Jorge Betancourt has come a long way since those early protein shakes. In between classes in high school in the late 1980s, when he didn’t always have the time to eat a full meal or the money to afford protein powder, here’s what he would choke down to make sure his body remained in an anabolic state: a can of tuna and apple juice mixed in a blender. One time, to add more carbohydrates to the concoction, he threw rice in the blender, too.
“I barely chugged it down,” Betancourt says, “so I never put the rice in there again. But that was a protein shake back then!”
Back then, before supplement companies knew anything about whey isolates and “myo-augmenting proteins,” you were lucky if your shake had the slightest hint of chocolate … instead of just tasting overwhelmingly of chalk. These days, protein shakes taste as good as Dairy Queen Blizzards, deliver aminos straight to your muscles in seconds, and include other active ingredients to initiate better size gains, more effective fat burning and an increase in energy to improve workouts. And wouldn’t you know it, that kid who was choking down tuna and apple juice 20 years ago is now at the forefront of cutting-edge supplement manufacturing.
Early and Often
If you were into competitive bodybuilding two decades ago and kept anything of a curious eye on the Miami scene, you knew who Jorge Betancourt was. He was a prodigy in every sense of the word, both because of great genetics and an early start in the gym. His first weightlifting experiences came as young as 10 years old, though he didn’t train seriously until he was 14, when he decided to work out consistently for the three months just to see what would come of it. He trained practically every day in his house doing push-ups and pull-ups while also lifting in a friend’s backyard with a bench and weight set.
“After three months, I saw great results, so I said, ‘Let me give it another six months,’” says Betancourt, who was born in Puerto Rico before his family moved to Miami, where he still lives today. “School had started then, and there was an early-bird weight-training class where you could go to school before classes started and work out. They had a bench and a few weights, so I would train there after my mom dropped me off at 6:30 a.m. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Working out at school lead to Betancourt joining a health club and training alongside powerlifters and bodybuilders. When he was 15, his parents gave him a membership to Gold’s Gym in Miami as a Christmas present. Though the mecca of bodybuilding, Gold’s Gym Venice Beach, was nearly 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, muscle magazines kept Betancourt familiar with the top bodybuilders in the world. Meanwhile, his gym partners, seeing how his body was responding to training, urged him to compete. Reluctant at first, the 16-year-old finally decided to step onstage at the Southern States Teen Bodybuilding Championships.
He won the competition as well as the “Most Promising” award. He won the Teen Gold Coast after that, then the Teen USA at age 17, followed by the Teen Nationals at 18 and the Southern States overall championship at 19. His next step on the competitive scene was the NPC Nationals, where he could have earned a pro card. But instead of trying to become one of the youngest, most promising professional bodybuilders in the world, “I kind of just disappeared,” Betancourt says.
A string of disasters both personal and natural derailed Betancourt’s ascent. First, shortly after the Southern States, he tore a pec muscle, which interrupted his training. Then, while a 21-year-old Betancourt was planning his return to the stage and training for the NPC USA Bodybuilding Competition (which posed another opportunity for a pro card), Hurricane Andrew hit Miami. Betancourt stopped dieting right then and never stepped onstage.
Citing a lack of money in competitive bodybuilding as well as an ugly underbelly to the sport, Betancourt unofficially retired after only a handful of shows and with loads of untapped potential still in the tank.
“I decided to get out when I was young so I could still make a life for myself,” he says. “I felt that at a young age, I had won the biggest shows I could possibly win. I knew in my heart I could turn pro because in those days, the kids that won the Teen Nationals and Teen USAs all did great as pro bodybuilders. Therefore, I didn’t need to prove anything else to anyone. Do I love bodybuilding? Yes. I just didn’t like the lifestyle; it wasn’t for me. I loved the weight training, the discipline, the eating clean and all that, but I didn’t like the dirty stuff that goes on behind the scenes.”
Business as Usual
Thing is, Betancourt never left bodybuilding — he just entered the business side of it rather than the competitive side. After quitting the sport, he opened a personal-training gym and found success in it for seven years before getting “burned out” and selling the business. He had been selling an ephedra-based fat-burning supplement on the side, so he quickly expanded that venture and started another business in 2003: Betancourt Nutrition.
To reintroduce his name to the industry and promote his new company, he made a temporary competitive comeback, finishing fourth in the middleweight class at the 2004 NPC USA Championships, fifth in ’05 and ninth at the ’06 NPC Nationals.
Despite having success in the gym business, starting a supplement company proved difficult. “This business isn’t easy,” Betancourt says, “unless you’re connected to everyone. When I started the business, I had been out of the sport for many years, so I didn’t have the name recognition that I had when I was younger.”
Betancourt says it took about five years for his brand to really take off, but it has recently done just that. In the last year, the company’s sales are up 90 percent, in large part due to a merger between Betancourt Nutrition and a manufacturing plant that allows the supplement company to do all its own manufacturing and formulating at a 140,000-square-foot plant in Florida.
“I started Betancourt Nutrition because bodybuilding is all I’ve ever done since I was 14 years old,” he says. “It’s what I love to do. And if you’re good at something and you like it, you just have to do it, no matter how hard it is.”
Betancourt’s Top Products
Betancourt Nutrition has forged a reputation for introducing unique, safe and effective products for hardcore and novice lifters alike. Here are a few of Jorge Betancourt’s most cutting-edge products:
Betancourt:“I take Bullnox before every workout. All the flavors have recently been reformulated, and it’s got a natural testosterone stimulant in it. This is our top-selling product right now.”
Betancourt: “People want blends in their products now — you can’t just put one ingredient in a product anymore. Bullrush contains eight different proteins as well as BCAAs and other potent ingredients.”
>Micro Chewies (coming soon)
Betancourt: “These come in pouches, just like a bag of Skittles, and large tubs, too. There’s going to be glutamine, creatine and BCAA Micro Chewies. They’re sugar free and taste amazing. I’m trying to get people who are dieting and starving for competitions some candy that’s calorie free and will satisfy their cravings.”
For more information, visit BetancourtNutrition.com.
Body by Betancourt
He may be a businessman, but Jorge Betancourt still trains like a bodybuilder. Here’s proof.