Beta-alanine improves performance in short and intense activities (30sec – 10min). It does so by buffering the acidity of the muscle. Both beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate, improve performance using the same tactic, but in a different mechanism.
Difference beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate:
Sodium bicarbonate buffers the acid because bicarbonate is a base product. As we all learned in chemistry lesson base products can neutralize acid substrates and the opposite. Sodium bicarbonate is taken in an acute dosage about an hour before training. Beta-alanine reduces acidity by increasing the amount of carnosine in the muscles. Carnosine is created by the body naturally to counter the acidic byproducts produced by exercising. The more carnosine in the muscle the better it can interfere with the acidity.
Why not supplementing carnosine?
Carnosine, as is, can’t enter the muscles and needs to be synthesized in the muscle itself by combining beta-alanine with histidine. The limiting factor in this process is beta-alanine, as the availability of it is not that big. By supplementing the missing piece of the puzzle to the process, more carnosine can be synthesized in the muscle. Increasing the amount of carnosine in the muscle is a rather slow process and requires chronic supplementation. The results start showing 2-4 weeks after starting the supplementation and the benefit increases further when reaching 10-12 weeks.
Tip: Beta-alanine and sodium-bicarbonate can both be used at the same time to improve performance even further.
Take a chronic supplementation of 65mg/kg per day. This translates into about 3-6g per day depending on your bodyweight. To avoid side effects divide this amount into smaller doses throughout the day. Doses of 0.8-1.6g separated by at least 3-4 hours will do the trick. You can find beta-alanine in pill or powder format. In most brands, 1 pill contains 0.8g beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine is a supplement that can be taken in the off-season. You don’t need to train to enjoy its benefits. Doing so you can already experience the benefits at the very beginning of the season.
Beta-alanine was found to be a safe supplement. A large dose at once might have side-effects like itchiness, rash or paresthesia (tingling in the toes and fingers). These side effects disappear over time (about 1 hour) and are rather harmless.