Creatine With Or Without Nitrates Has Similar Results


by Anthony Roberts 

Betaine is derived from beets, a nitrate-rich food that has been shown to improve exercise performance. Creatine is perhaps the world’s most exhaustively studied nutritional supplement, and boasts unparalleled safety and efficacy. Betaine is well known to be a methyl donor to guanidinoacetate (through methionine) that can aid in the synthesis of creatine in muscle. Combining betaine & creatine in a nutritional supplement would appear to be a no-brainer. We often hope for synergy between ingredients (1 + 1 = 3), but often we’ll settle for an additive effect (1 + 1 = 2).

Unfortunately, when we add betaine to creatine, what we get is the same exact results as the creatine alone. That’s right…when you combine creatine plus a nitrate source, you don’t get better results than simply taking the creatine alone. Even more interesting is the fact that this study, one of the few on Betaine supplementation that wasn’t funded by someone selling it, shows that the dietary nitrate doesn’t do anything on it’s own (paradoxically, another study on Betaine, which was previously thought to increase Nitric Oxide levels, actually didn’t).

Here’s the Creatine + Betaine study:

Amino Acids. 2011 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print]

Creatine but not betaine supplementation increases muscle phosphorylcreatine content and strength performance.
Del Favero S, Roschel H, Artioli G, Ugrinowitsch C, Tricoli V, Costa A, Barroso R, Negrelli AL, Otaduy MC, da Costa Leite C, Lancha-Junior AH, Gualano B.

School of Physical Education and Sport, University of Sao Paulo, Av Mello de Moraes, 65-Butantã, Sao Paulo, SP, 05508-030, Brazil.

We aimed to investigate the role of betaine supplementation on muscle phosphorylcreatine (PCr) content and strength performance in untrained subjects. Additionally, we compared the ergogenic and physiological responses to betaine versus creatine supplementation. Finally, we also tested the possible additive effects of creatine and betaine supplementation. This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Subjects were assigned to receive betaine (BET; 2 g/day), creatine (CR; 20 g/day), betaine plus creatine (BET + CR; 2 + 20 g/day, respectively) or placebo (PL). At baseline and after 10 days of supplementation, we assessed muscle strength and power, muscle PCr content, and body composition. The CR and BET + CR groups presented greater increase in muscle PCr content than PL (p = 0.004 and p = 0.006, respectively). PCr content was comparable between BET versus PL (p = 0.78) and CR versus BET + CR (p = 0.99). CR and BET + CR presented greater muscle power output than PL in the squat exercise following supplementation (p = 0.003 and p = 0.041, respectively). Similarly, bench press average power was significantly greater for the CR-supplemented groups. CR and BET + CR groups also showed significant pre- to post-test increase in 1-RM squat and bench press (CR: p = 0.027 and p < 0.0001; BET + CR: p = 0.03 and p < 0.0001 for upper- and lower-body assessments, respectively) No significant differences for 1-RM strength and power were observed between BET versus PL and CR versus BET + CR. Body composition did not differ between the groups. In conclusion, we reported that betaine supplementation does not augment muscle PCr content. Furthermore, we showed that betaine supplementation combined or not with creatine supplementation does not affect strength and power performance in untrained subjects.

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