Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

about us





Trimethylglycine helps you get more reps out of your squats

A dirt-cheap supplement helps strength athletes to get maximum reps when doing squats. Sports scientists at the College of New Jersey writing in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition state that students can manage more reps when doing squats if they take a daily 2.5 g of the amino acid trimethylglycine or betaine. [Structure below]

Trimethylglycine is found in whole wheat and shellfish. If your diet contains high quantities of these foods, you're getting two grams a day of trimethylglycine. Otherwise you probably only get about a gram of the stuff. Trimethylglycine is a methyl group donor in the body. The amino acid helps to reduce the homocysteine in the body and stimulates the production of creatine in the muscle cells. It also gives methyl groups to all sorts of molecules.

The effect of trimethylglycine on athletes has never been properly studied, but in the equestrian sports world trimethylglycine is a popular legal muscle strengthening supplement. And if you give it to pigs they gain more muscle and less fat. What's more, trimethylglycine is cheap: it is a by-product from the sugar industry. The amino acid is found in sugar beets. Sugar giant Danisco markets it as a component for feed, supplements and functional foods. And yes, you guessed it, Danisco funded this study.

The researchers gave twelve male students who did recreational strength training two sports drinks a day, each containing 1.25 g of trimethylglycine. A similar group was given a placebo. Before the test started [T1], after one week [T2] and after two weeks [T3] the test subjects had to do bench presses and squats at 75 percent of their 1RM. The researchers counted the number of reps the test subjects managed.

The figure below shows that trimethylglycine had no effect on bench press performance.

Trimethylglycine helps you get more reps out of your squats

The results were different for the squats.

Trimethylglycine helps you get more reps out of your squats

The supplement made the squats easier. The test subjects managed more reps. This effect was not recorded for the bench presses.

Why trimethylglycine helps with squats and not with bench presses the researchers don't know. Leg muscles are bigger and maybe absorb more trimethylglycine, they speculate. Or perhaps the test subjects had trained their lower body more than their upper body, and therefore the supplement had a skewed effect. And how the supplement works they don't know either: they didn't examine the muscles to see whether for example the amino acid had increased the amount of creatine.

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 27;6:7.