The search for an athletic edge is nothing new. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, over half of Americans have at least tried supplements, ballooning the industry into a $27 billion beast. Unfortunately, many of the supplements out there are either under-researched, ineffective or potentially harmful. So, when a high-quality study is published attesting to the usefulness of one of these supplements, it is, needless to say, big news.
One such study has recently emerged in the pages of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition regarding a common, but under-appreciated, substance called betaine.
Over the course of the study, 16 cyclists were put through sprint trials, first to establish a baseline, then following a week of taking just a sports drink, and a third time after a week of a sports drink containing about 2.5g of betaine.
At the end, the results from each trial was compared. The researchers found that the addition of betaine increased the subjects’ anaerobic power by about 6 percent, which is a significant amount added weight. In real world terms, this means that if you generally max out at 100lbs on a specific lift, you can add another 6lbs which could generally take weeks to accomplish.
What Is Betaine and What Does It Do?
It’s great news to hear that betaine could potentially improve your anaerobic, and sprinting, power but what is it and where do these benefits comes from?
Betaine, sometimes called betaine anhydrous or trimethylglycine, is a naturally occuring substance that your body both makes on it’s own and gets from your diet. Specifically, betaine is found in beets, broccoli, grains, shellfish, and spinach.
Practically speaking, betaine plays a number of roles in your body ranging from supporting liver function, aiding in cellular reproduction and in the production of amino acids. But, most importantly in this discussion, is the issue of how betaine increases your strength. While the researchers are not entirely sure about the mechanism involved, the prevailing theory is that betaine contributes to creatine synthesis, thereby providing more fuel to the muscles.
Side Effects and Things to Know
One of the most important things to know about betaine is that it is not a stimulant. This should quell some fears regarding it’s use, however, it’s not completely with warnings.
Betaine could potentially raise cholesterol levels, so if you have issues with cholesterol or heart conditions you should talk to your doctor before you start taking it. This same goes for those who suffer from kidney problems.
Have you taken betaine? Share your experience with us in the comments!