Beta Alanine – 3.2 g
Most athletes at this point know about beta alanine — it’s the famous pre-workout ingredient that promotes endurance and often leads to a tingling sensation (don’t worry, it’s been shown to be safe and non-toxic as we’ll explore below).
3.2 grams is the most common clinical daily dose in research, but we’ll also talk about how adding this to a supplement stack that already has beta-alanine can lead to even more benefits — or at least get you to those benefits faster.
When talking about beta alanine, there are four main references to lean upon:
- A 2012 meta-analysis on 15 studies
- A 2016 meta-analysis on 40 studies
- The ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) 2015 Position Stand
- A 2019 safety meta analysis
All in all, these studies show that beta alanine very safely improves muscular endurance and exercise performance across a myriad of sports activities – especially within non-sprinting time ranges. Let’s look at those two meta-analyses first:
Beta alanine meta-analyses on exercise performance
2012: 15 studies, 360 Participants
In the 2012 meta analysis, the researchers looked at the current data available and found 15 studies appropriately utilizing beta alanine. It consisted of a total of 360 participants. They found that beta alanine significantly improved endurance performance in exercises lasting 1-4 minutes long.
But as many of us following the industry know, a lot of beta-alanine based research (and pre-workout supplements) came out in the ensuing years. So a new meta-analysis took a look at the updated data:
2016: 40 Studies, 1461 Participants
The 2016 meta-analysis was far bigger – it analyzed 40 studies that totaled 1461 participants performing 70 different exercise measures. It expanded the findings above, finding that beta alanine leads to significant increases in exercise capacity in exercises lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.
The big takeaway here is that exercise capacity and endurance are improved by the ingredient, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to strength or sprint performance or body composition, although those are secondary benefits that are often achieved.
Reason being, you need to take advantage of those endurance gains – beta-alanine won’t directly build muscle for you, it’ll just enable greater volume. And much of this is a volume game – but you need to make the time in your day to support that.
So now that we discuss when and in what situations it works, let’s quickly get into how it works:
How beta alanine works
When taking beta alanine, the goal isn’t getting more BA itself — the actual goal is to build up carnosine stores in the muscle. This is because carnosine is the molecule that can keep fatigue at bay by buffering lactic acid.[3,6] The issue is, supplementing carnosine isn’t orally bioavailable (it gets metabolized before reaching the skeletal muscle), so sports scientists developed a workaround — take its precursor.
And beta alanine just happens to be the rate-limiting precursor in carnosine synthesis![8,9] When combined with the other active ingredient Raw Nutrition provides here, L-Histidine, you get carnosine![8-10]
The ISSN’s position stand provides the best technical summary on this (see its “Mechanism of action” section), but the general gist is that greater carnosine levels lead to greater muscular endurance, and lower carnosine levels lead to very poor performance.
Since we can’t take carnosine, and its production is limited by beta-alanine, which is bioavailable, the solution is right here, backed by over a decade of science on trained athletes.
Dosage strategies: 3.2 grams or… more?!
Most of the studies analyzed in the research cited above used 3.2 grams per day – generally taken as 800 milligrams 4 times daily, so that’s become the “clinical daily dose”. It’s what’s been demonstrated to provide significant results. So that’s what you often see in pre-workout supplements as well as products like Raw Nutrition’s here.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the top-end dose! Remember, our goal is to increase carnosine levels. If we can get to carnosine saturation faster, we can get to endurance improvements faster! For this reason, researchers started looking at doubling that dose to 6.4 grams, and they found even better results!
There are at least a few studies showing that taking 6.4 grams per day (179 total grams over 28 days) can further increase muscle performance, demonstrating an increase in work capacity by 16.9% and endurance by 14.9% as well as reduced perceived effort.[11-13] Large doses may also reduce inflammatory markers in elite athletes as well.
Beta alanine safety
As we alluded to above, most know beta alanine for its tingle-producing sensation. This is known as paresthesia, and researchers believe that it activates certain receptors on sensory neurons. The good news is that ingestion of beta alanine has been shown to be incredibly safe and non-toxic.
When using it for pre-workout purposes, we use this effect to signal that it’s time to start training.
How to avoid beta alanine tingling
For those who want the benefits of beta alanine without the tingling, the following two strategies work best:
- Take a standalone supplement like Raw Nutrition Beta Alanine, but split doses into two or even four smaller servings per day (and find a pre-workout without beta alanine).
- If taking a larger beta alanine dose, take it with carbs in your system. We anecdotally find that paresthesia hits harder on an empty stomach.
Alternatively, just get used to it – the sensation often diminishes over time.
Don’t confound your situation with the niacin flush
Finally, if you don’t like the tingling, you will also want to make sure that your pre-workout doesn’t contain niacin as nicotinic acid. This is the “flush” type of niacin (Vitamin B3) that can amplify paresthesia far beyond what beta alanine is capable of.
If you see “niacin” on the label, and it doesn’t specify “niacinamide” (which is an inferior form anyway), then there’s a good chance you have nicotinic acid… and that can definitely lead to a flush you may want to avoid!