Betaine Guide

Some of you might be reading this article to find out what the heck betaine is.  Others may be reading this to get a better understanding of how to use betaine in their supplementation regimen and the benefits that can be had from it.  For that reason and for a lack of better term, we can consider this a betaine guide.  Below will lay out some groundwork as well as some very important information to grasp and understand before supplementing with this particular ingredient.

What is betaine?

Betaine is an amino acid and is also referred to as trimethylglycine (TMG).  As some of you might have guessed by now, betaine can be found in various foods we consume such as beets (hence the name).  Betaine is also considered an osmolyte which has the function of maintaining fluid balance between the inside and outside of cells.  When fluid balance on the inside or outside of cells is not stable, it can actually cause the cells to burst or die.  When this happens, it can create various health issues.

Supplementing with betaine has many various health benefits as well as performance benefits.  It’s for that reason that you may see it popping up in supplement formulas. 

Is there a need for you to supplement strictly with betaine?  That’s actually a tough question to answer definitively.  If you are a performance athlete or someone who exercises regularly, there are definitely benefits to supplementing with betaine.  If you don’t exercise or aren’t a performance athlete does that mean there’s no need or benefit to supplementing with such an ingredient?  That answer is no.  But, being that you’re on this site, we can assume you exercise regularly.

Betaine is found in wheat products, which American’s generally have no problem consuming from their diet.  So naturally, if you consume products like wheat, beets, quinoa, certain meats and poultry (like turkey breast, beef, and veal), sweet potatoes, and spinach in high quantities you’ll be taking in betaine.  Not that I’m condoning drinking alcohol, but betaine is also present in beer and wine.  However, that’s not to say that the quantity of betaine you are consuming through your nutrition is enough to provide you with the health benefits that we will get into shortly. 

What benefits can betaine provide for you?

The first benefit that many people will definitely be excited about is its ability to help improve lean muscle gains, aid in body recomposition, and enhance strength[1].  Such benefits can only be had through consistent supplementation with betaine.  This ingredient is not one that you will see immediate health and muscular results from the very first dose. 

However, with that being said, betaine can help increase nitric oxide levels[2] from the first dose.  By improving vasodilation, you have the ability to help shuttle nutrients into the working muscles to improve performance and recovery as well as helping you achieve a pump during your workout.

Another benefit to supplementing with betaine is the fact that when combined with a caloric deficit, higher rates of fat burning were apparent.  When a test group was compared to a control group, it was found that the test group who was given betaine supplements had a greater ability to metabolize protein and were found to lose more overall body fat compared to the group who did not receive any betaine at all.

When you combine the benefits we just mentioned, you are placed in a position where you have the ability to not only increase your lean muscle mass, which will also help you burn stubborn body fat, but when you supplement with betaine it can also directly help you shed off body fat as well.  For those looking to improve their physique or those who compete in fitness competitions, this could give you the edge needed to look your best and achieve your physique goals faster when compared to those not using betaine.

An important part of putting on lean muscle mass is to ensure that you are properly digesting your food so that it can be absorbed by the body and utilized by the muscles to enhance recovery.  When you aren’t able to break down your food effectively, you limit your muscle-building potential.  For that reason, betaine has been found that when supplemented with can actually alleviate many various digestion issues[3] that individuals may be faced with.  This can not only help with your muscle-building efforts but can also help the overall health of the digestive tract itself.

Exercising at a high level can create aches and pains.  This can be a nuisance and hurt your ability to train intensely.  It has been found that supplementing with betaine can help alleviate these muscular aches and pains as well as mitigate lactic acid in the working muscles – this can help you train harder and longer.

Betaine, however, isn’t only used for its muscle-building capabilities and body recompositioning.  In fact, it has some heart, liver, and kidney benefits as well.  When using betaine consistently, it has the ability to lower the risk of heart disease[4] by helping to prevent hardening of the arteries.  Overall, this can help lower your overall risk of things such as strokes and heart attacks.  Then, when it comes to your liver, supplementing with betaine can help detox the liver by breaking down fat and then removing it.  Fat tends to accumulate in your liver if you are overweight/obese, drink heavily (alcohol), or suffer from diabetes.  When you add betaine to your supplement regimen, you have the ability to improve liver function and improve your overall health.  The kidneys are in essence a filter for your body.  When they become damaged, illness can certainly follow.  Betaine has the ability to protect the kidneys by lowering uric acid levels[5].

More and more research is being conducted all the time and I can only suspect that as time passes, we will find more powerful and amazing benefits from utilizing betaine. 

References:

  1. Cholewa, J. M., et al. (2013). Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 10:39.
  2. Trepanowski, J. F., et al. (2011). The effects of chronic betaine supplementation on exercise performance, skeletal muscle oxygen saturation and associated biochemical parameters in resistance trained men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(12), 3461-3471.
  3. Yago, M. A., et al. (2013). Gastric re-acidification with betaine hcl in healthy volunteers with rabeprazole-induced hypochlorhydria. Molecular Pharmaceutics. 10(11), 4032-4037.
  4. Olthof, M. R., et al. (2005). Choline supplemented as phosphatidylcholine decreases fasting and postmethionine-loading plasma homocysteine concentrations in healthy men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 82(1), 111-7.
  5. Liu, Y. L., et al. (2014). Betaine reduces serum uric acid levels and improves kidney function in hyperuricemic mice. Planta Medica. 80(1), 39-47.