If you’ve ever knocked back an energy drink hoping to boost your engine for a bit, chances are you’ve heard about taurine. It’s a staple in things like Red Bull and touted as one of the best natural energy supplements alongside caffeine, although when you break it down, it’s actually not designed (or synthesized) to boost energy at all.
But when it comes to revving your engines to power you through a lift, we need to bring in the big guns.
Despite being commonplace in so many commercial products, most people are largely unaware of what taurine is and how, or if, it can benefit their performance. That’s why we’re sorting through the science and finding out if taking taurine pre-workout is to your advantage.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid present in the human body in relatively large amounts. In a 70kg human, there’s roughly 70g of taurine, making it one of the most abundant organic compounds 1.
Taurine was named because it was first isolated from ox bile (Bos taurus), and its functions were thought to only revolve around bile salt synthesis, osmoregulation, energy storage, and neuroinhibition in the central nervous system (CNS), but it’s since developed into so much more.
While taurine can be found in both the heart and brain—in the heart, taurine comprises up to 60% of the free amino acids pool—but the bulk of it is found in the muscles 1. Studies show that in the brain, taurine stimulates action potentials in GABAergic neurons and specifically targets the GABAA receptor 2.
It also helps to counteract the excitotoxic effects of glutamate. But interestingly, taurine levels appear to decrease with age, which may be why there’s been such a hike in interest over supplementation.
For people that aren’t looking for the potential neuroprotective effects of taurine, there are several other roles it plays in the body, including 3-5:
- Maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance in cells
- Formation of bile salts—a key part of digestion (especially of fats)
- Maintaining ocular function
- Regulating mineral levels
- Supporting CNS function
- Regulating immune system health and antioxidant function
Taurine And Athletic Performance
While taurine’s benefits for athletic performance are still not fully elucidated, the two areas where taurine shows the most promise for athletes are endurance performance and post-exercise muscle soreness—two components that all athletes should be aware of.
1. May Improve Endurance Performance
There is a long list of supplements that can improve strength and muscle growth, but the list isn’t quite as long where endurance performance is concerned. Taurine, however, shows promise for endurance athletes.
Research suggests that maintaining taurine concentrations in muscle tissue may be important for enhancing endurance performance 6. While the studies to back up the link between taurine and endurance aren’t fully concrete, trained individuals do appear to have higher muscle concentrations of taurine compared to untrained individuals, suggesting that it may have a potential role in endurance exercise performance 7, 8.
Since trained individuals typically have higher muscle levels of taurine, supplementing may be less effective for enhancing endurance, or higher amounts may be needed to improve performance. With that said, some research shows the benefit of taurine for improving endurance.
A 2003 study looked at the effects of taurine, carnitine, or glutamine supplementation on endurance exercise performance and fatigue factors in male college students 9.
They found improvements in time to exhaustion running performance with taurine (4 g/day) supplementation for two weeks, seeing athletes run 6.9 minutes longer on a treadmill at 75% VO2max.
Taurine supplementation also appeared to reduce serum inorganic phosphorus concentration, as well as serum ammonia concentration (32% reduction) during the test.
Similarly, a 2018 review looked at the effects of isolated oral taurine ingestion on endurance performance and found that doses ranging from 1g to 6g/day provided in a single dose for two weeks improved overall endurance performance with no differences between acute and chronic supplementation 10.
Despite some positive studies, the research on taurine supplementation for endurance improvements is largely mixed.
However, because taurine is found in higher concentrations in oxidative muscle fibers, it could mean that taurine may improve endurance exercise performance, which may result from greater recruitment of type I muscle fibers during aerobic events.
2. May Reduce Muscle Soreness
The other potential benefit of taurine is muscle soreness and post-workout recovery. There’s a large body of research looking at the efficacy of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for delaying muscle fatigue and soreness after eccentric exercise, and although taurine isn’t a BCAA, it could offer the potential for reducing DOMS via improving satellite cell activation and recovery after high intensity, muscle-damaging exercise 6; satellite cells are the primary cells involved in myofiber development, proliferation, differentiation, and renewal.
Because taurine is found in high concentrations in skeletal muscle, high-intensity exercise damages myofibers and results in disruption of the sarcolemma, which subsequently causes activation of satellite cells and taurine release 6.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is one of the major symptoms associated with eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage and leads to loss of muscle strength, decreased range of motion, inflammation, and an increase in blood levels of muscle proteins 11.
Muscle damage is characterized by infiltration of inflammatory cells to the injured tissue, increases in various inflammatory markers (creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, etc.), and significant oxidant stress—all of which are targets with taurine supplementation 12, 13.
A 2014 study found that taurine supplementation for 21 days (50 mg/kg/day) in male participants led to reduced levels of creatine kinase (CK) and less DOMS compared to the placebo group, which was likely attributed to taurine reducing CK levels and supporting membrane stabilization and recovery 14.
What’s more, when combined with BCAAs, taurine may exert even more favorable effects on muscle soreness 12. 36 untrained male subjects were given 2 g of taurine or a placebo three times a day (6 g/day total) for two weeks before exercise and three days after eccentric elbow flexor exercises along with 3.2 g BCAA.
Combined supplementation helped to attenuate some markers of DOMS (visual analog scale (VAS)) and markers of muscle damage (serum LDH, 8-OHdG, CK) induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise.
However, prolonged supplementation of taurine without BCAAs didn’t affect muscle soreness. Researchers concluded that BCAA + taurine is most effective for mitigating DOMS induced by eccentric exercise.
Should You Take Taurine Pre-Workout?
With all of that said, there does appear to be a benefit for supplementing with taurine, but if you’re looking for improvements in speed, power, strength, and overall performance, taurine may or may not get you there.
Studies do suggest taurine as an ergogenic supplement for improving exercise performance due to high concentrations found in human skeletal muscle, along with its role in a variety of physiological functions, including energy metabolism, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
However, what you’re combining it with may dictate the results you see.
Caffeine is one of the most common stimulants found in many pre-workout supplements, and combining taurine with caffeine can be risky business.
Research suggests that cardiac effects of energy supplements are exacerbated when taurine and caffeine are ingested together, which may raise concerns given that caffeine alone can increase blood pressure and heart rate 2.
Rather than putting yourself in harm’s way, other natural alternatives may be better suited for enhancing all aspects of performance with no potential side effects or contraindications.
We’re talking about:
- RedNite® Red Beetroot Powder: A natural source of nitric oxide that’s clinically proven to increase stamina, improve muscle force efficiency, reduce fatigue, and boost overall cardiovascular function for a stronger pump than ever before.
- Setria® Performance Blend: Maximizes blood flow for a more substantial, longer-lasting nitric oxide boost that improves strength, power, speed, endurance, and overall athletic performance. Plus, it fuels, nourishes, and clears muscles post-workout for a head start on growth and recovery.
- Natural Caffeine 80mg: Moderate-dose caffeine for increased workout energy without overkill.
- Suntheanine® L-theanine: Reduces the side effects of caffeine to promote calm vigilance. It delivers peak workout intensity with calmness and clarity by boosting alpha brainwaves.
- AjiPure® L-tyrosine: Increases brain chemicals that drive stimulation and workout intensity. It sharpens focus under stress and maintains levels of neurotransmitters depleted by caffeine and intense training.
- NutriGenesis® vitamins + minerals: Tops off the essentials for strength, endurance, hydration, recovery, and more.
There’s no denying that taurine offers some benefits for performance, but the research isn’t solid, and there seem to be some safety concerns. If you’re looking for guaranteed performance improvements, skip the taurine and opt for a formula that actually works—Pre Lab Pro®.
It’s a pre-workout formula that delivers bigger and better results than any other product on the market.
Pre Lab Pro® is designed to push your body to its limits using five powerful and all-natural ingredients that elevate your workout to push you through the biggest challenges with calmness, clarity, and ease.
- RJ Physiological actions of taurine.Physiol Rev. 1992;72(1):101-163.
- CP Curran, CA Marczinski. Taurine, caffeine, and energy drinks: Reviewing the risks to the adolescent brain. Birth Defects Res. 2017;109(20):1640-1648.
- H Ripps, W Shen. Review: taurine: a “very essential” amino acid. Mol Vis. 2012;18:2673-2686.
- OI Aruoma, B Halliwell, BM Hoey, J Butler. The antioxidant action of taurine, hypotaurine and their metabolic precursors.Biochem J. 1988;256(1):251-255.
- GB Schuller-Levis, E Park. Taurine: new implications for an old amino acid. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2003;226(2):195-202.
- JA Kurtz, TA VanDusseldorp, JA Doyle, JS Taurine in sports and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021;18(1):39.
- TG Balshaw, TM Bampouras, TJ Barry, SA Sparks. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners. Amino Acids. 2013;44(2):555–61.
- S Hansen, M Andersen, C Cornett, R Gradinaru, N Grunnet. A role for taurine in mitochondrial function. J Biomed Sci. 2010;17(Suppl 1):S23.
- H Lee, I Paik, T Park. Effects of dietary supplementation of taurine, carnitine or glutamine on endurance exercise performance and fatigue parameters in athletes. Korean J Nutr. 2003;36(7):711–9.
- M Waldron, SD Patterson, J Tallent, O The Effects of an Oral Taurine Dose and Supplementation Period on Endurance Exercise Performance in Humans: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2018;48(5):1247-1253.
- JG Yu, C Malm, LE Eccentric contractions leading to DOMS do not cause loss of desmin nor fibre necrosis in human muscle.Histochem Cell Biol. 2002;118(1):29-34.
- S-G Ra, et al. Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):1–11.
- GL Warren, DA Lowe, RB Armstrong. Measurement tools used in the study of eccentric contraction-induced injury. Sports Med. 1999;27(1):43–59.
- LA da Silva, CB Tromm, KF Bom, I Mariano, B Pozzi, GL da Rosa, et al. Effects of taurine supplementation following eccentric exercise in young adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014;39(1):101–4