Best Beta-Alanine Supplement
Chances are if you’re searching for information about beta-alanine, you’re interested in supplements. Like anything else you put in your body, it’s always a good idea to know exactly what it is, how it works, how it can benefit you, and any potential side effects.
In this article, we will discuss beta-alanine in detail, hopefully allowing you to make a more informed decision on whether or not it’s a worthwhile supplement for you.
Beta-Alanine’s Benefits as a Supplement
Beta-alanine is a supplement that has been shown to increase muscular endurance, reduce fatigue during exercise, and increase anaerobic capacity.
While there have been other benefits recorded as well, these are the main three with the strongest and most consistent evidence-based research.
One good reason to know the exact function or interaction of a supplement within your body is that it will help you determine what benefits are actually a direct result of beta-alanine, and what benefits may be secondary.
For example, we mentioned an increase in anaerobic capacity is one of the more commonly reported benefits of beta-alanine supplementation. While this may be a true result overall, it may also be due to the fact that muscular endurance and energy levels have both improved, potentially increasing the time it takes for you to reach exhaustion.
Therefore, we typically advise athletes to focus on the strongest/primary benefits reported from beta-alanine, and when combined with knowledge on what the beta-alanine is and how it works, then you’re well on your way to confidently making an informed decision.
What is Beta-Alanine?
More specifically than just being a supplement, beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid.
Amino acids form proteins, which are found in the majority of cells in our body, particularly in muscle tissue. The term “non-essential” means that our body produces them naturally.
Conversely, if we refer to an essential amino acid instead, this means that we require it to function normally, but it will need to be consumed in our diet. Meat, fish, and poultry have all of the essential amino acids, and vegetarians can also find these proteins in foods like beans, nuts, legumes, and more. Of course you can also get these from supplements.
So who cares whether or not beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid? Basically anyone who needs to study or use it. Beta-alanine is something our bodies are already familiar with, making it easier to study and learn exactly how the body uses and cycles this non-essential amino acid.
However, given the body is accustomed to forming beta-alanine on its own, we need to understand what the body will do when it is introduced from an external source.
How Does Beta-Alanine Work?
In short, beta-alanine works to improve fitness by helping to keep pH levels in your body within an ideal range, particularly in muscle tissue.
Whenever you exercise, your body utilizes many systems to convert specific compounds into energy that you use to get your swell on. For example, the system/cycle your body calls on most during a sprint event is different than an endurance event, but all can used to some degree.
You may have heard of ATP before, which stands for adenosine triphosphate. This is a vital compound that is broken down to yield usable energy.
However, as it breaks down, acidic components (those with a low pH), are also produced, and if these become too abundant and the pH drops enough, you become fatigued and experience discomfort, soreness, or even pain.
Lactic acid is by far the most well known byproduct that contributes to the drop in pH, and it can actually be used as an indicator of level of exhaustion and state of fitness.
So how does beta-alanine address this problem? Beta-alanine increases the production of carnosine, which is a combination of two amino acids (one of those amino acids is beta-alanine).
Carnosine acts as a buffer that protects the pH levels from dropping too quickly, and so the thought is that the more carnosine that is produced, the longer it will take for the pH level to reach that fatigue zone. So at the end of the day, carnosine represents the soldiers, and beta-alanine represents the reinforcements.
Why Not Just Take Carnosine?
Our bodies do lots of things to substances that we consume. If you were to take straight-up carnosine, most of it would be broken down before you could even use it.
Even with beta-alanine being one of its components, most of it is eliminated as waste before it can be used for generating more carnosine internally. However, when you consume beta-alanine, it’s already in a simple form, so it can be put to work much faster, and more of it will be used to make carnosine internally.
It’s a bit of a round-about way to do it, but definitely more effective in terms of fitness benefits.
How Do You Take Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine comes in a powder or capsule form. Capsules are nice because they’re fast and simple, but you’re stuck with the dose that the brand has manufactured the capsules for, unless you combine or break them and make your own dose, which can be inconvenient and potentially less cost-effective.
We tend to prefer the powder because it’s pretty much tasteless, it doesn’t matter what you mix it with, and you can optimize the dose for your requirements.
What Dose of Beta-Alanine Should You Take?
Ultimately, this will be up to you, and will be based largely on the extent to which you train.
A typical dose will range anywhere between 2-7 grams per day, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that more isn’t always better. Once you begin approaching the upper limit of that dose range, you won’t see any more added benefit.
In fact, many athletes find optimal results on the lower end of that range, so we would recommend taking between 2-4 grams per day in order to maximize affordability (won’t go through it as fast) as well as effectiveness. The label on your beta-alanine should also have recommended dosages, but these can sometimes be higher than necessary.
Safety and Side Effects of Beta-Alanine
Beta-alanine has been shown to be safe when taken in the recommended dose range. The side effects are very minimal and harmless, with the primary side effect being a temporary tingling or itching sensation after consumption. This usually happens when you take a larger dose, and new users will often experience this as well.
The tingling is a temporary increase in the firing of nerve endings, and therefore the overall effect that you feel is also temporary. While many find this to be an odd feeling, some athletes feel it acts like an extra stimulus for them, but personally, we find it feels just a little too weird to add any extra benefit.
One important note to keep in mind with beta-alanine, and any other recently developed products on the market, is that long term effects may not be fully known. So if you want to be on the very safe side, we would suggest leaning towards a smaller dosage, even if it means splitting it up throughout the day.
When Should You Take Beta-Alanine?
Many people take pre-workout stacks that include beta-alanine.
However, if you’re just focusing on beta-alanine, it doesn’t matter whether you take beta-alanine pre-workout or post-workout.
Remember, it’s all about a higher internal production of carnosine, which can take a bit of time. Therefore, beta-alanine typically provides the best results when taken on a regular basis, regardless of it’s pre-workout or post-workout, or just whenever.
Once you begin exercising, you want that higher level of carnosine to already be present in your body, and taking beta-alanine on a regular basis will help promote this readiness.
Beta-Alanine Stacks With Creatine
Many people now stack beta-alanine with creatine for added benefit. Some evidence-based research has been conducted in a controlled setting, and results have shown that, when compared to creatine alone, beta-alnine creatine stacks can be more beneficial for muscular strength, muscular endurance, increasing lean tissue, and improving overall body composition.
However, it’s worth noting that not all studies have shown any added benefit. While we can’t track any down that show a negative effect, there are a handful of studies that show no difference between supplementing with a beta-alanine creatine stack compared with creatine or beta-alanine alone.
Therefore, when reading about the positive effects of beta-alanine, especially when in the context of a creatine/beta-alanine combo or a pre-workout stack, take what you read with a grain of salt.
This particularly goes for any promotional or marketing information. Chances are if you stick to a consistent training program and supplement with healthy and regular doses of beta-alanine, you will see some benefits, but nothing is guaranteed.
Is Beta-Alanine Good for Weight Loss?
The general consensus based on the currently existing evidence is that beta-alanine can be good for weight loss, but in an indirect manner.
The key benefit of beta-alanine is it enhances your workout by increasing muscular strength, muscular endurance, which can reduce time to fatigue and allow you to increase your training volume. This means that any weight loss is still a result of having trained hard and on a consistent basis, rather than beta-alanine having a direct and active effect on fat tissue with your body.
Best Beta-Alanine Supplements
Given the recent rise in the popularity of beta-alanine, we feel it could be beneficial to provide our own beta-alanine reviews and highlight some of our personal favorites. We will try to highlight a range of beta-alanine supplements so you have an idea of what is generally available.
Price: $33 per 1kg (2.2lbs) - $0.03/gram
Bulk Supplements Consumer Reviews
This is one of our favorite beta-alanine supplements for a pretty simple reason: what you see is what you get. This is a pure form of beta-alanine with no other ingredients, so it is free of any sugar, soy, dairy, yeast, gluten, and any additives, which makes it a great option for those who are going 100% vegan.
The package also lists the dose for various quantities of powder, and the package itself is 1kg, so it’s actually really good value compared to some other beta-alanine supplements. You can optimize your dose based on your requirements, and the powder is easy to dissolve and can go in any drink that you like.
The packaging looks pretty simple, but who cares, it’s sealed extremely well so receiving a damaged or bad batch is highly unlikely. Overall, this is a great option if you want an affordable pure beta-alanine supplement.
Price: $20 per 500g - $0.04/gram
Hard Rhino Consumer Reviews
The Hard Rhino beta-alanine powder is actually quite similar to the Bulk Supplements pure beta-alanine powder, but comes in a smaller package and is usually a little more expensive on a per-gram basis. However, Hard Rhino is a good brand for supplements, and if you’re already used to some of their other supplements, then it could be a good fit.
This is pure beta-alanine with no other ingredients, including no soy, dairy, dairy by-products, eggs, shellfish, wheat, gluten, tree nuts, or sesame seeds. Furthermore, it’s manufactured and packaged in the United States, which provides some more confidence in the quality and customer service.
The Hard Rhino beta-alanine powder is pretty much tasteless unless you really use a lot, which is not recommended. They say 500mg is about 1/8 of a teaspoon, so you can optimize your dose quite easily, assuming you have a smaller measuring spoon that can help accommodate those measurements. Overall, this is nice pure beta-alanine powder that is a little more expensive, but still effective and reliable.
Price: $15 per 120 capsules - $0.12 per capsules
NOW Beta-Alanine Consumer Reviews
The NOW brand is arguably the most popular brand fro beta-alanine supplements, and they offer their products in both powder and capsule form. While we generally prefer the powder, we understand why many like the simplicity and cleanliness of using capsules, which is why we are highlighting this version.
Unlike the Bulk Supplements and Hard Rhino beta-alanine powder, the NOW Foods beta-alanine capsules uses CarnoSyn® beta-alanine, which is an NAI (Natural Aternative International, Inc) patented beta-alanine powder, so it’s gone through the wringer of the approval process.
In addition to the pure beta-alanine, there are a couple other ingredients as well, including rice flour, gelatin (capsule material), stearic acid (vegetable source), and ascorbyl palmitate. However, these beta-alanine capsules do NOT have any sugar, salt, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, eggs, shellfish, or preservatives.
Overall, these are very well-liked beta-alanine capsules that are 750mg each, which is a decent increment to be able to optimize your dose. NOW’s recommended dose is 1-3 capsules 4-6 times daily, but in our opinion, that might be a bit much, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t like the associated paresthesia (temporary tingling/flushing). The quality is definitely present in these beta-alanine capsules, but it comes at a bit of a steeper price, so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons in terms of your own personal preferences.
Price: $33 per 162 g
Red Leaf Consumer Reviews
Unlike the other beta-alanine supplements we reviewed, beta-alanine is only one of many ingredients in this pre-workout stack, albeit it’s tied for the most abundant. This is predominantly a branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) supplement, and also includes L-Glutamine, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG), cranberry extract, green tea extract, and raspberry ketone. There is also a little bit of caffeine for added energy, about 40 mg per serving, which is a little less than half of what you would find in a cup of coffee.
Other ingredients include natural lemon flavor, natural orange flavor, natural lime flavor, malic acid, sucralose, and beat juice. The natural flavoring and sucralose (same as Splenda) is used to provide sweetness without adding sugar. None of the ingredients are banned substances, but keep an eye on the caffeine, as some sports organizations provide limits on urine caffeine concentrations. Again, the amount in one recommended serving of Red Leaf pre-workout energizer is about half a cup of coffee.
The recommended dose is 1 scoop 1-2 times daily to start, and then can be increased as desired. It can be mixed with anything, but most people tend to prefer water since it already has a taste. As far as supplements go, most people like the taste. With 1 scoop of the pre-workout stack, you get 1 gram of beta-alanine, so in that regard, their recommendation of 1-2 times daily is definitely a nice starting point.
Overall, this is a great beta-alanine pre-workout stack. The doses are very reasonable, and the ingredients make sense in the context of pre-workout and subsequent recovery. It’s definitely more expensive on a per-gram basis, but if the best beta-alanine pre-workout stack is what you’re after, this is definitely our favorite.