Precision Nutrition Beta Alanine - For Improved Muscular Endurance
- Supplementation with beta-alanine increases muscle levels of carnosine, which is the body’s major intracellular buffer.
- Higher carnosine levels provide added buffer against acidosis during high-intensity exercise.
Beta-alanine, also known as 3-aminopropanoic acid, is a non-essential amino acid. It’s found naturally in the body, which can synthesize beta-alanine from the breakdown of pyrimidine nucleotides. We can also get beta-alanine from our diets via carnosine, and to a lesser extent from anserine and balenine.
Carnosine is a dipeptide –- a molecule made up of two amino acids bonded together — composed of beta-alanine and histidine. These dipeptides are found in chicken, beef, fish, and pork. (Think of the word “carnivore” to help you remember where to get carnosine.) In humans, carnosine seems to be concentrated in tissues that have a high energy demand, such as muscle and brain.
Why is beta-alanine important?
During exercise (especially at high intensity), the formation of energy (ATP) and rise in hydrogen (H+) ions occurs. The rise in H+ ions is mainly due to lactic acid production, which lowers the body’s pH (i.e. creating a more acidic state). As the acidity rises, it’s harder to contract the muscle, and fatigue can result. Thus, if the body can combat the acidity, it can keep working harder.
The body’s first line of defense against this acidic pH is inside the muscle cell. Carnosine is able to buffer H+ ions in muscle cells. This buffering can neutralize lactic acid and simultaneously increase ATP stores. Carnosine also acts as an anti-glycation agent and antioxidant. Moreover, carnosine appears to help activate the enzymes responsible for muscle contraction. Because carnosine is so important, beta-alanine is also important.
Without enough beta-alanine the body can’t make carnosine effectively, which means that these essential cellular functions are impeded. Since most people usually have enough histidine (the other part of carnosine), and since consuming histidine by itself seems to have little to no impact on cellular carnosine levels, the limiting factor in carnosine synthesis is beta-alanine.