The Health Benefits of Alanine
Alanine is an amino acid, a building block of protein. There are approximately one hundred amino acids, of which twenty are considered vital for a healthy human body and mind. These vital amino acids are known as ‘standard amino acids’. Of these twenty, half are synthesised by the body (these are called non-essential amino acids) and the rest must be found in food (essential amino acids).
Beta-alanine is often known to its advocates to produce a stimulant effect. As such, it is ideal if taken as a pre-workout supplement, allowing the participant to get the most from the amino acid and his/her workout.
Carnosine is a dipeptide with powerful antioxidant properties. It has also been shown in trials to have anti-ageing properties and may reduce degenerative eye diseases, cataracts and even hinder the growth of some cancers. Carnosine levels also relate to muscle fatigue and the amount of force muscles can employ over time.
Beta-alanine levels in humans are directly proportional to carnosine levels. In other words beta-alanine limits the amount of carnosine in muscles. Supplementation with beta-alanine increases the concentration of carnosine and has been shown to decrease muscle fatigue in athletes 1. As men generally have higher concentrations of carnosine, beta-alanine supplementation may be especially helpful to female athletes and bodybuilders who are looking to bulk up.
Higher muscle carnosine concentrations have also been associated with a higher percentage of Type II ‘fast-twitch’ muscle fibres, which are prevalent in sprinters and any athlete needing short, explosive bursts of movement.
Here is a very good video explaining the science of the benefits Alanine provides as as as well as its sources, dosages, consumption period and more.
As well as supplements, alanine can be found in any food which is rich in protein, most obviously poultry, meat, fish, dairy products, eggs. Avocadoes are also a good source of alanine for vegetarians or athletes simply looking to change up their diets.
It has been found that carnosine levels in vegetarians decrease significantly from as early as five weeks into a vegetarian diet. As such, beta-alanine supplementation may be especially helpful for vegetarian athletes.
There seems to be little doubt among athletes and sports bodies that beta-alanine can produce significant effects for an athlete. It should also be noted, however, that to date no studies have tested the amino acid as a supplement for longer than twelve weeks. For this reason alone, and combined with beta-alanine’s slow rate of decay in the muscles, it may be advisable to supplement for a period, say six weeks, and then take six weeks off, to minimise any as-yet-unknown side effects.
One side effect that has been noted is paresthesia, or pins and needles in the head and neck. The more supplement you take, or if taken on an empty stomach, the greater the likelihood of suffering transient paresthesia lasting anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes.
However, for those looking for that extra edge, this amino acid could well be that final building block towards athletic perfection. Only time and further studies will tell.
- “New World Encyclopedia ↩