Beta Alanine vs Creatine: Which Is Best for Performance?

by Matt Wilson
Last Updated: 01/11/2020
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Have you ever had the feeling that you are doing everything right, and yet the results that you were expecting are still missing? You were running like crazy, lifting weights, exercising like Rocky (from the movie Rocky), and yet, nothing? What happened? And how the hell all those people have big muscles? 

The answer is creatine supplementation and a little bit of beta-alanine. These two can help you achieve what you always wanted Рa perfect body or at least a body that can outperform an average person significantly, if that is your goal, of course. 

Knowing which of the two supplements is better can be crucial for your training and desired goals. If you like exercising, doing sports, or if you just started going to the gym, being familiar with creatine and beta-alanine is very important. 

It is highly valuable to know the difference between these two supplements, especially if you want to build great muscles and have enough energy for a workout. 

In this article, you will find out what is creatine and what is beta-alanine, how did they come about, and why can they help you with fatigue issues and your workout efficiency. We will also talk about the best schedule for taking these supplements in regards to your exercise goals. 

When you go to the shop, looking for creatine and/or beta-alanine, the crucial part of the process is to know what to look for, so we will cover that as well. Finally, we will answer the big question – at the end of the day, which supplement is better?

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is an organic compound, namely amino acid, which can be found naturally in your system, or, more precisely,  in your muscles. Creatine also exists in different modifications in solutions. The prime function of creatine, as an organic compound, is to facilitate recycled adenosine triphosphate, which is the energy compound of all muscle cells [1]. 

As a performance-enhancing supplement, creatine supplementation is highly effective and can help with achieving the necessary power in high-intensity anaerobic exercises. Creatine is formed by the degradation of dihydrouracil and carnosine. In 1912, the scientists discovered that creatine can enhance muscle strength and that it can naturally form in all vertebrates [2].

What Is Beta-Alanine?

Beta-alanine, like creatine, is also a non-essential amino acid. It is one of the most popular supplements used for performance enhancement in the gym. In its biosynthesis, beta-alanine is forming through the degradation of dihydrouracil and carnosine. 

Industrially, beta-alanine emerge through a reaction of ammonia with beta-propiolactone [3]. After consumption, beta-alanine is transformed into carnosine, a molecule that helps with the level of acid in your body.  

In a similar fashion as creatine, when beta-alanine first came out, the bodybuilding scene did not welcome it with much enthusiasm. Soon after, many studies have shown the positive effects it has on exercise. It can be found in meat or fish and is a part of large compounds like carnosine and anserine. 

There are some possible side effects of taking this supplement like tingling of the skin and paraesthesia. Also, a person can experience tingling sensations in the neck or on the back of the hands.

What Does Creatine Do?

Creatine supplementation can help you to grow your muscles and achieve better physical performance [4]. In simple terms, creatine is giving fuel to your muscles, increasing their strength.  

Creatine is mostly used as a supplement for intense exercise and can improve your body composition. If you have to burn energy in a short amount of time, creatine supplementation is the way to go.  

For a high-intensity workout, taking creatine before exercise will give you an additional boost in strength. 

Creatine supplementation can enhance performance by 5 to 15 times, depending on the carnosine levels [5]. 

There are varieties of creatine, but the most common type is creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is the most powerful form of creatine. Numerous studies have shown that creatine monohydrate can increase your strength and improve the growth of your muscles [6].

What Does Beta-Alanine Do?

Just as creatine, beta-alanine increases your exercise capacity by producing muscle carnosine, which reduces the acid in your muscles during an exercise. Carnosine is also responsible for the increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in body fat. 

Normally, there are low carnosine levels in your body because there is not enough beta-alanine. Using beta-alanine as a supplement, you can increase the level of muscle carnosine by 80% [7]. 

In practice, this means that when you exercise, your glucose levels are decreasing, creating lactic acid as a consequence. Lactic acid becomes lactate, and later, hydrogen ions in your body. 

The result of the process has a direct effect on your muscles, which become more acidic as a consequence. Beta-alanine increases the level of carnosine, helping your muscle to recover during exercise. 

It can help older people with muscle endurance and reduce their fatigue or improve their body composition. Besides the effect it has on your workout, it can also have a medical significance, like fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress.

Creatine and Beta-alanine: Can They Be Combined?

In short, the answer is yes – beta-alanine and creatine work well together.  Several studies have shown that using beta-alanine and creatine simultaneously can be quite beneficial. 

While some think that using creatine is more than enough for gaining lean mass and losing body fat, there is a large amount of evidence in favour of combining creatine with beta-alanine. 

A study conducted in 2006 has revealed that one group of people that used creatine in combination with beta-alanine, had more lean mass and less body fat than the group that used only creatine [8].

Another study showed that creatine and beta-alanine combined produced significant benefits in terms of endurance  (when it comes to aerobic exercises) and at the same time, creatine and beta-alanine combined, contributed to more muscle mass growth [9].

When to Take Creatine and Beta-alanine?

If you are working hard in the gym, maybe lifting weights or burning calories while doing cardio, your acid levels will increase, while lowering down the levels of beta-alanine. 

You can use creatine or beta-alanine or a combination for an energy boost and muscle mass increase, which can help you finish that final rep. 

It is better to take beta-alanine later in the workout process, especially if it’s a low-intensity workout, so you can increase your carnosine levels while making small breaks. 

There are, however, those who think that you can take creatine and beta-alanine supplements pre-workout as well. In that case, for a beginner, it is advised that you have around 3 grams of creatine and beta-alanine pre-workout and 3 grams during breaks [10].

What to Look for When Purchasing These Supplements

The first thing to look for while purchasing creatine and beta-alanine is the list of ingredients. It is crucial to make a balance between the number of supplements you consume. Therefore, it is best to do a little research before shopping. 

The right dosage is essential for improved performance and satisfying results. A supplement product must have at least around 3 to 5 grams of both supplements. 

You should check the side effects on the specific product you plan to purchase, especially if you follow a specific nutrition plan or have allergies. 

We should pay close attention to the amount of creatine monohydrates since they contribute significantly to your body composition and are essential for extra strength.

Which Supplement Is Better?

Since both supplements are quite powerful and beneficial, but can also work together, the obvious answer is that it is better to use them simultaneously throughout your workout routine. 

But, the real question is, what do you want to achieve? If you like long exercises and would like your body to be lean, resembling the body of a professional athlete, then endurance is what you need. 

As we have seen, since beta-alanine is creating carnosine that helps you with the recovery of your muscles and you want to develop lean muscle mass, then beta-alanine is what you want to use. This means that your exercise routine is long but not that intensive and that you mainly need endurance and stamina. 

If you need a lot of explosive strength or you would like to be big and strong like those bodybuilders that you see in your gym, then you need a lot of power and energy. In that case, you should definitely choose creatine. The result of using this supplement is an obvious increase in muscle mass. 

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26202197/ 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21387089/
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/14356007.a13_507
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17690198/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19225360/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22270875/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129168/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16953366/

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