Betaine has humble beginnings in the supplement world sold in bottles labeled as trimethylglycine or TMG. However recently, betaine has come to the forefront as its ability to increase gains in lean muscle, strength, and power in athletes has been uncovered by researchers, leading to athletes everywhere taking it. Here’s how betaine became one of the top musclebuilding supplements on the market!
What is Betaine?
Betaine is named because of its initial discovery as a component of beets. However it’s also found in spinach, shellfish and whole grains like quinoa. Betaine is actually the amino acid glycine with three methyl groups attached, and it’s thought that these methyl groups play a role in betaine’s performance and muscular enhancement qualities.
What Does Betaine Do?
From a musclebuilding standpoint betaine’s ability to lower homocysteine is important since homocysteine can directly impair insulin signaling by reducing insulin receptor stubstrate-1 (IRS-1) activation, which in turn affects muscle protein synthesis. Betaine also acts as an osmoprotectant. This means that it protects the cell against dehydration by acting as an osmolyte which increases the water retention of cells. Research suggests that a well hydrated cell can support better anabolism.
In addition, betaine provides a methyl group to guanidinoacetate via methionine which helps your body synthesize creatine in skeletal muscle.
Clinical Study Results
In a 2009 study, active college males taking 1.25g of betaine per day for two weeks improved muscle endurance (squats), and increased the quality of repetitions performed.[ii] Researchers concluded that two weeks of betaine supplementation can significantly improve muscle endurance in a lower body (via more squat reps), as well as improve the quality of the workout by improving the number of repetitions performed at 90% of the subject’s maximal ak power output.[i]
In a 2013 study conducted at the College of Springfield in Massachusetts and published in the Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers found that subjects who supplemented with 1.25g of betaine twice a day gained 3.75 lbs. of muscle in 6 weeks.
Lean Body Mass
In addition to lean muscle gains, researchers also measured arm circumference and found that betaine subjects increased arm circumference by 9%![ii]
This study featured 23 experienced strength-trained men between the ages of 18 and 35. These men were required to have 2 years of strength training at least 3 times per week. Plus they needed to meet minimum strength requirements of being able to at least bench press their body weight and squat at least 1.25 times their bodyweight. This study is certainly the most important study on betaine to date for athletes and bodybuilders and makes betaine a must-have supplement!
Betaine Clinical Dose
Overwhelmingly studies have used 2.5g as the daily dose of betaine. This is also the level at which plasma betaine levels in the body are elevated.
When you’re using Betaine, on workout days take half your daily dose before you train, and the other half after your workout – otherwise simply ensure you’re getting the full 2.5g at some point during the day. Beware of products that make claims on betaine, but do not include this critical dose.
i Hoffman JR, et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 27;6:7.
ii Cholewa, J. M., et al., Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:39.