Bodybuilding and health and fitness in general is all about progressing and making gains, both in and out of the gym. As anybody who has ever lifted a weight will tell you however, building muscle is far from easy. In fact, some bodybuilders would argue that hiking up Everest during a blizzard, while blindfolded, is easier than trying to increase your lean muscle mass. An over-exaggeration on our part? Perhaps, but you get the point we are so eloquently trying to make. While it’s tough to build muscle, and even tougher to do so while dropping fat, or maintaining your physique in its current state, if you have the right tools at your disposal, like most things in life, your bodybuilding journey will be made that little bit easier. But what counts as being the ‘right tool’ for bodybuilding? We’re not talking about the gym equipment because there are gyms out there with weights and machines coated in dust, cobwebs, and rust, that still help mass monsters train like animals and pack on more lean muscle than they know what to do with. No, in this instance, the ‘right tools’ we’re referring to, come in the form of healthy foods and nutritional supplements. We know how important protein is for bodybuilders so we’re not going to look at that today. Instead, we’re going to look at creatine, along with one of the lesser-appreciated amino acids: beta-alanine. Specifically, whether or not stacking creatine with beta-alanine will yield more impressive results.
What is beta-alanine?
To start with, we’ll get things rolling by looking at what beta-alanine is. Beta-alanine is an amino acid, and despite being fairly common in bodybuilding stacks, it’s not quite as popular as other amino acids like Glutamine, and BCAAs. A lot of bodybuilders, even those that train seriously, tend not to include beta-alanine in their stacks, or perhaps they’ll use it once or twice, not see any dramatic improvements, and will simply not bother again. This naturally occurring amino acid is non-essential, due to the fact that the body can synthesize it naturally, so right now, your body is producing beta-alanine, without you even realizing. Despite the fact that the body can produce it, in terms of athletic performance and bodybuilding, we simply can’t synthesize enough to provide any real benefits in those instances. This is why, if we want to reap the athletic benefits, we need to supplement with it. You will also find beta-alanine in foods such as chicken, fish, pork, and beef, though again, you won’t find enough in them to help you out athletically. Amino acids are hugely important, not only for muscle growth and repair, but also for general health and well-being. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules, and they serve as a key fuel for muscular contractions and growth. What a lot of people don’t realize however, is that beta-alanine cannot be converted directly into a protein. Instead, beta-alanine is there to boost carnitine levels within the muscles. Carnitine is made up of alanine and histidine and plays a key role in maintaining balanced PH levels. It acts as a buffering agent and by balancing PH levels in the body it can help reduce the build-up of lactic acid, and thereby it helps promote endurance whilst prevent muscular cramping and fatigue.
What is creatine?
Up next, we’ll take a quick look at what creatine is. Creatine is another naturally occurring form of amino acid that is also non-essential. The body can therefore produce creatine in small concentrations, plus you will also find it located in foods such as fish and beef. Primarily in the body, you will find creatine within the brain, and within the muscles. Studies have found that, from an athletic perspective creatine is incredibly beneficial as it helps to reduce fatigue and boost muscle contractions. Creatine works primarily by increasing overall concentrations of ATP within the body. ATP stands for Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, and it is very important for our muscles, or rather, the cells that make up our muscles because it is a primary source of fuel for them. That’s right, ATP is basically energy for our muscles, so obviously it would make sense to increase overall concentrations of ATP within the body as this would mean that our muscles would have more energy. Creatine is actually the second most popular supplement on the planet, and in bodybuilding circles, it is as common as brushing your teeth in a morning. Creatine does not help to build muscle directly, but what it does do is help to increase muscular strength and endurance, while preventing fatigue. This is crucial due to the fact that the harder our muscles can work, and the longer they can perform before they fatigue, the more productive our workouts will become. Think about it: what do you think would make your workouts more beneficial, being able to perform 8 reps with a certain weight before you reach failure, or being able to perform 12 reps before reaching failure. Increasing your volume will yield more impressive workouts, which means that your results will be more noticeable.
So, why stack creatine with beta-alanine?
Lately, there has been a lot of interest shown in stacking creatine with beta-alanine, but why is that? Well, studies have found that, while both supplements provide significant results individually in regards to endurance, and the prevention of muscular fatigue, studies have found that the two supplements do appear to work in synergy with each other. In particular, it does appear as if the two act as catalysts for one another, thereby basically helping to strengthen the potency of each other, all the while working in synergy to attain specific endurance-related results. You see, by combining the two supplements together, better results will be achieved than when using them individually. Some of the primary benefits associated with stacking creatine and beta-alanine include:
- Increases in lean body composition
- Increases in strength
- Increases in muscle mass
- Increases in endurance
- Reductions in muscular fatigue
- Increases in aerobic endurance
- Increased recovery rates
- Increases in mental clarity and focus
As you can see, that is quite the list of benefits, and from an athletic and bodybuilding perspective, well, in all honesty, you couldn’t really ask for much more. Using these supplements individually would still be beneficial, but by stacking them together you will make each one that much more effective, and you will therefore achieve far better results than when taking them individually.
How should they be stacked?
By now we know that stacking creatine and beta-alanine makes perfect sense, but how should these two awesome supplements be stacked together in order for you to reap the most rewards? Well, first off, when stacking creatine with beta-alanine, something unusual happens in the body. You see, ordinarily when you start using a supplement, you’ll see the most dramatic benefits during the first couple of weeks of using the supplement. As time goes by the body begins to adapt to what you’re doing and what you are consuming, so results and benefits begin to dwindle as the body adapts and builds up a resistance. With beta-alanine and creatine supplementation however, you actually find the results becoming more and more impressive with the passing of each week. Most people often cycle on and off of supplements in order to kick-start the initial process and give the body a chance to “reset” itself, as it were. With beta-alanine and creatine however, long-term use yields more impressive results than short-term use. Experts recommend that you ‘front-load’ beta-alanine for a few weeks before you begin using creatine, to help increase carnosine levels within the body. Experts recommend that you begin with 4g – 6g of beta-alanine for around 4 weeks, as this will yield, on average, an increase in muscle carnosine levels by as much as 50% sometimes even 60%. After 4 weeks, include 5g of creatine per day, and continue this cycle for the next 12 weeks. If however, you plan on running a longer cycle, forget the front-loading beta-alanine phase and begin using both supplements together right away. Ideally you will want 1 serving of 5g of creatine per day, and around 4 servings per day of 1000mg of beta-alanine. As this supplement has a short half-life, aim to consume your beta-alanine every 4 hours for best results. As for creatine, some people prefer to consume it pre-workout, while others prefer post-workout. Either way, there is no solid evidence to suggest that pre, or post-workout is best, so basically you should go with what works best for you.
A few final words
As you can see from the above, the two supplements do indeed appear to work in synergy with one another, and to basically bring the best out of each other, so it certainly would make sense to use both together, as opposed to each one individually. Most bodybuilders swear by creatine, but there are some people out there that are known as creatine ‘non-responders’ who don’t actually see or feel any benefits with taking creatine at all. If this applies to you then you should still try stacking creatine with beta-alanine as you will almost certainly reap the benefits. Both of these supplements are very affordable and provide great value for money, so why not give this stack a go today?