Just Say "No" to Beta Alanine in Pre Workouts
I love pre workouts.
They’re one of my favorite supplements to test and formulate.
I love the surge of energy they give as well as the boost in mood and focus they provide.
I also enjoy their vast array of flavors pre workouts come in (except blue razz...the abhorrence I feel for this flavor cannot be fully elucidated by any amount of words, gestures, or expressions).
And yet, for all the reasons I enjoy pre workouts let me tell you one thing I don’t love about today’s pre workouts -- beta alanine.
And the reason I despise seeing beta alanine in pre workouts isn’t what you’re probably thinking. I have no issue with the paresthesia (“the tingles”) brought on by high doses of beta alanine.
Hell, I don’t even get the tingles anymore and haven’t for several years now. And, it’s not that I have anything against the science or theory of beta alanine.
It’s been shown in several studies to enhance athletic performance and endurance across a wide spectrum of sports, including:
- American (real) Football
So, my gripe with beta alanine isn’t with its tingles or scientific evidence. It works and may help athletes last just a bit longer in the gym or on the field of competition.
The reason that I despise seeing beta alanine in pre workouts is that it really serves no true purpose in there at all for two big reasons:
First, it has no acute ergogenic effects, and thus, confers no immediate benefits.
You see, in my mind (and the attitude I take when consulting on formulations), is that a pre workout should only contain ingredients that have a direct impact and provide an immediate benefit in the forthcoming training session.
Ingredients like caffeine and citrulline have acute effects and are capable of improving your performance in the training session immediately following your hit of pre workout (provided they are dosed correctly).
Saturation-based ingredients, like beta alanine, do not.
Therefore, a pre workout is not the place for saturation-based ingredients that require weeks and weeks of daily supplementation in order to derive benefit. That means ingredients like creatine, PeakO2, and, of course, beta alanine really have no purpose in a pre workout (in my humble opinion).
Furthermore, saturation-based ingredients only work if you take them everyday.
In order to reach the saturation point of beta alanine (179g), you would need to consume 3.2 grams per day everyday for 56 days (7 weeks) before your muscles fully realize the enhanced acidic ion buffering capability.
FYI, you could also take 6.4 grams per day (split across multiple doses) for 28 days to hit this sooner.
Unfortunately, most people don’t use pre workout every day of the week, and still others only use pre workout for certain workouts (i.e. squats and deads).
Therefore, relying on your pre workout to serve as your daily beta alanine supplement simply doesn’t make sense.
But, I’m not done yet with why beta alanine doesn’t need to be in pre workouts…
The majority of people who use pre workouts are those that lift weights to build muscle and improve body composition.
Beta alanine really doesn’t serve much purpose for people who are performing the typical 3x10 workouts with 90-120 seconds of rest between sets because in order to really derive benefit from beta alanine’s endurance-boosting effects, you need to be exercising for greater than 60 seconds.
Since the average resistance-training set lasts 30-45 seconds, beta alanine really isn’t going to do a whole lot of good for those performing a moderate number of repetitions with long recovery periods.
So, this begs the question why are companies putting in pre workouts if you’re not really getting any actual performance benefits from it?
Supplement companies toss 2-3 grams of beta alanine into pre workouts to enhance the “sensory” experience of the pre workout.
In other words, they’re doing it to make the consumer think the product is “intense” and “hard hitting” and nothing else.
Don’t be fooled by this cheap trick.
Pre workouts should be geared to enhancing your athletic performance, not to make your face all itchy or give you a “buzz” like crystal meth.
Again, I don’t have anything against beta alanine. It has a time and place, and may benefit certain athletic populations.
But, it serves no purpose in pre workouts for the consumer.
Unless you’re taking multiple doses of pre workout everyday, you will likely never reach saturation, and subsequently never get the benefits of a quality ergogenic.
If you want to supplement with beta alanine go ahead, but there is no need for it to be in pre workout supplements.
- Baguet, Audrey, et al. "Important role of muscle carnosine in rowing performance." Journal of Applied Physiology 109.4 (2010): 1096-1101.
- Hoffman, Jay R., et al. "Short-duration β-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players." Nutrition research 28.1 (2008): 31-35.
- Kresta, Julie Y., et al. "Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine supplementation on muscle carnosine, body composition and exercise performance in recreationally active females." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11.1 (2014): 1.
- Hobson, Ruth M., et al. "Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis." Amino acids 43.1 (2012): 25-37.
- Quesnele, Jairus J., et al. "The effects of beta-alanine supplementation on performance: a systematic review of the literature." Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 24.1 (2014): 14-27.
- Rosas F, Ramírez-Campillo R, Martínez C, et al. Effects of Plyometric Training and Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Maximal-Intensity Exercise and Endurance in Female Soccer Players. J Hum Kinet. 2017;58:99–109. Published 2017 Aug 1. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-007