Why Does Beta-Alanine Make You Tingle?

Why Does Beta-Alanine Make You Tingle?

To help improve exercise performance, delay muscular fatigue, and improve endurance overall, the amino acid beta-alanine — a key ingredient in Openfit Fuel — is gaining attention as a supplement. But there’s a quirky side effect that many people notice, and you might wonder if it’s normal or even safe: that tingling sensation.

“The sensation is often described as ‘pins and needles’ poking under the skin, which can be a bit nerve-wracking for those who’ve never used beta-alanine before,” says Elliot Reimers, a NASM-certified nutrition coach. “There’s a misconception that this might be dangerous, or somehow causing long-damage to your nerves or muscles, but that’s simply not true, even at higher doses.”

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Why Does Beta-Alanine Make You Tingle?

Scientists and researchers don’t have a definitive answer for what causes the beta-alanine tingling — considered a form of paresthesia — but there is evidence to support one major hypothesis, says Melissa Morris, ACSM-certified exercise physiologist and ISSN-certified sports nutritionist.

The theory she relays is that beta-alanine activates G-protein-coupled receptors, which are responsible for transmitting signals throughout your central nervous system, and especially on the skin.

In other words, the amino acid fires up your nerve endings in a way that causes that telltale tingle and itch, but not enough to cause actual pain.

Keep in mind that this is a side effect, rather than a main effect, Morris adds. “Beta-alanine acts at the cellular level to keep the pH within the muscle from getting too acidic, which contributes to fatigue. Therefore, beta-alanine delays neuromuscular fatigue, which gives performance benefits. The itch, or tingle, is just something to put up with on your way to getting those benefits.”

 

beta alanine tingle- goosebumps

How Long Does the Beta-Alanine Tingle Last?

The length of time that you’ll feel those pins and needles often varies depending on your experience — for example, Reimers says, some people may feel this effect for just a few minutes, while others might have it for an hour. Some may never experience it at all.

Usually, though, the tingling sensation starts in the neck, shoulders, and arms about 15 minutes after you take it, according to ISSA-certified nutritionist and personal trainer Jamie Hickey. For most people, the sensation starts to fade within 30 minutes, he adds.

 

Can You Combat the Tingle?

If you’ve been taking beta-alanine for a while — Reimers suggests that it takes at least four weeks of daily use for levels to build up sufficiently in your cells for you to start noticing performance improvements — and you simply can’t get used to that tingling feeling, there are ways to minimize or even knock out the sensation completely.

The main strategy is to split up your doses, advises Reimers. He suggests smaller amounts taken throughout the day instead of one large dose just before hitting the gym. This should significantly reduce the tingling you experience. You can also try reducing your dosage and seeing if you still get results in terms of athletic performance, but without the extra tingling.

Playing around with how to use beta-alanine most effectively is worth the trouble, Hickey believes, because it really is a supplement that lives up to its reputation.

“The majority of supplements on the market are over-hyped and useless,” he says. “Beta-alanine, however, stands out as one of the few products that continues to show solid science to back up its effectiveness in helping athletes and bodybuilders reach their fitness goals. And that’s worth a little tingling.”

Elizabeth Millard

About

Elizabeth Millard has written for Men's Health, SELF, Prevention, Runner's World, and several other health and wellness publications. Based in Northern Minnesota (yes, it's just as cold as you've heard), she's also a rock climber, obstacle course enthusiast, and registered yoga teacher. Follow her on Twitter.