Paired with exercise, betaine supplementation linked to fat mass reduction in women

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / Bojan656
iStock / Bojan656

Related tags: Sports nutrition, Weight loss, Weight management

Female collegiate athletes who ingested a betaine supplement for several days had more decreases in body fat percentage and fat mass than a placebo group in a randomized, controlled trial.

The researchers’ goal was to see the effect of betaine supplementation paired with resistance training in women, as most previous studies have looked at men.

“The major findings of the present study are that nine weeks of betaine supplementation improved body composition by reducing fat mass,”​ they wrote in their report​, published yesterday in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Kinesiology at Coastal Carolina University and DuPont Nutrition & Health’s Experimental Station in Delaware. DuPont also supplied the betaine and placebo capsules, but stated in the report that it did not provide any additional funding.

Effect on work capacity, but not strength or power

Additionally, the researchers found that betaine supplemented participants were more likely to have a higher volume work capacity—the total amount of exercises performed until muscle failure in the time provided—after supplementation compared to the placebo group.

But they found no strength or power performance differences between the two groups.

They also did not find support for their original hypothesis—that betaine may have ergogenic and hypertrophic effects (such as enhanced physical performance or enlarged muscles) by increasing intracellular hydration, and thereby “providing a more hospitable environment for excitation contraction coupling and protein synthesis.”

They added that caution should be considered when interpreting the analysis of betaine’s potential effect on hydration.

“We were unable to distinguish between compartments of intracellular water, and therefore cannot make any conclusions directly as to the effects of betaine on intramuscular hydration in particular​,” they wrote.

Further Reading

Women are underrepresented in whey protein supplementation studies, researchers argue

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Getty Images / Champlifezy

Relatively little attention has been paid to potential sex differences in body composition responses to whey protein, argued researchers from Purdue University. READ MORE

“Future studies with more sophisticated equipment and strict dietary controls are required to properly assess the effects of betaine supplementation on compartmental water.”

Can diet fluctuations affect outcome?

The researchers also noted that small fluctuations in diet such as sodium or fiber intake may confound the results.

“While we attempted to clarify food journals to ensure accurate dietary analysis, and although under reporting of food intakes are common in the literature, subjects in the present study were likely in a caloric deficit,”​ they wrote.

This means the results suggest that betaine may be an effective fat loss supplement for women on a restricted calorie diet engaged in a resistance training program.

Hence, “further research is necessary to investigate the effects of betaine supplementation on changes in lean mass in various populations” ​consuming a eucaloric diet—which is when calories burned and calories gained are in a balance.

Study details

Twenty-three young women with no previous resistance training experience with an average BMI of 25 participated in the study.

Researchers measured the participants’ muscle thickness using ultrasound, as well as baseline performance of vertical jump, back squat, and bench press.

Participants were matched for body composition and squat strength, and randomly assigned to either betaine (2.5g per day, using DuPont’s branded BetaPower derived of sugar beets in capsule form) or placebo (sugar, 0.75 g per capsule).

They then completed three sets of six to seven exercises per day performed to momentary muscular failure, performed on non-consecutive days for eight weeks.

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Published online, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0243-x
“The effects of chronic betaine supplementation on body composition and performance in collegiate females: a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial”
Authors: Jason Michael Cholewa, et al.

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