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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.



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 [R].

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 [R].

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 [R, R].

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


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

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 [R, R, R].

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

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

Health Benefits of Beta-alanine

1) Beta-alanine 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 [R, R].

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) [R].

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

For instance, a 6-week study (DB-RCT) 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 [R].

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

However, other studies (DB-RCT) have shown that beta-alanine does not improve repetitive sprint performance in athletes who took 6g/day [R, R, R].

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 [R].

Beta-alanine 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) [R].

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

Another 30-day study (DB-RCT) 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 [R].

2) Beta-alanine Increases Muscle Mass

In a 3-week study (DB-RCT) 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 [R].

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

3) Beta-Alanine May Delay Fatigue and Reduce Lactic Acid in Muscles

Beta-alanine delays fatigue and exhaustion [R, R, R].

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

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

In a 4-week study (DB-RCT) of 14 male students, beta-alanine reduced muscle acid during high-intensity cycling [R].

Beta-alanine also reduced fatigue in two studies (DB-RCTs) of 15 trained sprinters and 51 non-athletic men [R, R].

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

4) Beta-alanine 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 [R, R, R].

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

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

5) Beta-alanine May Improve Cognitive Function While Under Stress

In a 30-day study (DB-RCT) of 18 elite soldiers, beta-alanine improved cognitive function during combat practice [R].

However, in other studies (DB-RCT) of 20 elite soldiers and 19 athletes, the subjects did not have improved brain function under both stressful and normal conditions [R, R].

6) Beta-alanine 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 [R].

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

7) Beta-alanine May Fight Aging

Beta-alanine may benefit the elderly. 18 elderly patients experienced improved exercise capacity after taking beta-alanine for 3 months in a DB-RCT [R].

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

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 [R, R, R, R].

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

8) Beta-alanine May Help In Brain Injury

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

Health Risks of High Beta-alanine Levels

1) Beta-alanine 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 [R].

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

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) [R, R].

2) Elevated Beta-alanine Causes 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 [R].

3) Elevated Beta-alanine 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 [R].

Side Effects

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 [R].

Reduce tingling by [R, R]:

  • 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 [R].

However, some users report flushing/hot flashes.

Health Risks of Low Beta-alanine Levels

Decreased Beta-Alanine May Contribute to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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

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 small subset of the 33 chronic fatigue syndrome patients [R].

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

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

  • 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)

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 [R].

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

  • 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 [R].

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.


Sources of beta-alanine include [R]:

  • 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 (3.2-6.4g/day) taken for at least a month [R].

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 [R].

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

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 [R].

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 [R, R].

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 [R].

Interactions with Other Supplements

1) Beta-alanine and Creatine

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

2) Beta-alanine and Sodium Bicarbonate

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

3) Beta-alanine and Taurine

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

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

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

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

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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  • Vince

    The one thing that worries me is that there are so many different supplements, powders and the like on the market right now. Each new one offers a range of potential benefits and likewise comes with risks. The challenge is that the risks add up much faster than people realize and the implications for health can be dramatic.

  • Alan Newman

    I have read online skin itch and in particular jock itch can be quite an embarrassing side effect of beta alanine. Is there a suitable fix for the itch. Now we know the reason so many guys do that – high beta alanine levels
    Many Thanks

    1. Helen

      Hi Alan, we can’t recommend any drugs or supplements. You can check our other posts on natural supplements and herbs, or through this search term and consult a doctor for their opinions.

  • Alan Newman

    Thank you so much. This seems to be a major solution to my health problems

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