L-alanine is an important supplement for strength-endurance athletes

What is L-alanine?

L-alanine is a non-essential amino acid and 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 L-alanine is absorbed via the liver and converted to a pyruvate. This compound is critical for the production of glucose and and hence blood sugar management.

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

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Other important functions of this amino acid are the support of the immune system and prevention of kidney stones. L-alanine is thus often as a remedy in orthomolecular medicine.

Poor nutrition, a low protein diet, as well as stress and environmental can all cause an insufficiency of L-alanine. Such shortfalls should be compensated with dietary supplements with a level of urgency.

Muscle endurance and strength may otherwise adversely affected and ongoing muscle atrophy (shrinkage), fatigue or faintness may result. When dosed appropriately however, L-alanine can be an effective nutrient supporting an intensive training regime and achieve effective muscle growth.

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L-alanine is easily washed away and lost in foods due to its strong hydrophilic (water soluble) properties. Foods with large amounts of L-alanine should therefore not be cooked or soaked for too long. Protein rich sources from animals are well suited as sources, in particular:

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

are recommended, because they 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 L-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 blood stream 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 these for them vital nutrients.
In order to avoid consuming too much fat as part of a protein-rich diet, certain plat-based food may be consumed. Examples include:

  • dried white mushrooms (approx. 1.9 g per 100g) and
  • sunflower seeds (approx. 1.8 g per 100 g). Also products such as
  • 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.

Functions of L-alanine in the body

 Promote muscle growth with L-alanine

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

The L-alanine is absorbed from the blood in the liver and then converted to pyruvate. This enables a faster and more effective supply of energy when it is needed so that the body can perform longer at increased levels of intensity. Athletes therefore often supplement L-alanine in order to attain personal goals.

Healthy 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 prevetatively against kidney stones by individuals with an according family history.

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

L-Alanine and prostate cancer

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Healthy prostate

Studies have shown that prostate fluid has a high concentration of L-alanine may therefore protect the prostate gland itself from an irregular enlargement. A symptom of this is usually severe pain and problems during urination. This can usually be reduced by the consumption of dietary supplements containing L-alanine.

It is therefore assumed that L-alanine can reduce the swelling of  the gland’s tissue and even be used to treat prostate cancer2

L-alanine combats illnesses

The proteinogenic amino acid L-alanine has been successfully used to treat certain illnesses and is therefore used often in orthomolecular medicine. In addition to its ability to positively influence blood sugar it is also used frequently to prevent prostate cancer. Several studies have show that L-alanine also stimulates the immune system, reduces inflammation and therefore helps to balance and stabilise the organism as a whole.

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

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

A separate study was able to show that the supplementierung 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 L-Alanien supplements or placebos and the former group was shown to perform significantly better at exercise whilst displaying lower fat readings in the blood4.

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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 insuline extcretion 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.

L-Arginine supplements are therefore popular with athletes who are thus able to achieve increases in their performance.

L-alanine can further contain the uncontrolled growth (cancer) of the pancreatic tissue and is thus used to treat both prostate cancer itself as well as its symptoms.

Referenced 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