Amino acid-like compound taurine appears to have multiple benefits for intense physical training and muscle recovery.
Taurine is an organic compound naturally found in high concentrations in the brain, muscle, and other tissues. Taurine holds some promise as a pre-workout aid through:
- Protecting muscle against damage. Taurine’s antioxidant properties counter oxidative stress – a major contributor to post-exercise muscle damage, soreness, and injury.
- Improving aerobic exercise performance. Supplementation is known to raise muscle taurine levels, which tend to deplete during exercise.
Taurine is an organic acid compound found in humans and animals. It is distributed throughout many different tissues, with high concentrations in the brain, heart, eyes, white blood cells, and skeletal muscle.
It is one of the most abundant amino acids in the human body, and serves a wide array of functions. Taurine plays many health supportive roles in the body, including biological activities that appear to be involved with muscle health and function. Some key taurine bioactivities include:
- Regulation of cell volume and water balance
- Serving as a constituent of bile, required for digestion of fats
- Protecting cells (including muscle tissue cells) from damage.1
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that although it can be made by the body, it may have to be added through diet in some cases. Abundant dietary sources of taurine include meat and seafood, with a typical diet providing about 58 mg daily.2
How Taurine Might Help PWO Formulas
The mechanisms behind taurine’s ergogenic effects are currently unknown, and researchers can only speculate. Possibilities include:
- Improved muscle force production
- Stabilization of muscle cell membranes
- Interaction with calcium ions that mediate key processes such as muscle contraction
- Acting as a muscle-protective antioxidant
It’s also possible that taurine has separate effects in the heart and blood vessels, which could also enhance exercise performance.3
Nonetheless, even the basic function of taurine in skeletal muscle remains unclear. What we do know is that taurine is in some way related to physical activity; endurance-trained athletes, for example, tend to have higher taurine muscle concentrations than untrained individuals.
Taurine’s Potential Benefits & Uses
First and foremost, taurine appears to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which promote recovery after training and help protect muscle against exercised-induced oxidative stress – a key contributor to post-exercise muscle damage. Several studies have reported that taurine supplementation reduces markers of muscle damage, oxidative stress, and feelings of soreness following exercise.
Second, taurine may also be capable of improving aerobic exercise performance. Thus far, all but one study on this subject showed notable performance improvements, such as longer time until exhaustion and faster finish times when running or cycling.4
It’s likely that the one unsuccessful study was the result of poor methodology, since its participants did not wait long enough to begin exercise following taurine ingestion, and also dampened its affects by doing a pre-trial warmup.
Animal studies of taurine support the positive results of human trials. Findings in rats indicate that taurine supplementation appears to:
- Increase muscle taurine levels and “upregulates physical endurance” during exercise5
- Reduces exercise-induced “oxidative stress markers“6
One additional animal study found evidence that suggested that taurine levels fall in mice after aerobic exercise.7
Human research of taurine is limited, because most studies examine dietary supplements with multiple ingredients, making it difficult to isolate the effects of taurine alone. Nonetheless, current results suggest that taurine may be effective for improving endurance exercise performance and helping muscles recover.
This study examined whether taurine can help prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress – one of the contributors to muscle damage following strenuous exercise. Eleven men performed two exercise cycling tests to exhaustion – one with no treatment, and another after 7 days of taurine (2 g taken three times daily) supplementation. TBARS—a measurement of oxidative stress—was reduced in the taurine trial, in addition to lowered damage to DNA, and improved performance during the cycling test.
- The researchers concluded that “The results suggest that taurine may attenuate exercise-induced DNA damage and enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties”8
This double-blind, randomized, crossover study investigated whether taurine supplementation could improve endurance exercise performance. Eight trained male runners completed taurine and placebo trials one week apart, taking the treatment capsules 2 hours before a 3 km time trial run (3KTT). Compared to placebo, the taurine trial had noticeably better finish times (average of 646.6 seconds vs 658.5) – an improvement of 1.7%.
- The researchers concluded that “it was demonstrated that the ingestion of a 1,000-mg dose of TA 2-h prior to a 3KTT significantly enhanced endurance running performance”9
The goal of this study was to examine whether taurine’s cytoprotective qualities could help reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a common ailment following strenuous exercise. The researchers compared taurine to branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are a common way to treat DOMS. Thirty-six untrained men were divided into 4 groups: placebo, taurine (6 g), BCAA (9.6 g), and a combination of the two. The supplements were taken daily for 2 weeks before an elbow flexion eccentric exercise, and for 4 days afterwards.It was found that only the combination of the two led to a significant reduction in muscle soreness.
- The researchers concluded that “we confirmed the additional effect of TAU with BCAA supplementation on the attenuation of the DOMS and muscle damages induced by ECC in elbow flexor with higher intensity that is unable to be suppressed by single supplementation of either TAU or BCAA”10
This study examined the effects of taurine supplementation on muscle performance, damage, and inflammation following eccentric exercise. Twenty-one men were randomly split into placebo and taurine (50 mg/kg bodyweight) groups, receiving the treatments for 21 days; 14 days prior to, and 7 days after exercise. Compared to placebo, taurine resulted in reduced muscle damage markers (CK and LDH), reduced oxidative damage, decreased muscle soreness, and improved muscle strength during the exercise recovery period.
- The researchers concluded that “The results suggest that taurine supplementation represents an important factor in improving performance and decreasing muscle damage and oxidative stress but does not decrease the inflammatory response after EE”11
Dosage for Pre-Workout
- Successful trials have used doses ranging from 1 – 6 g
- For improved performance, taurine should be taken once before exercise; for muscle recovery, it can be taken for multiple days prior to working out
- Studies using larger dosages typically split them up into 2 or 3 smaller doses throughout the day
- Single-ingredient taurine supplements provide 0.5 – 1 g doses
- Pre-workout formulas typically supply 0.4 g doses
Taurine does not appear to have any side effects; even studies that administered as much as 500 mg per kg of body weight to rats found no adverse reactions.
Available Forms of Taurine
Taurine is typically sold in in capsule or powder form. It is also frequently mixed together with multiple ingredients in ergogenic supplements and beverages; one popular example is the popular effervescent energy drink Redbull that contains 1 g of taurine in one 250 ml can along with caffeine and other constituents.
Supplements in Review Recommendation
- Taurine, 1000 mg pre-workout capsules.
Taurine seems to have notable benefits for aerobic exercise and muscle recovery. Although it’s too early to say anything conclusive, the fact that the large majority of studies report improved aerobic exercise performance and better muscle recovery cannot be overlooked. And given taurine’s safety, there’s no reason not to give it a try as a pre-workout aid.
1000 mg is the minimum effective dose used in trials. Most successful studies used doses of 1 to 6 g with no side effects, so starting out with 1 g typically offered in dietary supplements and then ramping up to a higher dose is a smart approach.
- Ripps H and Shen W. Review: Taurine: A “very essential” amino acid. Mol Vis. 2012; 18: 2673–2686. ↩
- Schuller-Levis GB and Park E. Taurine: new implications for an old amino acid. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2003 Sep 26;226(2):195-202. ↩
- Miyazaki T et al. Optimal and effective oral dose of taurine to prolong exercise performance in rat. Amino Acids. 2004 Dec;27(3-4):291-8. ↩
- Lee HM, Paik IY, Park TS. Effects of Dietary Supplementation of Taurine, Carnitine or Glutamine on Endurance Exercise Performance and Fatigue Parameters in Athletes. Korean J Nutr. 2003 Sep;36(7):711-719. ↩
- Yatabe Y et al. Effects of taurine administration in rat skeletal muscles on exercise. J Orthop Sci. 2003;8(3):415-9. ↩
- Silva LA et al. Taurine supplementation decreases oxidative stress in skeletal muscle after eccentric exercise. Cell Biochem Funct. 2011 Jan-Feb;29(1):43-9. ↩
- Gwacham N and Wagner DR. Acute effects of a caffeine-taurine energy drink on repeated sprint performance of American college football players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012 Apr;22(2):109-16. ↩
- Zhang M et al. Role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men. Amino Acids. 2004 Mar;26(2):203-7. ↩
- Balshaw TG et al. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners. Amino Acids. 2013 Feb;44(2):555-61. ↩
- Ra SG et al. Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2013;776:179-87. ↩
- Silva LA et al. Effects of taurine supplementation following eccentric exercise in young adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Jan;39(1):101-4. ↩