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What is taurine? Well, taurine is a beta amino acid and not an alpha amino acid. Basically, this means that taurine is not involved in protein synthesis, as it has a core structure that enables it to be a free agent.
Taurine is one of only three amino acids which contain sulphur and this enables it to have anti-oxidant properties.
It is found in the heart and the skeletal muscle, and is an essential amino acid that the body can’t move.
Much of the taurine is in eggs, seafoods and certain meats, which places many vegan and vegetarian bodybuilders in the deficiency zone.
In terms of bodybuilding taurine helps with osmoregulation and muscle contractile regulation effects. However, its main roles in the body include the production of bile salts and membrane stability at a cellular level.
Benefits of Taurine on general health
Due to its primary role in the production of bile salts, many individuals experience in their blood cholesterol levels and also with their digestive functions.
Taurine has the additional following benefits:
- Improves cardiac function and helps with irregular heart beats
- Improves cardiac heart and this is evident in the Japanese diet which is high in taurine. Japanese people per sae have an extremely low incidence of heart disease and associated metabolic conditions
- Help to stop muscle cramps post exercise
- Improves blood lipid levels drastically when combined with Omega 3-s fatty acids from sources such as fatty fish and seaweed.
- Taurine has a positive relationship with diabetes, in that it slows down the complications associated with this metabolic disease
Benefits of Taurine within the sporting and training arena
Taurine is a very common agent in many sport’s energy/recovery drinks and nutritional supplements. If you were to investigate and ask the companies of these products, why taurine has been included; they would all come up with different answers!
However, due to its biological versatility, research is unable to define its major role for taurine within the body. Many of the training adaptations and boosts that individuals have got from taurine have been attributed to genetic & biochemical differences, diet, exercise patterns and environment within the different subject groups when conducting primary research.
Therefore, it is very difficult for scientists to pinpoint one common variable/benefit based on taurine, due to its multifaceted nature and its involvement in so many key functions within the body.
However, taurine has shown some potential as effective catalyst for enhancing aerobic capacity and recovery times.
Recent research discovered that by supplementing sedentary individuals with 5 grams per day of taurine; decreased exercise-induced oxidative stress and improved overall exercise performance.
This improvement was attributed to an increase in overall taurine blood plasma levels and not the taurine levels stored within the muscle tissues. So the impact was a lot quicker in terms of recovery because of the increased levels of taurine.
Therefore, muscle taurine and blood plasma taurine functions maybe independent of each other within the body; with each having a different role.
Some other valid and reliable research discovered that 2 g per of taurine supplemented in a drink form improved stroke volume and cardiac function in a cohort of athletes.
There is no current human research on the impact of taurine supplementation and resistance training; this again is another key area for research and development.
Some of the research on rats and taurine supplementation concluded that there was an increase in muscle force production and protection of muscle function following high intensities.
It is very difficult to use data from research on rats, as human research is a totally different kettle of fish and the crossover between the research data is very limited.
Some of the companies that make taurine supplements claim that it increases cell-volumisation within the muscles which is a similar process that occurs when taking creatine.
Again, this is very little evidence to support these claims and when supplemented with sodium, there was very little change in the cell volume size.
The jury is out
Does taurine really boost energy levels? Well, due to its versatile nature then for some individuals ‘yes’ and for others ‘no’.
It is a unique amino acid that is stored within the heart and muscle tissues, but is this relevant to recovery rates; as the only valid piece of research determined that taurine blood plasma levels aided post exercise recuperation.
Apparently, taurine has antioxidant properties, which means that it may mop up the free radicals within the skeletal muscle and may neutralise the oxidative stress related to high intensity exercise.
As mentioned previously, there is no current research on taurine supplementation and resistance exercise and maybe the only real viable route on boosting energy is its anti-oxidant properties; as this is known to increase exercise duration especially at higher exercise intensities.
The jury is still out and more robust research is needed within this area!