“This stuff is making me so itchy!” You exclaim to your gym buddy in a panic…”Am I allergic to the beta-alanine your pre workout?”
Sound familiar? For most first-time pre workout ‘newbies’, it certainly does.
Tinging, or itching from pre workout is extremely common.
And today we’re going to tell you exactly why pre workout makes you itchy.
Pass the Pre Workout, Please.
At this point we have all heard that taking pre-workout supplements can help you gain an upper-hand in the gym.
People take supplements like these ALL the time to increase the amount of work they are able to perform in the gym, which yields more dramatic results.
Athletes and gym-goers usually take an additional supplement to help build re-muscles and to assist recovery.
TIP: If you’re wondering if a pre-workout supplement is right for you, check out this article.
A pre workout is a blend of dietary ingredients that is designed to help you push yourself harder during your workout, so that you get more pronounced results, quicker.
One of the most popular, effective, and common ingredients in pre workout is something called ‘beta-alanine’.
As you might have guessed, beta-alanine is also the ingredient responsible for giving that familiar ‘itching’ or ‘tingling’ sensation.
Let’s learn more about this fascinating ingredient.
What is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid.
Amino acids are commonly referred to as the ‘building blocks’ of protein.
Some amino acids, however, do not synthesize proteins.
Instead, they synthesize other molecules in the body. Beta-alanine is one of them.
This nonessential amino acid works together with histidine to produce carnosine.
Carnosine is then stored in your skeletal muscles.
Carnosine helps reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles during exercise, which means you get to go harder, better, faster, stronger during your next workout.
How Does Beta Alanine Help You Workout Harder?
Under normal conditions, histidine (another amino acid) levels are high in the muscles and beta-alanine levels are low.
This hinders the production of carnosine.
Adding beta-alanine through supplementation has been shown to increase carnosine levels by 80%.
(Stick with me, I know we’re going to get science-y!)
During exercise, glucose is broken down through glycolysis and lactate is produced.
This causes the muscles to become more acidic. The burn you feel in your muscles during an intense workout is the buildup of lactic acid.
As the lactic acid in your muscles increases, fatigue and exhaustion set in. This is why you often want to stop or give up during intense exercise.
This is where carnosine becomes your best friend.
Carnosine acts as a buffer against the lactic acid, reducing its effects during intense exercise.
That means it will take longer for that unbearable muscle burn to show up.
Since beta-alanine supplements increase carnosine levels, they can help lessen exercise fatigue and increase muscular endurance by reducing the buildup of lactic acid.
Itches Get Stitches (Or Gainz!)
An itch is defined as, “…an uneasy irritating sensation in the upper surface of the skin usually held to result from mild stimulation of pain receptors.”
Itching can be caused from multiple things such as:
- Allergic reactions
- Sensitivity to chemicals
- Body hormone changes (like with pregnancy)
- Diseases (like shingles or diabetes)
- Biological skin irritants (poison ivy, poison oak, etc.)
- Dry skin
You’ve probably experienced itchy skin for one (or more) of the reasons above.
Most people also report getting ‘itchy’ from a pre workout, which is halfway true.
But that feeling isn’t technically an ‘itch’ in the traditional sense of the word.
So if it’s not an itch, what is that itching sensation you get after drinking pre-workout?
Taking larger doses of beta-alanine may cause a sensation known as paraesthesia, an unusual sensation typically described as “tingling of the skin.”
This can also feel like itching.
It’s usually felt most in the face, neck, ears, and back of the hands.
Paresthesia: A temporary sensation of the skin feeling of being itchy, tingling, or ‘on pins and needles’, usually occurring because you’ve inadvertently putting pressure on a nerve for an extended period of time.
There is no scientific evidence that shows paraesthesia to be harmful in any way, although, some people may find it uncomfortable.
If you want to avoid paraesthesia, it’s best to take beta-alanine in smaller doses.
Experts recommend taking no more than 800 mg at time to keep the itchy feeling away.
If your pre-workout contains more beta-alanine than that per serving, try taking a half scoop to reduce the effects.
How Long Does the Pre Workout Itch Last?
While the pre workout ‘itch’ or ‘tingle’ can be alarming, or troubling for some, there’s no reason to worry.
Pre workout tingles are completely normal, safe, and a common phenomenon when taking a pre workout booster.
Most tingling, or itching feelings will kick in within 10-20 minutes of consuming a beta-alanine (or beta-alanine-containing supplement).
The pre workout tingling sensation will usually subside for most people within 30-45 minutes, however it can last for up to 4 hours, or the entire half-life of the beta-alanine.
Most folks who take them find that pre workout supplements last for around 2 hours.
Recommended Reading: Find out more about different pre workout ingredients in the post, How Long Does Pre Workout Last?
Pre workout can cause some mild itching via paraesthesia, but here’s why that itch may be well worth it.
Including beta-alanine in your supplement routine can have many benefits, despite the pre workout tingles that it can cause.
Studies have shown that beta-alanine has a positive impact on:
- Exercise performance and endurance
- Body composition
- Heightened immunity via antioxidant activity
Let’s take a deep dive into how beta-alanine delivers these three benefits.
Exercise Performance and Endurance
Research has shown that beta-alanine may increase your time to exhaustion (TTE).
That means it helps you get through longer workouts before you get too tired and quit.
In a study that examined beta-alanine supplementation in high intensity cyclists, researchers found that just 4 weeks of supplementing with beta-alanine increased the cyclists’ exercise capacity by 13%.
After 10 weeks, participants experienced another 3.2% increase.
Another study performed in 20 males showed similar results with a 13-14% increase in exercise capacity after 4 weeks of supplementing with beta-alanine.
When performing high intensity exercise (think HIIT training), lactic acid buildup in the muscles can seriously get in the way of your ability to keep up.
Beta-alanine works specifically to improve performance during these types of exercise.
Studies have shown that regular supplementation of beta-alanine over 6 weeks before a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout can increase TTE.
That means you can workout harder for longer.
There is some evidence from scientific research that suggests beta-alanine supplementation may improve body composition.
Improved body composition means a higher lean body mass and lower body fat percentage, giving you a more toned look.
Since beta-alanine decreases muscle fatigue and increases endurance, it may support an increased training volume which promotes muscle growth.
Antioxidant and Immune-Enhancing Properties
Now you know that beta-alanine increases carnosine levels, which reduces lactic acid buildup during exercise.
But what you don’t know is that some studies done in animals have shown that carnosine may have antioxidant, anti-aging, and immune-boosting properties.
Other studies show that carnosine may benefit heart health by elevating nitric oxide production in the body.
A supplement that helps you workout harder and longer, AND has anti-aging capabilities? Sign me up, please!
So those are the main benefits of beta-alanine…but how did it come to be in pre-workout in the first place?
Beta-Alanine in Performance Supplements: A Brief History
Beta-alanine was discovered hundreds of years ago, in 1911 to be exact, but only recently gained attention for its exercise performance enhancing capabilities.
After numerous studies in humans, researchers found that this non-proteinogenic amino acid had several beneficial effects on exercise capacity in humans.
Researchers found that beta-alanine:
- Boosts muscular anaerobic endurance (like during high intensity interval training)
- Increases aerobic endurance (like during long runs or bike rides)
- Increases exercise capacity so you can train harder and longer
Increased exercise capacity and endurance means the potential for increased strength and muscle gain.
If you can train harder and longer, then your muscles receive more stimulus and more volume which is what’s required to build muscle.
It makes sense that supplement manufacturers began including beta-alanine in performance supplements.
It has a myriad of performance benefits that are backed by scientific research in humans, not just animals.
There are some forms of this powerful ingredient that are more effective than others.
What is the Best Form of Beta-Alanine?
As you know now, the benefits of beta-alanine have been well-documented for quite some time.
If you are ready to upgrade your workouts by trying a beta-alanine supplement, or one that contains beta-alanine, there’s one thing you should keep in mind.
Some forms of this material are more effective than others.
While some generic forms of beta-alanine may deliver some benefits, the most effective, and most-researched form of beta-alanine is the Carnosyn® brand.
Carnosyn® is the most trusted, and most powerful form of beta-alanine, as it is standardized in the exact way that has been proven effective in multiple studies.
ATHENA Unleashed Pre Workout
ATHENA Unleashed Pre Workout
Our most powerful pre workout energy supplement yet. Made with Carnosyn® beta-alanine, and BetaPower Betaine.
One of the best parts about beta-alanine is that it is effective for both men & women.
Can Women Take Beta Alanine?
Beta-alanine isn’t just for the guys!
Women can reap it’s performance benefits, too.
If you want to build muscle and improve your body composition, you may benefit from taking a pre-workout supplement that contains beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine has the same effects in women that it does in men.
Studies have shown similar outcomes with regard to exercise capacity and endurance when examining beta-alanine supplementation in women.
Supplementing with beta-alanine is safe and effective for women.
The recommended daily dose is 2-5 grams per day.
Keep in mind, doses above 800 mg at a time are more likely to cause that paraesthesia (the itchy feeling), but it is completely safe and harmless.
Summing It All Up
- Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid commonly found in pre-workout supplements
- Research shows it has the ability to increase exercise capacity and delay muscle fatigue
- Beta-alanine may also improve body composition
- The recommended daily dose for beta alanine is 2-5 grams
- Carnosyn branded beta-alanine is the most researched, and most effective form of beta-alanine for increasing physical performance
- Although higher doses may cause itchiness, beta-alanine is considered to be a safe and effective supplement to boost exercise performance for both men and women
- Pre Workout itching can last for up to 2-3 hours, but usually subsides within 45 minutes of consumption
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