What this article entails:
- 1700+ word article
- Quick description and facts about taurine
- In detail discussion on how taurine affects the 1) nervous system (anti-anxiety), 2) insulin, 2) immunity, 3) heart, 4) exercise performance & hypertrophy and 5) androgens
- A few interesting extras
- Dosing and supplement suggestion
Taurine, a semi-essential sulfur-containing β-amino acid, is an organic osmolyte involved in cell volume regulation (by regulating sodium, potassium and magnesium levels), and provides a substrate for the formation of bile salts. It plays a role in the modulation of intracellular free calcium concentration (this aids in muscle relaxation, and prevents involuntary twitchiness, restlessness, etc…), it’s one of the most abundant amino acids in the brain, retina, muscle tissue, and organs throughout the body and is extremely important for the development and health of those tissues.
Taurine promotes bile flow thus preventing hepatotoxic bile acid stasis and high cholesterol levels. A bile deficiency increases the risk of gallstones (1). Bile helps to sterilize the gut and prevents pathogenic bacteria from growing in the stomach and intestines. Bile also binds to toxins, such as estrogen, xenobiotics, etc., which will result in better detoxification.
Taurine can be synthesized from homocysteine. Homocysteine ⇒ cysteine ⇒ taurine. The enzymes involved in this conversion require vitamin B6 and glycine as a cofactor. The body is able to synthesize 50-125mg taurine a day. During stress, this conversion is limited. (1) Also, the availability of cysteine is highly dependent on the metabolic equilibrium between homocysteine and methionine, via folic acid, vitamin B12 and the efficiency of the enzyme methyltetrahydrofolate reductase. Also, many people eat a low protein diet and have improper digestion, and low absorption and utilization of protein, leading to a deficiency in methionine, thus inadequate SAMe is produced and this leads to low homocysteine and ultimately low taurine.
The daily excretion of taurine via the kidney varies, but is usually between 28-231mg per day. A few factors increase the excretion thereof, and one is muscle damage. One reason that guys who workout need more taurine. (1) Also, cortisol, a glucocorticoid, exert an inhibitory action of renal taurine re-uptake which can lead to hypotaurinemia. (2)
Food sources highest which contain the highest amount of taurine are: mussels, turkey (dark meat), clams, chicken (dark meat) as well as other meat in that order.
Anti-anxiety & CNS effect
Taurine protects against toxicity of the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamic acid, as it’s a neuroprotectant against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity.
Taurine acts in a glycine or GABA-like manner, which can induce sedation. Depending on the dose, this amino acid can aid in relaxation, un-winding, anti-anxiety and improving sleep.
Taurine further increases dopamine in the brain which is also anti-anxiety and has an anti-depressant effect, which is opposite to the effects of serotonin. (3) Taurine supplementation inhibits the release and synthesis of newly formed serotonin from tryptophan only in rostral raphe cells. (36) Taurine also inhibits serotonin through mediation of 5HT1A receptors and cAMP. (37)
Taurine helps to improve insulin sensitivity and prevent hyperglycemia. (4) However, too a high dose can cause hypoglycemia, which can then lead to elevations in cortisol and adrenaline to pick blood sugar back up. It’s always best to start at a low-ish dose and work up till you find the right dose for you.
Anti-inflammatory & anti-oxidant
The best established antioxidant action of taurine is neutralization of hypochlorous acid (HOCl), an extremely toxic oxidant generated by the MPO–halide system (5). This activity explains the anti-inflammatory properties of taurine, as its reaction with HOCl results in generation of taurine chloramine (TauCl), a more stable and less toxic anti-inflammatory mediator. TauCl and TauBr, the physiological products of the MPO–halide system, show bactericidal, fungicidal, antiviral and antiparasitic properties (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
TauCl and TauBr inhibit the production of proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6) (12, 13, 14). Moreover, it has been shown that TauCl reduces the production of nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) (probably by lowering COX-2 activity) as well as decreases the activity of matrix metalloproteinases (15, 16, 17)
Tuarine also improves mitochondrial function by stabilizing the electron transport chain and inhibiting the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) (18, 19). This will also lead to less inflammation and better energy production.
Taurine enhances expression and activities of antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (20).
In this study, even a small dose taurine (175mg thrice daily) is capable of significantly increasing excretion of bacteria, viruses, fungi, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals from the body. (21)
Taurine is very good for heart health, as it has antiarrhythmic (suppresses abnormal rhythms of the heart), inotropic (stabilizes the force of muscular contraction) and chronotropic (stabilizes heart rhythm) effects.
After myocardial infarction, taurine supplementation helps to stabilize electrical membrane excitability by modulating calcium ion concentration, whilst reducing platelet aggregation. (1)
Taurine is a natural ACE inhibitor, which is very beneficial for cardiovascular health, such as blood pressure and the heart. Taurine prevents angiotensin II (by inhibiting angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)), which causes cardiac hypertrophy, volume overload and myocardiac remodeling. (1) In fact, I know of someone who used 15g taurine daily for a month and permanently abolished his heart issues and high blood pressure with no side effects.
Improves exercise & hypertrophy
Although taurine is not used in muscle protein synthesis and doesn’t improve nitrogen balance, it still plays an important role in building muscle.
Taurine modulates calcium fluxes and enhances muscle contraction and beta-adrenergic activation through its influence on cyclic AMP regulation. (1) Clenbuterol exerts its anabolic function by binding to beta-adrenergic receptors. Taurine exerts the same function, just less powerful. cAMP also activates muscle protein synthesis enzymes and aids in improving hypertrophy.
Taurine supplementation has been shown to result in significant increase in VO(2)max, exercise time to exhaustion and maximal workload. It also inhibits exercise induced DNA damage via down-regulation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and consequent reduction of nitrosative inflammation (from elevated ROS) (21, 22)
Taurine also decreases lipid peroxidation and protects against inflammation and therefor aids in preventing and recovering from muscle damage after a workout. (23) Faster recovery from DOMS.
As seen in the following study, taurine (2g x3day) combined with BCAAs a few days prior and post exercise improved muscle recovery in untrained men. (24) I think this is significant, as untrained men experience the greatest muscle soreness post-workout compared to a trained individual.
Muscles with a taurine deficiency (in mice) had a shift of metabolism toward the glycolytic pathway, especially in condition of exercise; this has been related to a dysfunction in mitochondrial function and in fatty acid oxidative pathways (the inability to oxidize fatty acids). (25) This leads to mitochondrial damage. Inhibiting fatty acid oxidation during exercise can lead to a reduction in exercise performance.
As taurine is a natural osmolyte, it increases the cells’ hydration. Hydrated cells are the perfect state for muscle growth as dehydrated cells are catabolic.
Taurine reduces lactate as well as the enzymes’ activity that produces lactate, namely lactate dehydrogenase. (26) Lactate is what gives the muscle that burn. Less lactate can lead to greater endurance.
Taurine is also shown to increase protein utilization, as excess protein gets converted to ammonia, creatinine, BUN, etc… Supplemental taurine reduces these markers, which indicate better protein utilization by the body. (27)
Androgens & growth hormone
Possibly one of the mechanism of how taurine lowers cholesterol (1) is by increasing cholesterol uptake in the testes and increased androgen synthesis.
Taurine is abundant in male reproductive organs, and that taurine levels decline with age, and age is related with a decline in androgens. In this study, rats were given taurine, and their GnRH, LH and testosterone increased. (28)
As taurine is also abundant in human male testes, taurine supplementation would be equally beneficial to men for increasing androgens. I also know of someone who used 15g of taurine (spread throughout the day) for a month and significantly increased his testosterone four times (confirmed with saliva hormone tests). However he was also taking it with aspirin to block the aromatase. This androgenic effect is confirmed by many other males as well.
Taurine supplementation is also confirmed to increase growth hormone significantly in epileptic patients, from 3.0 ng/mL to 17.1 ng/mL after 2 weeks. (29) However, 5g taurine was unable to increase GH in normal men. This could be that a build-up period is required to increase GH.
Does taurine increase prolactin?
No. Taurine administration (5g) has no effect on prolactin or cortisol. (30) However, prolactin could increase over time during a loading phase, so it would be best to use a powerful prolactin inhibitor, such as vitamin E while loading on taurine.
Taurine increases dopamine in the brain (31), which is associated with better attention, learning, mental well-being, motivation, lowers prolactin etc… Dopamine also increases testosterone levels and this is confirmed by multiple studies that rats increase their testosterone more than double when ingesting taurine.
Taurine also increases NAD+ levels in the body, which is very important for oxidative metabolism, energy production and androgen production. (32)
a) Taurine enhances the bioavailability of lipid soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, K), probably by promoting easily hydrolyzable complexes. (1)
b) A deficiency in taurine leads to retina degeneration and can even lead to blindness. (1) Taurine supplementation improves vision.
c) Taurine increases acetylcholine in the brain which is positively associated with memory and learning, giving it a potent nootropic.
d) Taurine works synergistic with caffeine (similar to ornithine), as caffeine might induce anxiety, jitteriness in some, however taurine antagonizes this effect. That’s why it’s so commonly used in energy drinks.
e) Liver health. Taurine reduces liver enzymes ALT, AST and GST, which improves liver health (33) and increases liver glycogen 2-fold, which would be very beneficial for maintaining blood sugar. The dose would probably be between 2.5-3g for humans (as this was a rat study). (34)
f) Taurine helps to restore normal thyroid activity, by lowering creatinine and BUN. (35)
g) β-alanine and GABA, are inhibitors of taurine uptake, so it would not be a good idea to take those together, but rather take taurine on it’s own.
h) Taurine is closely bound to zinc & manganese so deficiencies of either of these can interfere with its’ utilization. Likewise, zinc & manganese enhance the effects of taurine.
Dosing and supplement suggestions
Taking taurine with caffeine, before bed or in the morning would be the best times to do so. Just keep your body saturated with taurine, and that will ensure optimal tissue taurine levels during the day as well as during exercise. I don’t think taurine will give added benefit when taken pre-workout, as this might have a sedative effect at high doses, which will be opposite of what you want before a workout.
Ingesting lots of taurine for a long period of time will decrease taurine transporters and this will decrease taurine transport into muscles, and the kidneys will also increase taurine excretion.
I think a loading phase with 15g taurine daily for a month would be optimal, as tissue taurine can stay saturated for up to 3 months thereafter. If you don’t want to do a taurine loading phase, taking 250mg to 2g daily will be more than enough for it’s other benefits.
- Taurine – powder, 8oz