Is Taurine a Source of Energy or a Useless Supplement?

Is Taurine a Source of Energy or a Useless Supplement?

Taurine is commonly added to energy drinks, as taurine is said to have “caffeine-like” energy qualities. The energy drink “Red Bull” gets its name from taurine because the Latin word Taurus means ox or bull. 

Taurine is found in high concentrations in the brain and spinal cord, immune (leukocyte) cells, heart and muscle cells, the retina, and almost every tissue in the body.

6 Potential Benefits of Taurine

  1. Fights off Fatigue
  2. Regulates Stress
  3. Aids Muscle Recovery 
  4. Provides Additional Energy
  5. Improves Athletic Performance 
  6. Contains Antioxidant Properties

As a conditionally essential amino acid, the body can produce taurine by itself; however, in some circumstances, taurine supplements may be necessary when the body cannot produce sufficient taurine.

As taurine is present in almost every tissue, taurine plays an essential role in the body. Taurine can also reduce inflammation by decreasing the effect of nitric oxide in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. You can find taurine in foods such as shellfish, poultry (dark meat), veal, pork, tuna, whitefish, octopus, and squid.

Taurine and Athletic Performance

While there is a small amount of research investigating the impact of taurine on endurance exercise, one study published in Amino Acids showed that taurine is beneficial for increasing time to exhaustion.

Research at Victoria University demonstrates that taurine can increase muscle performance in animals, causing muscles to work harder for longer by increasing our muscles’ ability to contract, thus increasing muscle force production. This finding led to another animal study where taurine appears to reduce muscle fatigue, as well as the amount of damage incurred during exercise.

Research in Japan on human participants found similar results where adequate amounts of taurine in the body, either delivered through food or supplementation, helped remove waste products, protect muscles from damage, and reduce oxidative stress.

In addition to increasing fatigue resistance and reducing muscle damage, taurine can also help decrease body mass index (BMI) and improve fat oxidation (burning) during exercise. 

One study by the University of Guelph examined the effect of taurine on cyclists who were given 1,660 mg of taurine before cycling for 90 minutes, followed by a time trial. At the end of the study, the researchers found no improvement in the cyclists’ performance times when supplementing with taurine.

Taurine and Muscle Recovery

Taurine is a supplement used in many recovery formulas as opposed to pre-workout formulas. Because taurine plays a role in osmoregulation, taurine regulates the amount of water that enters and exits cells. 

When cells contain large amounts of water, they elicit an anabolic effect favorable to muscle recovery. Aside from recovery formulas, taurine is a common ingredient in fat burners because taurine helps negate some of the nasty side effects that fat burners (like ephedrine) elicit.

Another study by Massey University in New Zealand examined the effect of taurine supplementation on eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. The study found that taurine increased the rate of muscle recovery, which is a result of taurine’s antioxidant and cytoprotective effect on skeletal muscles.

Safety and Side Effects

According to research, there are no adverse side effects from consuming taurine as a single supplement in appropriate doses. However, some countries in Europe limit the sale of taurine, as energy drinks (that contain both taurine and caffeine) have caused deaths in some situations. It’s important to note that these deaths were mainly caused by excess caffeine as opposed to the presence of taurine. 

Individuals with kidney problems should be careful when consuming taurine. If you have any medical conditions, it’s best to speak to your doctor first before you supplement with taurine.  

Taurine doses range from 500–2,000 mg per day, with the upper limit for toxicity being significantly higher than 2,000 mg. Research shows that a taurine dose as high as 3,000 mg per day is still within safe limits. 

Taurine supplements are available in capsule and powder form. Alternatively, you can find taurine in foods such as meat, fish, and poultry. 

Effectiveness of Taurine

Taurine doesn’t show a whole lot of promise when it comes to improving athletic performance. And although taurine is a necessary amino acid, taurine should be acquired through food (along with other essential amino acids), not as a separate, stand-alone supplement.

Overall, there is not enough evidence to suggest that taurine is effective for improving energy levels and muscle recovery.