Beta-alanine is a popular amino acid supplement used to enhance exercise and athletic performance. It improves heart fitness and reduces muscle fatigue and acid build-up. Read ahead to learn how beta-alanine may improve your health as what are the risks associated with its use.

What is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine (β-Alanine) is an amino acid naturally found in muscles and the brain. Together with histidine, it forms carnosine, which helps reduce acid build-up during exercise. Despite mixed evidence of success, it is sold as a performance-enhancing supplement under names like Carnosyn and its slow release version, SR CarnoSyn [1].

Beta-alanine is most effective during anaerobic exercise (intense and exhaustive exercise that causes lactic acid to accumulate in the muscles), such as high-intensity interval training or sprinting. Most notably, it delays fatigue during repeated bouts of intense exercise with short recovery periods [1].

Women and vegetarians have lower amounts of muscle carnosine than men and meat-eaters, respectively. Furthermore, body carnosine naturally decreases with age. These groups may particularly benefit from beta-alanine supplementation [2, 3].

The only confirmed side effect is tingling. However, lower or time-released doses can reduce this effect [4].


Beta-alanine is an amino acid formed in the liver or by gut microbes [5, 4].

It binds to histidine in muscles and the brain to form carnosine. Beta-alanine increases carnosine in muscles and the brain, and helps muscles resist acid build-up [4, 6, 7].

It also acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and a neuromodulator. For instance, beta-alanine inhibits the uptake of the amino acid taurine in cells; this can cause oxidative stress, cell damage, and respiratory problems [8, 9].

Furthermore, beta-alanine is a competitive GABA antagonist (blocker) that also inhibits nerve cell activity [10].

Health Benefits of Beta-alanine

1) May Improve Athletic Performance

In two meta-analyses of 18,000 people, beta-alanine improved exercise power and capacity, but not performance. Beta-alanine was most effective for exercise lasting 30 seconds to 10 minutes [11, 12].

Success varied due to the athletic condition of the subjects, and the type of exercise or sport tested. For instance, beta-alanine improves short-lasting and high-intensity exercise (anaerobic exercise, lasting 1 to 4 min) [11].

Furthermore, beta-alanine improves resistance training volume and performance for athletes who play in team sports, which may improve game performance [13].

For instance, a 6-week study of 15 male water polo players showed improved throwing speed during a repetitive sprint and 200 m swimming performance after taking 6.4 g of beta-alanine daily [14].

In another study of 25 female soccer players, beta-alanine improved repeated sprinting, jumping, and endurance. Notably, a study of 20 combat soldiers saw similar jumping results [15, 16].

However, other studies have shown that beta-alanine does not improve repetitive sprint performance in athletes who took 6g/day [17, 18, 19].

Overall, however, trends suggest that non-athletes benefit from beta-alanine during lab-based, but not in field tests. Furthermore, athletes show some improvement in both athletic performance and high-intensity training. In team sports, beta-alanine improves resistance training performance and volume [13].

Improves Military Combat

A review showed that beta-alanine improves soldiers’ performance, especially during short bursts of high-intensity combat (lasting 1 to 5 minutes) [20].

In a 4-week study of 20 elite combat soldiers, beta-alanine improved jumping power, shooting speed, and marksmanship [16].

Another 30-day study of 18 elite combat soldiers showed mixed improvements. Beta-alanine improved speed during a 50-m casualty carry exercise and increased cognitive performance while under stress. However, it did not improve running, sprinting, or marksmanship [21].

2) Increases Muscle Mass

In a 3-week study of 46 men undergoing high-intensity interval training, beta-alanine increased oxygen intake and ventilatory threshold (the point during exercise when oxygen use exceeds oxygen intake), endurance, stamina, and lean body mass [22].

In a similar 8-week study of 44 women, beta-alanine decreased body fat and increased fat-free mass and overall body mass [23].

3) May Delay Fatigue and Reduce Lactic Acid in Muscles

Beta-alanine delays fatigue and exhaustion [24, 21, 25].

A meta-analysis of 360 people showed that beta-alanine improved high-intensity exercise that lasts more than a minute [11].

A review on the subject found that beta-alanine reduced acid build-up during a high-intensity anaerobic performance, which delayed fatigue [26].

In a 4-week study of 14 male students, beta-alanine reduced muscle acid during high-intensity cycling [27].

Beta-alanine also reduced fatigue in two studies of 15 trained sprinters and 51 non-athletic men [25, 28].

However, individual improvement widely varies. For instance, in a 5-week sprint study of 11 men, beta-alanine neither improved performance nor reduced fatigue [29].

4) May Lower Anxiety and Improve PTSD

Beta-alanine boosts carnosine and serotonin in the brain. Carnosine reduced anxiety in rodents. It increases the anti-anxiety molecule brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is lower in rodents with PTSD. Beta-alanine may reduce anxiety by maintaining a normal concentration of this molecule [30, 31, 32].

Beta-alanine may also decrease PTSD-like behavior. In rats, beta-alanine improved PTSD behavior and maintained normal levels of BDNF [30].

However, a similar rodent study did not show behavioral improvement [7].

5) May Improve Cognitive Function While Under Stress

In a 30-day study of 18 elite soldiers, beta-alanine improved cognitive function during combat practice [21].

However, in other studies of 20 elite soldiers and 19 athletes, the subjects did not have improved brain function under both stressful and normal conditions [16, 33].

6) May Be Anti-Tumor

In breast cancer cells (MCF-7), beta-alanine reduced tumor function and aggressiveness. It also helped the chemotherapeutic doxorubicin (Dox) fight tumors [34].

In colon and rectal tumor cells, beta-alanine reduced tumor cell growth [35].

7) May Fight Aging

Beta-alanine may benefit the elderly. 18 elderly patients experienced improved exercise capacity after taking beta-alanine for 3 months in one study [3].

It also enhanced leg muscle function in old mice [36].

Beta-alanine forms the molecule carnosine in muscles. Carnosine reduced aging-related stress (glycoxidant stress) in old rats. This stress damages cells and increases the risk of age-related chronic disease [37, 6, 38, 39].

In old mice, beta-alanine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) increased lifespan [40].

8) May Help In Brain Injury

In rodents, beta-alanine reduced behavioral changes from mild traumatic brain injury [7].

Side Effects & Precautions

High Beta-alanine Levels

High doses (> 800 mg) of beta-alanine can cause tingles (paresthesia) or itching. It causes itching by binding and activating MRGPRD, a G-protein-coupled receptor found in the skin’s sensory neurons [41].

Reduce tingling by [42, 43]:

  • Taking doses under 800 mg
  • Taking slow-release doses (sustained-release doses), which slowly release beta-alanine over time

Other side effects have not been well researched [24].

However, some users report flushing/hot flashes.

Health Risks

1) May Cause Oxidative Stress

A study on hyper-beta-alaninemia (high beta-alanine levels) in rat cells found that beta-alanine increased free radicals decreased oxygen intake, and triggered mitochondrial death. This reduced cell energy production and caused oxidative stress, which can lead to heart failure [8].

In rats, chronic beta-alanine supplementation increased reactive oxygen species in the brain (cerebral cortex and cerebellum) and decreased antioxidant activity [10].

However, the molecular byproduct of beta-alanine, carnosine, actually functions as an antioxidant that protects against Parkinson’s disease in rats. In rat brains, it inhibits programmed brain cell death, increases antioxidants, and decreases reactive oxygen species (ROS) [44, 37].

2) Hyper-beta-alanemia

Hyper-beta-alaninemia is a rare disease that increases levels of beta-alanine. It causes brain damage, decreased muscle tone, and breathing problems. People with this condition should not take beta-alanine [8].

3) May Contribute to GABA-Transaminase Deficiency

GABA-transaminase deficiency is a seizure disorder (epileptic encephalopathy) that also causes accelerated growth in babies. It is associated with increased beta-alanine in the spine, and it is possible that GABA-transaminase deficiency and hyper-beta-alaninemia are variants of the same disorder [45].

Low Beta-alanine Levels

Health Risks

May Contribute to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

During chronic fatigue syndrome, the body releases beta-alanine into the urine [46].

In a study of 76 people, four people with chronic fatigue syndrome released higher levels of beta-alanine through their urine. However, they represented only by a small subset of the 33 chronic fatigue syndrome patients [47].

Yet another study of 65 people found more significant results; chronic fatigue syndrome patients released significantly more beta-alanine in their urine [46].

Additionally, higher beta-alanine levels in the urine were linked with [46]:

  • Higher symptom incidence
  • Increased symptom severity
  • Chronic fatigue symptoms (nausea, muscle weakness, dizziness, headache, tingling, and eye discomfort due to light)
  • Physical symptoms of psychiatric disorders (Symptom Checklist-90-R (SCL-90-R) somatization)

Interactions with Other Supplements

1) Beta-alanine and Creatine

In a 10-week study of 33 male college football players, combined supplements increased lean body mass and decreased body fat more than creatine supplements alone [48].

2) Beta-alanine and Sodium Bicarbonate

In a 4-week study of 37 athletes, combined supplements improved performance, perceived exertion, and the total amount of exercise work done [49].

3) Beta-alanine and Taurine

High concentrations of beta-alanine decreased taurine levels in rats [10].

However, the recommended dose for a beta-alanine supplement is too low to cause taurine depletion [50].

For example, a study of 13 males found that 10 weeks of beta-alanine supplementation did not decrease taurine levels [51].

Taurine supplementation offsets depleted taurine caused by beta-alanine. The combined use of beta-alanine and taurine supplements helped mice fight muscle fatigue [52].



Sources of beta-alanine include [53]:

  • Protein-rich food such as meat and fish
  • Dietary Supplements


Dosage and timing affect beta-alanine supplementation outcomes. Beta-alanine induced exercise improvements with higher doses (3.2-6.4 g/day) taken for at least a month [12].

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends 4 to 6 grams/day for at least 4 weeks. They divide the doses or use sustained-release supplements to reduce tingling [54].

A higher dose of 12 g/day (sustained-release) is also safe and effective [55].

Importantly, in a survey of 167 rugby players and 303 football players who used beta-alanine, most of them did not follow supplement recommendations, which may potentially be unsafe [56].

Beta-alanine vs. L-alanine

L-alanine is the most common form of alpha-alanine, a nonessential amino acid found in the body. Beta-alanine and L-alanine have the same molecular formula (C3H7NO2). L-alanine helps break down sugar and acid and is a source of energy in the body. It also supports the immune system and protein formation [57, 58].

While beta-alanine increases muscle and brain carnosine, l-alanine increases blood sugar. L-alanine may be used to prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in type 1 diabetes [59].

Limitations and Caveats

Overall, although beta-alanine supplementation has some positive effect on high-intensity, anaerobic exercise, it has little impact on aerobic exercise performance [13].

Gender, age, diet, and physical composition may influence beta-alanine’s effect on performance. Groups most likely to benefit from beta-alanine include [43]:

  • Women
  • The elderly
  • Vegetarians
  • People with high amounts of Type I muscle fibers/low amounts of Type II muscle fibers

There is limited information on how beta-alanine impacts long-term training. Furthermore, the only confirmed side effect is tingling. Additional research should focus on identifying any other side-effects [13].

Also, some health effects are only seen in animal or cell studies. Take caution when using beta-alanine for its purported health benefits.

Do not take beta-alanine supplements if you have hyper-beta-alaninemia or GABA-transaminase deficiency.

User Reviews

A man reported that beta-alanine delayed muscle fatigue and improved his routine. He used it every day and experienced tingling and stomach issues.

A woman said that beta-alanine benefited her middle-aged husband, who was active military. A low dose was sufficient to reduce his fatigue.

Additionally, a middle-aged man said that beta-alanine reduced muscle pain and improved performance. He also experienced hot flashes.

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