Friday, August 17, 2012

Beta-Alanine and Anabolism by Jerry Brainum

A number of studies, many of which have been reported here, demonstrate that using supplemental beta-alanine may boost gains in muscle size and strength. Beta-alanine acts as a substrate for the synthesis of carnosine in muscle. Carnosine is a dipeptide, composed of two bonded amino acids, histidine and beta-alanine. Muscle usually contains more than enough histidine, so the limiting factor is beta-alanine. Taking carnosine itself would not be effective, as it’s rapidly degraded by the enzyme carnosinase before it has a chance to enter muscle.
     Carnosine acts as a major intramuscular buffer. That means it neutralizes the excess acidity that builds up during high-intensity exercise. Studies show that regular intense training increases muscle carnosine. In fact, bodybuilders tend to have higher-than-normal muscle carnosine as a result of regular intense training. On the other hand, even experienced athletes who take extra beta-alanine get a boost in muscle carnosine as high as 64 percent over normal. Ingesting a dose range of 3.2-6.4 grams a day of beta alanine boosts levels of muscle carnosine by 42% and 61% respectively. In one study, taking a beta alanine supplement for 10 weeks boosted muscle carnosine by 80%.
     While many studies related to supplemental beta-alanine have used untrained subjects, a few have used more experienced subjects. One study, for example, found that giving beta-alanine for 10 weeks to experienced trainees led to a significant increase in workout volume on the squat and bench press. Because higher training volume is related to a greater release of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone, a new study tested the effects of supplemental beta-alanine in eight college-aged men with at least three years of training experience.1
      The men took beta-alanine for 30 days, getting 1.6 grams three times daily. Other subjects got a placebo, as the study featured a double-blind, randomized, crossover design, the gold standard of clinical research. Before and after using the beta-alanine, the subjects did six sets of 12 reps of barbell squats using a weight equal to 70 percent of their one-rep maximums. At the end of 30 days those in the beta-alanine group had increased their completed reps by 22 percent. Measurements of testosterone, growth hormone and cortisol showed no differences between the groups, indicating that while those hormones were affected by the exercise, beta-alanine had no discernible effect. No changes occurred in body mass or strength, but as the authors note, rapid gains don’t occur too often in advanced trainees, especially in only 30 days. Meanwhile, the fact that beta-alanine clearly increased training endurance shows that it may pump up training intensity, which is likely to increase gains in muscle size and strength over the long haul.
     Since beta alanine uses the same amino acid transport carrier as other amino acids, including taurine, glycine, and GABA, some have expressed concern that beta alanine may competitively inhibit the uptake of these other amino acids. In reality, however, this never occurs. The doses of beta alanine capable of causing such inhibition are far more then is ever ingested from supplements.
     The other problem with beta alanine is a side effect known as parathesia. This involves a tingling, slight burning sensation in the skin thought to occur from stimulation of superficial nerves by beta alanine. It lasts about an hour and is comparable to the flush brought on after the oral ingestion of the B-complex vitamin, Niacin, and is equally harmless, although uncomfortable to some.There are two ways around this problem. One is to consume a one gram dose of beta alanine every three hours, until you've ingested a range of 3.2-6.4 grams.The other method involves ingesting a slow-release form of beta alanine, which releases smaller amounts over a greater time span. The flush effect seems to occur when doses higher than 10 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight are ingested.
    The final thing to consider about beta alanine is that it works best for high intensity training that involves shorter rest times. Such training produces higher levels of acidity in muscle, which is buffered by carnosine. Those who take longer rests between sets, such as 2-3 minutes, will get little or no benefit from beta alanine supplements, since the body's own buffering agents will lower acidity in that time frame.

Hoffman, J., et al. (2008). Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med.

©,2012, Jerry Brainum.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.