Effects of betaine on performance and body composition: a review of recent findings and potential mechanisms

Abstract

Betaine is a methyl derivative of glycine first isolated from sugar beets. Betaine consumed from food sources and through dietary supplements presents similar bioavailability and is metabolized to di-methylglycine and sarcosine in the liver. The ergogenic and clinical effects of betaine have been investigated with doses ranging from 500 to 9,000 mg/day. Some studies using animal models and human subjects suggest that betaine supplementation could promote adiposity reductions and/or lean mass gains. Moreover, previous investigations report positive effects of betaine on sports performance in both endurance- and resistance-type exercise, despite some conflicting results. The mechanisms underlying these effects are poorly understood, but could involve the stimulation of lipolysis and inhibition of lipogenesis via gene expression and subsequent activity of lipolytic-/lipogenic-related proteins, stimulation of autocrine/endocrine IGF-1 release and insulin receptor signaling pathways, stimulation of growth hormone secretion, increased creatine synthesis, increases in protein synthesis via intracellular hyper-hydration, as well as exerting psychological effects such as attenuating sensations of fatigue. However, the exact mechanisms behind betaine action and the long-term effects of supplementation on humans remain to be elucidated. This review aims to describe evidence for the use of betaine as an ergogenic and esthetic aid, and discuss the potential mechanisms underlying these effects.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Stuart A.S. Craig for his help refining the manuscript.

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No funding was obtained for the preparation of this manuscript. The authors declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jason M. Cholewa.

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Cholewa, J.M., Guimarães-Ferreira, L. & Zanchi, N.E. Effects of betaine on performance and body composition: a review of recent findings and potential mechanisms. Amino Acids 46, 1785–1793 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-014-1748-5

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Keywords

  • Hypertrophy
  • Strength
  • Ergogenic
  • Methylation
  • Lipogenesis
  • Sarcopenia