The small-scale double-blind placebo-controlled trial found that the benefits of betaine supplementation were particularly apparent in the smaller upper-body muscle groups.
Betaine is a nutrient found in foods such as shellfish, spinach, beets and whole grains. Previous studies have linked it to numerous performance-enhancing benefits, including less fatigue, greater general strength and greater endurance during recovery. Beyond its sports nutrition benefits, betaine has also been linked to heart, liver and kidney health.
The current study, funded by Danisco and published in the open access Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, tested the effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance.
Researchers recruited 12 men with an average age of 21 and an average weight of 79kg. All participants had a minimum of three months resistance training prior to the trial.
The men all underwent a baseline two-day testing on physical performance, and were then randomly assigned to receive daily supplementation with betaine or placebo. The betaine was given as 1.25g betaine supplied by Danisco, in 300ml of Gatorade sports drink, taken twice daily. Placebo was Gatorade without betaine.
After the 14 days’ supplementation, participants repeated the two-day exercise protocol, which included high-intensity strength/power resistance exercises such as bench throw, bench press, vertical jumps and squat repetitions.
At the end of the 14 days, the betaine group displayed increased bench throw power and isometric bench press force compared to pre-supplementation and compared to the placebo group.
Vertical jump power and isometric squat force also increased compared to the start of the trial. However, there were no differences in jump squat power or the number of bench press or squat repetitions.
“In the current study, the primary effect of the betaine supplement was observed in the upper body, with enhanced bench press force and power production, but no change in the dynamic squat exercise performances. Additionally, the improvements in the bench press performances were observed on [day 2 of the exercise protocol], demonstrating the efficacy of betaine as a potential aid to recovery,” wrote the researchers.
They concluded that betaine supplementation increased power, force and maintenance in selected performance measures, and these were more apparent in the smaller upper-body muscle groups.
Danisco’s betaine ingredient – BetaPower – is a natural betaine anhydrous grade. In the US, the ingredient is self-affirmed as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for use in foods and beverages, but it does not currently have approval in Europe for use in foods.
BetaPower works by donating methyl groups (CH3) that assist in over 100 reactions essential for normal cell function. The ingredient is also said to protect against the effects of dehydration by accumulating in cells and forming a monolayer of water around essential cell components.
Source: Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance
Lee et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:27
Authors: Elaine C Lee, Carl M Maresh, William J Kraemer, Linda M Yamamoto, Disa L Hatfield, Brooke L Bailey, Lawrence E Armstrong, Jeff S Volek, Brendon P McDermott, Stuart AS Craig