Taurine Supplements – A Complete Guide

Taurine is an amino acid, commonly used in energy drinks, pre-workouts, and amino acid supplements to improve your athletic performance, energy level, and mental focus. In this article, we will analyze clinical trials and case studies on taurine to find out its effects on endurance, body composition, cardiovascular health, liver health, and chemotherapy side effect.

Taurine (2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) is a conditionally essential sulfur-containing amino acid1. Conditionally essential means the body can make it with the help of methionine, cysteine, and vitamin B6, but not in sufficient amounts, so it is necessary to take it from the diet. Sulfur-containing means, taurine contains sulfur in its molecular structure. You can also call it an organic compound because it has a carbon element in it.

Picture of ball-and-stick model of the taurine molecule.
This is a ball-and-stick model of the taurine molecule. The red part is oxygen, yellow is sulfur, black is carbon, white is hydrogen, blue is nitrogen. Image source: Jynto (more from this user), This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Taurine is the most abundant free amino acid in the heart, brain, leukocytes, and skeletal muscles1. A 70 kg human body contains up to 70 grams of taurine2. Taurine is a major part of bile2. Bile is a fluid produced by the liver and stored by the gallbladder. Bile contains bile acids, which are important for digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine.

Taurine was so named because it was first isolated from the bile of an ox in 1827 by German scientists Friedrich Tiedemann and Leopold Gmelin3. Ox is called ‘Taurus’ in the Latin language. This was the reason for the rumor that taurine is extracted from bull semen. But it is just a myth. Taurine is extracted from animals but not from bull semen. Nowadays, taurine can be created in labs synthetically so there are also vegetarian taurine supplements available in the market.

Taurine Functions in the Body

Taurine has many biological roles in the human body as followings2:

  • Digestion – Bile acid conjugation with the help of glycine, which is essential for digestion and absorption of food.
  • Hydration – Osmoregulation, which is important for hydration.
  • Brain – Supports many functions of the brain such as cerebellar part, sleeping, learning, motor behavior, drinking, and eating.
  • Eyes – It helps to maintain the structure and functions of the retina.
  • Reproductive System – Supports sperm motility factor in the reproductive system.
  • Heart – It takes part and maintains so many functions in the cardiovascular system.
  • Antioxidant – It also works as an antioxidant and improves your immune system.

For a complete list of biological actions of taurine in the human body, please read this paper by R. J. Huxtable.

Natural Sources of Taurine

The natural sources of taurine are animal meat, fish, and dairy. There is little to no taurine in plants and plant-based foods. This is the reason vegans don’t get it in sufficient amounts. There are many vegetarian taurine supplements available in the market that can be helpful for vegans.

PRODUCTTAURINE CONTENT
(mg per 100 gm or ml)
Poultry
Chicken, light meat16
Chicken, dark meat184
Turkey, light meat20
Turkey, dark meat302
Beef and pork
Beef40
Veal43
Pork, loin59
Seafood
Tuna40
White fish161
Shrimp25
Oyster396
Clam520
Mussel655
Scallop827
Squid356
Dairy
Milk2.3
Taurine content of meats, poultry, seafood, and dairy.

For a complete list of natural sources, please read this paper by S A Laidlaw.

Taurine Supplements

There are so many taurine supplements available in the market as energy drinks, pre-workouts, amino acids, and standalone. Here is a list of popular ones and the quantity of taurine per serving in them.

SUPPLEMENT NAMETAURINE (mg)
Red Bull Original800
Kaged Muscle Hydra Charge1000
Evlution Nutrition BCAA Lean Energy500
Bodybuilding Signature Pre-workout1000
Kaged Muscle Intra Workout1000
Alpha Lion Superhuman Pre-Workout1000
BSN N.O. Explode Pre-workoutBlend
MuscleTech Amino Build Next Gen Amino Acids500
Evlution Nutrition HYDRAMINO1000
MuscleTech Amino Build Next Gen Ripped500
Redcon1 Total War Pre-workout1000
Most popular taurine sports supplements and their taurine content

Companies claim that these supplements can improve your athletic performance, endurance, energy levels, fat oxidation, mental focus, and overall health.

Taurine Supplements Effect on Endurance & Athletic Performance

An athlete playing American football.
An athlete playing American football. Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Clinical Trials that Say Taurine is Effective for Endurance

  • In a double-blind, randomized crossover study5 50mg/kg Taurine was given to 11 healthy males before 2 hours to a “time to exhaustion” cycling test in the 35-degree Celsius heat. Taurine supplementation increased time to exhaustion by 10% and increase the sweat rate by 12.7%. Based on these findings, a single dose of taurine 2 hours before training or competition would provide an ergogenic and thermoregulatory effect.
  • One other double-blind study6 50 mg/kg of Taurine was given to 9 females before a repeated sprint exercise shows that taurine can improve endurance performance for short periods but cannot maintain for long periods.
  • A double-blind study7 1000 mg taurine was given to 8 male middle-distance runners 2 hours before a 3 km running on a treadmill. Taurine improved running performance by 1.7%.
  • A study8 was conducted to evaluate the effects of taurine supplementation on exercise stress and exercise performance. 11 men were supplemented with taurine before a bicycle exercise until exhaustion. The results suggested that taurine may reduce exercise stress and enhance exercise performance.

Clinical Trials that Say Taurine is Not Effective for Endurance

  • A crossover study9 was conducted to examine the effect of taurine on endurance performance. 1.66 grams taurine was given to 11 endurance-trained male cyclists 1 hour before a 90 minutes cycling test. Taurine failed to enhance performance or endurance.
  • In a study10 a single dose of 1000 mg taurine was given to 11 trained male cyclists before a 4 km cycling time trial. There was no effect of taurine on performance.
  • A study11 was designed to examine the effect of taurine on high intensity running performance. 6 grams of taurine was given to 17 healthy male volunteers before an incremental running test. Taurine failed to result in any improvement in performance.
  • A study12 was conducted to examine the effect of taurine on muscle damage and physical performance in triathletes. 3 grams of taurine was given to 9 male long-distance triathletes for a period of 8 weeks. The study resulted that taurine supplementation did not provide benefits on performance and muscle damage in triathletes.
  • A clinical review13 was published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy regarding common ingredients used in pre-workout supplements. This review states that sufficient research is not available to justify the taurine effect on endurance and performance.

Conclusion

  • Taurine may increase your “time to exhaustion” capacity5. Time to exhaustion is also called time to failure. In simple words, for how long you can run a cycle at a speed of 50 km/minute. That is your time to exhaustion.
  • Taurine may benefit persons who are competing in short events instead of long events6. If we compare study 6 and study 9, we can assume that taurine may beneficial to short endurance events, but not in long endurance events.
  • There is only one study5 that suggests that taurine may help your body to maintain its core internal temperature. So, if you are competing in a hot environment, taurine may help your body to maintain its core temperature so you can perform better.
  • If we compare studies 5, 6, 9 & 11; we can say that taurine may improve your initial performance only and it extends the recovery time after the endurance performance. If you have two 100-meter races, one after another, taurine may help you in the first race and may hurt your performance in the second race, due to the extension of recovery time.
  • Taurine may work better for “untrained persons” compare to “trained athletes”.
    Taurine + Untrained Persons = Almost Minor Improvements
    Taurine + Trained Athletes = Almost No Improvements
  • All the above points are just assumptions based on available clinical studies. The truth is, sufficient data is not available to justify the effect of taurine on endurance and performance. We need more accurate and detailed studies to find a promising answer.

Taurine Supplements Effect on Weight Loss

Studies that Suggest Taurine is Effective for Weight Loss

  • In a study9 1.66 grams of taurine was given to 11 endurance-trained male cyclists 1 hour before 90 minutes long cycling exercise. No effect on performance but resulted in a 16% increase in total fat oxidation over the 90-minutes exercise period.

Studies that Suggest Taurine is Not Effective for Weight Loss

  • In a study14, 5 grams/day taurine was given to 8 men for a period of 7 days. A test of 2 hours cycling was conducted after 7 days. There was no effect of taurine on fat oxidation during exercise.
  • There is one more study15 which is cited in a fat burner review [16]. I could not find its details on the internet but as per the review, taurine is not effective for fat oxidation.

Conclusion

  • There are three studies available regarding taurine’s effect on fat oxidation. One9 says it is effective and two others14,15 say it is not effective.
  • After analyzing all three studies, we can say that there is no sufficient evidence to justify the taurine’s effect on fat oxidation.

Taurine Supplements Effect on Strength

Clinical Trials to Examine Taurine’s Effect on Strength

  • In a study17, 14 male athletes were separated in caffeine and noncaffeine consumers, supplemented with or without taurine (40 mg/kg) before knee extension exercise. Results were different in caffeine and noncaffeine consumer groups. In the noncaffeine consumer group, taurine resulted in a decrease in strength. In caffeine-deprived habitual caffeine consumer groups, taurine resulted in a 5.2% increase in isokinetic power.

Conclusion

  • This study17 indicates that the effect of taurine is affected by one’s caffeine consumption habits.
  • The effect of taurine on strength is not clear.
  • We need more clinical trials to understand the relation of taurine to strength and caffeine consuming habits.

Taurine Supplements Effect on Heart Patients

Image: A depiction of heart enlargement during heart failure.
A depiction of heart enlargement during heart failure. Source: “Right Side Heart Failure” Scientific Animations Inc., www.scientificanimations.com/wiki-images/. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Clinical Trials to Examine Taurine’s Effect on Cardiovascular Health

  • 500 mg taurine, 3 times a day for 2 weeks was given to 16 patients with heart failure. This study results in significant improvements in cardiac function and functional capacity19.
  • In a study20, 500 mg taurine 3 times a day was given to heart failure patients for 2 weeks. Results show that taurine works as anti-atherogenic (inhibits the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries) and anti-inflammatory for heart patients.
  • Taurine improved exercise capacity of 29 heart failure patients after supplementation of 500 mg 3 times a day for 2 weeks21.
  • 14 heart failure patients supplemented with 6 grams taurine per day for 4 weeks results in that taurine is completely safe and effective22.
  • In a study23, 250 mg taurine twice a day for 3 months was given to 48 chronic heart patients who had undergone heart valve replacement and coronary bypass surgery. The study results in an improvement in the quality of life in patients with chronic heart failure by 22.6% (with taurine) vs 16.6% (without taurine).
  • 3 grams taurine per day was given to 17 patients with chronic heart failure for 6-week period shows taurine has no side effects and can improve cardiac performance24.
  • In a long-term study25, 3 grams of taurine per day or nothing was given to 103 patients with chronic heart failure. After one year, the rate of improvement was 74% (taurine) vs 24% (without taurine).

Conclusion

  • Taurine is highly effective and beneficial for patients of chronic heart failure19-25.
  • Taurine can improve heart function and exercise capacity significantly in heart patients19,21,23,25.
  • Taurine is also beneficial and can speed up the recovery of heart patients after cardiopulmonary bypass surgery, heart valve replacement, and coronary bypass surgery23.
  • Taurine works as anti-atherogenic (inhibits the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries) and anti-inflammatory (inhibits the swelling in heart muscles)20.
  • Studies show that taurine has no side effects even at higher doses22 (6 grams/day for 4 weeks) or even for long term25 (3 grams/day for 1 year) supplementation.

Taurine Supplements Effect on Liver Patients

This is a depiction of liver failure patient and a damaged liver comparison to a healthy liver. Source: “Liver Failure” myUpchar, https://www.myupchar.com/en/disease/liver-failure. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Clinical Trials to Examine Taurine’s Effect on Liver Health

  • 49 patients with chronic liver disease experiencing three or more muscle cramps per week were enrolled in a 4-week study26 to investigate the effect on taurine in chronic liver disease. 2 grams taurine/day or placebo was given to all patients. Results show a significant reduction in the frequency, duration, and intensity of muscle cramps in patients with chronic liver disease without any side effects.
  • A study27 was conducted on 24 chronic hepatitis patients. 2 grams of taurine or placebo 3 times a day for 3 months was given to all patients. Study shows that taurine can ameliorate (make better) liver injury by hepatitis virus and improves the liver function in chronic hepatitis patients without any side effect.
  • A study28 was conducted on children to see the effect of taurine on fatty liver disease. 2-6 grams of taurine per day was given to 10 children (age 8-12 years) with fatty liver due to simple obesity for a period of 6 months. Results show taurine is effective for the fatty liver with weight control.
  • A study29 was conducted on 22 patients with liver cirrhosis and clinically significant portal hypertension to understand the effect of taurine on HVPG. Liver cirrhosis means chronic liver damage due to hepatitis or chronic alcohol abuse. Portal hypertension means high blood pressure in the hepatic portal system. The hepatic portal system is a series of veins that carry deoxygenated blood to the liver from the stomach and intestine area for detoxification. This blood pressure is measured in HVPG (hepatic venous pressure gradient). 6 grams of taurine or placebo was given to all 22 patients (12 taurine/10 placebo) for 28 days. After 28 days, the HVPG dropped from 20 mm Hg (±4) at baseline to 18 mm Hg (±4) in the taurine group. In the placebo group, HVPG increased from 20 mm Hg (±5) at baseline to 21 mm Hg (±5). This study states that taurine is effective to reduce portal pressure in cirrhotic patients without any major side effects.

Conclusion

  • After analyzing these studies, we can say that taurine is effective and beneficial for patients with chronic liver disease.
  • Taurine can reduce muscle cramps, treat hepatitis, reduce portal pressure and liver inflammation in patients with chronic liver disease.
  • Taurine is also effective to treat liver injury by the hepatitis virus and can improve the liver function significantly.
  • Taurine may treat fatty liver also but studies are not that clear. We need more research in this area.
  • Taurine has no major side effects in liver patients.

Taurine Supplements Effect on Chemotherapy Side Effects in Cancer Patients

Image of two young girls with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) receiving chemotherapy.
Two young girls with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) receiving chemotherapy. Source: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Bill Branson (Photographer).

Clinical Trials to Examine Taurine’s Effect on Chemotherapy Side Effects

  • A study30 was conducted on 40 young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia which is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells. This study aimed to understand the effect of taurine on chemotherapy side effects in cancer patients. 2 grams of Taurine or Placebo was given to all patients during the chemotherapy phase for 6 months. The study shows that taurine is effective to improve appetite, taste change, and smell impairment, reduce nausea and vomiting, reduced risk of suffering from fatigue, and improve white blood cell counts in cancer patients during chemotherapy treatment.

Conclusion

  • Cancer is the super-fast growth of abnormal cells anywhere in a body.
  • Chemotherapy treatment is used to kill those super-fast-growing cells.
  • In chemotherapy, very powerful chemicals are used to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy has many side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, constipation, appetite changes, infection, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, smell impairment, and many more.
  • According to the above study30, we can say that taurine is effective to reduce the chemotherapy side effects in cancer patients and can lead to more tolerable and effective chemotherapy.

How to Use Taurine Supplements

  • Endurance – 50 mg/kg or 1000 mg of taurine, 2 hours before exercise.
  • Weight loss – 1.66 grams of taurine, 1 hour before exercise.
  • Strength gains – 50 mg/kg of taurine, 2 hours before exercise.
  • Heart health – 500 mg to 1000 mg taurine, 3 times a day for a minimum of 2 weeks.
  • Liver health – 2-6 grams of taurine per day for a minimum of 4 weeks is effective.

Taurine Side effects

  • Taurine appeared to be well tolerated in clinical trials, with no adverse side effects. So, we can say that taurine is a safe supplement.

Final Remarks

  • Taurine is an amino acid, produced by our body in small amounts, has many physiological roles.
  • Natural sources of taurine are meats, poultry, seafood, and dairy. Not available in plant foods.
  • Taurine supplements are available in the market.
  • Taurine is not effective to improve endurance and athletic performance. You should use caffeine, beta-alanine, or citrulline supplements instead of taurine.
  • Taurine has little to no effect on weight loss. So, I don’t recommend taurine for fat burning.
  • Taurine’s effect on strength gains is unclear due to a lack of scientific data. We need more research in this field.
  • Taurine is very safe and effective to improve cardiovascular health in heart patients with chronic heart failure.
  • Taurine is significantly helpful in chronic liver disease.
  • Taurine is effective to reduce chemotherapy-induced side effects in cancer patients.

References

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  31. “Enerji İçeceği” (in Turkish). 16 September 2019. Archived from the original (photography of part of the can with nutrition information, BiH import) on 16 September 2019. Retrieved 16 September 2019.

Featured Image Credit

Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay

Published: May 18, 2020

Author: Vikas Dhavaria

A free spirit who loves to read books. Interested in philosophy and nutrition.

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