Betaine Showing Even More Promise!
I first saw this ingredient used in sports nutrition in a Met-Rx product in the late 1990’s. At the time there were maybe one or two animal studies showing that it may have potential muscle-building effects but overall the evidence that it could build muscle in humans was very weak.
Since then however, several studies have not only shown that it may be healthy but that it can also improve hydration, decrease lactate and increase power performance - I’ve reported all of these benefits of betaine over the years. Well now recent research shows that betaine positively alters levels several anabolic and catabolic hormones and that it increases important markers of protein synthesis (muscle building).
In a study conducted in the human performance laboratory at the University of Connecticut, scientists gave half of subjects 1.25 grams of betaine and the other half got a placebo, twice daily for two weeks. Their hormones and levels of protein synthesis were measured before and after. Then, after two weeks without taking supplement or placebo, the two groups were switched so that the placebo group got the betaine and vice versa (this is called a “cross over study” and it accounts for the fact that different people respond differently to different things by exposing each subject to the placebo condition and the "active" condition).
Once the numbers were statistically examined, it was found that betaine increased levels of the anabolic hormone IGF-1, decreased levels of the muscle-wasting hormone cortisol and showed a strong tendency to increased growth hormone levels. More importantly, two well-validated indicators of protein synthesis were increased when subjects got the betaine.
All of this of course sounds very encouraging, however, one of the reasons for these results is that betaine is what’s called a “methyl doner”, so these effects might not be as strong in people who eat a wide variety of proteins and vegetables and especially if they use whey protein 2-4 times daily as many of our readers do. This is because whey protein contains large dosages of certain methyl doner protein components.
So betaine probably has significant advantages for guys trying to improve their results from the gym but it would be great to see research in guys who were on a typical bodybuilder / strength athlete diet to see if it would still have these positive effects for FI members.
Mark Gilbert B.Sc. (Nutrition)
Nutritionist and Supplement Specialist
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