Despite urban myths, taurine does not come from bull urine or bull semen. The so-called “wonder molecule” is a type of amino acid found in many foods, which is often added to energy drinks. In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about taurine.
Our bodies naturally produce taurine as an amino acid in the liver and is found in high concentrations in the brain, heart, and muscles. Those with specific diseases such as diabetes can benefit from taking it as a supplement. Its name is derived from the Latin word taurus, which means ox or bull — so that may be the source of the confusion regarding its origin.
Taurine is also found in the bile of many animals, including cows and pigs, and is sometimes extracted from these sources for use in dietary supplements and energy drinks.
The main sources of taurine are animal foods, such as meat, fish, and dairy. Taurine is artificially added to energy drinks, but it is not recommended to drink them in high amounts due to other ingredients that could be harmful. An average diet provides about 40 mg of taurine per day but people on a vegetarian or vegan diet tend to have a lower daily intake of taurine.
Chemical processes can synthesize taurine from other source molecules in much the same way your body does through a chemical process known as the “Mitsunobu reaction,” which combines sulfurous acid with an alcohol. In fact, this is how most of the taurine found in energy drinks is made in such industrial quantities.
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What are the key benefits of taurine?
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid that has a number of benefits, including maintaining proper hydration, aiding digestion through the production of bile salts, regulating minerals such as calcium, supporting the central nervous system, and regulating immune system health and antioxidant function. While a healthy individual can produce enough taurine for these essential daily functions, some people, such as those with heart or kidney failure, may require higher amounts of taurine.
There is evidence that taurine may also improve blood sugar control and combat diabetes. In some animal studies, long-term supplementation with taurine decreased fasting blood sugar levels in diabetic rats, and increased intake of taurine may help prevent type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels.
Additionally, research suggests that taurine may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Higher taurine levels have been linked to significantly lower rates of death from heart disease, as well as reduced cholesterol and blood pressure. Taurine may also help lower high blood pressure by decreasing the resistance to blood flow in blood vessel walls, and by minimizing nerve impulses in the brain that increase blood pressure, as well as reducing inflammation and artery thickening.
Can taurine boost physical performance?
Taurine may have benefits for athletic performance. In animal studies, taurine caused muscles to work harder and for longer and improved their ability to contract and generate force. In mice, it reduced fatigue and muscle damage during a workout.
In human studies, taurine has been shown to remove waste products that lead to fatigue and cause muscle burn. It also protects muscles from cell damage and oxidative stress. What’s more, it increases fat burning during exercise.
Other studies indicate that trained athletes who supplement with taurine experience improved exercise performance. Cyclists and runners have been able to cover longer distances with less fatigue. Studies also supported taurine’s role in reducing muscle damage.
In addition to these performance benefits, taurine may aid weight loss by increasing your body’s use of fat for fuel. In cyclists, supplementing with 1.66 grams of taurine increased fat burning by 16%.
What are the side effects of taurine?
According to the best available evidence, taurine has no negative side effects when used in the recommended amounts.
While there have been no direct issues from taurine supplements, athlete deaths in Europe have been linked to energy drinks containing taurine and caffeine. This has led several countries to ban or limit the sale of taurine.
However, these deaths may have been caused by large doses of caffeine or some other substances the athletes were taking.
As with most amino-acid-based supplements, issues could potentially arise in people with kidney problems
How should taurine be supplemented?
The most common dosages of taurine supplements are 500–2,000 mg per day. However, the upper limit for toxicity is much higher — even doses above 2,000 mg seem to be well tolerated.
Research on the safety of taurine suggests that up to 3,000 mg per day for an entire lifetime is still safe. While some studies may use a higher dose for short periods, 3,000 mg per day will help you maximize the benefits while staying within a safe range.
The easiest and most cost-effective method to achieve this is through powder or tablet supplements, which can cost as little as US$6 for 50 doses.
While you can obtain taurine naturally from meat, dairy, and fish, most people will not consume enough to achieve performance-enhancing taurine levels.
Taurine versus caffeine
Taurine and caffeine are two substances that are often found together in energy drinks, but they have very different effects on the body.
Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found in high concentrations in the brain, heart, and muscles. It plays a number of important roles in the body, including helping to regulate heart function and serving as an antioxidant.
Caffeine, on the other hand, is a stimulant that is found in a variety of sources, including coffee, tea, and chocolate. It works by inhibiting the action of a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which helps to regulate sleep and wakefulness. Caffeine can increase alertness and energy levels, but it can also have negative effects on the body, such as causing insomnia, anxiety, and digestive issues.
Taurine is often added to energy drinks because it is believed to enhance the effects of caffeine. Taurine is thought to help balance out some of the negative effects of caffeine and may also help to improve focus and mental performance.
So, should I take taurine or not?
Researchers call taurine a “wonder molecule” because few supplements provide as many potential health and performance benefits.
Whether seeking to improve your health or optimize your sports performance, taurine can be a very cost-effective and safe addition to your supplement regimen. However, as always, be sure to check with a certified medical doctor or nutritionist to make sure you’re all good to go.