Preworkout Product Secrets: Beta-Alanine

What this article is all about:I tell you the true reason why Beta-alanine is added to preworkout supplements. It is actually a clever little industry trick!

If you have used preworkout energy supplements, chances are high that you have ingested Beta-Alanine or already know about this ingredient.

Beta-Alanine is a key component of preworkouts and can be viewed as a God-sent ingredient for supplement companies.

The use of Beta-Alanine is actually a really clever little trick. More on that below!

Beta-Alanine 101

Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that is essential for the body to make the metabolite Carnosine.

Carnosine acts an acid buffer during high intensity exercise. What this means is that it mops up excess acidity that is produced during intense muscular contractions.  Examples of this kind of activity include a bout of sprint running or a bodybuilding exercise set.

Beta-Alanine one of the few nutritional ingredients on the market with a decent amount of data with regard to its effectiveness. 

Research done in humans show that Beta-Alanine enhances performance in high-intensity exercise.

Why is Beta-Alanine used in Preworkouts?

Beta-Alanine does not work acutely. It does not work the same way, say, like caffeine does, whereby the intended energetic effect is felt a little while after ingestion. 

Beta-Alanine takes a while to raise muscle carnosine levels which in turn produces the performance-enhancing effect. The latter comes from long-term (several weeks) daily usage in amounts (4-6g daily).

The required amount is typically higher than what is used in preworkouts (2-3g). So, to get a positive effect from Beta-Alanine supplementation one cannot rely on preworkouts.

Taking pure Beta-Alanine is necessary. 

In this regard, Beta-Alanine works a bit like Creatine, which builds up muscle phosphocreatine levels with regular daily usage.

Here is the supplement industry trick:

  • Beta-Alanine has a harmless side-effect called paraesthesia.
  • Paresthesia is the tingling feeling in the skin that is caused by stimulation of nerve endings. If you have used preworkouts you know what I am talking about.
  • This sensation gives the feeling of preworkout kicking in.
  • Coupled with the stimulatory effect of caffeine, paraesthesia contributes to an overall feeling of energy and readiness.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason why Beta-alanine is used in preworkouts.  

Of course, most companies in their marketing narrative on preworkout supplement labels will tell you beta-alanine boosts acid buffering capacity.

The problem I find with this are as follows:

Problem 1: You are led to believe that you will perceive the performance effects shortly after ingesting the preworkout, which isn’t true. Note: The same thing for Creatines, by the way (we have “preworkout Creatines” when in reality Creatine does not work immediately and thus timing doesn’t matter) but more on that in another article. 

Problem 2: It is almost never disclosed that the ergogenic effect comes with regular long-term usage (4-6g over several weeks) in amounts higher than what is typically used (2-3g) in the product.

How to supplement effectively?

Please read my article that’s coming up for full details.

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Medical disclaimer
The information presented on this website is intended for adults 18 or over. Its aim is purely educational and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a medical or health professional before you begin any program related to exercise, nutrition, or supplementation especially if you have a medical condition. If you consume any product mentioned on our site, you do so on your own free will, and you knowingly and voluntarily accept the risks.  © 2020. Veeraj Goyaram

About the author

Veeraj Goyaram, MSc Med (Exercise/ Nutr. Science)

My name is Veeraj Goyaram. I am a full time supplements guy and make my living in the world of nutritional supplements.

I am a nutritional product scientist by profession, meaning I create innovative nutritional supplements in the lab (food technology side) based on what I know about the human body and nutrients that affect it.

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1 Comment

  • Great article Vic. Underdosing is a big problem in the supplement industry and unfortunately most consumers do not research effective dosages of the ingredients. Rule of thumb – check and confirm ingerdients and amounts especially if the price is very low.

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