Beta-Alanine for Endurance and Time-Crunched Cyclists


By Jim Rutberg,
CTS Pro Coach,
Co-author, “The Time-Crunched Cyclist”

Beta-alanine is a workout supplement that promises to reduce fatigue and increase exercise capacity. It is very popular with athletes who engage in short bouts of intense exercise (e.g., Crossfit, strength training, sprinting) but not as commonly used by endurance cyclists. Would supplementing with beta-alanine improve cycling performance, especially for Time-Crunched Cyclists? The short answer is: It could. The longer answer depends on several factors, so keep reading to see if supplementing with beta-alanine makes sense for you.

You can also listen to Coach Adam Pulford discuss beta-alanine supplementation with Nicole Rubenstein MS, RDN, CSSD, CDCES of on Episode 160 of the “Time-Crunched Cyclist Podcast”.

What is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid your body produces in your liver. You can also obtain it from eating animal products, particularly turkey, chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Vegans/vegetarians can consume some beta-alanine from soy.

The reason beta-alanine is important is because it combines with l-histidine in muscle cells to produce carnosine, which in turn plays a major role in managing the pH. As exercise intensity increases, anaerobic glycolysis (or fast glycolysis) partially breaks down carbohydrate for energy, leading to the production of lactate and hydrogen ions. Lactate is reintegrated into mitochondria as fuel for aerobic metabolism (or slow glycolysis). If you remember from chemistry, hydrogen ions in solution create an acidic (low pH) environment. Muscle acidosis is thought to contribute to fatigue, so increasing your ability to buffer hydrogen ions and prevent acidosis should reduce fatigue and thereby improve exercise capacity.

Carnosine is critical for buffering hydration ions, and beta-alanine is the rate-limiting ingredient that governs the production of carnosine. As a result, athletes who want more carnosine in their muscles benefit from increasing production or consumption of beta-alanine.

Supplement Safety

Generally speaking, CTS recommends optimizing an athlete’s nutrition plan to minimize the need for supplementation. However, there are a few well-researched supplements (like creatine, described here) that have been shown to be safe (as long as they are certified by NSF International or Informed Sport) and effective under specific circumstances. Beta-alanine falls into this category, and it is one of 5 supplements supported in the International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement on Dietary Supplements and the High-Performance Athlete (Maughan, et al., 2018).

Benefits of Beta-Alanine for Endurance and Time-Crunched Cyclists

Beta-alanine supplementation is well studied and generally safe for otherwise healthy athletes (Dolan et al., 2019). However, is it helpful and effective for endurance cyclists and/or Time-Crunched Cyclists?

Supplementing with beta-alanine may make sense when you are engaging in high-intensity interval training on the bike. Particularly, it is beneficial for efforts longer than 30 seconds and shorter than about 10 minutes (Saunders et al., 2017). It may also be beneficial if you are incorporating strength training into your program. Keep in mind, beta-alanine does not directly increase strength or muscle mass; it may increase your capacity to exercise longer and complete more repetitions. The net effect may lead to increased strength and contribute to gains in muscle mass because you were able to do more work.

Time-Crunched Cyclists tend to engage in moderate to high-intensity interval training 1-2 times per week (sometimes 3 times/week). Although the intensity distribution across the entire week is typically around 80% aerobic conditioning (Zone 2) and 20% interval work (Zone 3+), the prevalence of higher intensity work means there are potential benefits from supplementing with beta-alanine.

Beta-alanine supplementation is not recommended or warranted for cyclists who are in an aerobic base building or recovery period of training. If you are almost entirely training in Zones 1 and 2, with brief excursions into Zone 3 for some Aerobic Tempo or Sweet Spot intervals, your natural production of beta-alanine will most likely be sufficient. If you are incorporating heavy or high intensity strength training during your aerobic base period (as many cyclists do), you may want to consider beta-alanine supplementation.

How to Take Beta-Alanine Supplements

It can take weeks of consistent beta-alanine supplementation to result in higher muscle carnosine levels. This is important to note because many “pre-workout” powders and drinks contain beta-alanine with the promise of enhancing exercise capacity and “buffering lactic acid”. It just doesn’t work that quickly. Instead, here are some guidelines to using the supplement effectively:

Daily Dosage: Consume 3.2-6.4 grams of beta-alanine per day. It is available in a variety of forms, including powders, tablets/pills, drinks, gummies, etc. There’s some evidence that sustained release tablets may be preferred for increasing carnosine levels and minimizing side effects (see below).

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How long before it’s effective: On average, it takes 2-4 weeks of supplementation to meaningfully increase muscle carnosine levels.

How long can you take it: Studies have tested around six months of consistent supplementation with sustained efficacy and safety (Dolan et al, 2019). It is unknown whether there are risks with chronic, long-term supplementation. However, considering typical periodization plans for endurance and Time-Crunched Cyclists, there should be plenty of opportunities to reduce or stop taking beta-alanine for periods of time.

Side effects: The most common side effect of beta-alanine supplementation is paresthesia, a tingling or itchy skin sensation (hands, arms, feet, neck, etc.). It is not dangerous, and it subsides within about an hour (quicker or slower for some people). Depending on preference, it can be seen as annoying, while others view it as a sign the supplement is working (i.e., placebo effect). Spreading the daily dosage into smaller amounts throughout the day may minimize paresthesia, as may consuming beta-alanine via sustained release tablets (Trexler et al., 2015).

What Beta-Alanine product should you take?

CTS does not have any affiliation with a supplement company that produces beta-alanine. We don’t have a specific brand or product recommendation, but we encourage athletes to always seek products certified by NSF International or Informed Sport. In terms of format, anecdotally our athletes have had more pleasant experiences with sustained released tablets.

Will Beta-Alanine Make You Faster?

Taken as directed, in conjunction with high-intensity exercise that would otherwise create an acidic environment in your muscles, beta-alanine could increase the amount of work you can perform before fatiguing. If that means reaching and sustaining higher power outputs during intervals lasting 30 seconds to 10 minutes, then yes, the supplement could increase the effectiveness and quality of your interval workouts. And you could experience similar benefits during strength training workouts, as well. The supplement won’t directly make you faster, but it may enable you to perform more of the work required to gain fitness and become faster.


Dolan, Eimear et al. “A Systematic Risk Assessment and Meta-Analysis on the Use of Oral β-Alanine Supplementation.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 10,3 (2019): 452-463. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy115

Maughan, Ronald J et al. “IOC Consensus Statement: Dietary Supplements and the High-Performance Athlete.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism vol. 28,2 (2018): 104-125. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0020

Saunders, Bryan et al. “β-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” British journal of sports medicine vol. 51,8 (2017): 658-669. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096396

Trexler, Eric T et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 12 30. 15 Jul. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y


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Comments 3

    1. Post

      Yes, creatine monohydrate and beta-alanine can be taken together and are available as combined supplements in some cases. Research is not conclusive in terms of whether they’re as additive effect from taking them simultaneously. A 2006 study in strength/power athletes found an increase in strength and body composition with the combined supplementation. But a 2014 study in recreationally active females found the predictable independent effects of the supplements but no additive benefit to simultaneous supplementation.


      Jim Rutberg,

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