Betaine improves muscular endurance in young team handball players

The new research was the work of researchers from Iran, Canada and the United States. It was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​.

Handball (often called “team handball” in North America to distinguish it from the game played on a court) is a sport that requires a balance of upper and lower body strength. The requirements for muscular endurance and speed/power balance are similar to basketball, and the rules for contact between players are also similar.

Betaine is a molecule first extracted as a by-product of refining sugar beets. This endogenous compound has several physiological functions, including facilitating cellular hydration and acting as a “chaperone” to protect certain cell proteins from degradation.

It also works to increase the supply of free choline, which when synthesized into acetylcholine can support signaling in motor neurons. This implies a benefit on sports performance by reducing the rate of perceived exertion, which is one of the limiting factors in training.

The researchers noted that the molecule has a long history of study in this area. The first mention of the use of betaine to support nerve signaling and muscle function comes from a 1952 study of people with poliomyelitis, some of whom experienced muscle weakness after recovering from the disease. More recently, betaine has been shown to increase power and mass without fatin untrained young women. I was also shownimprove the performance of young professional footballers​​.

Diving into the resistance exercise aspect

The researchers said their study was an attempt to further elucidate the effect of betaine supplementation on resistance exercise. They noted that previous studies along these lines dating back to 2007 had shown ambiguous results. They also wanted to see what effect betaine would have on endocrine function, which is an important data point regarding adolescent athletes.

To test how betaine might benefit young handball players, the researchers recruited a small cohort of 10 players. Since the main author of the study is Iranian, it can be assumed that the players were recruited in Iran, although this was not specified in the study. The players were all healthy and training at least three times a week. They maintained their normal exercise and diet routines during the placebo and active phases of the study, and refrained from taking other supplements. They were asked to rest for 48 hours before each of the three test sessions (reference, placebo and betaine phases).

Endocrine markers also captured

Subjects were asked to perform leg presses and bench presses with a weight set at 80% of their maximum single rep level, which allowed them to perform multiple reps. The researchers found a significant benefit for betaine supplementation. It allowed players to perform around 35 reps of the leg press, compared to around 25 reps for the placebo. Bench press results were similar: about 36 reps versus 26 reps, respectively. Betaine also suppressed post-exercise cortisol and lactate levels compared to placebo, and increased testosterone levels.

“Two weeks of betaine supplementation in adolescent males appeared to increase testosterone concentrations and decrease cortisol and lactate responses after an ER session[exercice de résistance]at high intensity). Additionally, betaine intake improved the ability to perform more reps (at 80% 1RM) in bench press and leg press exercises, representing upper and lower body muscular endurance, respectively. . “[resistanceexercise)Inadditionbetaineintakeimprovedtheabilitytoperformmorerepetitions(at80%1RM)inthebenchandlegpressexercisesrepresentingupper-andlower-bodymuscleendurancerespectively”[resistanceexercise)Inadditionbetaineintakeimprovedthecapabilitytoperformmorerepetitions(at80%1RM)inthebenchandlegpressexercisesrepresentingupper-andlower-bodymuscleendurancerespectively”concluded the researchers.

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​
Effects of short-term betaine supplementation on muscle endurance and endocrine function indices after acute high-intensity resistance exercise in young athletes
Authors: Arazi H, et al.