As a nonessential amino acid, beta-alanine -- commonly known simply as alanine -- doesn't need to be part of your regular diet, as your body can synthesize it from pyrimidine compounds. However, scientific research, including a study published in June 2010 in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," indicates that a high intake of beta-alanine can improve muscle capacity by raising your level of carnosine, a molecule that activates muscle contraction enzymes. Certain foods can increase the concentration of beta-alanine in your body, but it may be difficult for you to regularly consume the same amount used in studies through diet alone.
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Turkey and chicken are some of the richest natural sources of alanine. A single cup of roasted chicken breast contains over 2 grams of the amino acid, while 3 ounces of cooked turkey breast supplies just under 2 grams a serving. To duplicate the amount of supplemental beta-alanine that showed a link between the amino acid and higher muscle carnosine levels in studies, you'd need to consume around 4 to 6 grams daily, or at least 2 cups of chicken breast and 6 ounces of turkey breast.
Snack on Soybeans
Roasted soybeans, sometimes marketed commercially as soy nuts, have close to 3 grams of alanine in every 1-cup serving. Choose unsalted over salted brands, as each cup of salted soy nuts has 280 milligrams of sodium, while unsalted roasted soybeans contain just 7 grams per cup. If you're not a fan of soy nuts, try incorporating soy flour into baked goods. One cup of defatted soy flour contains more than 2 grams of alanine. To use it in quick or yeast bread recipes, replace between 10 to 30 percent of the wheat flour called for with soy flour.
Bring on the Lean Beef
A grilled top loin beef fillet contains almost 3 grams of alanine. Other alanine-rich beef cuts include top round roast, which contains approximately 2 grams of the amino acid in every 3 ounces. Red meat can be part of a balanced, healthy diet as long as you stick to lean cuts of beef. Choose beef that has less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 or fewer grams of saturated fat. Limit your intake each week to two 3-ounce servings.
Figure in Fish
A 3-ounce serving of yellowtail fish has over 1 gram of alanine. Tilefish, pink or coho salmon, haddock, mackerel, rockfish, rainbow trout, herring and tuna are also high in alanine. Eat at least two servings of fish weekly, advises the American Heart Association. Young children, pregnant or nursing women, and women who plan on becoming pregnant should have no more than 12 ounces of fish a week, and they should stick to low-mercury choices such as salmon or canned light tuna.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Precision Nutrition: All About Beta-Alanine
- MedlinePlus: Amino Acids
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Role of Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Muscle Carnosine and Exercise Performance
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Lists - Nutrients: Alanine (g)
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Turkey, Retail Parts, Breast, Meat Only, Cooked, Roasted
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Soybeans, Mature Seeds, Roasted, Salted
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Soybeans, Mature Seeds, Roasted, No Salt Added
- Soyfoods Association of North America: Soy Fact Sheets
- BeefNutrition.org: Twenty-Nine Ways to Love Lean Beef
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein - Moving Closer to Center Stage
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Fish, Yellowtail, Mixed Species, Cooked, Dry Heat
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Lists - Nutrients: Alanine (g); Food Groups: Finfish and Shellfish Products
- American Heart Association: Fish 101