Alanine

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

By helping break down blood sugar, alanine helps ensure that our cells get the energy they require for both resistance and endurance exercise. It becomes increasingly important during times of stress to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. As a building block of protein, alanine also helps minimize muscle-tissue breakdown.

Where to find Alanine

Alanine is found in red meat, wheat germ, oats, yogurt, and avocado.

Popup: Foods highest in Alanine

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Alanine

Intensely training endurance and strength athletes may benefit from alanine’s potential to support energy levels, improve muscle recovery, and increase cell volume. It also supports the immune system, so even under times of great stress, the body is better able to fight off infections.

Ways that Alanine can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Increase muscle size and strength and prevent breakdown by promoting cell volume and aiding protein synthesis
  • Improve muscle recovery following exercise by preventing the buildup of toxic byproducts in muscle cells
Ways that Alanine can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Maintain optimal blood sugar levels to support energy levels and reduce fatigue

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Alanine deficiency

Deficiency of Alanine has been linked to:

  • Hypoglycemia
Potential uses for Alanine

Research indicates that Alanine may also be useful in the treatment of:

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Epilepsy
  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)

DISCUSSION

More about Alanine

Although alanine is not an essential amino acid (your body is able to produce it), at times of stress, like intense exercise or bouts of sustained (endurance) effort, this nutrient may be needed in greater amounts than your body can produce, making it “conditionally essential.” This is because during exercise, you’re breaking down muscle tissue and forcing your body to grow, and thus, your needs are quite different from those of an inactive individual.

Assisting an active lifestyle

Alanine is involved in the process of breaking down glucose, or blood sugar, which means it may help provide energy to the cells during both resistance and endurance exercise. In addition, alanine acts as a kind of “carrier molecule,” shuttling toxic byproducts out of the muscle cells to be disposed of by the body. As such, it may assist in faster muscle recovery both during and after exercise.

Similar to glutamine, alanine also plays a significant role in cell volumizing. What this means is simply that the cell becomes “super hydrated,” which research suggests may trigger greater protein synthesis and less muscle protein breakdown. This could lead to not only improved recovery but also enhanced muscle growth.

Deficiency risks

This amino acid is readily available from a number of protein foods. However, there is still a risk of deficiency for people who limit their protein intake. Deficiencies have been found to cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and alanine has, in fact, been used for the treatment of hypoglycemia. This is because glucose can be “made” from alanine in the liver or muscles when blood sugar is low, helping prevent the lightheadness and shakes caused by significant drops in blood sugar.

Improve immune functioning

This versatile amino acid which comprises about ten percent of the free amino acids in muscles has also been shown to help strengthen the immune system by stimulating the production of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

In conclusion

While this amino acid is not technically essential, it appears to be one that’s essential for optimal athletic performance. Whether you choose to get your alanine from a whey-protein product, from eating greater amounts of protein, or from an alanine supplement, you’ll likely find that this amino can help support your active lifestyle.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Two grams of alanine is typical. Some active people choose to get their alanine from a whey-protein supplement.

Timing

Right after exercise on an empty stomach appears to be the best time to supplement with alanine.

Synergists of Alanine

Glutamine and a branch-chained amino acid blend may enhance the effectiveness of alanine.

Safety of Alanine

There are no known safety concerns unless you have liver or kidney disease, in which case, consult with your health-care professional.

Toxicity of Alanine

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Felig, P., “The Glucose-Alanine Cycle,” Metabolism 22.2 (1973) : 179-207.
  • Rivas, T., et al., “Role of Amino Acid-Induced Changes in Ion Fluxes in the Regulation of Hepatic Protein Synthesis,” J Cell Physiol 163.2 (1995) : 277-84.
  • Seglen, P.O., and Solheim, A.E., “Effects of Aminooxyacetate, Alanine and Other Amino Acids on Protein Synthesis in Isolated Rat Hepatocytes,” Biochim Biophys Acta 520.3 (1978) : 630-41.
  • Venerando, R., “Multiphasic Control of Proteolysis by Leucine and Alanine in the Isolated Rat Hepatocyte,” Am J Physiol 266.2.1 (1994) : C445-61.
  • Wiethop, B.V., and Cryer, P.E., “Alanine and Terbutaline in Treatment of Hypoglycemia in IDDM,” Diabetes Care 16.8 (1993) : 1131-6.