If you look at the ingredients list of energy drinks, most notably Red Bull or popular pre-workout formulas, often times you’ll find an ingredient by the name of Taurine. Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that your body produces it on its own, yet in some cases, it’s essential to obtain from dietary sources or supplements. As a consumer of sports nutrition supplements, it’s important to know what taurine is good for, and the potential health benefits. We’re going to explore what taurine is used for and give you more insight into the potential health and ergogenic benefits of taurine.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, technically classified as a beta-amino acid.
There is a total of 20 amino acids. Of those 20, the human body produces 11, which are classified as non-essential. The other 9 are considered essential, meaning it is essential to obtain these amino acids through diet or supplementation. Yet there are a few amino acids, taurine being one of them, which are considered conditionally essential amino acids.
Conditionally essential amino acids are called on in times of extreme physical stress, illness or injury. It’s essential to replenish these amino acids during those times, as they will subsequently deplete at a rapid pace. High endurance training will cause a rapid decline in Taurine levels, therefore it's important to replenish Taurine, in order to maintain maximal muscle contraction and release.
Molecularly, Taurine is classified as a beta-amino acid, which simply means that it’s bonded to a different carbon atom, than traditional amino acids.
Taurine plays an integral role in human biology, regulating fundamental cellular events, while altering the balance between life and death. Studies have found, that Taurine is an effective therapeutic agent against congestive heart failure, and has been approved for treatment of congestive heart failure in Japan [R]. Taurine has also shown promising results as a potential aid of several other chronic conditions and diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Since taurine is naturally produced by our own human bodies, it’s essential to our physical and neurological development. However, those with conditions such as diabetes and obesity may benefit more from Taurine supplementation, due to low concentrations.
Taurine Rich Foods
Taurine is abundant in animal proteins such as meat, fish, and dairy. Plant-based foods have low concentrations of Taurine, therefore, those following a plant-based diet have a challenging time obtaining Taurine from their diet. Let’s not forget however, that Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid. Vegan or not, your body does produce Taurine, although you should monitor Taurine levels for any potential deficiencies.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition investigated benefits and recommendations on the vegan diet. The researchers found that Taurine supplementation was not necessary for those following a vegan diet. Furthermore, vegan athletes shouldn't have a problem producing enough energy to perform athletic endeavors.
Monitoring nutrient levels, especially if you’re on a restrictive diet is imperative to maintain overall health and nutrient balance. If taurine levels are low, supplementation is recommended.
Taurine Health Benefits
The prevalence of obesity in 2018, was 42.4% and has increased nearly 15% over the last decade [R]. Studies show that supplementation of Taurine has been linked to improved composition, or body mass index ratings (BMI) as well as improved inflammation markers in obese patients [R, R].
Studies have shown that patients with obesity, have a lower concentration of taurine.
But before you load up your virtual shopping cart with taurine, it’s important to note that the only way you’re going to be dropping lbs, is by moving more and eating less calories. Supplements may aid in weight loss, however losing weight depends on many variables, most importantly your nutrition, not just taking a supplement. If weight loss is your goal, hire a nutrition coach and take the guess work out of it. You'll thank me later.
A study published in the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition found that exercise increases the taurine content of your muscles. Therefore, the muscles that are used the most during exercise subsequently have the most taurine. Since the heart is the hardest-working muscle in the body, it therefore contains the highest concentrations of taurine.
Those with congenital heart failure or suffering from heart related conditions, will find it most beneficial to supplement with Taurine, since the heart will fully utilize Taurine dependent upon uptake availability.
Taurine works by reducing the actions of norepinephrine and angiotensin II, which are known to decrease myocardial performance. Studies show that Taurine availability has a direct impact on exercise capacity and oxygen consumption, due to cardiac related pathologies [R, R]. Taurine also has been shown to help regulate blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and promote antioxidant capabilities.
Numerous studies have found that taurine plays a significant role in overcoming insulin resistance, associated with type I and type II diabetes [R]. Diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose, or sugar levels. Taurine makes your body more receptive to insulin and by doing so, you can regulate and balance your blood sugar levels.
Taurine plays an essential role in muscle function specifically in the contraction and release of skeletal muscle. Taurine deficiency will therefore lead to impaired contractile function for the muscles and heart, with a decline in overall muscle mass and muscular dysfunction [R].
Contracting and releasing is how your body creates human movement, or kinetic reactions. Without Taurine, your body would be impaired to move freely and create human movement. Studies have shown that your body readily reserves taurine to ensure you can perform essential functions.
A large body of evidence purports that Taurine has neuroprotective effects and properties. There are several mechanisms in which Taurine exerts it’s cytoprotective role, most notably by suppressing glutamate-induced toxicity, and protecting neurons from oxidative stress [R]. Taurine also plays a critical role in brain development and retinal formation and has been classified as a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are defined as chemical substances that are released at the end of a nerve fiber, by the arrival of a nerve impulse, causing the transfer of an impulse to another nerve fiber. In simpler terms, neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers. They are the molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons and muscles. For example, when you think about moving your arm, then performing the action, Taurine is sending the message from your brain to muscles to move, via the nervous system. And this is how taurine helps control muscle contraction.
Taurine Side Effects
According to all available research, Taurine has no known side effects when used in the recommended amounts. As with many amino-acids, issues may potentilly arise in those with kidney problems [R].
Most common dosages of Taurine are between 500 – 2000mg, However studies show higher doses of 3g per day for shorter time intervals will also provide health benefits and is well tolerated.
Taurine Health Benefits: Takeaway
Taurine has grown in popularity due to the publicity from energy drinks and pre workout supplements. However, research continues to support proposed health benefits of Taurine on heart health, skeletal muscle health and reducing chronic disease states. Taurine is abundant in animal protein, therefore, with a well-rounded diet, you shouldn’t have too many worries, about being Taurine deficient especially since Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid. Although important in muscular movement and function, taurine itself is not responsible for building more muscle tissue. In conclusion, Taurine has some great health benefits, and can provide improvements to overall health and wellness.
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