SwoleMates: Creatine & Beta- Alanine


What is a Swolmate?

Urban dictionary defines it as, “two individuals who form a friendship from working out on a daily basis.” Much like actual swolmates creatine and beta- alanine work together perfectly, and deserve consideration in your workout supplement regiment. These two particular dietary supplements are two of the most studied and scrutinized supplements on the market today. The reason why they are still being sold is due to the numerous studies proving their effectiveness in anaerobic physical activity.

What exactly is it?


Despite how studied creatine is, there are still many misconceptions on how it works, and what exactly it is. Creatine (methyl guanidine-acetic acid) is a compound synthesized from amino acids that is the precursor of phosphocreatine, an important anaerobic energy source for high-intensity anaerobic exercise. Creatine first became popular when Linford Christie won the gold medal in the men’s 100m and Sally Gunnell won the gold in the women’s 400m hurdles, while supposedly using creatine in the 1992 Olympics. 

            Metabolic Process

Creatine is defined as a nonessential nutrient that is mainly found in muscle tissue. It is defined as nonessential because it can be synthesized within the human body, and is not required to be brought in through diet. However, that does not mean that we do not get creatine from the foods we may eat. Some major food sources that it can be found in are different types of fish, and red meat. Some plants have trace amounts, but not enough to make a difference in your daily diet. This means if you are choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle while being physically active you might have even more reason to supplement with creatine.

The synthesis of creatine mainly happens in the liver and the kidneys, and is broken down into two parts. First the guanidino group of the arginine transferred to glycine forming guanidinoacetate. Next creatine is formed by the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine to guanidinoacetate.  

ATP = ADP + Pi + energy

When a muscle contract adenosine triphosphate (ATP) loses a phosphate group and is degraded into adenosine diphosphate and that inorganic phosphate (Pi) is used to provide energy. This ADP cannot be used for energy again until it receives another Pi and is returned to ATP.  What phosphocreatine (PCr) does is provide that need Pi need to turn ADP back into ATP.   

            Endurance Training

For those strictly endurance athletes out there we have bad news. Studies show that creatine is not going to help you improve the way it would help you drop those 10k run times. This is largely because of the energy pathway used during an endurance event. Yes ATP is still being used during these types of activities but for ATP regeneration the body uses a process known as oxidative phosphorylation. In this process net PCr breakdown and net contribution of PCr to energy production is minimal. 

            Resistance Training

A study done by Vandenberghe et al. (1997) put together a study with two groups, a creatine group, and a placebo group. Over a ten week resistance training program the creatine group saw a 20-25% larger increase in strength over the non creatine group, and a 60% increase in lean muscle mass. This is just one of countless studies that shows just how awesome creatine can be for anaerobic performance.

            Dosing/ Side Effects

There are many different ways to take creatine, and it has definitely changed over time as we continue to learn about it. A common method of taking creatine use to be a method known as loading, where a person would take 20g  total in a day broken down into four servings of 5g each. However now studies are beginning to show that just 4-5g a day prior to anaerobic exercises can be just as effective.

Like all things in life there are side effects. Keep in mind we are all genetically different and may experience all or possibly none of these side effects. Some side effects may include gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, alterations in kidney and liver function. Muscle cramps, bloating, and elevated blood pressure. This long list sounds a lot like the side effects of most prescription medications, but keep in mind there is not a lot of long term studies to show the health effects of supplementing with creatine.


Not nearly as popular as its swollmate creatine, beta-alanine has still been proven to be helpful in its own way for boosting your workout. The real question is, HOW DOES IT WORK? All we know for sure is that supplement companies want to claim that it will do things like, increase muscular strength and power output, increase anaerobic muscular endurance, and delay muscle fatigue. But what is the real truth?

            Metabolic process

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, and the only naturally occurring beta amino acid. It can be taken in through diet, either through supplementation or from foods such as chicken, beef, pork, and fish. However if you are looking to get bennifical training effects from beta alanine you will need to consume it in the form of a supplement.

Beta alanine is the rate limiting precursor to carnosine. This means the amount of beta alanine in your system will determine the amount of carnosine you can produce. But why is carnosine important? Carnosine is an intracellular ph. buffer in your muscle cells. When you work out, and ATP is used there is a release of hydrogen ions (H+) that will drop overall ph. of the muscles. Carnosine will help absorb H+ in order to keep your muscles more neutral ph. to allow physical performance to remain at peak levels longer.

            Training Benefits

What does all this mean for your training? Beta alanine will allow you to push yourself slightly longer and slightly stronger both aerobically and anaerobically. The key word in the previous statement is slightly, this is not a miracle supplement that is going to turn you into a machine. However if you are someone who is looking to try and push themselves farther this can help you do it.

            Dosing/ Side effects

Now that we know beta-alanine can be a very beneficial supplement to add into your supplement stack, we now need to know the dosing and potential side effects. The major side effect people tend to feel is paresthesia. What this simple is, is the pins and needles feeling or the prickly sensation. Often times this is felt in the face, ears or nose, and also in the finger tips. Long term effects are yet to be determined due to the fact that it is a relatively new supplement. This is something important to keep in mind before deciding to use beta-alanine. In terms of dosing for beta-alanine most studies have seen results when using 2-5 grams. An important note is if the paresthesia feeling is too strong you can see the same benefits if you break up your servings throughout the day.

Working Together

To sum everything up, creatine will allow a person to regenerate energy more quickly than they would normally be able to. While beta alanine will allow a person’s muscles to remain at an optimum ph. For a longer period of time. If you are someone who is looking to workout harder, these two supplements will not do the hard work for you, but they can assist you in reaching your goals. Important Note: These two supplements do not have acute effects, meaning that you do need to take them regularly to see their desired effects.


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