Nowadays, every sports nutrition company seems to have some sort of secret ingredient that will revolutionize your performance. In reality, many of these supplements are untested and there's no guarantee they'll work.
Here at ATAQ, we want to push through all that noise and give you products that are proven to deliver results. That's why we include Betaine, an all-natural substance shown to improve endurance and increase muscle mass. Continue reading to learn more about this beet-based muscle booster!
What is Betaine?
Betaine (betaine anhydrous) is a (chemical/substance/molecule) found naturally in microorganisms, plants, and animals like wheat, spinach, beets, and shellfish. The name actually comes from its origin in sugar beets. It's also found naturally in our bodies, though not quite to the same level. Betaine’s ammonium compound trimethylglycine can also be called lysine or oxyneurine.
On a chemical level, Betaine is the amino acid glycine with three methyl groups attached to it. Betaine performs two major functions in the body. It acts as both a methyl donor and an osmolyte.
What Are Methyl Donors and Osmolytes?
Alright here is the science part. Bear with us, we won’t get too complicated but we want you to be informed on what’s really happening with this supplement and your muscle cells.
Betaine has carbon and hydrogen molecules that are called methyl groups when combined . When this group of molecules is passed around the body it's called methylation--a super important part of many bodily processes like protein synthesis.
Being an osmolyte means that betaine helps balance fluid levels around cells, inside and outside the membrane. We will learn later how this process increases muscle mass.
Betaine is approved for medical treatments for people with high homocysteine levels (which is associated with weak bones, heart disease, and eye sight problems). Betaine also has a wide range of other medical uses such as treating liver disease, depression, and congestive heart failure, as well as preventing non-cancerous colon tumors and obesity.
What Are The Benefits of Betaine?
Rehydration of Cells
Natural betaine assists with rehydration when mixed with electrolytes by restoring your optimal fluid balance and transporting electrolytes and glucose to the muscle cells.
Betaine aids hydration by protecting the cells from the stress that is put on cells when a muscle is overworked while in a state of dehydration.
Researchers believe that betaine increases performance because of increased hydration, and as ATAQ likes to say, making your water work harder. Betaine will increase the percentage of water inside your muscle cells which means more hydrated muscles. This increases the “pump” in training reps or endurance strength exercises.
Betaine can increase your endurance and resistance training performance. The hydration of cells keeps your body going longer. Endurance is closely tied to muscle strength; so by increasing muscle mass, betaine improves endurance as well.
A study done by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that after taking betaine for two weeks, the study participants improved muscle endurance. This was found by testing and monitoring a lower body workout by increasing the number of squats performed. Within one week, participants were able to see a noticeable increase in squat reps while taking Betaine.
Several groups of researchers have also discovered that betaine supplementation in participants resulted in them being able to sprint for almost 40 seconds longer, complete more total reps in bench press workouts, and pedal with more power in cycling workouts than the placebo group of subjects drinking just water.
Improved Nutrient Absorption
Betaine’s benefits go beyond just working out--it also helps you get the most out of your meals. One study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that Betaine supports the body’s conversion of protein into amino acids, as well as metabolism of amino acids and carbohydrates.
This means that you won’t need to worry about stuffing your body with proteins to ensure that you get all the amino acids you need. Your body will be more efficient at protein and carb metabolism. You’ll get more of the essential nutrients from your meals so you won’t need to eat as much.
Increase Muscle Gain and Fat Loss
A team of University of Connecticut researchers learned that subjects who took 1.25 grams of betaine 2x/day saw an increase in their muscle strength by 25% and a 20% increase in muscle power.
This process of cell fluid regulation promotes pumping and therefore overall muscle growth. Combined with hypertrophy processes, which stimulate protein synthesis, this results in muscle mass increase.
Betaine has a “pumping” quality of cell hydration, which means the cells swell, creating a larger visual effect. Betaine also enhances muscle hypertrophy, and has the additional function of lowering levels of nitric oxide, which helps regulate the cell fluid circulation and creates a “swollen” effect.
Lower Homocysteine Levels
Betaine lowers Homocysteine levels by providing essential nutrients like B12 and B6 to your body. What does that mean for you? Well, Homocysteine is connected to heart disease, liver failure, and digestive problems. So by lowering the level of Homocysteine, Betaine is able to help prevent or lower the risk for these conditions.
Are There Side Effects?
Honestly, not really. In healthy people especially the side effects are very, very uncommon. Some people can experience diarrhea or nausea--although this is rare. Also, remember it is important to consult a physician prior to starting betaine supplements if you are taking medications for heart disease or liver function.
How to Get The Most out of Betaine
As with any natural supplement, betaine cannot create results on its own. You have to pair proper nutrition with betaine like incorporating real foods into your diet. By real foods we mean no more junk foods from the vending machine on your lunch break, but instead try starchy vegetables and protein-rich options. Try to eat more fiber, calcium, and healthy fats (like avocado!) too.
Portion size is also super important in muscle growth and weight loss, depending on your goals. It’s recommended by health experts to have:
- Vegetables—2 to 3 cups.
- Fruits—1½ to 2 cups.
- Grains—5 to 8 ounces.
- Dairy —3 cups (fat-free or low-fat)
- Protein—5 to 6½ ounces.
- Oils—5 to 7 teaspoons.
You also should be committed to daily training sessions for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
When Should I Take Betaine?
Betaine can be taken daily as a pre or post workout supplement. Research shows a hefty amount of betaine is lost in sweat during a workout, so it would be smart to refuel after an especially difficult workout session. We recommend 1.25 - 1.5 grams, twice a day.
Before a workout, it can help you keep going longer since it pre-hydrates your muscle cells to be ready for all that sweat loss. After a workout, it replenishes the water lost. Either way, you can’t go wrong taking betaine within an hour before or after your intense workout.
Betaine vs. Creatine
What Is Creatine - and Why Should I Care?
Creatine is pretty well-known in the fitness and wellness world. It’s a monohydrate known for its muscle building qualities. Tons of research has gone into the results of its exercise performance enhancing abilities, especially in high endurance workouts like the ever popular H.I.I.T. style. Creatine stimulates muscle hypertrophy that allows it to function as a primary energy storage molecule and reverse the depletion of muscle cell energy loss.
However, although a generally safe supplement, the Mayo Clinic has reported several drawbacks of creatine. This can include, but is not limited to, kidney damage, liver damage, kidney stones, weight gain and bloating, muscle cramps or digestive problems including constipation or diarrhea.
So, Why Choose Betaine?
In comparison, Betaine has more of a “swelling” quality of cell hydration. Many bodybuilders love betaine for its proven effectiveness in increasing muscle size by this swelling affect. In a study published by University of Springfield, when two groups were asked to take 1.25 g of betaine twice a day, the group taking betaine increased muscle mass by 1.8kg and reduced body weight by 3 kilograms. The group not taking betaine reported no muscle swell or weight loss.
The downside for many people thinking about starting Creatine supplements is that it can raise your hormones, including testosterone. Athletes, especially young women, may not be interested in this. Although both are naturally produced in the body, many think of betaine as the “more natural” supplement given its neutral hormonal impact.
Ready to implement Betaine into your pre-workout regime?
If you want to get more out of your workouts,try our ATAQ Electrolyte Hydration Powder Mix with all-natural betaine. With only 9g of sugar and 55 calories, this is the smartest way to get betaine.
We recommend taking betaine with other minerals that support its amino acid structure. That’s why ATAQ blends betaine with our Hydra 4G Chelated Mineral Blend, which contains calcium, glycerophosphate, magnesium glycerophosphate, and potassium citrate.