Numerical simulations of Alfvén modes driven by energetic particles are performed with the gyrokinetic (GK) global particle-in-cell code ORB5. A reversed shear equilibrium magnetic field is adopted. A simplified configuration with circular flux surfaces and large aspect ratio is considered. The nonlinear saturation of beta-induced Alfvén eigenmodes (BAE) is investigated. The roles of the wave–particle nonlinearity of the different species, i.e. thermal ions, electrons and energetic ions are described, in particular for their role in the saturation of the BAE and the generation of zonal flows. The nonlinear redistribution of the electron population is found to be important in increasing the BAE saturation level and the zonal flow amplitude.