Does beta-alanine hold any benefit for athletes? What kind of athletes would benefit most from supplementation?
This is inconsistent with our general stance on supplements but I can offer some useful information. Besides, inconsistency has never been a barrier to open discussion here.
Science on beta-alanine is equivocal: some studies show statistically significant benefit, others don't.
The premise is that it helps buffer muscle acidity (carnosine precursor, blah, blah, blah). I used it through the whole bike racing season last year, as did a fellow racer. I decided to test it out after it came up in conversation with enough different people who had seen some positive results. For me, the benefit seemed to manifest in the ability to sustain longer sprint-intensity efforts both in training and toward the end of a race when the attacks came. No perceived benefit at lower intensities. One of the military groups we work with was doing some internal testing on it too but I haven't heard anything definitive on the results. Dose needs to be fairly high: start with 2x 2g/day and work up to 2x 3g per day for average body size. The effect builds to a plateau over time so commit to a 12 week (minimum) program. You should see stuff start to really happen from 4-6 weeks if you are a "responder" and if the intensity of your efforts corresponds to the effect, i.e. is it appropriate?
I'm not racing this year so I haven't been taking it. I bought my supply bulk from NutriBio and mix with some carb and protein to reduce the paresthesia (tingling) effect.
It's cheap (in this form) and apparently non-toxic so, while it is not a miracle by any stretch, it may be worth a try. On the other hand First Endurance sells a beta-alanine + rhodiola + cordyceps product that they charge a pretty penny for and it only has 1g of beta-alanine per serving. They place greater belief in the adaptogenic effects of the rhodiola and cordyceps, which is a topic for another time, but the product itself is well-reviewed by some high-end athletes (the caveat being that they do receive it for free).