09 May How To Improve Kettlebell Training Endurance (Understanding The Benefits of Beta Alanine)

If you’re interested in improving your kettlebell training endurance, there’s a supplement that can safely and effectively help.

High rep swings, snatches, cleans, and double kettlebell work can delete endurance very quickly.

As a sports nutritionist, I’m always interested in learning about any safe, effective way to improve my own training.

Fatigue is the limiting factor in a high volume training session.

If you’re like me and like to train hard and fast at times, you need endurance to sustain this level of training.

With the thousands of different supplements available, I’m only interested in things that are proven and, of course, safe.

While there are supplements with exaggerated claims, I’ve found a few that live up to expectations.

One potentially powerful supplement I have learned more about was beta alanine.

This is a supplement that has data that’s looking very promising to significantly reduce fatigue, and potentially improve training performance.

The less fatigue you have, the more results you’re probably going to get from your training.

What this means is more reps, more weight, or both which will stimulate more muscle growth.

There are certain supplements (like creatine, for example) that are going to help your training, without question.

It also appears that you can now add beta alanine to that list of beneficial supplements.

If you’re serious about your training and performance, I’ll help you understand the role of beta alanine to maximize kettlebell training performance and endurance.

Since kettlebells combine resistance exercise with potentially a high volume of work, this supplement can have a major impact.

If you’re not familiar with this nutritional supplement, I’ve got you covered.

You may or may not know, but beta alanine is becoming much more popular with athletes and fitness enthusiasts for a reason.  It works.

Many studies now report benefits of increased strength, power, volume of training, and many other aerobic and anaerobic measures of performance training.

Remember, fatigue is the limiting factor in a productive training session.

Fatigue determines your intensity and duration of training, so if you tire out quickly, it’s “game over.”

That’s why I became interested in this, especially with kettlebell training.  While I typically don’t train long duration, I do train at a high intensity level.  Short, fast, explosive sessions.

This is where beta alanine can help.

WHAT IS BETA ALANINE?

Beta alanine is simply a non-essential amino acid.  What beta alanine essentially does is help to increase intramuscular concentrations of carnosine.

During moderate to high-intensity exercise, hydrogen ions (H+) begin to accumulate leading to a drop in intramuscular pH and ultimately can decrease muscle performance.

If carnosine levels can be increased, this can reduce the accumulation of H+, therefore, improving the intramuscular pH and sustain muscle performance.

So, when too much H+ accumulates, fatigue becomes greater.  Carnosine helps this not to happen.  Performance can be sustained, and fatigue can be minimized.

So, why not just take carnosine by itself to help prevent fatigue?  Good question.

Carnosine is inefficiently absorbed and broken down in humans, making is less effective by itself.

On the flip side, beta alanine helps to influence intra-muscular carnosine levels very effectively to buffer the H+, therefore preventing fatigue.

Beta alanine is an ends to the mean, by helping to influence carnosine levels to sustain training.

Increasing intramuscular carnosine levels is the key to fatigue management in performance training and beta alanine helps to facilitate this.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS SUPPLEMENT?

With all of the data beginning to accumulate now with beta alanine, there appears to be some favorable data.  Although some of the data is inconsistent, I would say there is more positive data to support benefit than there is inconclusive data.

Data suggests that benefits may include:

  • increased muscle strength and power 
  • increased lean muscle
  • increased anaerobic endurance
  • increased anaerobic endurance
  • delay in muscle fatigue so that you can train harder and longer.

These benefits seem believable, in theory, based on how this non-essential amino acid works.

While these are just the “top line” benefits, many different studies show specific measures of improvement such as the delay neuromuscular fatigue, time to exhaustion, and the ventilatory threshold.

Other studies demonstrate improved power output in high intensity exercise and improvements in lean muscle mass.

Again, if  beta alanine  can assist to “buffer” H+ to decrease accumulation in the muscle, this will prevent fatigue from occurring.

Less fatigue means you’ll have greater training measures and may be able to improve lean muscle, etc.

Many published papers concluded that beta alanine supplements can be safe and effective for improving endurance and training capacity, if dosed properly.

WHAT IS THE EFFECTIVE DOSE?

The dose seems to vary a bit, depending on which trial you’re reading.

Of course, the correct dose is very important to optimize results.

Another important factor is the timing of taking the supplement. More in a minute.

The goal of supplementing is to maximally increase muscle carnosine levels and ultimately improve exercise and training endurance and performance.

To increase volume and intensity, specifically with kettlebells, this may be a perfect supplement.

Supplementation ranges in studies ranged from 3 to 6.5 mg per day.

For athletes and hard core exercisers, the recommended dose is 6.4 g daily.

This should be divided into equal four equal doses of 1.6 g per dose. This may appear to be a hassle, but it’s reasonable.

Why take four doses throughout the day?

The studies show that you want to take smaller doses and space them out by about 3 hour intervals to avoid ‘flushing effects.’ (I’ll talk more about this under the side effects below).

It also may be a good idea to “pyramid” the dosing when starting out to gradually build up to the recommended dose.

For example, the first week dosing would be 3.2 g per day, the second week would be 4.8 g per day, the next week would be 6.4 g per day for the remaining duration of the supplementation period.

Most studies show supplementation duration of at least 4 weeks and up to 10 weeks.

Strategically using this supplement prior to an endurance event or competition would be appropriate to optimize muscle carnosine levels.

Again, please keep in mind that Beta Alanine is simply a non-essential amino acid.

ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?

Proper beta alanine use appears to be safe and no adverse side effects were reported in clinical studies after four weeks of beta alanine supplementation.

However, subjects did report a temporary, mild skin tingling or “flushing” sensation immediately following doses of beta alanine.  This is a normal and expected effect of beta alanine.

This is something I’ve noticed myself and it is not a problem – as it is very mild.

If you’ve ever heard of a “niacin flush,” it’s similar to that, but it’s usually very temporary lasting only a few minutes.

This is why higher doses are not recommended at one time. Space out the dose and start lower is going to be the best option.

Beta alanine is a safe supplement in healthy individuals, but it may be wise to consult your health care provider prior to initiating this – or any supplement.

This is especially important if you have a medical condition or are on any medications to make sure there are no contraindications.

Also note, that there are currently no studies determining the effects of long-term beta alanine use.

SHOULD YOU USE IT?

The information presented here was based on extensive peer reviewed published data, as well as my own experience.

It really comes down to your own training goals and how much you want to get out of your training.

Because this is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid and it has been shown to safely enhance training endurance and performance parameters, I decided to to ‘test’ it out.

Subjectively, I found the benefits similar to what has been reported and it appeared to have improved my training endurance, minimize fatigue, and allow me to train at a higher level.

For kettlebell training specifically, there is a great benefit in utilizing this supplement because of the increased work and stamina required to perform higher volume training (high rep swings, snatches, snatch test, etc.).

It’s certainly worthy of consideration, based on the large number of trials demonstrating the safety and effectiveness. although there is some inconsistency in benefits among trials.

The mechanism of action makes sense.

Increasing carnosine buffers the pH and allows you to minimize fatigue and train at a higher level.

Sprint type athletes, endurance athletes, bodybuilders, and trained athletes have shown benefit with dosing ranges of 3 to 6 grams per day.

This fits the bill for kettlebell athletes.

You should note it typically takes about 2 weeks to get a performance effect.

The tingling or flushing is a normal and expected effect of beta alanine.

Higher reps, higher volume, improved endurance, and higher intensity may be the benefits you’ll experience with this supplement.

False claims?  I was as skeptical as anyone with supplement claims.

But, I experienced a noted improvement with my own training by adding this supplement.

Beta-alanine seems to be effective.

Key data points were referenced from an article in The Strength and Conditioning Journal, Vol. 32, No. 1, Feb. 2010, pp. 71-78.

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Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this, join a strong community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe at RdellaTraining.com/join and get your FREE Report and Resource Guide.
2 Comments
  • Griffin
    Posted at 15:48h, 14 May Reply

    Cool post Scott…I’ve never even heard of Beta alanine before I’ll have to go check it out.

    • Scott
      Posted at 15:42h, 17 May Reply

      Thanks! Also, I have a great interview coming up on the Podcast with a top Researcher and Sports Nutritionist. He’ll explain all about Beta Alanine and a lot more in the interview.
      ~Scott

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