lose you. Carnosine is proven to be a powerful antioxidant with antiglycation properties. This means it protects the cells from the byproducts of energy metabolism, is shown to suppress diabetic complications and improve things related to aging such as wrinkles, but we aren’t going to go in that direction with this blog post. Because of its antioxidant abilities it is found within brain, cardiac and muscle tissue in the greatest amounts.
Secondly, carnosine is found in protein rich foods such as eggs, milk and cheese and it is often lacking in a vegetarian diet. The best sources of it include beef, poultry and pork. Once again this is because of the high metabolic demand within muscle. Strict vegetarians typically need some sort of supplementation to provide dietary carnosine.
Carnosine is produced in areas of the body that have a high energy demands by combining both beta alanine and the amino acid histidine such as muscle.
During exercise as energy is used and oxygen intake is insufficient, pH levels inside muscle cells decrease (become more acidic) due to increasing carbon dioxide levels. As the pH of a muscle cell decreases so does its’ ability to contract. The muscle has several ways to buffer (counter) the increase in acidity, one of which is carnosine. Carnosine is stored in cells and is released when the cells detect a decrease in pH. During high intensity exercise, normal carnosine stores may be inadequate to fully buffer the pH changes. Supplementation with beta alanine, particularly for those that are vegetarians, can increase carnosine levels leading to better pH buffering and improved anaerobic endurance.
Simply put, supplementation with beta alanine can improve recovery during high intensity workouts and enable you to keep working out and training at higher intensities. It does have a negative side effect when taken in large doses that can cause distress. It is called paresthesia (tingling feeling) which is supposedly harmless, but can be unnerving.