What is ZMA and what are its benefits for muscle growth?
ZMA is a combination of essential vitamins and minerals for those who want to improve their physical performance. Find here why you should try it!
Beta-alanine is a popular ergogenic aid for sports performance that is widely used as a pre-workout supplement. It has shown to provide beneficial effects for athletes and athletic individuals who want to prevent muscle fatigue and get the most out of their workout, especially from their high-intensity, anaerobic training. This means being able to lift more weight, do more repetitions and sprint for longer before reaching exhaustion.
Beta-alanine, also known as 3-aminopropanoic acid, is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid. Your body can synthesize it, or you can obtain it through dietary sources such as protein-rich foods: poultry, beef, pork, and fish. An effective way to improve your beta-alanine intake is through direct supplementation.
Beta-alanine is classified as a non-proteinogenic amino acid, which means it does not serve to produce proteins. Instead, it takes part in other metabolic processes. It is a precursor of the dipeptide carnosine, along with L-histidine. Beta-alanine availability is the rate-limiting step for carnosine synthesis, i.e., when your body runs out of beta-alanine, it can no longer produce carnosine.
Beta-alanine indirectly enhances muscle performance by boosting carnosine synthesis. Carnosine plays a significant role in muscle performance, as it controls the acidity levels within the cells.
During high-intensity physical activity, the process of anaerobic glycolysis is the primary energy source. This results in the formation of lactic acid, which is immediately split into lactate and hydrogen ions (H+). As exercise progresses, the H+ produced from the lactic acid breakdown surpass the intracellular buffering capacity, causing the pH of the muscle to drop and, consequently, leading to acidosis. This process happens whether you feel a burn or not. Acidosis negatively affects muscle performance by reducing force production and inhibiting excitation-contraction coupling — the processes that support continued high-intensity output. Ultimately, acidosis contributes to muscle fatigue.
Carnosine acts as a buffering agent that neutralizes this acidic environment within the muscles. By restoring normal muscle pH, carnosine helps delay the onset of muscle fatigue. Therefore, higher muscle carnosine concentrations result in increased intracellular buffering capacity, and therefore in better defense against muscle fatigue and reduced physical performance.
Confronted with the benefits of carnosine, you may be wondering why not take it directly instead of going for a beta-alanine supplement.
It wouldn’t be, however, as effective as beta-alanine to boost carnosine levels. And it would take more time and energy to obtain the same output.
When you ingest carnosine intact, most of it is broken down in the gastrointestinal tract into its two constituents amino acids, beta-alanine, and L-histidine. These two amino acids are taken into the muscles and then converted back into carnosine. However, as the availability of beta-alanine is the rate-limiting step to carnosine synthesis, the main advantage of consuming intact carnosine is the beta-alanine itself, which is released during hydrolysis. So, if you want to elevate your carnosine levels efficiently — while minimizing energy waste — you should take beta-alanine supplements.
Beta-alanine and creatine form one of the most preferred stacks among athletes. This combination improves overall physical performance: on the one hand, beta-alanine helps prevent muscle fatigue and boosts muscle performance; on the other hand, creatine enhances muscle strength and power.