Betaine, a methyl derivative of the amino acid glycine found in food sources such as shellfish, wheat, beetroot, and spinach, was found to accentuate the improvement in strength, power and endurance associated with 14 weeks of soccer competition and training.
“These results imply that betaine supplementation could be a beneficial nutritional strategy to enhance muscular performance, and, together with increases in the testosterone to cortisol ratio reported in this same sample, suggest supplementation with betaine may be used as part of a nutritional plan to improve metrics of soccer-specific fitness during a competitive season in youth athletes,” reported scientists in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
The new study was conducted by scientists affiliated with the University of Isfahan (Iran), the University of Lynchburg (USA), the University of Granada (Spain), and the University of Extremadura (Spain). The researchers recruited young male professional soccer players with an average age of 15.5 to participate in their double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. The players were randomly assigned to received two grams per day of betaine or placebo during 14 weeks of competition and training.
The data indicated that all of the players displayed significant improvements in their VO2max, anaerobic peak power, and muscular strength compared over the 14 weeks, but these improvements were greater in the betaine-supplemented players.
Specifically, the researchers found that betaine led to better results for the vertical jump, upper and lower body strength, 30 m sprint, peak power during the running-based anaerobic sprint test (RAST) test, and aerobic performance.
“In regards to muscle function, the hamstrings have been reported to be most affected by a soccer match, requiring greater than 72 h post-match for full recovery,” wrote the researchers. “We found the largest differences in effect size between groups in tests with high hamstring involvement, such as the CMJ [countermovement jump], 30 m sprint, and peak power during the RAST, which lends further support to our hypothesis that betaine may have affected performance by attenuating fatigue and hastening recovery from muscle damage.”
The researchers also noted that this is the first study to assess the potential benefits of betaine supplementations for period longer than 10 weeks, and the mid-season measurements allowed the scientists to explore the effects of betaine over the time course of the study.
“While speculating on mechanisms that may explain these differences is outside the scope of this study, it does highlight the need for more research into the time-course of adaptations associated with betaine supplementation,” they wrote.
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Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
2021, 18, 67. doi: 10.1186/s12970-021-00464-y
“Effects of chronic betaine supplementation on performance in professional young soccer players during a competitive season: a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial”
Authors: H. Nobari, et al.