Does Beta-Alanine Work? (Benefits, Side Effects, and Everything Between)

Beta-alanine: with a name like that ("beta" sounds like "better", no?), you'd expect it to have loads of strength training benefits. But does it?

Does Beta-Alanine Work? (Benefits, Side Effects, and Everything Between)

You know how in TV shows, there are always “filler” episodes that don’t contribute to the show’s plot but are just … there? To take up space? 

The whole filler-episode-in-a-TV show is a great analogy for beta-alanine’s role in pre-workouts.

At least when you strength train with optimal muscle growth in mind. 

Continue reading to learn why we have such a negative (but entirely justified!) outlook on beta-alanine.

What does beta-alanine do?

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. 

Your body binds it with L-histidine, an essential amino acid, to form carnosine. 

Which is … what, exactly? And why is it important? To answer those questions, we’ll first need to understand how your body produces ATP or energy during high-intensity exercise* lasting roughly 10 to 90 seconds. 

*The keywords here are “high-intensity exercise”.

Keep this in mind. 

So. During high-intensity exercise, your body must rely on the anaerobic lactic energy system for ATP replenishment.

This process converts muscle glycogen (i.e., stored glucose) into energy — but also generates 2 “problematic” by-products:

  1. Lactate
  2. Hydrogen ions

As both lactate and hydrogen ions have low pH values, their accumulation in the muscles over time creates an “acidic” environment that results in: 

Muscle pain

… which makes it difficult for you to keep exercising at this intensity. 

Unless! There’s a way to neutralize all that acidity in your muscles? *lifts eyebrow* OK, OK, there is indeed a way, and you probably saw this coming a mile away, but it starts with “C”. 


As it turns out, this one-part-beta-alanine, one-part-L-histidine compound can directly react with protons (such as hydrogen ions) to lessen reductions in pH during high-intensity exercise, delaying fatigue.

Uh. Wait. So, let’s get this right:

  • Beta-alanine increases intramuscular carnosine levels, which
  • Delays the creation of acidic conditions that compromise the muscle contraction process
The result is improved endurance: so, why did we pooh-pooh beta-alanine’s usefulness in the introduction?