Alanine

L-alanine2018-11-12T17:07:51+00:00

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What is alanine?

Alanine is a non-essential amino acid and it plays a crucial role as a building block of important proteins.

Mostly synthesised by the muscle cells from lactic acid it is considered the most important nutrient for the amino acid metabolism in the blood together with L-Glutamine. Once synthesised, the liver absorbs alanine and converts it into pyruvate. This compound is critical for the production of glucose and and hence blood sugar management.

L-alanine supplements are therefore often useful in cases of hypoglycaemia to prevent low blood sugar or insulin shocks. They enable rapid energy delivery by stimulating the immediate release of glucose into the blood stream.

Other important functions of this amino acid are the support of the immune system and prevention of kidney stones. Alanine supplements can also be useful in supporting an intensive training regime and achieving effective muscle growth.

Learn to boost your HIIT workouts with Alanine

Dietary sources

Alanine is easily washed away and lost in foods due to its strong hydrophilic (water soluble) properties. Therefore it is important to avoid cooking or soaking alanine-rich foods for too long. Protein rich sources from animals are good to include, in particular:

  • beef (approximately 3.9 g per 100g)
  • fish (approximately 2.6 g per 100g)

These can cover a large amount of the recommended minimum daily dose of L-alanine.

Yeast (approximately 2.3g per 100g) and partridge (approximately 2.2g per 100g) are also high in alanine, although the latter are usually much less popular in Europe.

Athletes in particular have a much larger need to supplement amino acids in order to rapidly build muscle mass. They usually consume protein powder before and after training in order to make the protein rapidly available in the bloodstream enabling the body to repair and grow its muscles.

They should also include certain foods in their diet, which have high concentrations of L-alanine and other amino acids in order to guarantee an ample supply of vital nutrients.

In order to avoid consuming too much fat as part of a protein-rich diet, it is good to include certain plant-based foods. Examples include:

  • dried white mushrooms (approx. 1.9 g per 100g)
  • sunflower seeds (approx. 1.8 g per 100 g)
  • wheatgerms (approx. 1.8 g per 100g),
  • soymeal (approx. 1.7 g per 100g) and
  • parsley (approx. 1.5 g per 100g)

These foods can help increase physical fitness when consumed over longer periods of time.

Health benefits

Muscle growth

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Alanine is a critical player in the body’s protein biosynthesis and has certain regulatory functionality. Muscle protein consists of approximately 6% of alanine. Muscles synthesise 30% of the alanine in the blood, which demonstrates its importance to the overall metabolism.

The liver absorbs alanine from the blood and converts it into pyruvate. This enables a faster and more effective supply of energy when the body needs it. This enables the body to perform for longer at higher levels of intensity. Athletes therefore often supplement alanine in order to attain training goals.

Immune system and kidneys

Other important tasks of this non-essential amino acid are the support of the immune system and prevention of kidney stones. These can be produced by the body as a result of insoluble toxic compounds, which L-alanine is able to chemically neutralise. L-alanine may therefore be used preventatively against kidney stones by individuals with a positive family history for this condition.

L-alanine is also an important reactant for glucagon because it will stimulate its production when blood sugar is too low. Additionally, it will support the generation of glucose from other amino acids1.

Healthy prostate

Studies have shown that prostate fluid has a high concentration of L-alanine. It may therefore protect the prostate gland itself from an irregular enlargement. A symptom of this is severe pain and problems during urination. Supplements containing alanine can help to reduce these symptoms.

It is therefore assumed that L-alanine can reduce the swelling of the gland’s tissue and may even be useful in the treatment of prostate cancer2.

Diabetes

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A study showed in 2002 that there is an interrelationship between L-alanine and the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. When allowed to react with glucose it leads to an increased production and excretion of insulin therefore positively influencing diabetes.

The metabolism of glucose is improved overall and symptoms can be reduced or eliminated altogether3. This reduces possible complications of secondary conditions resulting from diabetes, significantly improving patients’ quality of life.

Cardiovascular health

A separate study was able to show that the supplementation of L-alanine is able to increase physical fitness when combined with exercise and protect from cardiovascular illnesses.

Over 400 individuals were asked to consume alanine supplements or placebos and the former group was shown to perform significantly better at exercise whilst displaying lower fat readings in the blood4.

Learn to boost your HIIT workouts with Alanine

Deficiency

Poor nutrition, a low protein diet, as well as stress and environmental factors can all cause an insufficiency of L-alanine. It is important to compensate for these shortfalls by using dietary supplements.

Otherwise muscle endurance and strength may reduce, and effects including muscle atrophy (shrinkage), fatigue or faintness may occur.

Conclusion

L-alanine plays a significant role in several metabolic processes and in regulating blood sugar.

It can therefore be used not only against acute low sugar shocks, but is also able to stimulate insulin excretion in the pancreas and in doing so significantly improve the metabolism of glucose over longer periods of time. Other functions of this proteinogenic amino acid are the support of the ability to perform physically and build muscle mass.

Alanine supplements are therefore popular with athletes who are thus able to achieve increases in their performance. L-alanine can also control cell growth in cancer, and is therefore useful in the treatment of prostate cancer and its symptoms.

Studies

  1. Müller W. A. et al: The effect of alanine on glucagon secretion; J Clin Invest. 2001; 50; S. 2215-2218
  2. Shiga H. et al: Amino acid therapy for hypertrophy of the prostate; Hinyokika Kiyo 2008; S. 625-632
  3. Brennan L, Shine A, Hewage C, Malthouse JP, Brindle KM, McClenaghan N, Flatt PR, Newsholme P. A nuclear magnetic resonance-based demonstration of substantial oxidative L-alanine metabolism and L-alanine-enhanced glucose metabolism in a clonal pancreatic beta-cell line: metabolism of L-alanine is important to the regulation of insulin secretion. Diabetes. 2002 Jun; 51(6):1714-21