There are a lot of products that claim to be great for athletes. A few do have research to support their use as ergogenic aids (supplements intended to enhance physical performance). One with growing support is supplemental beta-alanine.
An amino acid, beta-alanine, might be helpful especially for individuals who participate in high intensity training. It is used by the body to make carnosine in muscles. There is believed to be low risk of safety concerns when taken in the amounts recommended (up to 6.4 g/day). Supplements are typically available in rapid and sustained release forms. Sustained release tablets and divided dose administration, for example, early in the day and later in the day may decrease the amount of or prevent paresthesia (ie, tingling, prickling, or burning sensation of the skin) that can accompany intake of beta-alanine. The supplement must be taken for at least 2 weeks before a possible benefit can be seen.
A terrific resource to find products is NSF International (Safe for sport) (web or app). Supplements that are certified independently to ensure that they contain what is listed on the label, free of harmful contaminants, and free of substances banned by many athletic organizations. Here is a video on this certification.
Research is still needed to definitively show that beta-alanine supplementation is helpful, especially in recreational athletes. Weighing the benefits with the costs is an important approach to get the maximum benefit and avoid costly mistakes.
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Sports Nutrition Position Paper
IOC Consensus Statement: Dietary Supplements and the High-Performance Athlete
National Institutes of Health: Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance