Does Betaine Supplementation Improve Strength?

To start off with, betaine is a nutrient which functions a methyl donor in various chemical processes in your body.  It’s actually found in various foods such as beets, broccoli, spinach, and shellfish.  Donation of methyl molecules is important both for cellular reproduction and for the health of your liver.  Vitamins B6, B12, Folic acid and SAMe or s-adenosyl methionine are other examples of methyl donors.

Why is betaine important for your health?

Though the evidence is still not conclusive, studies in rat models suggest that betaine may protect against fatty deposits in the liver.  As well, betaine may protect the brain against the effects of chronic alcohol consumption.  Both of these effects may be beneficial to those who suffer from alcohol dependency or alcoholism.

Does betaine supplementation improve athletic performance?

Researchers from the department of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut published a recent study on Betaine in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (Lee et al, 2010).

Study design:

The study itself included 12 men who had a minimum of 3 prior months of prior resistance training who were roughly 21 years of age (21 +/-3 yrs).

Following and prior to 14 days of twice daily supplementation with betaine, the participants were subjected to a high intensity strength / power resistance exercise challenging including bench press, squat, and jump tests.

The dosage of betaine supplementation included 1.25 grams of betaine dissolved in 300ml of Gatorade® which was consumed twice per day for 2 weeks.

Subjects completed two 14-day experimental trials separated by a 14-day washout period, in a balanced, randomized, double-blind, repeated measures, crossover design.  Prior to and following 14 days of twice daily B or placebo (P) supplementation, subjects completed two consecutive days (D1 and D2) of a standardized high intensity strength/power resistance exercise challenge (REC).

Results:

  • Following 14-days of B supplementation, D1 and D2 bench throw power (1779 +/- 90 and 1788 +/- 34 W, respectively) and isometric bench press force (2922 +/- 297 and 2503 +/- 28 N, respectively) were increased (p < 0.05) during REC compared to pre-supplementation values (1534 +/- 30 and 1498 +/- 29 W, respectively; 2345 +/- 64 and 2423 +/- 84 N, respectively) and corresponding P values (1374 +/- 128 and 1523 +/- 39 W; 2175 +/- 92 and 2128 +/- 56 N, respectively).
  • Compared to pre-supplementation, vertical jump power and isometric squat force increased (p < 0.05) on D1 and D2 following B supplementation. However, there were no differences in jump squat power or the number of bench press or squat repetitions.

Conclusions:

The study authors noted that the results of their present study suggested that betaine supplementation had beneficial effects on the upper body (enhanced bench press force and power production) but no effect on the lower body (no change in dynamic squat exercise performance).

Betaine may also have potential benefit as a recover aid since there were improvements in bench press performance observed on day 2.

From this research study and previous studies, the authors suggest that further research is merited on betaine supplementation as an ergogenic aid for both endurance and strength/resistance exercise.

At this point, no mechanism of action as to how betaine may improve athletic performance has been speculated.

Reference:

  1. Lee EC, Maresh CM, Kraemer WJ, Yamamoto LM, Hatfield DL, Bailey BL, Armstrong LE, Volek JS, McDermott BP, Craig SA. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jul 19;7:27.

10 thoughts on “Does Betaine Supplementation Improve Strength?

  1. That is weird that Betaine has an affect on the upper body, but doesn’t have an affect on the lower body.

    1. Debbie,

      I agree with you on this. Interesting that other studies produced opposite results. Wonder if any studies have produced improved performance in BOTH upper and lower body muscle groups. That being said the sample size of the experiment mentioned is a bit low (n=12) so it might be related to that.

      Very interesting in regards to the comments about alcohol abuse. Wonder if this has been expanded upon… any more studies on that topic?

  2. Wow, this is very interesting. I wonder if this could be accepted for use by professional athletes instead of steroids?

  3. Well done research there Jarret. Perhaps that’s one good reason why popeye gets stronger when he eats spinach, easily defined by the cartoonist, but scientifically, it does make sense.

  4. Mark, I’m not sure that there’s an easy answer for your question without further research and a better understanding of betaine. At the same time, some of the methodological limitations of the study itself may account for some discrepancies.

  5. Because the lab rats for this experiment did not focus as much on the lower body before this experiment. Most people focus more on the upper body when they lift. that is why this experiment should be conducted on senior college athletes right after there sport is done, so they can have a washout period to get rid of the supplement they take. So when they do the test we can see the full effect of of the betaine supplement.

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