This is the first part in our series on pre-workout supplements. Throughout our time in the gym, we’ve discovered that many people have favorite pre-workout, mid-workout, and post-workout routines they stick to. Some people go all natural, fueling up on unprocessed foods before or after a workout, while others utilize supplements to give an extra bit of oomph in the gym.
Whatever your routine is, we hope it’s based on fact and not simply “expert opinion”. On the internet, anybody can be an “expert”. We want you to have a solid reason as to why you are following your routine – especially if it involves taking supplements. There’s a wealth of knowledge available regarding each substance contained in supplements, so we’ve decided to pull this information together and share real, scientific data on what each supplement does and why (or why not) it should be taken as part of your workout routine.
Most importantly, we want to share what the long-term effects are, and whether or not is really is a smart choice to add into your diet. If you’re like me, using a compound for short term gains is a very different level of risk than permanently adding a supplement to your diet. I want to know exactly what I’m putting into my body before I commit to regularly using it.
This series is not intended just for the hardcore gym goer; it is meant for everybody who wants to get stronger, be healthier, and live a better life.
What is Beta Alanine and what does it do?
Beta Alanine is the only naturally occurring non-essential beta amino acid. This means, that your body can manufacture it from the foods you eat (it is non-essential), and it is an organic compound (amino acid). It contains amine and carboxyl functional groups in its structure at the beta-position from the carboxylate group. If you don’t follow exactly what that means, don’t worry about it. These are biochemistry terms which describe how the molecule is shaped and oriented.
Amino acids are located all throughout our bodies, and serve a variety of roles. They mainly provide structure, as well as energy storage and energy transport functions for our cells. Amino acids keep our body and organs functioning as they should. When you ingest Beta Alanine, your body stores it in your skeletal muscle’s mitochondria to use later.
Later, when you hit the gym, your body will be working hard in order to produce energy for you to burn during your workout. One of the byproducts of this energy production is lactic acid, which is responsible for the fatigue and soreness associated with exercise.
At the same time as your body is producing energy (and lactic acid), the stored Beta Alanine is being combined with Histidine (another chemical already in your muscles) in order to produce Carnosine. Carnosine serves as a buffer against the lactic acid, reducing the acidity in muscles during high-intensity exercise.
The bottom line is that when you take Beta-Alanine, your body will use it to combat the soreness and fatigue you will feel during a workout.
When should I take it?
Beta Alanine is commonly taken 15-30 minutes before a workout in order to prep your muscles before exercise. After ingesting, your body will use this time to transport the substance to your muscles where it can be broken down. If you consistently use Beta Alanine over the course of 1-7 weeks, then studies suggest that will see an increase in performance in the gym. Your muscles will get less tired, and you will be able to push past the original point of exhaustion that you had before taking the supplement.
Dosage depends on body size, but optimal dosages range between 2-5 grams per day. For reference, a 200lb person should be close to the 5 gram mark. I weigh 210 lbs and take 4.5 grams each morning (5:00am) before my workout.
Taking Beta Alanine can produce a side effect called paresthesia. Many people compare it to a tingling sensation throughout their body, similar to the pins and needles when their foot falls asleep.
This side effect is harmless and can be avoided by taking multiple, smaller doses of Beta Alanine throughout the day rather than your optimal dosage all at once. As long as you get the full 2-5g/day into your diet, you will see benefits from the supplement.
The feeling of pins and needles will also taper off and disappear between 30-60 minutes after it first begins. This is not a long-term or permanent effect, but it can be a nuisance to some people. Personally, I am on the other end of the spectrum – I know the supplement is working (and therefore time to start my workout) when I feel the tingly sensation.
Is it safe?
Your body will naturally flush excess Beta Alanine out of your body. This supplement also has no known long-term dangers.
However, it is always safest to monitor yourself, discontinue use, and consult a doctor if your feel bad or notice a negative reaction after introducing it to your workout routine.
If you feel like Beta Alanine is the right supplement to add to your own diet, we recommend the Nutricost version on Amazon. It’s a great cost and you know exactly what you’re getting with their supplement.