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Ranking the best beta-alanine supplements of 2021

Written by Laura Magnifico

Last updated: November 26, 2020

Beta alanine is an amino acid that you can take in supplement form to substantially improve your workout performance, especially in short, high-intensity anaerobic efforts like HIIT training.

If you want to take your workout intensity and your overall athletic performance, (often mixed with a pre-workout), beta alanine is a good place to start.

Here are the top beta alanine supplements on the market, plus detailed info on how to properly use beta alanine for peak performance.

Rankings

1. Transparent Labs Beta Alanine

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Transparent Labs gets the nod here for keeping it simple: pure beta alanine powder without any artificial coloring, no artificial coloring, and no preservatives.

Just mix one scoop (3,000 mg) 15-30 minutes before your workouts for optimal endurance and repetitions in your next workout.

2. BulkSupplements Pure Beta Alanine

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When it comes to cheap and pure supplement ingredients, BulkSupplements is the undisputable king. Their half-kilo (500g) beta alanine supplement is about as minimalist as it can get–it’s tested for purity and quality, and comes in a plain white bag.

All the measuring and blending happens on your end, which is great from a customization perspective, but can be a pain if you don’t have a high-quality scale. For DIYers, there is no better choice, but if you want something simple, get a supplement that comes in a pill.

3. NOW Sports Beta Alanine

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If all you want is a beta alanine supplement you can take before your workout, without having to hassle with scoops and scales and other ingredients, look no further than NOW Sports.

Each gelatin capsule (sorry, vegans) contains 750 mg of beta alanine and only a minimal amount of binders and stabilizing agents.

4. Optimum Nutrition Beta Alanine

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Optimum Nutrition provides a nice middle ground between the ultra-minimal beta alanine supplements that are nothing but pure powder in a bag and a hyper-processed pre-workout supplement.

Optimum Nutrition provides a tub full of beta alanine, mixed with a few micronutrients and L-histidine to help keep your workout performance at its prime.

5. Micro Ingredients Muscle Up Pure Beta Alanine

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As another beta alanine supplement that comes in loose powder form, the obvious comparison is to BulkSupplements.

While they are pretty comparable in most respects, the scales tip towards BulkSupplements, simply because that company has a more established record of quality and purity in their supplements. Micro Ingredients is still a fine choice, though.

6. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout

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Though there are a lot of ingredients in Optimum Nutrition’s pre-workout blend, beta alanine is the cornerstone ingredient.

Each scoop provides a hefty 1.5 grams of beta alanine, alongside B vitamins, caffeine, amino acids, and creatine. These work together to provide a robust performance-enhancing effect in your workout.

7. Cellucor C4

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This pre-workout blend features beta alanine in a central role, but it’s not the only active ingredient. It’s a great choice if you want beta alanine to work synergistically to boost your workout performance, because it contains an array of B vitamins, creatine nitrate, and caffeine.

8. BSN N.O.-XPLODE

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This one’s another in the category of pre-workout blends that incorporate beta alanine’s performance-enhancing properties as a central part of the supplement’s benefits.

However, N.O.-XPLODE has so many ingredients with so many different effects that it drifts towards “kitchen sink” territory. Plenty of people still swear by its results, but it’s not clear if all of the ingredients serve a cohesive purpose.

9. Primaforce Beta Alanine

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Primaforce offers a loose powder form of beta alanine, but it doesn’t rank as highly because you only get 200 grams per container.

The quality is good; beta alanine is literally the only ingredient and it’s manufactured in the United States, but if you are going to get bulk powder, in most cases you’d probably want to opt for a 500 gram option.

10. ProLab Beta Alanine Extreme

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ProLab makes a capsule-based beta alanine supplement which looks pretty convenient, but it doesn’t live up to expectations in terms of dosage.

Each capsule only contains 400 mg of beta alanine, which is barely more than half what you can get from other brands.

Category winners

Best beta alanine overall: Transparent Labs Beta Alanine

Transparent Labs Beta Alanine is ultra-pure and easy to use, thanks to the mess-free plastic container. Dosing is easy with the included plastic scoop, making it the simplest and best overall beta alanine supplement on the market. 

Best beta alanine for weight lifters:  BulkSupplements Pure Beta Alanine

On account of their higher overall muscle mass, weight lifters may need higher doses of beta alanine, or may need a longer or more aggressive “loading period.” To this end, the hefty 500 gram supply of beta alanine from BulkSupplements is a great pick for serious weight lifters.

Best beta alanine for running and sprinting: Optimum Nutrition Beta Alanine

Optimum Nutrition Beta Alanine is perfect for intense running and sprinting, thanks to its combination of beta alanine and L-histidine, which both improve your body’s ability to buffer lactate during maximum-effort exercise. 

Best beta alanine for weight loss: Transparent Labs Beta Alanine

For weight loss, beta alanine is best used to fuel you up for high-intensity workout sessions. To that end, you want to keep things simple—that’s why Transparent Labs comes out on top. 

Best beta alanine in pill form: Now Sports Beta Alanine

If you don’t want to deal with the mess of mixing up powder, or if you hate the mild but unusual taste of beta alanine, Now Sports is your best option. At 750 mg per capsule, the dosage is remarkably good for a pill-form beta alanine supplement. 

Best beta alanine for women: Micro Ingredients Beta Alanine

Women tend to be more susceptible to negative side effects from ingredients found in combined pre-workout / beta-alanine supplements, which is why we recommend Micro Ingredients Beta Alanine for women. It’s free from extra ingredients, and the powder form allows you to choose the right dose for your body size.

Who should buy beta alanine?

Beta alanine is a supplement that’s specifically for athletes who are looking for improved anaerobic performance. Beta alanine supports your body’s ability to buffer the acidity generated during short, intense activities like sprinting or weight lifting.

The result? You can produce more power, for longer, when you work out. As a result, beta alanine is quite popular among high-level competitors in sports ranging from football to weight lifting to track and field.

New research is also showing that beta alanine’s benefits aren’t just for high level athletes. Older adults, both men and women, can benefit substantially from beta alanine supplementation, so if you are doing intense workouts like HIIT training as part of your usual fitness regimen, you can substantially increase your fitness (and the resulting health benefits) by taking a beta alanine supplement on a regular basis.

If anything, less-fit and older adults might benefit more, simply because their muscle carnosine content is likely to be far lower than that of a high level athlete in training.

How we ranked

Beta alanine is available in supplemental form on its own, as well as a part of pre-workout supplements with additional, potentially beneficial ingredients.

When formulating our rankings, we included both of these categories of beta alanine supplements, and applied slightly different inclusion criteria to each—people in the market for a pure beta alanine supplement are looking for slightly different things than people looking for a combined pre-workout solution that still provides a sufficient amount of beta alanine.

Among the supplements whose sole active ingredient was beta alanine, we put a very high premium on purity. Here, powder-based beta alanine supplements easily won out, because all of the pill-based beta alanine supplements currently on the market, like Now Sports Beta Alanine Endurance and GNC Pro Performance Beta Alanine, had far too many unnecessary fillers and extras.

GNC, for example, crowds out the beta alanine with cellulose, caramel color, titanium dioxide, and vegetable acetoglycerides; Now Sports relies on rice flour, stearic acid, and ascorbyl palmitate to hold their capsules together. Products like this just couldn’t compete with products like Transparent Labs Beta Alanine, which has exactly one ingredient: beta alanine.

Capsule-based supplements also suffered from a serious dosage problem; with only 500 to 750 mg of beta alanine per capsule, you’d need to gulp down a tremendous amount of pills to get to the recommended three to five grams of beta alanine per day.

We ranked the remaining powder-based pure beta alanine supplements on factors like good manufacturing processes, reliance on external and independent laboratories for verification.

Within the combined pre-workout supplements, we first made sure that a given dosage would supply enough beta alanine to make taking the supplement worth it.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout is a great example of a product that exemplifies this principle; even though it contains solid extras like caffeine, B vitamins, and amino acids, it still provides 1.5 grams of beta alanine per serving. On the other hand, products like RedLeaf Pre-Workout Energizer didn’t make the cut. It’s less than 20% beta alanine by weight, which makes it just too difficult to properly load up on beta alanine without overloading on other ingredients.

With these multi-ingredient beta alanine supplements, the inclusion of artificial flavoring and coloring agents was another obstacle that resulted in many products not making the final rankings. While we didn’t totally exclude artificially colored and flavored products, we tipped the scales towards those with at least some natural flavoring and coloring agents.

The final rankings are a combination of the best pure beta alanine supplements and the best multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements that include enough beta alanine to obtain the research-backed benefits. The pure beta alanine supplements mostly came out on top, because they’ve got the most research backing their benefits.

Benefits

Beta alanine helps increase carnosine levels. Beta-alanine, also known carnosine precursor, is a type of non-essential amino acid that gets converted into a molecule called carnosine. Carnosine then acts as a buffer acid into the muscles that helps increase stamina, muscle development and physical performance in the range of 60 to 240 seconds.

Carnosine is basically stored in the cells and it is released when the PH level drops in the body.  It acts to counter the rising acidity in your muscles during high intensity exercise, and as such you can improve your performance by boosting the concentration of beta alanine inside your muscle fibers.

It’s hard to get beta alanine from your diet. Beta-alanine is not so easily consumed in the diet that we eat regularly like chicken, whey, fish or beef. Therefore, beta-alanine supplementation is required. As it improves physical performance, this supplement can be quite helpful for those for those who engage in endurance exercise and train for long hours in the gym.

The carnosine molecule that beta-alanine converts into buffer H+ ions help slow down the aging process. This effect is backed by various research studies and scientific works. According to studies, carnosine from beta-alanine acts like resveratrol.  This molecule is known to protect the heart and improve blood flow in the body. Also, it has been observed that muscle carnosine concentration drops up to 45 percent during the aging process ‎(1, ‎2) . This suggests that increasing carnosine stores in the body can slow down the aging process.

Other research studies conducted on beta-alanine suggest that carnosine lowers the cellular aging rate in cultured-fibroblasts. Thus, the anti-aging effect can be due to this molecule’s ability to lower telomere shortening in cultured-fibroblasts ‎(3).

Telomeres are strands of DNA that help prevent aging when your cells divide and multiply.  As they get shorter, your biological age increases, and you start to appear and feel older.  Decreasing the rate at which your telomeres shrink could have longevity-boosting effects, though this is yet to be confirmed in humans.

Carnosine made through beta-alanine has been found to have neurological antioxidant effects. Beta-alanine can moderate several neurological actions by taurine’s competitive inhibition. This is because both taurine and beta-alanine compete with each other for the same transporter to enter the brain. Just like taurine, beta-alanine acts via GABA receptors and glycine.

Besides this, when converted to carnosine, beta-alanine has shown to support antioxidant enzyme structures Cu/ZnSOD (Superoxide Dismutase). It reduces the aggregation of oxidized proteins in neural tissues, thereby supporting motor function in people suffering from mental disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases (4).

Research studies on beta-alanine have shown that its supplementation can increase muscle carnosine concentrations in the body that ultimately boost the ability to perform high intensity or endurance exercise ‎(5).

Raised muscle carnosine levels help reduce fatigue and build the stamina required to perform activities like jumping, sprinting and weightlifting for long hours. Carnosine facilitates buffering capacity of hydrogen ions which accumulate during rigorous or intense exercise (6).

If you can delay the buildup of hydrogen ions, you delay the onset of acidosis, the “burning” feeling you get after a tough effort.  This means that beta alanine can help you run faster, lift more, and push harder in your next workout.

In addition to this, the improved endurance exercise advantage through beta-alanine supplementation can be attributed to the fact that the muscle carnosine concentration increase also delays the onset of blood-lactate accumulation. A study showed that beta-alanine supplementation over the course of 28 days improved running performance in athletes as it helped in slowing down the negative effects relate to blood-lactate building in the bodies of athletes (7).

Other scientific research studies conducted on beta-alanine have proved that the increase in carnosine concentration due to beta-alanine supplementation can increase muscle mass by 20 to 80 percent as compared to high intensity interval training alone (‎8).

Intake of beta-alanine supplements daily for at least 30 days can significantly increase jump performance. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Medicine showed that athletes who took beta-alanine supplement for a month completed 22% more squats at 70% of their one rep max primarily because they had greater mean power.

Since beta alanine doesn’t build muscle directly, this result was likely the result of better workout performance thanks to beta alanine.

Older adults can benefit from beta alanine too. While the initial wave of beta alanine research focused on high level performance in well-trained athletes, after this research was successful, scientists naturally wondered whether the same benefits might translate to other populations, such as older adults, whose quality of life is often limited by low exercise capacity.

One study, published in 2008 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, set out to examine whether older adults would gain the same increases in exercise capacity as high level athletes (9).

The study included 26 subjects age 55 to 92 who were randomly assigned to either a placebo group or a beta alanine group, which took 2.4 grams of beta alanine per day for 90 days. Before and after the supplementation program, all of the participants in the study completed a cycling test that measured their work capacity.

After analyzing the results of the study, the authors demonstrated that the subjects who took the beta alanine supplement increased their work capacity by nearly 30%, but the placebo group experienced no significant increase in their cycling work capacity.

The results of this study are notable first because they demonstrate rather convincingly that beta alanine supplementation works in older adults, and second because they also suggest that older adults may not need the same aggressive loading and maintenance phases of beta alanine doses that athletes do.

The subjects in this study experienced substantial benefits after only a 2.4 gram per day routine (800 mg of beta alanine, dispersed three times throughout the day).

New research suggests that even overweight and sedentary people can leverage the benefits of beta alanine. Building off the previous work in older adults, sports scientists are now beginning to explore whether beta alanine might help people lose weight.

Beta alanine does not have direct thermogenic or appetite suppressant effects, but if it increases your ability to exercise, you will be able to burn more calories in a workout session. A 2019 study published in the journal Science & Sports studied 34 overweight and sedentary women who were randomly assigned to a beta alanine or a placebo supplement to take for a six week period (10).

The women completed a treadmill test and a one-rep max lifting test before and after the experimental protocol. As with the research on older adults, there was a significant increase in the exercise capacity of the women taking the beta alanine supplement compared to the placebo group.

On the other hand, one-rep max performance didn’t change, but that’s consistent with what we’d expect from the biology of beta alanine and carnosine—a one-rep max doesn’t generate much lactic acid, so you would not expect to see much of a benefit to beta alanine supplementation in this case. You might see benefits up at the 10-15 rep range, however, but this wasn’t tested in this study.

Side effects

Large doses of beta-alanine supplements can result in parasthesia. Parasthesia is a condition that is accompanied with uncomfortable tingling or prickling feeling on the skin that commonly people experience on the face, chest, and abdomen.

Besides this, over dose of beta-alanine supplement can also lead to itching and burning feeling in the ears or on the scalp. Studies have shown that doses of beta-alanine greater than 800mg pre-workout can cause mild to acute parasthesia that may last for an hour or sometimes even 90 minutes.

To avoid this side effect, use the time release formulation or take smaller doses of beta-alanine around 0.8 to 1g in a day.  This will allow you to reach the optimal dosage levels without getting the negative side effects that can result from taking large doses at once.

Recommended dosage

As beta-alanine acts as a quick stimulant, consuming it pre-workout is a good idea. The benefits of beta-alanine related to performance are largely based on the increased concentration of muscle carnosine over time.

Thus, the time of day doesn’t really matter as long as an athlete consistently consumes beta-alanine daily. The standard every dose of beta-alanine is approximately 3 to 5 g spread over 2 to 3 doses in a day for first 6 days.

However, as you move to the maintenance phase, 3g divided in 3 doses daily is enough. This is primarily because carnosine concentration in the body builds up with regular supplementation. However, it also drops by 2% in every 2 weeks in case the supplementation is stopped.

FAQ

Q: What is beta alanine?

A: Beta alanine is a simple amino acid, but it’s not one of the nine essential amino acids. It’s present in small amounts in animal meat like chicken, beef, and fish, and your body can also synthesize it naturally.

Beta alanine is mostly of interest for athletes and health-conscious people because it is a direct precursor to a molecule called carnosine, which is stored inside muscle fibers.

Carnosine plays a critical role in buffering the acidity generated during hard efforts, and physiology research shows that increasing muscular carnosine content increases exercise performance substantially.

Supplementing with beta alanine, in turn, leads to marked increases in intramuscular carnosine content, and clinical trials have also confirmed that taking a beta alanine supplement leads directly to improvements in exercise performance.

That’s why beta alanine is a strong supplement in its own right, and found in many of the top pre-workout supplements on the market.

Q: Is beta alanine good for building muscle?

A: While beta alanine is a powerful performance enhancer, it doesn’t actually increase muscle volume. Since beta alanine improves sprint performance, and high-rep lifting performance as well, many people assume that beta alanine must increase muscular strength.

This is a common misconception, though; what beta alanine actually does is increase the levels of a compound called carnosine in your muscles. Carnosine helps buffer the acidity generated when you work out at a very intense effort, which allows you to sustain a hard effort for longer.

Because it lets you work out harder for longer, beta alanine might help you build muscle in an indirect way, but unlike something like whey protein isolate, it doesn’t actually stimulate muscular hypertrophy.

Q: Is beta alanine the same thing as pre-workout?

A: Beta alanine is one potential ingredient in a pre-workout supplement, but it’s far from the only option.

Many high-quality pre-workout supplements include beta alanine prominently (including all of the pre-workout supplements in our rankings above), but they also include other ingredients like taurine, caffeine, and B complex vitamins. You can definitely use beta alanine by itself as a pre-workout supplement, but you won’t get quite the same boost in performance that you’d get with a dedicated pre-workout supplement.

Nevertheless, if you want to capitalize on the long-term benefits of beta alanine supplementation, taking a pre-workout supplement with a substantial amount of beta alanine is a good idea.

Q: What do creatine and beta alanine do?

A: Creatine and beta alanine can be a powerful combination of supplements for athletes, because they both influence the ability of your anaerobic energy systems to produce energy.

Creatine is good for building muscle, but it also enhances the performance of your creatine phosphate energy system, which can provide between eight and ten seconds of energy during an all-out effort like a sprint.

The creatine phosphate energy system is great because it doesn’t generate any lactate; after ten seconds or so, you’ll be pumping out a lot of acidity to maintain a hard effort.

At this point, the benefits of beta alanine start to kick in. So, by supplementing with both creatine and beta alanine, you’ll augment your performance at both very short and medium-length hard efforts. These two supplements are an excellent combination for high-level athletes.

Q: Is beta-alanine bad?

A: In terms of its safety profile, beta alanine is relatively safe, though in higher doses it does have the tendency to cause paresthesia, an uncomfortable burning, prickling, or flushing feeling on your chest, fingertips or other places on your body.

These symptoms only occur in some people, and only occur with doses greater than 800 mg or so. Beta alanine may have garnered a reputation as “bad” because of these unpleasant side effects that can occur at higher doses, but at low doses it’s safe enough to have been used in many different clinical trials, even in diseased populations, without problems.

If you want to mitigate the chance of getting side effects from beta alanine, all you have to do is spread your dosage out over a longer period of time, and keep your intake below 800 mg of beta alanine at any given time.

Q: Why does beta alanine cause tingling?

A: The tingling, itching, or flushing that can be caused by beta alanine (especially in high doses) is a side effect known as paresthesia, and is thought to be caused by a specific type of nerve ending that exists in your skin.

A 2012 study used some clever research techniques to demonstrate that beta alanine can aggravate this specific type of nerve ending in a unique way: the itching that beta alanine induces is not an allergic reaction, and isn’t mediated by the same histamine-related itching sensations you might get from a pollen allergy or a rash (11).

Put more simply, beta alanine stimulates nerve endings in your skin, but not because it’s causing an allergic reaction. To reduce this itching, spread your beta alanine dosage out over a longer period, and avoid taking more than 800 mg of beta alanine at once.

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Recap

Also called b-alanine and carnosine precursor, beta-alanine is a supplement that can be best described as one of the types of non-essential amino acids. When this supplement is consumed, it gets converted into carnosine which is a molecule that quickly buffers acid into the muscles thereby increasing stamina, promoting muscle development, and improving physical performance. Other benefits include anti-aging properties and improved motor function in patients suffering from mental disorders.

The standard dosage of beta-alanine is 3 to 5g spread over two to three doses in a day. Large doses of beta-alanine have shown side effects resulting in an uncomfortable tingling feeling on the skin— a condition that is known as parasthesia.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 beta alanine recommendation, click here.

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Laura Magnifico

Laura Magnifico is a health specialist whose work has been published on Healthline, MedHelp.org and Walgreens.com.