Betaine? What The Hell Is That?
You may be quite accustomed to this ingredient in many supplement formulas, both proprietary and full disclosure labels. You may have never heard of betaine, commonly labeled as trimethylglycine on most products available today. You may not even care to know what betaine is or what it is capable of but I am here to help you hopefully grasp a better understanding on what this ingredient in particular does and how it can help your workouts and body composition in the future. Don’t just know what you are taking… understand WHY you are taking it!
Betaine originated from sugar beets but is also naturally occuring in most living plants and animals and is an oxidation product of choline metabolism. Now it’s time to get all SCIENCY up in here! Betaine’s primary function is as a methyl donor and as an osmolyte. Methyl donors such as betaine are of major importance as anticarcinogenic nutrients. In fact, a lack of sufficient methyl donor nutrients such as choline, betaine, methionine, and folate is the only nutrient deficiency known to be carcinogenic in and of itself. As an osmolyte, it plays a role similar to taurine by protecting cells from dehydration by drawing water into the cell.
So It Helps Me Get Swole, Thats Great?
Well hold on just a second. It does help your cells hold onto water much like taurine (and somewhat creatine monohydrate). But someone decided to do a study and see what other implications there were with betaine supplementation. The results speak for themselves.
In 2011 a study was led by Jenna Apicella from the University of Connecticut titled “The Effects of Betaine Supplementation on Performance and Muscle Mechanisms.” In this study 12 men underwent two weeks of supplementation with either 1) 1.25mg of Betaine twice a day or 2) a placebo. These first two weeks were followed by a two week “washout” period in which neither group took betaine or a placebo. Following this washout period the subjects switched groups, and those taking placebo before now received betaine and vice versa. Before and after each two-week period subjects completed a workout. Circulating Growth Hormone (GH), Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), Cortisol and Insulin were measured. Muscle biopsies were also taken from the quads of the subjects to evaluate protein signaling (specifically Akt, p70S6k, AMPK).
Betaine supplementation produced a near significant increase in GH (+4%) and significantly increased IGF-1 (+12.4%) levels. Not only that, betaine also significantly decreased cortisol (-4%) levels. There was no difference in insulin levels. There was a measurable increase in total muscle Akt (+1% total Akt), a serine/threonine protein kinase that plays a key role in multiple cellular processes, as well as the compensation of training induced decreases in the phosphorylation of of Akt at S473 and p70 S6k at T389, both enzymes that are intricately involved in cell- and in this case muscle growth, it can be expected that long(er) term supplementation with betaine would also improve the hypertrophy response to resistance training.
You Lost Me In All That Sciencing
So lets piece all of this together. Cortisol is something we don’t want too much of because it can inhibit GH release. Supplementing with betaine in the trial showed a decrease in cortisol. A decrease in cortisol means a decrease in somatostation which allows our pituitary gland to churn out more GH! Phew! Ok so what does all of this mean? Based on this study we can conclude that:
Betaine supplementation at about 2.5 grams per day enhanced both the anabolic hormonal profile and the corresponding anabolic signaling in muscle tissue.
But don’t just take my word for it… if you’d like you can READ THE ENTIRE STUDY
I Want Some!!!
Thankfully at least one company has put this 2.5g daily dose of Betaine in a rather robust mix of other staple supplements!
ENDURATE combines Betaine (2.5g) with a full dosing of Creatine Monohydrate (5g), Beta Alanine (3.2g), HICA, Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride. However if thats not for you Genomyx offers Betaine Anhydrous by itself as part of the BASYX line. Look for it at your preferred online retailer!