Beta-alanine is a precursor amino acid of carnosine, catalysed by the ATPGD1 enzyme expressed in muscle cells and the brain.
Carnosine is more abundant in the musculoskeletal system, but can also be found in the brain and heart muscle. Its main action is in the maintenance of acid-base equilibrium. In other words, beta-alanine can reduce the acidosis caused by the increase of lactic acid, by controlling the production of lactic acid without affecting oxygen uptake.
Lactic acid is a monocarboxylic acid that, in the human body, results from the cellular metabolism of glucose for energetic purposes, particularly during intense exercises. The body is able to compensate the acid-base imbalance caused by the increased production of this acid. The problem is when this compensation is no longer possible due to the accumulation of lactic acid. This decompensation will acidify the blood and lead to the development of symptoms such as low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, among others.
Carnosine has also been shown to have other functions, such as a calcium sensitizing action in contractile muscles, neuroprotective, anti-ageing, and antioxidant actions, and a protective role against glycation.
Then, why not use carnosine instead of beta-alanine?
Because carnosine is not absorbed very well by skeletal muscle cells. Beta-alanine is transported into muscle cells and converted to carnosine. Carnosine is then stored in muscle fibres, mainly type II.
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Therefore, beta-alanine supplementation is effective as a means for increasing muscle carnosine content.
- Controls lactic acid levels;
- Reduces the sensation of fatigue;
- Improves performance.
When to take?
Beta-alanine can be taken at any time, but should ideally be consumed before explosive exercises. Some studies report that the absorption of beta-alanine is increased when taken with food.
Beta-alanine supplementation should to be done over a long period, for example, cycles of 8 to 12 weeks.
Beta-alanine is essential for exercises that increase intracellular acidosis (those usually lasting longer than 30 seconds) and short high-intensity exercises such as running, rowing, weightlifting, and explosive exercises.
Beta-alanine intake may result in paraesthesia (tingling sensation) in the face, neck, back, and hands. However, this effect is not harmful and is temporary (maximum 60 minutes). If desired, this effect can be eliminated by splitting the daily dose into individual doses lower than 800 mg.
By Carla Santos, Pharmacist