Beta Alanine & Sports Performance

Dylan Bowe | Last Updated – 30/12/2023 | 4 Minute Read

What is it?

Beta-alanine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid (meaning it is not incorporated into proteins during translation), and can be found in the diet through animal based foods such as beef or chicken. Once ingested, it combines with histidine in muscle cells to form carnosine. To understand the importance of this, we must understand the role carnosine plays in sports performance. Carnosine’s abundance in muscle cells suggests it plays an important role during exercise, with a key physiological role considered to be intracellular acid-base regulation, along with protection against oxidative damage and regulation of calcium sensitivity (Boldyrev et al., 2013). The rate limiting factor to muscle carnosine synthesis is the availability of beta-alanine from the diet (Harris et al., 2006), and supplementation shows an increase in skeletal muscle concentrations in both upper and lower limbs (Hill et al., 2007; Derave et al., 2007). Over the past 10-15 years, beta-alanine has grown to become one of the most popular sports nutrition ingredients. Although relatively new, with the first human study on beta-alanine published in 2006, its use and formulation has expanded into nearly every pre-workout formula on the market, and many recovery supplements. 

The primary physiological mechanism associated with beta-alanine supplementation is most likely related to enhancing intracellular buffering capacity, therefore it has been hypothesized that supplementation would have ergogenic potential for anaerobic activities that are high intensity and shorter in duration. A meta-analysis on beta-alanine supplementation (Hobson et al., 2007) indicated that supplementation improved exercise capacity in tasks lasting 1-4min, but not un tasks lasting under 1 minute in which acidosis is not likely the main limiting factor. Other research seems to also suggest that these short duration sprints are not affected (Sweeney et al., 2010). For exercise bouts lasting greater than four minutes, ATP demand is increasingly met through aerobic metabolic pathways. As such, it has been suggested that beta-alanine is not beneficial for these events. However, some improvements of exercise tests >4min has been seen with supplementation (Hobson et al., 2007) along with time to exhaustion tests when compared to a placebo. There is limited research on beta-alanine supplementation and long endurance exercise, specifically exercise bouts lasting more than 25min, and overall the research indicates that beta alanine provides a modest benefit for exercise lasting up to approximately 25 minutes. 


  1. Delayed Muscle Fatigue: The primary benefit of beta-alanine supplementation is its ability to delay the onset of muscle fatigue. By buffering the increased acidity in muscles, athletes can continue to exert themselves at a high level for a more extended period. This can be especially advantageous in sports that involve repeated high-intensity efforts, such as sprinting, weightlifting, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  2. Improved Anaerobic Performance: Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to enhance anaerobic performance, particularly in activities lasting 1-4 minutes. Athletes who rely on short bursts of intense effort, like cyclists, sprinters, and combat sport athletes, may experience improved power output and endurance.
  3. Enhanced Muscle Endurance: Increased muscle carnosine levels can lead to improved endurance in sports that require repeated muscular contractions, such as swimming, rowing, and team sports like soccer and basketball.
  4. Potential for Muscle Hypertrophy: Some studies suggest that beta-alanine supplementation may contribute to muscle growth (hypertrophy) due to the prolonged time under tension during resistance training sessions. However, more research is needed in this area to establish a definitive link.


The supplementation protocol for beta-alanine is important to maximise its effects. Most research suggests that beta-alanine requires a chronic loading dose of 4-6g/daily in divided doses of 2g or less, for a minimum of two weeks (which results in a 2-30% increase in muscle carnosine concentrations (Baguet et al., 2009), with greater benefits seen after 4 weeks (40-60% increase) (Stellingwerff et al., 2012; Harris et al., 2009). After this loading phase, a maintenance dose of 3.2-6.4 grams per day (Perim et al., 2019) has been shown to be optimal to improve performance, and timing of ingestion does not influence its effectiveness –  the main concern is the muscles being saturated with consistent daily supplementation

The biggest drawback with beta-alanine supplementation is that it may cause a tingling sensation called paraesthesia, which is harmless but some individuals may find this feeling uncomfortable, especially during intense exercise. This commonly happens when consuming more than 800mg of beta-alanine and seems to be dose dependent i.e. the more you consume, the greater chances of paraesthesia. 


After a loading phase, daily supplementation of 4-6g for at least 2-4 weeks has been shown to improve exercise performance, with more pronounced benefits in exercise lasting 1-4min. the main side effect is paraesthesia but this can be attenuated by divided lower doses of 1-2g each or using a slow release supplement formula. Beta-alanine appears to be safe in healthy populations at recommended doses, therefore if you are interested in gaining an edge in your exercise performance – specifically intense exercise bouts lasting up to 25min, beta-alanine may be the answer to your needs.


Baguet, A., Reyngoudt, H., Pottier, A., Everaert, I., Callens, S., Achten, E. and Derave, W., 2009. Carnosine loading and washout in human skeletal muscles. Journal of applied physiology106(3), pp.837-842.

Boldyrev, A.A., Aldini, G. and Derave, W., 2013. Physiology and pathophysiology of carnosine. Physiological reviews.

Derave, W., Ozdemir, M.S., Harris, R.C., Pottier, A., Reyngoudt, H., Koppo, K., Wise, J.A. and Achten, E., 2007. β-Alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters. Journal of applied physiology103(5), pp.1736-1743.

Harris, R.C., Jones, G.A., Kim, H.J., Kim, C.K., Price, K.A. and Wise, J.A., 2009. Changes in muscle carnosine of subjects with 4 weeks supplementation with a controlled release formulation of beta‐alanine (Carnosyn™), and for 6 weeks post. The FASEB Journal23, pp.599-4.

Harris, R.C., Tallon, M.J., Dunnett, M., Boobis, L., Coakley, J., Kim, H.J., Fallowfield, J.L., Hill, C.A., Sale, C. and Wise, J.A., 2006. The absorption of orally supplied β-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino acids30, pp.279-289.

Hill, C.A., Harris, R.C., Kim, H.J., Harris, B.D., Sale, C., Boobis, L.H., Kim, C.K. and Wise, J.A., 2007. Influence of β-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino acids32, pp.225-233.

Hobson, R.M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R.C. and Sale, C., 2012. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids43, pp.25-37.

Perim, P., Marticorena, F.M., Ribeiro, F., Barreto, G., Gobbi, N., Kerksick, C., Dolan, E. and Saunders, B., 2019. Can the skeletal muscle carnosine response to beta-alanine supplementation be optimized?. Frontiers in nutrition6, p.135.

Stellingwerff, T., Anwander, H., Egger, A., Buehler, T., Kreis, R., Decombaz, J. and Boesch, C., 2012. Effect of two β-alanine dosing protocols on muscle carnosine synthesis and washout. Amino acids42, pp.2461-2472.

Sweeney, K.M., Wright, G.A., Brice, A.G. and Doberstein, S.T., 2010. The effect of β-alanine supplementation on power performance during repeated sprint activity. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(1), pp.79-87.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get a weekly round up of all that's going on in the Clinic

Liked this post? Share with others!

Book a free discovery call today!

Seize the opportunity to transform your nutrition! Schedule a complimentary consultation now, and let’s explore the most effective approach to address your nutritional challenges

Get in touch with us today!