Beta-Alanine, Creatines nerdy little brother
I have lots of experience in the supplement industry. I managed a health food store for years, and as with anything I am involved in I was a passionate student. I took every opportunity to read about supplements, not just what the popular media said, but also research papers. I also took many different supplements to see how they worked on me.
There is a lot of hype and marketing bull that goes on in the supplement industry. It almost an advertising industry. If you have been in the game long enough you start to realize that everything happens in cycles. Some new product comes on the market promising amazing benefits. The real world usage doesn’t match what some shady study funded by the supplement company said would happen. It eventually fades off the market, only to be discovered a decade later and marketed as some fancy new supplement. Case in point Garcinia Cambodia (HCA) or Chromium Picolinate.
Creatine has gotten all the hype in recent years amongst athletes. It raises ATP levels in the muscle improving maximal strength as well as some great heart and neuroprotective benefits. Most athletes know this by now. The price of creatine has dropped so much over the past decades that any serious athlete should be adding this to their daily routine. Literally pennies a day. Just get the regular monohydrate, thats what the majority of the research is on.
The most researched supplement on the market is creatine. 1590 papers are on Pubmed showing research on creatine supplementation. Beta-Alanine has almost 300 studies. Thats a lot of research papers, but you have probably never heard of it.
Beta-Alanine is like Creatines nerdy little brother. Creatine has gotten all the media attention, but beta-alanine has slowly been gaining popularity as more and more research is being done on it. The results are excellent, and it also works synergistically with Creatine. So it is more like 1+1=3.
Some basic science. Beta-Alanine is a beta form of the amino acid L-Alanine. This makes it not act like a regular amino acid but increases carnosine levels in the muscle. What this does is allow you to buffer the acidity of your muscles during exercise. This is the point in a workout where your muscle start feeling like lead. Beta-Alanine delays that feeling. So you can perform a few more reps before you start to slow down. Beta-Alanine is basically an amino acid that has been shown to increase work capacity at high intensities. Read that last sentence again. Something sound familiar? Isn’t CrossFit all about increasing work capacity at high intensity?
I was given a tub of Beta-Alanine from Blonyx to review. This came at a perfect time. I had just finished my annual rest. 12 weeks of fundamental training, eating like a king, and taking zero supplements. Its an annual thing I do to just de-load my body.
I started to lean out as I started the Beta-Alanine. I had started at 218 and at the end of the month I was at 196. This was mostly due to an increase in training volume and mostly just now watching what I was putting in my mouth. Do not use that as a reason to start taking the supplement. I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with weight loss. So my bodyweight dropped during the trial, most likely my maximal strength had as well. Luckily I often train with current bodyweight, or a multiplier of it, for the weights I choose to use. This means that despite a large weight change, I still had a reliable way to measure my results, my relative strength to my current bodyweight.
I did the same benchmark workout at the start and the end of the trial. It was a fun strongman style workout testing and taxing the entire body.
30 minute AMRAP
5 squat cleans at bodyweight
50’ farmers carry with bodyweight per hand
5 squat cleans at bodyweight
50’ yoke at 3x bodyweight.
First time i did this I barely got 4 rounds and I actually was about 50 pounds too light on the yoke as I was having some real trouble walking anything over 600 pounds. Second time around at a lighter bodyweight I got 5 round and 3 cleans. That is a very large increase in work capacity in 4 weeks. Sure I didn’t move as much weight, but relative to my bodyweight I was able to get a lot more work done. I’m very happy with those results.
Ladies as a side note, women have been shown to have higher levels of the enzyme that breaks down carnosine in the muscles. This means that women typically have much lower levels, all the better reason to add some Beta Alanine to your diet.
One warming, Beta-Alanine causes a temporary flushing (paresthesia) to your face. It doesn’t last long. But its not just redness. It makes your face feel comfortable itchy. What does comfortable itchy mean, imagine sweating it out for hours outside in winter wearing a tuque. When you come in from the cold, you remove the tuque, and it feel so good to rub your head. Same feeling, but on your face.
Rarely does a supplement come along that will stick around with a proven track record. Creatine Monohydrate is one of them. It increases muscle ATP and maximal power (basically the workouts under 60 seconds), think sprints of max lifting. Beta-Alanine helps the slightly longer workouts, think of the feeling in your body the final rounds of Fran, Beta-Alanine allows a couple more reps before this sets in. Both are cheap and widely available. Before you go adding BCAA or pre-workouts to your supplement list, have Creatine and Beta-Alanine on their first. The next two supplements are great to add if you want to spend the money on them. HMB, helps muscle recovery. Blonyx also makes a great Creatine+HMB product. Lastly, Microlactin, this is hard to find as its not very well known on the market, but it works great for longer workouts and reducing muscle damage. I won’t go into detail on them, I will save that for another time.
If you are interested in ordering from blonyx, use the code Bytownblonyx to get a discount.
Yours in health