Nutrition Macronutrients

What is Taurine: effects and properties

What is Taurine: effects and properties

by in Nutrition - Macronutrients

last updated: September 23, 2015

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Taurine is an amino acid which is often used in supplements thanks to its stimulating properties. But is this really its function? The properties and beneficial effects of L-Taurine amino acid.

Industry magazines often talk about amino acids, the most "famous" are branched, with leucine, the "queen" of protein synthesis, glutamine and arginine, which has also found new market lustre in recent years. Taurine is very little talked about and there are only very few articles around that describe its characteristics. The most widely-know fact is that taurine is an ingredient in numerous energy drinks combined with high concentrations of caffeine. But don't jump to conclusions, it is not a stimulant, on the contrary it can be defined as an amino acid with a stabilising effect on the nervous system. The improvement induced by taurine on the brain is linked to renewed mental freshness, affecting concentration, attention, the ability to resist stress and many other functions. It is added to energy drinks with the purpose of enhancing the effect of the caffeine. Its action in "energy drinks" is not yet well documented in clinical studies.

Taurine in Energy Drinks

Energy Drinks. Inside a large supermarket

Unlike other amino acids, taurine is not incorporated within the protein structure, but exists in the intracellular space of certain tissues, such as free form amino acid, and performs several functions.

It is not classified as an essential amino acid, however taurine is the second most abundant amino acid in skeletal muscle and is found in high concentrations in other tissues where high energy levels are needed. As I mentioned before, taurine has different roles, possessing anti-inflammatory properties and is beneficial on the nervous system, even helping to lower blood pressure. It plays an important role in neurotransmission, in membrane stabilisation and neurological development. In its range of roles, we also find that it helps digestion and the absorption of fats through the formation of bile acids. Users can easily notice, especially at the beginning, a marked improvement in digestion and even lowered cholesterol levels. A subject that I often cover in my articles, we also find an improvement in insulin resistance, so from a first glance it is obvious that these benefits and others will be of particular focus for bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts and athletes in general.

Beneficial activity on performances

Proven by certain scientific literature, taurine acts in the cardiovascular system, both with regards to hypertension, because it regulates the production of angiotensin by inhibiting it and then lowering the blood pressure, as well as in regard to cholesterol and triglycerides, counteracting their formation and thus decreasing the risk of stroke caused by lipid accumulation in the arteries. Not only that, but by regulating calcium homeostasis, it also improves the contractile ability of the heart, consequently providing better blood supply to the muscles. The best contractile capacity, combined with a more efficient oxygenation of the tissue, will result in an improvement reduction of the feeling of fatigue, resulting in improved performance when taken in pre-workout formulations or recovery time, if taken after training.

Taurine's benefits for performance

I would recommend combining it with other amino acids such as glutamine and creatine, because taurine is also considered an effective cell hydrator, facilitating better recovery and more hydrated cells (we all know what that means in biological terms).

Action on the central nervous system

This role is, in my view, decisive as a unique feature of this amino acid. In fact, in conditions of strong physical and psychological stress I consider it to be a stabilising tool, counteracting states of excitability, leading to a state which is more focused on rest and hence on recovery. This is because taurine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter at the level of the central nervous system, also proving effective in cases of epilepsy and depression. Taurine is commonly used by endurance athletes and bodybuilders as a buffer for cramps, helping the recovery from muscle pain and states of fatigue. But I personally think its better exploitable action, among the many possible, is its effects on anxiety and particularly intense stress, where the subject passes from a state of "adrenaline" to a "balance" directed towards the state recovery as quickly as possible. Because, if we are under chronic stress, cortisol will increase and bring with it all of its negative consequences. Its soothing action comes from the fact that it promotes the production of the neurotransmitter GABA. By raising their levels, taurine will help better manage situations of anxiety and physical and psychological stress like a true adaptogen. Low levels of taurine cause the nervous system to "over respond" to stress, also, if chronically excited, the system will have high cortisol levels and a consequent tendency to accumulate fat. In addition, combined with magnesium, another "calming" of the central nervous system, it would impact on improving the quality of sleep.

Indirect slimming action

Our stored abdominal fat is known to cause inflammation and is a true cardiovascular risk factor. Taurine has the ability to significantly help lower lipid levels in the blood and improve the management of glucose use. Taurine is well known for its promoting action of insulin sensitivity, making the muscle cells more susceptible to the action of the powerful hormone and thus facilitating the uptake of glucose and some amino acids.

Effects at a hormonal level

An interesting studies on rats (taurine enhances the sexual response and mating ability in aged male rats. Yang J1, Lin S, Feng Y, Wu G, Hu J.) showed a significant positive influence on the frequency of erections thanks to the increased production of nitric oxide, as well as the number of pairings and a general improvement in sperm health. This captivated the "fondness" of the pharmaceutical industry and it was then inserted between the polymer blends of specific antioxidants for male infertility, exploiting the two "effects."

Formula of the chemical structure of Taurine

Formula of the chemical structure of Taurine

In animal studies, it has also highlighted a positive influence at a hormonal level by elevating testosterone, LH and GnRH, however there is still no sound scientific evidence that taurine may actually have a marked influence endocrine in men. That is why I do not consider it to be a characteristic that should be taken into account at the present.

Sight protection

Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the retina and it protects the eye from various toxins. The loss of diopters has several causes, but the first motive can be attributed to oxidative stress, for which taurine will act as a scavenger and, in any case, promote retinal protection.

Do we need it then?

Very, very little taurine is synthesised in the human body. It is important to introduce it as a supplement or through a diet rich in animal protein. It often happens that taurine levels are lowered in certain conditions, such as in states of intense physical activity. That's why, like glutamine, we might consider it as a "partially" essential amino acid. Taurine tends to decrease with age in the brain, making supplementation useful for the improvement of cerebral functions and memory, promoting states of relaxation/recovery and a better use of carbohydrates. The recommended intake is about 1-3 g per dose, advisable after a workout to promote "calming" effects during the recovery phase, or to take pre-workout, if performance is the goal, in order to gain from the effect of stimulating nitric oxide with increased tissue perfusion. During extended periods of fatigue, a dose is also recommended before sleep, taking advantage of taurine in synergy with the basic benefits of restful sleep. Definitely another valid substance to improve health, including heart health, as well as acting to hydrate cells.


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