Does beta-alanine improve long distance running?ken
Beta-Alanine and Running
A limiting factor in prolonged exercise is muscular fatigue caused by an accumulation of hydrogen ions causing a pH drop. Beta-alanine can delay fatigue by increasing carnosine levels. This enhances the muscles’ ability to buffer this drop in pH.
Theoretically, beta-alanine should improve performance in several activities, especially high intensity or longer duration ones. Let’s take a look at what the research says!
What does the research say about beta-alanine’s ability to enhance long-distance running performance?
In one study, researchers looked at the effects of beta-alanine on runners’ time in a 10km (~6.2 miles) run. This study included 16 participants who were split into two groups: a supplement and placebo group. The supplement group took 5g of beta-alanine for 23 days1.
The results showed a significant improvement in the supplement group’s run time. After 23 days, they saw their average 10km run time improve by 6.7%. The placebo group did not see any increase or decrease in their performance. In addition to performance gains, the supplement group also saw a decrease in lactate concentrations. In contrast, the placebo group saw an increase1.
A further two studies tested beta-alanine on soldiers’ ability to perform various tasks, including a 4km and 2.5km run. Both studies provided six grams of beta-alanine per day. These studies did not see any increase in run times2,3.
Should you take beta-alanine to improve running?
The research on beta-alanine is somewhat limited in regards to how it improves long-distance running. The vast majority of studies are done on much shorter duration activities.
Still, in the first study highlighted above, there were significant improvements in 6 mile run times in those using the supplement. While the next two studies did not show any improvements, the participants in those studies were required to do sprints, casualty carries, marksmanship shooting, and other cognitive performance tests. This environment probably isn’t applicable for most runners.
Beta-Alanine Recommendation for Long-Distance Running
While the evidence here is mixed, beta-alanine should have a moderate effect on long-distance running; 5g per day should be sufficient for more runners.
- Santana, J. O., Freitas, M. C., Santos, D. M., Rossi, F. E., Lira, F. S., Rosa-Neto, J. C., & Caperuto, E. C. (2018). Beta-Alanine Supplementation Improved 10-km Running Time Trial in Physically Active Adults. Frontiers in Physiology, 9. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01105
- Hoffman, J. R., Landau, G., Stout, J. R., Hoffman, M. W., Shavit, N., Rosen, P., . . . Ostfeld, I. (2014). β-Alanine ingestion increases muscle carnosine content and combat specific performance in soldiers. Amino Acids, 47(3), 627-636. doi:10.1007/s00726-014-1896-7
- Hoffman, J. R., Landau, G., Stout, J. R., Dabora, M., Moran, D. S., Sharvit, N., . . . Ostfeld, I. (2014). β-alanine supplementation improves tactical performance but not cognitive function in combat soldiers. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1). doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-15/1550-2783-11-15