Key Points of the Benefits of Supplementing with Taurine
- Supplementing with Taurine may have the potential to improve performance, but the research is controversial, with some studies finding benefits, whereas other studies have found no benefit.
- A recent study found that both 4 and 6 grams of taurine provided an ergogenic effect in female rugby players.
Taurine, a naturally occurring amino acid, has been the subject of numerous studies investigating its effects on physical performance. It is commonly found in energy drinks, which have been associated with high blood pressure and side effects in high dosages.
Taurine supplementation remains an area of interest for athletes seeking the benefits of taurine. This article aims to review the current literature on taurine supplementation and the benefits of taurine for athletes. Additionally, we will explore the role of taurine in sports performance and discuss the benefits of taurine supplementation.
What is Taurine?
Taurine is a non-essential amino acid found in high concentrations in skeletal muscle, kidneys, heart, and brain tissue. It involves various physiological processes, including the immune system, fluid balance, calcium homeostasis, neurotransmitter production, and acting as an antioxidant defense against DNA damage. (De Luca et al., 2015). Taurine, being involved in the synthesis of bile acids, contributes to the digestion and absorption of dietary fats (bile). Taurine is involved in the conjugation of bile acids, which aids in the removal of bile from the liver. By facilitating bile flow, taurine reduces the risk of bile toxicity and improves liver function. While supplementing with taurine is an option, athletes should also be aware of natural dietary sources of taurine, such as meat, seafood, and dairy products containing essential fatty acids, zinc, and magnesium.
Furthermore, taurine deficiency has been associated with various health complications, including heart disease, muscle damage, insulin resistance, and nervous system disorders. Taurine is particularly important during infancy, as it plays a crucial role in the development of the nervous system and retina. Breastfeeding and infant formula fortified with taurine help prevent taurine deficiency in infants. Taurine supplementation has also been studied for its potential benefits in weight management. Some studies suggest that taurine may aid in positive health conditions such as reducing body weight and improving insulin sensitivity. However, more clinical trials are needed to establish conclusive evidence.
In recent years, taurine has gained attention as a potential ergogenic aid for athletes due to its ability to enhance anaerobic performance and improve physiological parameters. Evidence supports taurine benefits for athletes in anaerobic performance, mood, cognitive function, and antioxidant defense systems, although its direct effects on aerobic performance are limited, according to some studies.
Benefits of Supplementing with Taurine
The ingestion of taurine has been linked to improved anaerobic performance among athletes. Taurine regulates intracellular calcium utilization in muscle fibers and may improve anaerobic power output. (Hamilton et al., 2006) Taurine-depleted muscle fibers fatigue faster than muscle fibers with adequate taurine due to the change in utilization in the sarcoplasmic reticulum (Hamilton et al., 2006). Taurine levels are much higher in type I than in type II muscle fibers, which may result in taurine supplementation improving endurance exercise performance. (Hansen et al., 2010) A study on runners found that taurine resulted in a 1.7% improvement in running time. (Balshaw et al., 2013)
While some studies have reported that low dosages of taurine (i.e., 1000-1600 mg) do not affect exercise performance. (Rutherford et al., 2010; Ward et al., 2016), high dosages have been found to improve performance (i.e., 3-6 grams) in some but not all studies. (De Carvalho et al., 2018; Warnock et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2004) The findings indicate that taurine supplementation may positively influence performance, but the studies are inconclusive.
This may be due to different exercise protocols used in various studies and the individual dietary amounts of taurine consumed. It is crucial to recognize that the response to taurine supplementation can vary among individuals. Factors such as genetics, baseline taurine levels, training status, and specific athletic demands may influence the effectiveness of supplementing with taurine. Vegan athletes may benefit from taurine supplementation as taurine plays an important role in human health and performance.
Improved Physiological Parameters:
Taurine supplementation has also shown promise in improving various physiological parameters relevant to sports performance, such as reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity. Human studies have found that taurine ingestion has been found to reduce markers of oxidative stress, suggesting its potential to mitigate exercise-induced oxidative damage. (Zhang et al., 2004) Additionally, taurine supplementation positively affected amino acid responses after exercise. (Galloway et al., 2008) These studies indicate that taurine supplementation may improve physiological adaptations and overall performance. Further research is needed to explore different taurine dosages, taurine supplement protocols, and long-term effects to better understand its role in optimizing athletic performance. Studies have suggested that taurine may help regulate blood pressure and hypertension, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, and improve heart failure outcomes. (Yamori et al., 2010; Fang et al., 2012)
Literature Review on Taurine Supplements:
Several studies have explored the effects of taurine supplementation on athletic performance; however, the research is quite controversial, with some researchers finding beneficial effects and others finding no effect. Recent research showed that acute taurine supplementation
(6 g of taurine, 120 min ahead of exercises) did not improve swimmer performance but significantly reduced the percentage change in lactate levels (De Carvalho et al., 2018).
Additionally, 3 grams of taurine supplementation for 8 days did not improve short-distance swimming performance. (Batitucci et al., 2018) A recent meta-analysis reported that the overall effects of taurine supplementation are ineffective on peak power performance and fatigue index; however, jumping performance was significantly improved.(Buzdağlı et al., 2023)
Taurine Supplementation with Caffeine
Taurine may have a synergistic effect with caffeine. Most energy drinks on the market have taurine and caffeine in their ingredients, along with other energy-enhancing ingredients. Researchers found that combining taurine and caffeine altered mood and cognitive performance. (Seidl et al., 2000) This suggests that when combined with other substances, taurine may have effects beyond athletic performance alone. In contrast, a study on college football players did not find that taurine and caffeine improved performance. (Gwacham & Wagner, 2012) Similarly, a 2012 study found that a caffeine and taurine energy drink did not improve sprint cycling performance. (Jeffries et al., 2020). These conflicting results highlight the complexity of taurine supplementation and its effects on athletic performance, indicating that individual responses may vary.
New Study Finds Supplementing with Taurine Improves Performance in Female Rugby Players
As mentioned previously, the evidence regarding the effectiveness of taurine supplementation on performance is inconclusive, and there is limited research specifically focusing on female athletes, including rugby players. A recent 2023 study aimed to investigate the acute effects of different doses of taurine on anaerobic and physiological performance in female rugby players.
Sixteen sub-elite female rugby athletes participated in the study. They completed four successive tests separated by 72 hours in a randomized, counter-balanced, crossover design. The participants ingested either 2g taurine (LOW-TAURINE), 4g taurine (MODERATE-TAURINE), 6g taurine (HIGH-TAURINE), or a placebo (PLA) 1 hour before performing a 30-second Wingate anaerobic test on a cycle ergometer. Various measures were recorded, including peak power, mean power, heart rate, rating of perceived exertion, capillary lactate, and blood glucose.
The results showed that LOW-TAURINE had no significant effect on peak power, mean power, heart rate, lactate, and glucose compared to the placebo. However, 4 grams and 6 grams of taurine improved mean power, while 6 grams improved peak power and mean power compared to the placebo and 2 grams of taurine. The moderate and high taurine groups did not significantly affect the heart rate, lactate, and glucose levels.
Based on the findings of this study, a single dose of taurine (4-6 grams) ingested one hour before competition or training could have an ergogenic effect on subsequent power output in female rugby players. These results suggest that at certain doses, taurine supplementation may be beneficial for enhancing anaerobic performance in female athletes. However, further research is needed to determine this population’s optimal dosage and long-term effects of taurine supplementation.
Based on the current literature, here are some practical applications for taurine supplementation in athletes:
Consider combining taurine with caffeine: Taurine and caffeine may synergistically affect mood and cognitive performance after intense exercise. Athletes engaging in prolonged or high-intensity workouts may benefit from a combination of taurine and caffeine.
Explore the potential antioxidant benefits: Taurine has been shown to reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress markers. Athletes participating in activities that generate high levels of oxidative stress, such as endurance training, may consider taurine supplementation to support antioxidant defense systems.
Individualized supplementation protocols: Taurine’s effects on performance vary across studies and individuals. Athletes interested in taurine supplementation should consider individual factors, such as training status, sports discipline, and specific performance goals. Consulting with a qualified sports nutritionist or healthcare professional can help create personalized supplementation protocols.
Investigating the potential benefits of taurine on anaerobic performance, fatigue delay, and recovery in these populations can provide valuable insights for optimizing sports performance.
Taurine supplementation remains an area of interest for athletes seeking performance enhancements. While some studies suggest limited direct effects on aerobic performance, evidence supports potential benefits in anaerobic performance, mood, cognitive function, and antioxidant defense systems.
Safety and Considerations:
The FDA has recognized taurine as a safe ingredient for use in food and beverages. However, excessive intake of taurine supplements may have adverse effects, including gastrointestinal discomfort. It is essential to follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen.
What are the benefits of supplementing with taurine?
Supplementing with taurine may support antioxidant defense systems, anaerobic performance, mood, cognitive function, and potentially delay fatigue. However, the effects vary across studies and individuals, and personalized supplementation protocols should be considered. Further research is needed to explore the potential benefits in athletes and specific populations.
Who should avoid taurine?
Pregnant or breastfeeding women and children should also avoid taurine supplementation due to limited safety data in these populations. Those with a history of kidney disease or liver problems should also avoid taurine supplementation, as excessive intake may worsen their condition.
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Batitucci, G., Terrazas, S. I. B. M., Nóbrega, M. P., Carvalho, F. G. d., Papoti, M., Marchini, J. S., Silva, A. S. R. d., & Freitas, E. C. d. (2018). Effects of taurine supplementation in elite swimmers performance. Motriz: Revista de Educação Física, 24.
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