When it comes to pre-workouts, there’s an endless supply of options to choose from. And when you get down to the nitty-gritty, stim vs. non-stim is often the most significant deciding factor.
But you’ll also come across a breadth of pre-workout supplements containing all sorts of different ingredients with their own unique claim to fame on your performance.
But there’s one specifically that we’re talking about today—beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine is perhaps one of the most common additions to any pre-workout supplement, and for anyone who hasn’t ventured down the beta-alanine road, it may be time to consider it. We’re talking all things beta-alanine and if investing in a pre-workout without beta-alanine is actually worth it.
What Is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine is a non-essential beta-amino acid that’s pretty much a staple in all athlete’s and even casual lifters’ supplement repertoires. It’s naturally found in the body but is more often than not supplemented to boost tissue levels of beta-alanine.
Unlike other amino acids that are shunted towards muscle protein synthesis, beta-alanine combines with histidine to form another compound, carnosine, which is stored in skeletal muscle and used to enhance athletic performance 1.
The reason people supplement beta-alanine is because of its relationship with carnosine. We’ll talk more about that next, but carnosine is critical for buffering acid from muscles that has deleterious impacts on skeletal muscle function and force generation.
Long story short, when your muscles become too acidic, they can’t contract, and you reach fatigue—the perfect recipe for an end to your workout.
But when you add more fuel to the fire (i.e., beta-alanine for the production of carnosine), you stop acid accumulation dead in its tracks, and you can continue working harder for longer.
How Does Beta-Alanine Work + Its Role In Training
Like we said, the purpose of supplementing beta-alanine during training is to maximize carnosine production and limit muscle fatigue.
In order for your body to form carnosine—an intramuscular buffer—it needs sufficient amounts of histidine and beta-alanine 2. Resting muscle normally has high levels of histidine but low levels of beta-alanine, which makes carnosine production dependent on beta-alanine availability (i.e., the rate-limiting step) 1, 2.
Studies find that increasing muscle concentrations of carnosine would increase the buffering capacity of muscle, thereby enhancing intracellular pH regulation and enhancing high-intensity exercise capacity and performance.
Here’s how it works.
Glucose serves as the main fuel substrate for muscles during high-intensity, short-duration work. When glucose is broken down, it produces lactic acid, which is then converted to lactate and hydrogen ions (H+).
As hydrogen ions begin to build in the muscles, the pH increases, and they start to become more acidic. Muscle acidity prevents glucose from being broken down, and your muscles then lose their ability to contract. The result? Fatigue.
However, when you have sufficient muscle carnosine levels, it acts as an intracellular buffer against the acid to reduce acidity and allow muscles to continue contracting 3.
So, adding it to a pre-workout training stack can maximize your work capacity and, subsequently, the results you see.
Studies consistently show that oral ingestion of beta-alanine significantly boosts skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations by up to 80% 4. What’s called “muscle carnosine loading” thus leads to better performance during high-intensity exercise in both trained and untrained people.
Another study looked at the effects of beta-alanine on training performance in 30 healthy, strength-trained individuals. Over 5-weeks, subjects ingested 6.4g of beta-alanine per day as eight × 800mg doses every 90 minutes 5.
Results showed considerable training improvements in the group supplementing with beta-alanine compared to the placebo; there were increases in average power at 1RM and average power at maximum power output.
Researchers concluded that beta-alanine supplementation may effectively boost power output when lifting loads equivalent to the person’s maximal strength or when working at max power output.
There’s no shortage of studies suggesting the importance of beta-alanine for improving athletic performance, but what about pre-workouts without beta-alanine—do they work?
Is A Pre-Workout Without Beta-Alanine Worth It?
The short story of this one is you don’t need a pre-workout with beta-alanine to eliminate or reduce muscle fatigue and enhance performance, but it can be really helpful and give you an extra pump when you’re almost at burnout.
However, with that said, the idea behind not including beta-alanine usually means there are other compounds present in the formula that will elicit the same effect without the itchiness or tingles that often come along with high-dose beta-alanine.
Realistically speaking, there’s nothing quite like beta-alanine when it comes to extending work capacity. Depending on the dose, the results may vary, but because of its role in carnosine production, there’s not much else you can do if you’re looking to boost intramuscular buffering capacity.
Some research indicates that direct L-carnosine supplementation could prove beneficial for boosting muscle carnosine levels, but the majority of research available looks at the role of beta-alanine supplementation in increasing tissue concentrations 6.
However, we’re not saying that a pre-workout has to have beta-alanine to actually be effective. Think of it this way. You have a toolbox of supplements that boost performance, and beta-alanine is just one.
There are also things like nitric oxide boosters, caffeine, L-tyrosine, L-theanine, and electrolytes that play key roles in maximizing performance and preventing fatigue.
So, rather than wasting your money on a bunch of different pre-workouts that just do a so-so job, put your resources where the job will actually get done, and you don’t have to worry about your muscles fatiguing.
Pre Lab Pro® is a next-generation pre-workout formula that delivers bigger and better results than any other pre-workout formula. It’s specifically formulated to push your body to its limits and help you reach beyond just strength and stamina.
With 2x muscle-pumping nitric oxide (NO) turbocharge plus afterburn, it supports all-around athletics for optimal and peak performance.
With the addition of moderate-dose smart caffeine, hydrating factors, and restorative essentials, Pre Lab Pro® will power you through the longest and most intense training sessions with ease.
- Enhanced athletic, nootropic, and thermogenic performance
- Increases alpha brainwaves to balance caffeine energy with calm control and clarity
- Helps reduce jitters, crashes, and other negative effects of caffeine overstimulation
- Replenishes caffeine-depleted brain chemicals for daily use with less burnout
- Promotes balanced physiological responses to caffeine-induced stress
- Supports a healthier recovery and faster bounce-back
- RedNite® Beetroot Powder to improve neuromuscular performance, combat fatigue, enhance muscle energy, support healthy cardiovascular performance, and sharpen cognitive function
- Setria® Performance Blend provides a powerful and sustained nitric oxide boost for better strength, power, speed, and endurance, and gives you a head start on muscle growth and recovery
- Natural caffeine supplies moderate-dose smart caffeine stacked with boosters and balancers for maximum benefits and minimal side effects
- Ajipure® L-Tyrosine supports brain chemicals that drive athletic intensity and mental recovery, while sharpening focus under stress and replenishing neurotransmitters depleted by caffeine and intense training
- Suntheanine® supports relaxed alertness, positive mood, and cognitive clarity, as well as enhances the effects of caffeine to promote calmer, cleaner stimulation
We’re not going to deny that beta-alanine is a great supplement to keep on your shelves, but it’s not the be-all-end-all for workouts.
And while there’s a fair bit of research backing its efficacy for preventing muscle fatigue and extending work capacity, when you have a formula that’s packed with natural ingredients that improve neuromuscular performance, combat fatigue, increase strength and stamina and promote clean and calm stimulation, who really needs beta-alanine?
- GG Artioli, B Gualano, A Smith, J Stout, AH Lancha Jr. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(6):1162-1173.
- C Sale, B Saunders, RC Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine concentrations and exercise performance. Amino Acids. 2010;39(2):321-333.
- RM Hobson, B Saunders, G Ball, RC Harris, C Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012;43(1):25-37.
- W Derave, I Everaert, S Beeckman, A Baguet. Muscle carnosine metabolism and beta-alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Sports Med. 2010;40(3):247-263.
- JL Maté-Muñoz, JH Lougedo, MV Garnacho-Castaño, et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation during a 5-week strength training program: a randomized, controlled study.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15:19.
- RC Harris, MJ Tallon, M Dunnett, et al. The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids. 2006;30(3):279-289.