Health Benefits Of Alanine – The Performance Enhancing Amino Acid

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Health Benefits Of Alanine - The Performance Enhancing Amino Acid
Infographic – Photo sources – see foot of article

Before you hit the gym to build those muscles you are so aspiring for or do your routine daily run, jogging, or cycling, you might be interested to meet the “performance-enhancing” amino acid called alanine. Alanine is a hydrophobic nonessential amino acid widely occurring in high concentrations in its free state in plasma, and although the body can naturally synthesized it through a process known as transamination from pyruvate, [1] a healthy diet consisting of alanine-rich food items such as chicken, beef, pork, lamb, turkey, and whole eggs [2] wouldn’t hurt and in fact would contribute to a lean mass gain and increased physical performance according to studies. With respect to molecular structure, alanine is one of the most simplest amino acids, [3] but don’t let this misled you to consider alanine as a chemical with little utility in the body. Alanine helps ward off infections by increasing our immunity, is involved in sugar and acid metabolism, and supplies fuel to muscles and brain tissues. [1]

Alanine and Athletic Performance

Any person with an average computer skill to research the Internet can easily come into a realization that alanine’s primary role in the body is as a substrate of carnosine. Carnosine, a compound that occurs naturally in numerous tissues of the body, especially the muscles, and is synthesized from beta-alanine and L-histidine, is a major contributor to H+ buffering that occurs in high-intensity exercise. It is a cytosolic buffering agent with powerful, specific antioxidant and antihypertensive properties. [4] Because of the key function of alanine in carnosine synthesis, this amino acid has been incessantly the focus of sports performance research and has become a well-known ergogenic aid, that is, a performance-enhancing substance. To date, a number of studies have already positively associated beta-alanine supplementation and a delay in the onset of neuromuscular fatigue. Most notably, significant improvements have been recorded in athletic performance during multiple bouts of intense exercise and single bouts of exercise lasting more than 60 seconds, with no life-threatening side effects recorded thus far. [5]

Van Thienen et al. (2009) conducted a double-blind study to investigate beta-alanine administration’s effect on the sprint performance of cyclists at the end of a simulated cycling race. In this study, the group on oral beta-alanine supplementation had an increased peak power output of 11.4% during the final sprint. [6] In the 2008 study of Hoffman et al., who have explored the effect of 30-day beta-alanine supplementation on anaerobic measures of collegiate football players, the group on beta-alanine, as compared with placebo, were able to achieve higher training volume during the bench press exercise and other resistance exercises, combined with lower self-reported sense of fatigue, although when testing with high-intensity anaerobic exercises minimal improvement in fatigue levels was observed. [7] A similar study was performed by Kern and Robinson (2011), this time on the effect beta-alanine had on the anaerobic power output and body composition of not only collegiate football players but also wrestlers. The results of this double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that study participants belonging to the beta-alanine group displayed more desirable test results than the placebo group, with improvements in performance being greatest in football players taking beta-alanine (a reduction in 300-yard shuttle time and an increase in flexed-arm hang). Wrestlers who ingested and not ingested beta-alanine both lost weight, but an increase in lean mass was only observed in those on beta-alanine supplements. [8]

Alanine and Its Antioxidant and Antiatherogenic Effects

Alanine also provides long-term protection to cells against harmful agents, although the molecular mechanism underlying such process is yet to be further explored. A research team from Martin Luther University, Germany, had tested the influence of L-alanine on the cytotoxicity and the expression of antioxidant stress proteins, ferritin and heme oxygenase 1, using cultured human endothelial cells. In this study, L-alanine pre-treatment conferred cellular protection against cytotoxicity, elevating the proportion of endothelial cells that survived by 76%. A significant induction of ferritin protein synthesis and heme oxygenase activity were also found, suggesting a stimulated expression of such antioxidant “defense proteins” in the cells of living beings. [9]

Related:  Health Benefits Of Phenylalanine

Alanine and Diarrhea

A randomized double-blind controlled trial from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, investigated the effectiveness of oral rehydration solution with L-alanine and glucose in treating acute diarrhea among patients suffering from dehydration due to Vibrio cholera- or Escherichia coli-caused diarrhea. The findings from this study indicated that the addition of alanine in oral rehydration solution resulted in better efficacy at decreasing the severity of symptoms and the need for fluids among patients than standard oral rehydration solution without alanine content. [10]


[1] L-alanine. PubChem, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

[2] Alanine(g). USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27.…/

[3] Alanine. Wikipedia.

[4] Quinn P. J., Boldyrev A. A., Formazuyk V. E. (1992). Carnosine: its properties, functions and potential therapeutic applications. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. 13(5):379-444.

[5] Artioli G. G., Gualano B., Smith A., Stout J., Lancha A. H. Jr. (2010). Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 42(6): 1162-1173. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c74e38.

[6] Van Thienen R., Van Proeyen K., Vanden Eynde B., Puype J., Lefere T., Hespel P. (2009). Beta-alanine improves sprint performance in endurance cycling. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 41(4): 898-903. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31818db708.

[7] Hoffman J. R. et al. (2008). Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutrition Research. 28(1): 31-35. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2007.11.004.

[8] Kern B. D., Robinson T. L. (2011). Effects of ß-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(7): 1804-1815. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e741cf.

[9] Grosser N. et al. (2004). Antioxidant action of L-alanine: heme oxygenase-1 and ferritin as possible mediators. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 314(2): 351-355.

[10] Patra F. C., Sack D. A., Islam A., Alam A. N., Mazumder R. N. (1989). Oral rehydration formula containing alanine and glucose for treatment of diarrhoea: a controlled trial. British Medical Journal. 298(6684): 1353-1356.

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