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Why Is Taurine Important in Pre-Workout? (From a Dietician)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 19, 2022

Many fitness enthusiasts tout taurine’s effects on their muscle performance, strength, and endurance.

I know it might provide an edge in terms of mental acuity, but I didn’t make much of it in the gym setting until I noticed a number of my clients taking taurine to try and boost athletic performance.

Curious about the scale and nature of its effects, I decided to test out and observe it with the help of a dietician and a few of my clients.

Here are my findings on the pre-workout effects of taurine.

Quick Summary

  • Taurine may help enhance your sports performance, but many of its claims might be exaggerated.
  • Taurine is naturally produced by your body (in your brain, heart, eyes, and muscles) and is commonly used in energy drinks, pre-workouts, and some brands of protein powder.
  • Contrary to popular belief, taurine isn’t a stimulant; its effects show it to be more of a relaxant.

What Is Taurine and Why Is It in Pre-workouts and Energy Drinks?

The text "Taurine" with powder in the background

Taurine is an organic acid found in your brain, heart, eyes, and skeletal muscle.

It's used in most pre-workout supplements and energy drinks because of its supposed effects on muscle endurance, physical performance, muscle fatigue recovery, and cardiac health.

Taurine is actually an amino sulfonic acid, but it’s commonly referred to as an amino acid.

Following glutamine, taurine is the second most abundant amino acid in the human body.

Taurine is synthesized in the brain and liver, either by cysteine or methionine, when you don’t get it from food sources [1].

It’s also found in animal meats, dairy, brewer’s yeast, and seaweed.

The standard diet should give you around 200 mg of taurine a day unless you’re on a vegan diet where it’s much lower.

Energy drinks or pre-workouts will provide you with 2000 mg per drink, which is why they’re more popular sources of taurine consumption.

Purported Benefits of Taurine on Sports Performance

A buff person with a sports medal

Because it can supposedly boost sports performance, taurine is used by many athletes. Here are some of the most popular purported benefits of taurine:

  • Enhances endurance performance
  • Improves muscle recovery by reducing soreness
  • Enhances muscle growth by drawing more fluid into muscle cells
  • Reduces muscle fatigue by repairing damaged muscle cells
  • Increases force production in muscles

While these may sound exciting, there’s unfortunately not enough evidence to back up these claims.

You can find several studies backing these claims, but these studies don’t seem to test with enough participants.

Taurine does play a role in regulating some minerals in your cells and the general functioning of your central nervous system, but not to the degree of enhancing your performance.

However, some studies have shown that taurine can improve the health of people who have heart disease or metabolic syndrome by improving blood flow and exercise capacity. However, the results aren’t the same among healthy people [2].

Some Common Myths

A person holding pre-workout sitting down

There are some myths about taurine that have gone around for a while. So, let’s take a look at them and see what’s actually true.

Taurine Comes From Bull Semen

One of the myths about taurine is that it comes from bull semen. Although bull semen does contain taurine, it's not extracted from there when manufacturing supplements.

The word “taurine” comes from the Latin word “taurus,” which means bull. It was first isolated from bull stomachs and testes and ox bile in the 1800s.

Today, taurine is synthesized in labs, where they make it clean, bioactive, and vegetarian-friendly.

Taurine Decreases Muscle Damage

Another selling point touted by energy drink manufacturers is that taurine energy drinks and pre-workouts can decrease muscle damage resulting from intense exercise.

Many studies show taurine enhances muscle contraction to rid the muscle of lactic acid. However, many of these studies lack enough participants.`

In fact, one study on taurine showed it had no significant effects on reducing muscle damage, even when given in high doses [3].

Taurine Boosts Cardiovascular Endurance

A person doing cardio in the gym

Contrary to what many sports and energy drinks promote, there aren't many studies that suggest that taurine supplementation benefits endurance and stamina.

Most of these studies involve only a small number of participants, giving some doubt to their claims.

Many of the studies are also directly sponsored by energy drink companies, making the results less trustworthy.

On the other hand, there are many studies that also demonstrate that taurine has little to no benefit in boosting cardiovascular endurance [4] [5].

“Research is mixed about the effect of taurine supplements on athletic performance. Some studies suggest that taurine supplementation may improve athletic performance, whereas others did not find any effects.”

- Dr. Jasmine Shaikh, MD, BCP

3 Real Benefits

A person looking at his health watch

While taurine’s exercise performance benefits may be exaggerated, it does help your body in many other ways.

Here are some of the actual benefits taurine has on your body.

1. Promotes Healthy Metabolism

Taurine plays an important role in digestion and metabolism. It helps your liver create bile salts, which break down fatty acids in your intestines [6]

The average adult breaks down 500 mg of cholesterol that converts into bile, and doing this requires taurine [7].

Related: Best Ways to Boost Metabolism

2. Protects the Eyes and Heart

Taurine may be essential to your eye and heart health.

When it comes to your eyes, taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in your retinas, and it protects them against degeneration [8].

It may also prevent the development of cataracts and dry eyes through its osmoregulatory action [9].

A 2017 study conducted with people who had failed showed that taking taurine after exercise can lower blood cholesterol levels and inflammation [10].

3. Protects Brain Against Aging

A buff male holding his head

Taurine may help fight off age-related degeneration of the brain.

A 2017 review showed that taurine levels in the brain decrease with age and that taurine supplementation could prevent neurodegeneration conditions [11].

A 2014 study investigated the effects of taurine on mice with Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

Mice that received taurine seemed to show improvements in AD symptoms, like learning and memory deficits [12].

However, we need additional research to apply these same effects to humans.

FAQs

Why Is Taurine Considered a Conditionally Essential Amino Acid?

Taurine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid because it becomes essential only in times of illness and stress.

Amino acids are usually referred to as the building blocks of protein, but taurine isn't used to build proteins in your body.

How Much Taurine Should Pre-Workout Contain to Be Effective?

Pre-workout should contain at least 500 mg of taurine to be effective.

However, a good recommended dosage of taurine would be 1000-2000 mg.

Our Final Thoughts on Taurine

As a pre-workout, taurine seems to have many mixed reviews. Some studies approve, and others do not.

Because of the lack of proper data on taurine’s effect on your workout, I highly recommend taking high-quality pre-workouts to be safe:

We’ve personally tested all these products with our clients and had very good results. They can help your body with energy production, muscle building, and fast recovery — without caffeine jitters and crashes.

Check out our list and see which one best suits your fitness goals.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501277/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933646/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28745470/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8419774/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5611412/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26710098/
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326714
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24721186
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124017177000514
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933646/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5737830/
  12. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep07467

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