Sprint faster with betaine
Recreational athletes can improve their sprinting capacity by taking a daily 2.5 g betaine for a week. Sports scientists at the University of Connecticut wrote about it in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Betaine – alias trimethylglycine, structural formula shown below – is an amino acid that sugar manufacturers extract from waste products. It's found in a wide range of plant-based foods such as spinach and whole grains. Betaine provides the body with methyl groups which muscle cells use to produce more creatine, goes a theory that is losing its shine.
In previous publications the Connecticut researchers showed that sports drinks with betaine added helped runners to improve their final sprint – but the effect was not statistically significant. [J Strength Cond Res. 2008 May; 22(3): 851-60.]
In studies involving strength athletes, a supplementation period of several weeks with betaine led to an increase in the number of reps the subjects managed with squats. That's why the researchers in Connecticut thought they'd jump on the bandwagon: they gave a group of 16 recreational athletes 2.5 g betaine daily for a week.
The subjects took the dose divided over two moments during the day, dissolved in a sports drink containing carbohydrates and salts. The researchers used BetaPower, produced by the DuPont daughter company Danisco. [danisco.com]
Before and after the supplementation period the researchers got their subjects to cycle in a laboratory. After warming up the subjects had to do 4 sprints of 12 seconds each in succession [work bouts]. Between the sprints they had to cycle gently for 2.5 minutes. The researchers then repeated the procedure, after giving the test subjects a placebo for a week.
The table below shows that the betaine supplementation increased the subjects' power. That means they were able to perform at a higher level and were able to develop more speed. The subjects' average power rose by 6.4 percent and their peak power by 5.7 percent as a result of the supplement.
The researchers haven't yet worked out exactly how betaine works. The effect they observed resembles that of creatine, but there's no way the dose used could increase the amount of creatine in muscle cells sufficiently to produce the performance improvement they saw.
"We found that one week of betaine supplementation increased peak and mean anaerobic power by approximately 5.5 percent compared to baseline measures in recreationally active college age men and women", the researchers concluded. "Future research should elucidate the mechanism of improved performance via betaine supplementation."
The second author of the study works for DuPont. She was closely involved in setting up the study and the statistical analysis of the results. However, DuPont did not fund the research.
J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Apr 3;9(1):12.
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