Taurine, also known as L-taurine, is a highly popular organic acid that occurs naturally within the human body.
It is an amino acid that is vital for an individual’s overall health, playing a key role in the brain, muscle tissue, and heart, as well as many other organs within the body.
Found in an array of foods as well as being a prominent ingredient in energy drinks, taurine is an accessible heart and blood healthy agent that can provide a wide variety of health benefits.
In addition to all of its benefits, it is most common for its usage in reducing cramping caused by fat burners like ephedrine, as well as gaining a reputation within the health community for its potential to help stimulate metabolism.
In this article we will be covering the following topics:
- What is Taurine?
- What is Taurine Used For?
- Taurine Benefits
- Taurine Dosage
- Foods High in Taurine
- Taurine Side Effects
- Fitness Goals Taurine Assists
- How To Take Taurine
- Where To Buy Taurine
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What is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid which plays a crucial role in quite a few bodily processes including cardiovascular health, the maintenance of skeletal muscle, and the upkeep of the central nervous system. Unlike certain other amino acids (like leucine and lysine), it is produced naturally by the body.
It is found predominantly in the large intestine, where it creates bile salts that play a vital role in the digestion process. Taurine is quite abundant in the body and accounts for approximately 0.1% of body mass. Though that may appear minimal, it is significant in the grander scheme of anatomy.
This amino acid is present in a wide variety of foods, as well as being one of the few organic compounds that cross the blood/brain barrier, which has implications for neuro processes. As a result of its proven effects on the brain, taurine is sometimes touted as a potential remedy for epileptic seizures.
On a more day-to-day level, you will often find it included in energy drinks, along with other ingredients designed to boost performance. It also plays a significant role in metabolic processes, which is one of its most sought after benefits, and is widely thought to be a powerful antioxidant.
A taurine deficiency can cause everything from kidney dysfunction to cardiomyopathy, and even reduced eyesight.
Though it is produced in the body naturally, it can be fairly easy to develop a taurine deficiency in comparison to other natural acids, therefore many choose to increase their taurine intake through the use of supplements.
Taurine supplements are popular with people from all different walks of life and industries; from weightlifters and athletes, to those suffering from the likes of hair loss or lack of sleep. In addition to those issues, studies have linked taurine with improved cardiovascular function, increased athletic capacity, and even healthier kidneys. It is one of the most versatile supplements you will find on the market.
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What is Taurine Used For?
The short answer to this question is: a lot of things.
L-taurine benefits are wide ranging and the supplement is popular in part due to its versatility. On a purely molecular basis, taurine maintains calcium levels, supports the nervous system, regulates electrolytes and assists in the formation of bile salts.
It is one of the amino acids that contribute to the upkeep of the human body, though people choose to take additional supplements for a host of more specific reasons.
When it comes to taurine supplements, benefits include everything from stronger muscle pumps to a fuller head of hair. Athletes often choose taurine because it carries strong scientific links to increased athletic capacity, especially in those who are suffering from cardiovascular issues.
In controlled studies, not only did it help them exercise more frequently, but it led to a marked decrease in cholesterol and inflammation. More generally, taurine protects the muscles from damage and helps the human body to maintain a healthy metabolism, and both of these things are essential to athletes.
Many choose taurine supplements for their neuroactive benefits. Taurine has been proven to protect the brain from ageing and studies conducted using mice as subjects indicate that it might even have a protective effect against the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, it has been linked to improved kidney function, as well as better eyesight and can even help to prevent premature hair loss.
The effects of taurine supplements are extensive. In fact, many who take taurine intending to boost their athletic performance can in turn find themselves benefiting from reduced anxiety as a result, or discover that they enjoy a better quality of sleep.
We will delve into further detail on some of the pronounced benefits of taurine over the course of this article but suffice to say, it is one of the most useful organic compounds you will find.
By this point, you will likely be aware that taurine provides an array of advantages to an individual’s health, from the physical and mental aspects to the more medical.
But if you’re wondering exactly how implementing taurine into your lifestyle will target your individual needs, here we delve into its benefits further.
#1 Enhances Athletic Performance
The relationship between taurine supplements and athletic performance has been rigorously tested, with extremely positive results and mass supportive evidence.
Taurine is one of the most popular athletic supplements available on the market and it is taken extensively in both powder and tablet form, as well as appearing in many energy and performance enhancing drinks.
L-taurine benefits athletes in a number of ways. Animal studies have shown that taurine supplements affect how the muscles behave. By supplementing with taurine, an individual can increase the contraction of their muscles, which in turn helps them to produce more force - hense its mention in OriGym's list of running supplements to fuel your run.
This acts as an advantage for everything in sports and fitness, from weightlifting to sprinting, and the implications for athletic performance are obvious.
In a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers evaluated the effect that caffeine combined with taurine had on endurance performance. The findings confirmed that a consistent use of caffeine and taurine over a two week period enhanced endurance performance.
Additionally, the research highlighted that taurine significantly decreased the accumulated concentration of lactate over long running distances in its subjects. A buildup of lactate, or lactic acid, occurs when there is not enough oxygen in the muscles to break down glucose and glycogen.
Even more interestingly, there is evidence to support the theory that a taurine supplement benefits the muscles by helping them to remove excess waste more quickly, with that it effectively reduces inflammation and slows the onset of muscle fatigue, allowing athletes to push harder and for longer. In the long term, it also protects muscles from oxidative stress and reduces cell breakdown.
Results from a 2004 study published in Amino Acids, Springer Journal, which explored the role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men concluded that:
“After supplementation, the change in taurine concentration showed positive correlations with the changes in exercise time to exhaustion and maximal workload. The results suggest that taurine may attenuate exercise-induced DNA damage and enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties.”
Scientific evidence implies that athletes who take taurine supplements benefit from a heightened performance level, particularly cyclists and runners. However, the benefits stretch further still.
Since taurine is an amino acid, it helps to prevent muscle damage and soreness, which shortens the recovery phase. That is especially valuable for weightlifters but will, of course, be warmly welcomed by all athletes.
#2 Reduces Anxiety
The benefits of taurine for anxiety are pronounced. As one of the few compounds to cross the blood/brain barrier, taurine has a predominant role to play in mood regulation.
It works to calm anxiety by increasing the presence of the chemicals glycine and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and in doing so also reduces excess levels of glutamine, which are linked to the cause of anxiety.
GABA is the brain’s key calming neurotransmitter and is essential for feeling happy and relaxed. It is common for people low in GABA to self-medicate with tranquilizing drugs, however a much more effective way to increase this chemical is through taurine supplementation.
GABA-specific supplements which primarily target GABA molecules are too large and cannot cross that all important brain/blood barrier.
Taurine supplements offer a more effective treatment also as they combat one of the major causes of anxiety: poor sleep. The two are intrinsically linked. Not enough sleep causes anxiety, and worrying about getting to sleep makes it harder to drift off. Fortunately, a taurine anxiety supplement can often double as a cure for insomnia too.
Those who take taurine sleep better because it stimulates GABA receptors in the brain. Much like the more famously known melatonin, taurine levels increase the longer you stay awake, as your body tries to make you go to sleep. Taking a supplement has the dual effect of stimulating the brain to actively encourage sleep, while simultaneously calming anxiety so you won’t keep yourself awake worrying.
Incidentally, it is important to note that taurine consumed within an energy drink is not an effective way to calm anxiety or help with your sleep pattern.
For more ideas on ways to boost your mood and in turn reduce anxiety, check out our guide on the best natural mood boosters that you can do right now.
That is because energy drinks contain a plethora of other ingredients and usually a lot of caffeine which in actual fact carries the opposite effect. By consuming taurine in this form, it will likely result in keeping you awake and potentially promote feelings of anxiety instead, so it is best to source your taurine from a powder or tablet.
#3 Prevents Hair Loss
One of the more surprising L-taurine benefits is that it has been found to help with premature hair loss.
Taurine hair loss supplements are notoriously effective due to their anti-fibrotic properties, which see them work to inhibit inflammation of the hair follicle, as well as preventing rigidification and hardening. These are the predominant causes of hair loss, therefore taurine is a proven effective remedy.
Moreover, taurine is an amino sulfonic acid. These types of acids combine to produce protein in the body, including keratin, which is the primary component of hair.
A keratin deficiency will invariably lead to hair loss, but taurine supplements remedy this problem by replenishing the base materials responsible for keratin production. In this way, taurine is not only great for preventing hair loss, but it also encourages new hair to grow.
That is not all though. We have previously mentioned taurine’s effects on sleep and anxiety, which subsequently have knock on effects for hair. When you are anxious, your blood vessels contract and as a result less blood reaches the follicles. Less blood means fewer nutrients and thin, unhealthy hair that is more likely to fall out.
Taurine lowers anxiety and in doing so gives hair health a boost. Of course, insomnia has long been associated with premature hair loss and taurine’s success at treating that problem will help your scalp, too.
Similarly, taurine has marked beneficial effects on kidney function, so your body will be able to flush away toxins more effectively; relating this to the scalp region specifically, that means the smooth removal of dihydrotestosterone, which builds up on the hair follicles and stops them receiving adequate blood flow.
That causes hair damage and eventually loss, but dihydrotestosterone, along with a range of other toxins, is processed by the kidneys.
You can find taurine present in a number of sources, for instance it holds a regular presence in our best casein protein powders shortlist.
#4 Assists Bodybuilding
Taurine supplements are immensely popular amongst bodybuilders, primarily due to the supplement’s muscle-supporting properties and efficacy.
Few other supplements (apart from perhaps raw protein) are as effective for those trying to get ripped and, since taurine is one of the safest supplements available, bodybuilders are free to up their dosage accordingly.
The first thing to point out is that simply consuming taurine rich foods will not be enough to reap the muscle building benefits of taurine.
Although those foods do contain a small dosage, it is nowhere near enough, so you will need a taurine supplementation in the form of either tablets or powder also, the latter of which is preferable simply because it contains more taurine that is absorbed at a more rapid rate.
As previously noted, taurine encourages the body to burn through fat as opposed to carbohydrates, which is a more efficient method of energy generation. Since it also increases muscle pumps and your muscle's capacity to bear a heavier load, the benefits for bodybuilders are obvious.
Moreover, all amino acids have a crucial role to play in muscle repair, recovery and growth. That not only means that your workout won’t be interrupted by cramps or soreness, but that your muscles will regenerate at a quicker rate.
Specific studies conducted around weightlifting have returned extremely positive results. In studies where participants undertook deliberately muscle-damaging routines, those who supplemented with taurine showcased far less muscle degradation than those who did not.
These results are especially encouraging and show that not only will taurine help bodybuilders lift for longer and more effectively, but it will also protect the muscles at the same time. For help creating a workout that best suits your bodybuilding goals, use our home workout generator to build your own unique home workout.
#5 Improves Heart Health
Understandably one of the most commonly researched areas on this topic, the effects of L-taurine on cardiovascular health make it an extremely attractive supplement.
Studies have been extensive in this area, and they have all returned favourable results that suggest taurine has some profound effects on the heart and can make a notable difference to those suffering from cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
A collection of findings from animals and humans suggest that taurine benefits the heart by improving the health of your arteries. That leads to a decrease in blood pressure, enhanced blood flow and the healthy oxygenation of tissue in the heart.
High blood pressure is a huge risk factor for heart disease, and bringing that under control is usually at the forefront of anyone’s list. This theory can be supported by the findings of a 2011 study, published by the American Journal of Hypertension, which concluded that taurine supplementation, in combination with exercise, prevents hypertension and increases exercise capacity.
Furthermore, a report published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease, analysing a number of experimental and human studies around the role of taurine in the vasculature, found:
“Oral taurine in hypertensive human patients alleviates the symptoms of hypertension and also reverses arterial stiffness and brachial artery reactivity in type 1 diabetic patients.”
Additionally, taurine indirectly benefits the heart by its proven results in weight loss. It encourages the body to burn through fat rather than carbs as you exercise. That, in turn, is a great way to combat obesity, another major risk factor for heart disease.
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Taurine actually makes exercise more effective and can transform your body into an efficient fat burning machine. This can be supported by the findings of a 2004 study which analysed the beneficial effects of taurine on serum lipids in overweight or obese non-diabetic subjects.
In this experiment, researchers found that taurine supplementation decreased triacylglycerol (the main constituents of body fat in humans) and total cholesterol in subjects significantly. Body weight also reduced significantly in the group given the taurine supplementation.
The academics concluded:
“These results suggest that taurine produces a beneficial effect on lipid metabolism and may have an important role in cardiovascular disease prevention in overweight or obese subjects.”
We’ve saved the best until last, though. For anybody struggling with cardiovascular health, getting enough exercise can be a real struggle. Lack of exercise might then lead to weight gain, higher blood pressure and general ill health, exacerbating the heart disease.
For an alternative to taurine, you might be intrigued to know that improving heart and cardiovasclar health is also one of the health benefits of the eggplant.
Numerous studies have found that taurine boosts the athletic potential of those suffering from heart disease, helps them to exercise for longer and even cuts their cholesterol.
Taurine affects the kidneys, brain, blood and muscles, so it is reasonable to worry about the correct dosage. Many wonder what taurine is made from and how this might affect the dosage, especially as taurine already occurs naturally in the body.
It is made from amino acid molecules, so it is a fairly simple compound that isn’t harmful even in larger doses. There are still a few things to bear in mind (and we’ve included a section on safety further down the list) but most dosages are fine.
The standard taurine dosage is between 500-2000mg per day. Most people choose to get this dose via powders or tablets, which are both widely available and reasonably cheap. Your specific dosage depends on what you’re taking taurine for.
Athletes, for example, will require a higher dose than those trying to combat hair loss, and anxiety sufferers will likely fall somewhere in between. Your diet plays a big part in determining dosage too, and if you eat a large quantity of taurine rich foods you’re unlikely to need a higher dosage.
This supplement has undergone extensive safety testing, and much larger doses than 2000mg are safely possible, although you won’t gain many additional benefits from taking more.
With taurine, danger only becomes a real concern with incredibly high doses. Studies have confirmed that dosage up to 3000mg per day is still considered safe. This means taurine can be consumed without the addition of the same concerns other supplements have when consumed in large quantities, but it is still important to be aware of your recommended dosage.
Taurine does occur naturally in foods, as well as many of the products in OriGym's best energy drinks to boost your workout article, but not in large enough quantities to offer the tangible benefits discussed on this list.
Foods High in Taurine
Fortunately, there are plenty of taurine rich foods readily available and most of which are relatively cheap, however, taurine foods are somewhat harder to come by if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, so it might be worth considering a supplement if that’s the case. Vegans and vegetarians are much more likely to develop a taurine deficiency than meat eaters, so it is important to bear this in mind.
Taurine foods are mostly recognised as meat, fish and dairy. Fish tends to be one of the richest sources of taurine, and you’ll find a lot in octopus, scallops, tuna and tilapia. Let us break it down for you further:
- Scallops - Shellfish have some of the highest taurine content, particularly scallops which supply 827mg of taurine per 100g.
- Clams - another notable shellfish for taurine content is clams with 520mg per 100g.
- Mussels - 655mg per 100g.
- Tuna - more specifically, yellowfin tuna contains up to 964mg per 100 grams
- Cod - 120mg per 100g
- Salmon - 94mg per 100g
- Tilapia - Tilapia’s dark muscle has about 972mg per 150g fillet,
- Octopus - Octopus contains about 335mg per three-ounce (85g) serving
- Turkey - With up to 306mg per 100g, turkey contains the highest taurine content of any animal meat.
- Chicken - 170mg per 100g
- Seaweed - A great option for those leading plant based diets, seaweed (more specifically nori seaweed, commonly found in sushi) offers up to 1,300mg of taurine per 100g.
Taurine is often present in energy drinks, but with a caveat. Any taurine energy drinks will likely also contain large amounts of sugar, additives and additional caffeine, which will negate most the health benefits associated with the taurine. This is particularly pronounced if you’re taking taurine supplements for sleep or anxiety reasons, where the additional caffeine will completely undercut the positive action of the taurine. Alternatively, we have an entire guide on the best natural energy drinks for those who want the boost, without all the additives of most caffeinated energy drinks.
It is worth noting, of course, that these taurine foods won’t be enough to give you the various benefits listed here, especially if you’re looking to benefit from taurine’s athletic advantages. These foods simply do not contain enough, so if you want L-taurine for bodybuilding, for example, you’ll need to look at supplements to really feel the effects.
Taurine Side Effects
The good news is that overall, this organic acid supplement is impressively safe, with very few side effects of taurine and plenty of benefits.
There is an increased risk to people who suffer from kidney problems or have impaired kidney function, but that is a risk which is shared by all amino acid based supplements. Taurine is exceptionally safe and there are no known side effects associated with taking the correct taurine dose.
Problems only begin when you mix taurine with other products and supplements. Taurine energy drinks might seem attractive and if you check the labels you’ll find that most of these drinks do contain added taurine.
Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, they also contain an array of sugars, additives and large quantities of caffeine. Drinking too much caffeine is highly likely to result in sleep disturbances, energy crashes and jitters, with some people even experiencing allergic reactions. High sugar content is linked to diabetes, and individual additives like food colourings can lead to allergies, too.
Indeed, this issue is so troublesome that some countries have limited the sale of taurine drinks after deaths. While this is certainly alarming, there’s no evidence to suggest that the taurine has been to blame, rather the problem lies in consuming large quantities of caffeine mixed with it.
If you derive your taurine from all natural supplements, then you shouldn’t encounter any negative side effects, especially if you abide by the recommended dose.
Similarly, taurine is present in a number of unhealthy foods, including beef and other red meats. Consuming large amounts of these in pursuit of taurine is not advisable and, much like the energy drinks, likely to have a detrimental rather than positive effect.
Fitness Goals Assisted By Taurine
As we have previously established in our benefits section, supplementing with L-taurine carries an array of benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. However, we thought we would summarise exactly what elements of your fitness it will impact.
Boosts exercise performance by boosting muscles ability to work harder
Numerous studies exploring the benefits of taurine on exercise performance have all confirmed that athletes who supplement with the amino acid experience enhanced exercise performance.
This applies across the board, with cyclists, runners, weightlifters and bodybuilders all being sampled, and all confirming improvements in their performance. Improvements generally include covering longer distances and elongated training sessions with less fatigue.
Reduces muscle fatigue
In human studies to date, taurine supplementation has been shown to remove the waste products in the body that have a direct link to causing fatigue and muscle burn. Therefore, by taking taurine supplements, this in turn will reduce tiring and allow athletes and fitness enthusiasts to engage in longer and more intense workouts.
Additionally, taurine has strong evidence to suggest it protects muscles from cell damage and oxidative stress, which as a result benefits...
Reduced recovery period
This particular fitness benefit can be showcased by a 2017 study which saw a number of participants supplement with taurine whilst carrying out a specific muscle-damaging weightlifting routine. The results from the study categorically highlighted that by consuming taurine, subjects experienced fewer markers of damage and less muscle soreness.
Increases fat burning during exercise
One that is definitely worth re-emphasising, numerous studies into taurine’s fat burning properties confirm that the amino acid aids the human body to burn through fat as opposed to carbohydrates, which is a more efficient method of energy generation.
Essentially, taurine may aid weight loss by increasing the body's use of fat for fuel, great for those looking to trim down.
You may benefit more from reading into the types of body fat to understand how taurine plays a role in the fat burning process.
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How To Take Taurine?
Taurine supplements are widely available in both powder and capsule form. Both have a distinct set of advantages and disadvantages. Taurine powder has the obvious benefit of being much easier to swallow than large capsules, but there are important physiological considerations to take into account, too.
Powders have a much better absorption rate than tablets.
The reason for this is quite simple; tablets travel through the body and slowly break apart as they go, releasing their contents in increments and this process takes a long time, whereas a powder dissolved in water will be absorbed nearly instantly, and all at once. That yields a much more rapid effect, perfect if you’re taking the supplement before a workout.
Powders also deliver a far more concentrated dose. You can heap much more taurine into a scoop of powder than you can into a small capsule.
That said, the argument isn’t entirely one sided, and capsules do have a few things in their favour: if you hate the taste of powders then they are perfect, as well as an easily transportable, low effort option, if you’re in a hurry or on the move you don't want to carefully mix powders and you’ll often get more for your money with capsules, too.
When to take taurine depends entirely on what you’re taking it for. If you’re using taurine for the sleep aiding qualities, around an hour to thirty minutes before bed is ideal, followed up with a second dose if you wake up in the night.
Taurine is an effective pre workout if consumed roughly an hour beforehand. More generally, taking a dose three times per day after a meal is an effective way to keep your levels topped up.
Where To Buy Taurine
Taurine supplements are available from a number of accessible locations. You can find them in health shops, sports shops and additionally, they’re often included in other supplements such as pre workouts.
Since L-taurine is so popular, it isn’t difficult to source, but there are still a few things to consider and the supplement’s widespread availability is as much a curse as it is a blessing.
Firstly, it is important to be aware of what it is you’re consuming and whether there is anything else bundled with your taurine. We have already discussed energy drinks at length on this list, however the same rules apply for taurine tablets and taurine powder.
Always be careful to read the ingredients list and ensure that you’re getting pure taurine, free from additional additives. Energy drinks, with their high caffeine content, are a great example of how the benefits of taurine can be lost amongst other ingredients, but the rule applies universally to any kind of supplement.
Pure taurine powders usually come in 500g increments and are reasonably cheap. Shops like Bulk Powders and MyProtein are excellent places to start, and the supplements are available on Amazon as well. Be sure to read reviews and beware: many taurine supplements that advertise themselves as pure actually contain silicon dioxide, which puts many shoppers off.
Health stores such as Holland and Barrett are a great place to look if you are looking for tablets more specifically, and you will usually be able to get a 500mg jar for slightly less than powders. The good news about taurine is that it is one of the cheapest supplements out there, and many choose to buy it in its pure form to mix with other ingredients in a DIY pre workout.
Taurine has been hailed as a “wonder molecule” by many researchers due to the extensive list of benefits it carries, notably more than many other supplements on the market. Whether you want to optimise your athletic performance, improve your health, boost your mood or help with your sleep, taurine can be a very effective and safe addition to your supplement regimen.
We hope this article has provided you with all the knowledge you need before implementing taurine into your lifestyle.
While organic acid is generally safe to take in moderation and there are no known adverse side effects of taurine, if you suffer with underlying health conditions that you take medication for, we would advise speaking with your GP or a healthcare professional if you’re considering taurine supplements.
Before you leave, if you have a passion for the health and fitness industry and believe you could make a successful career out of it, why not let us help you achieve just that. Here at OriGym, we supply a range of REPs endorsed personal training courses and packages.
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