Athletes who take 2.5 g betaine daily and do intensive training increase their body’s anabolic response to the workout. Sports scientists from the University of Connecticut write about the phenomenon in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
We consume about 100 to 300 mg betaine daily through our diet [J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011 Feb;34(1):3-15.], but we can probably easily consume 9-15 g a day without incurring problems. [Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Sep; 80(3):539-49.]
Sugar beet contains fairly high levels of betaine, and the substance is a by-product of the sugar production process. Large companies like DuPont are financing research on potentially interesting ergogenic effects of betaine, in the hope that they find a way of making money from this dirt-cheap substance.
DuPont funded a study we recently wrote about. Bodybuilders who took 2.5 g betaine daily for six weeks lost fat mass and gained several kgs of lean body mass. DuPont also financed the study we are writing about here.
The researchers used students, average age 19, as their subjects. They had already been training for an average of 4 years with weights.
For two weeks the students were given two doses of 1.25 g betaine daily. After the supplementation period the researchers got the students to train their legs. Just before [Pre] and 15 minutes after the workout [Post] the researchers analysed the subjects’ blood. Just before the workout and 10 minutes afterwards they also took a sample of muscle cells out of the subjects’ leg muscle.
Then the researchers repeated the procedure, but gave the subjects a placebo.
A quarter of an hour after the workout, the concentration of cortisol in the subjects’ blood was a little lower when they had taken betaine than when they took the placebo, the researchers discovered.
The hormonal effects of betaine suggest that anabolic processes are at work – and this is exactly what the researchers saw when they looked at the activity of anabolic signalling proteins in the muscle cell samples. Post workout the researchers observed increased activity of the anabolic signalling molecules Akt and p70-S6k.
Betaine supplementation resulted in a significantly higher post-workout concentration of growth hormone and IGF-1.
“Our findings suggest that betaine supplementation improves endocrine control of anabolic versus catabolic pathways to enhance anabolic signaling and protein synthesis, in the context of response to an acute bout of resistance and aerobic exercise performed at maximal intensity”, the researchers conclude.
“Future studies will interrogate whether betaine supplementation effects on anabolic and catabolic signaling components are consistent in a variety of exercise prescriptions and among more subject sample populations, and what the mechanisms of betaine action might be in providing an ergogenic benefit.”
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Mar;113(3):793-802.