- Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid that occurs naturally in meat, fish, seafood and dairy products. It’s also the most abundant amino acid in the brain, heart, and muscles.
- This organic compound plays a key role in hormone production, heart health, muscle repair, and mental function.
- In clinical trials, it has been shown to reduce muscle damage and increase overall strength and endurance. Some studies suggest that taurine may increase fat oxidation and contribute to weight loss.
- Combining taurine and BCAAs may help attenuate DOMS and reduce muscle damage.
- Taurine supports cardiovascular health. In Japan, it has been approved as a treatment for heart failure.
Take just about any energy drink and you’ll see “taurine” listed on the label. You might also find it in pre-workout formulas, performance-enhancing supplements, and health products.
So what’s so special about this ingredient? What is taurine and how does it work?
This sulfur-containing amino acid plays a key role in health and well-being.
It regulates numerous physiological and biological processes in the body, including cardiovascular function, hormone production, and glucose metabolism. Its beneficial effects on athletic performance are recognized by medical professionals.
When consumed regularly, taurine may prevent and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, leading to faster post-workout recovery. Furthermore, it attenuates muscle damage and increases fat oxidation during exercise.
But its benefits don’t end here. This amino acid has been studied for its role in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis, heart failure, high cholesterol, cognitive decline, and other ailments.
Taurine is by no means a cure-all. However, it may improve your performance in the gym and lead to better health.
Here’s what you should know about this amino acid and its role.
What Is Taurine and Why Do You Need It?
This conditionally essential amino acid regulates several biological processes, from cardiovascular function to inflammation and glycemic control.
It also protects against oxidative stress, infections, and immune disorders. It also supports reproductive health, modulates calcium levels, and supports the formation of white blood cells.
Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the brain, heart, skeletal muscle and other tissues points out a research paper featured in FEMS Microbiology Letters.
Unlike other amino acids, it’s not incorporated into proteins. However, this doesn’t mean it’s less important. On the contrary — it is essential for the proper functioning of your heart and central nervous system.
Amino acids can be classified into three categories: essential, non-essential, and conditional. Taurine is considered a non-conditional amino acid because it’s only required in the body in certain situations, such as when you’re stressed out or recovering from surgery or injuries.
Intense training, for example, is taxing on your body and central nervous system. In this case, it makes sense to include taurine in your diet.
The truth is that everyone can benefit from taurine supplementation. This organic compound keeps your brain sharp and your heart healthy boosts your energy and improves physical endurance.
On top of that, it reduces oxidative stress, a major contributing factor to premature aging, cardiac events, and metabolic disorders.
In fact, taurine is often referred to as the “miracle molecule.”
In one study, animals treated with this compound had an 11% mortality rate — that was significantly lower compared to the non-treated group, which had a 52% death rate. Researchers suggest that taurine may increase lifespan and slow down the progression of heart failure.
However, further studies are needed to validate these findings and determine how they translate to humans.
Dietary Sources of Taurine
Now that we’ve answered the question “What is taurine?” it’s time to break down its potential health benefits, dietary sources, physiological roles, and other aspects. Let’s start with the best food sources of taurine.
This amino acid is often added to energy drinks to enhance cognitive performance and mental focus. Most beverages provide anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 milligrams of taurine per serving.
Doses of up to 3,000 milligrams per day are generally safe and unlikely to cause adverse effects. Some studies, however, used doses of up to 6 grams per day and didn’t report any negative reactions.
A clinical study published in the journal Circulation, for example, assessed the effects of taurine on blood pressure.
Hypertensive subjects who took 6 grams of taurine for one week experienced a 9.0 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 4.1 mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure.
The placebo group, by contrast, had a modest 1.2 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 1.2 mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure.
Energy drinks are not the only source of taurine, though. Some folks are sensitive to these beverages or can’t tolerate caffeine.
Natural Sources of Taurine
Meat, dairy, fish, nuts, and some legumes contain taurine too — plus a hefty dose of lean protein.
Let’s see a few examples:
- Raw beef: 43.1-46.3 mg of taurine/100 g
- Broiled beef: 38.4 mg/100 g
- Raw chicken light meat: 82.6-169.6 mg/100 g
- Roasted pork loin: 50.1-61.2 mg/100 g
- Raw turkey dark meat: 306 mg/100 g
- Broiled veal: 46.7 mg/100 g
- Raw chicken dark meat: 17.5-17.8 mg/100 g
- Albacore tuna (canned): 41.4 mg/100 g
- Light tuna chunks: 39 mg/100 g
- Cooked white fish: 172.1 mg/100 g
- Raw medium shrimps: 39.4-155.2 mg/100 g
- Raw mussels: 655.4 mg/100 g
- Clams (canned): 152 mg/100 g
- Raw octopus: 388 mg/100 g
- Scallop: 827.7 mg/100 g
Milk, yogurt, and other dairy foods provide taurine as well, but in small amounts. Low-fat plain yogurt, for instance, has only 3.3 milligrams of this nutrient per 100 grams. Shellfish, by contrast, is the highest in taurine.
Note, though, that the amount of dietary taurine absorbed in the body is not known. Supplemental taurine, on the other hand, has a higher bioavailability and absorption rate, as reported in most studies.
Taurine Benefits for Athletes: Does This Supplement Live Up to the Claims?
This semi-essential amino acid might be the key to faster recovery, greater energy, and increased endurance. After all, there’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular ingredients in pre- and post-workout formulas.
Bodybuilders and athletes often use taurine to prevent muscle cramps and soreness, focus better on their workouts, and ward off fatigue. Some studies suggest that pairing it with BCAAs amplifies its benefits on physical performance and recovery.
A 2013 study published in the journal Amino Acids assessed the effects of taurine on exercise performance.
Athletes who took 1,000 milligrams of this supplement experienced a small but significant improvement in running performance and exercise metabolism. Scientists believe that taurine may increase muscles’ ability to produce force.
Another study, which was featured in the same journal, has found that taurine supplementation may increase maximal workload and V02 max (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption) in just seven days.
Furthermore, it may reduce fatigue and boost overall endurance and exercise capacity due to its cellular protective effects.
But that’s not all.
Taurine may also increase fat burning, according to a small study published in 2010. Additionally, it supports cardiovascular health and muscle function, which may further improve athletic performance.
A review featured in the Journal of Biomedical Science discusses the physiological roles of the nutrient. As the researchers note, taurine exhibits antioxidant properties and modulates protein kinases and phosphatases.
It not only rids your body of toxins but may also have beneficial effects on lipid metabolism.
Taurine, Stress, and Anxiety: What’s the Link?
This amino acid may also indirectly improve athletic performance and overall health. In addition to its ability to reduce fatigue and muscle damage, it attenuates mental and physical stress.
As you probably know, stress can hamper your gains, affect your sleep, and contribute to weight gain. It promotes visceral fat accumulation and slows down your metabolism, making it harder to get lean. Not to mention its harmful effects on your T levels.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, has a negative impact on circulating testosterone. To put it simply, the more stressed you are, the higher your cortisol levels and the less testosterone you’ll produce.
Intense training and strict dieting are major stressors. Cortisol levels go up during exercise. When secreted in excess, this hormone may affect your gains as well as your ability to recover from training and lose stubborn fat.
One way to reduce the damaging effects of stress is to include taurine in your diet. This organic compound may help relieve stress, depression, and anxiety. Researchers state that taurine supports neuronal growth and survival while regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Furthermore, this nutrient facilitates the production of GABA, a key neurotransmitter that improves your body’s ability to handle stress. At the same time, it calms the nervous system and wards off depression.
Taurine Boosts Muscle Strength and Endurance
Still in doubt about taurine? This powerful compound can help you lift heavier and last longer in the gym. It increases muscle strength and endurance, boosting your athletic abilities.
A review featured in the European Journal of Nutrition confirms these claims. Researchers analyzed 34 studies involving energy drinks and their impact on sports performance.
These beverages have been found to improve performance in jumping and sports activities. Subjects experienced significant increases in muscle strength and scored higher on endurance exercise tests.
What’s interesting is that these effects were associated with taurine, not caffeine. Furthermore, they were dose-dependent, meaning that higher taurine dosages equal greater improvements in sports performance.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reports similar findings.
Scientists state that higher taurine intakes help maintain muscle function and increase muscle force production while reducing oxidative stress.
The above study was conducted on rats, so further research is needed to see whether similar results can be achieved in humans. However, current evidence shows a positive relationship between taurine supplementation and physical performance.
Recover Faster from DOMS
If you’ve ever had a really intense workout — the kind of workout that leaves you sore for days, you know what DOMS feels like.
This type of muscle pain is tricky because it kicks in a day or two after training. You might not feel anything during your workout so you’ll continue to lift heavy and push your body to the max.
In general, DOMS results from eccentric exercise or sudden increases in workout duration or volume. External factors, such as intense stress and dehydration, only make things worse. Genetics may play a role too.
Several studies suggest that taurine may help with DOMS. When combined with BCAAs, its benefits are even greater.
For example, a 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has examined athletes who took taurine and BCAAs three times a day for 14 days.
The study found that those athletes experienced less muscle damage and soreness during high-intensity training compared to those taking either BCAA or taurine alone.
As the researchers point out, taurine boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help attenuate DOMS. BCAAs support muscle repair and reduce muscle breakdown.
Combining the two may help speed up recovery time and reduce soreness.
Make sure you choose a quality BCAA formula. Old School Labs’ Classic BCAA Powder, one of our latest products, provides just the right doses of valine, leucine, and isoleucine plus probiotics for gut health.
The best part? Our formula is keto-friendly and contains no gluten or GMOs.
On top of that, it’s fast-acting, so you’ll feel its effects from day one. We recommend it to those on ketogenic, low-carb, or calorie-restricted diets as it helps preserve lean mass and reduces catabolism.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Despite its proven benefits, taurine has been banned in some countries.
Over the past years, several deaths among athletes have been linked to the consumption of energy drinks containing caffeine, taurine, guarana, and other natural ingredients with energy-boosting effects.
However, these unfortunate events are not related to taurine, guarana, or ginseng, the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association explains. Instead, it’s the caffeine and sugar in energy drinks that may be causing adverse reactions.
Taurine is likely safe when consumed in dosages up to 3 grams per day. In fact, it’s often used in baby formulas, which confirms its safety for all ages.
Furthermore, taurine may counteract the potential side effects of caffeine, according to a 2014 report published in Amino Acids.
Other Potential Benefits of Taurine
This amino acid appears to have beneficial effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, thyroid, and mental health. Medically, it has been used in the treatment of heart disease, seizures, Alzheimer’s, liver disorders and other conditions.
Taurine benefits your heart and may lower your risk of cardiovascular problems, according to a review published in Atherosclerosis.
This organic compound decreased blood pressure, improved blood lipids, and reduced inflammatory markers in both animal and human studies. It also protects your heart from oxidative stress and may lower the odds of coronary heart disease.
A more recent review featured in Biomolecules & Therapeutics in 2018 confirms the benefits of taurine.
As the scientists note, this amino acid has been approved for the treatment of heart failure in Japan, as the researchers note.
Additionally, it may reduce the frequency of seizures, slow down cognitive decline in stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, and protect against various health conditions, including:
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Muscle atrophy
These therapeutic actions require further research, but most studies have promising results. On top of that, taurine has no side effects.
Should You Take Taurine Supplements?
These above findings indicate that taurine supplements are safe and beneficial. These products won’t transform your body or counteract the effects of poor nutrition, but they may improve your health in the long run.
Vegans, vegetarians, and athletes should consider taking taurine in supplement form.
Since this compound is only found in animal foods, vegans may find it hard to get enough of it in their diets. As an athlete, you may take taurine supplements to prevent and attenuate DOMS, keep stress at bay, and perform better at your sport of choice.
Still wondering “What is taurine and do I really need it?” Taurine supplementation isn’t a must for optimal health. However, it can improve your overall diet and serve as a preventive measure for heart disease, immune diseases, inflammatory conditions, and more.
What’s your take on taurine? Have you ever used it in supplement form? Did you see any improvements in muscle strength or endurance? Share your experience below!