If your pre-workout contains taurine, you’re likely wondering what it is, how it works, and its advantages. As a nutrition coach, I’ll break down the science and give you a practical guide on properly taking it.
- Taurine is an amino acid naturally produced in the body. It supports multiple bodily processes, such as regulating cell fluid balance, and protects cells from oxidative stress (i.e., cellular damage).
- Studies suggest supplementing with taurine may improve endurance, strength, power, and post-workout muscle recovery. Thus, researchers speculate that taurine could play an essential role in muscle growth and other positive adaptations from training.
- Taurine is shown to be effective at doses of 1 to 3 grams daily, taken 60 to 120 minutes before training. Some pre-workouts meet this threshold (like Transparent Labs Bulk and Alpha Lion, while others don’t, like Woke AF).
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is a “conditionally essential amino acid,” meaning the body typically produces enough but may need more significant amounts from foods and supplements during severe stress or illness.
Taurine involves numerous bodily systems, including the nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, and musculoskeletal systems.
Taurine also exists in dairy products (yogurt, milk, and cheese), meat (pork, beef, lamb, chicken thighs), and seafood (salmon, tuna, oysters). People following a vegan diet have been shown to consume less taurine and have lower amino acid levels in their urine.
However, a taurine deficiency is unlikely in healthy adults who don’t avoid entire food groups or macronutrients.
How Does Taurine Work?
Unlike many amino acids in the body, taurine is non-proteinogenic, which means it is not a building block for proteins. Instead, it primarily works on the cellular level to support various processes.
Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in cells and the second most abundant in the central nervous system. It’s found in the brain, eyes, skeletal muscle, bile, and heart, where it supports energy production and may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
The primary way taurine is thought to work is by protecting cells, which allows it to regulate cell volume, support healthy calcium metabolism, and improve the function of various major organs, including the brain, eyes, heart, liver, and pancreas.
These protective effects allow it to deliver various health and athletic benefits, some of which we’ll discuss next.
The Benefits of Taurine For Exercise Performance
The potential benefits of taurine for performance include:
In a 2018 meta-analysis, researchers looked at ten studies where taurine’s short- and long-term effects on endurance were studied, with doses ranging from one to six grams daily.
Their findings were that taurine led to a small improvement in endurance performance. The effects were slightly greater on time-to-exhaustion (TTE) trials, where the subjects had to maintain a specific intensity for as long as possible.
Researchers also noted that taurine could boost endurance in as little as one dose and that its effects weren’t based on consistent supplementation.
The authors concluded:
“Human endurance performance can be improved by orally ingesting a single dose of taurine in varying amounts (1–6 g).”
The most interesting finding is that, despite classifying the improvements as small, they were comparable to the athletic boost subjects might experience when supplementing with caffeine.
The exact mechanism of action has yet to be fully understood.
One idea is that taurine could increase fat-burning and reduce the contribution of carbohydrates, thus shifting the fuel source used during endurance activities and increasing metabolic efficiency.
Increased Strength and Power
In a more recent paper compiling research from 19 studies, researchers examined more than just the endurance-based effects of taurine.
Their findings were quite impressive, suggesting that supplementing with taurine leads to:
- VO2 max boost
- Improvements in time to exhaustion
- Better three and four-kilometer timed trial performance
- Improved anaerobic performance (short and intense activities)
- Reduced muscle damage
- Increases in peak power
- A modest positive effect on overall recovery
The authors of the paper speculate that, given taurine’s positive anaerobic impact (strength and power), the amino acid could also play an essential role in muscle growth.
Enhanced Post-Training Recovery
In addition to the performance-boosting effects noted in the paper we reviewed above, the authors noted other benefits, such as:
- Reduced muscle soreness: Researchers noticed a decrease in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when participants ingested 2 grams of taurine three times a day, two weeks prior and three days after exercise.
- Less muscle damage: They also noted less muscle damage due to reduced metabolite build-up (lactate, creatine kinase, phosphorus, etc.) and protection from reactive oxygen species (ROS) that accumulate during exercise.
Given the amino acid’s proposed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, it’s not a stretch to assume that it can positively impact recovery.
Another paper has similar findings surrounding taurine supplementation following demanding eccentric training.
The authors concluded,
“..taurine supplementation taken twice daily for 72 h following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage may help improve eccentric performance recovery of the biceps brachii.”
An argument could be made that taurine could help trainees recover quickly and return to training sooner than they could without supplementation.
Increased Hydration and Blood Supply
Thanks to its functions as an osmolyte (a compound that regulates cellular hydration), taurine could help improve your hydration status and reduce the risk of dehydration.
While we need more research on the subject, these potential benefits of taurine could further contribute to athletic performance, post-training recovery, and overall health.
For instance, data shows that as little as two percent dehydration can lead to notable decreases in athletic performance.
Further, a 2016 paper looked at taurine’s ability to reduce blood pressure through vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), which benefits athletes.
The widening of blood vessels improves blood flow, which, in theory, could mean that more oxygen and nutrients reach our muscles, supporting our performance and recovery.
That said, the participants in the 2016 study were pre-hypertension patients (having elevated but not exactly ‘high’ blood pressure). How these effects translate to people with normal blood pressure remains to be seen.
Possible Testosterone Benefits
Taurine is said to be one of the most abundant amino acids in the testicles, which likely means it plays a vital role in testosterone and sperm production.
Researchers looked at taurine and its effects on the male reproductive system in a more recent review paper. According to their findings, the amino acid could have protective effects and stimulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-testis (HPT) axis.
The HPT axis plays a crucial role in overall health and physical development because the anterior portion of the pituitary gland produces luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone.
Further, the gonads, also part of the HPT axis, are directly responsible for testosterone production in men.
The paper’s authors also suggest that taurine could delay testicular aging, positively impacting testosterone production in older men.
One proposed mechanism behind these effects is taurine’s antioxidant protection, which keeps healthy cells in the testes from becoming damaged by unstable atoms (reactive oxygen species).
That said, the paper looked at animal data, which means we must take the findings with a grain of salt. Ideally, we will get some human trials examining the effect of taurine supplementation on testosterone levels.
Are There Any Side Effects of Taurine In Pre-Workout?
As a whole, taurine appears well tolerated in research, with only a handful of people reporting any side effects.
Some users report feeling fatigued after taking taurine. One possible explanation could be that taurine appears to have a mild impact on GABA receptors, which reduces excitability and provides a calming effect.
This side effect could occur even if taurine is taken alongside a stimulant like caffeine if the person has built up a tolerance.
Another potential side effect is a reduction in blood pressure. Some possible symptoms of lower blood pressure could include:
- Shaky hands
- Blurry vision
It’s best to be mindful of the possibility, even if you’ve never had blood pressure issues (too low or high).
How To Properly Use Taurine In Your Pre-Workout Routine
Most research suggests doses of one to three grams daily, with some exceptions going as high as six grams.
Taurine is typically given to study participants daily, so feel free to take it on recovery days from the gym. However, if you’re taking it as part of a pre-workout, save it only for training days.
It’s best to experiment and see what works for you. You can start with one gram and increase the dosage if you don’t notice any positive effects.
Regarding timing, you can take taurine alongside compounds like caffeine and citrulline malate 60-120 minutes before training.
“1–3 g/day of taurine administered 60–120 min before the activity, with the same amount given as a chronic dose for over 6–21 days, has been effective.”– Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
As an added benefit, taurine appears to have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects and could be good to take alongside caffeine to take the edge off and limit anxiety.
Pre-Workouts That Have A Clinical Dose of Taurine
The top three pre-workouts I recommend with clinical doses of taurine are:
Transparent Labs Bulk
Transparent Labs Bulk is one of the best ‘bang for your buck pre-workouts’ when we consider the ingredients and their respective quantities per serving.
All of the ingredients are clinically dosed, including taurine. Each serving provides 1.3 grams, which falls within the one to three-gram range used in most human trials.
Pre-Kaged is one of the more expensive pre-workouts on the market, but it’s well worth the money for everyone who can afford it. The product is third-party tested, which provides authenticity and ensures that the nutritional label is accurate.
Further, most of the ingredients are clinically dosed. The taurine dose per serving is 2 grams.
Alpha Lion Super Human
Alpha Lion Super Human is also more expensive than the average pre-workout on the market but makes up for that with clinically dosed ingredients, shown to boost strength, endurance, and focus during training.
The taurine dose per serving is 1 gram, which falls squarely on the lower end of the range shown to be effective in studies (1-3 grams).
Myths and Misconceptions About Taurine
Myth #1: Taurine Comes From Bull Urine or Semen
The most common myth surrounding taurine is the one furthest from the truth. It likely stems from the fact that taurine was initially isolated from ox bile almost 200 years ago.
Taurine is found in many animal and human tissues, and the human body produces it naturally, so it’s not hard to come by.
For commercial use, taurine is produced synthetically.
Myth #2: Taurine Lowers Testosterone Levels
Another common taurine myth is that the amino acid can reduce testosterone levels and affect sperm count in men.
Fortunately, neither claim holds any weight, as no research shows such effects. In fact, it may have the opposite effect, as discussed in the benefits section above.
Myth #3: Taurine Is a Stimulant
This myth is less surprising because taurine is often added to pre-workout and energy drink formulas.
Taurine is not a stimulant; instead, it might reduce central nervous system activity and promote calmness thanks to its impact on GABA receptors.
Myth #4: We Can Get Enough Taurine From Food
While it’s true that taurine is in everyday foods (more on that below), and we can get some amount through our diet, that is unlikely enough.
According to some estimates, the average person gets 200-400 mg of taurine through food. The number is likely even lower for people on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Therefore, supplementation is helpful for people who want to reap the full benefits.
What Is Taurine Usually Combined With?
Taurine is typically combined with:
Taurine is often combined with caffeine to boost athletic performance, and the two appear to complement each other well.
Caffeine can improve endurance, power, and focus but can also lead to anxiety and jitteriness at high doses. With its calming effects, taurine can take the edge off and improve training performance.
In one paper, researchers noted that combining caffeine with taurine effectively improves strength, agility, and overall cognition.
Creatine is another popular supplement that improves athletic performance by increasing energy (ATP). Creatine works by pulling water into the muscle cells, so you must be hydrated for creatine to function optimally.
Thanks to its functions as an osmolyte, Taurine compliments creatine by enhancing cellular hydration and overall muscle function.
Citrulline is another amino acid often added to pre-workout formulas. It converts into arginine inside the body, which helps produce nitric oxide (NO) (a well-known vasodilator).
It’s suggested (though not confirmed) that there might be a synergistic effect between taurine and citrulline, as both could promote the widening of blood vessels. As a result, blood could flow more freely, allowing oxygen and nutrients to reach our muscles and improve our training performance.
What Are Natural Sources of Taurine?
Natural food sources of taurine include:
- Shellfish (especially scallops)
- Fish (yellow tuna, cod, salmon, and tilapia)
- Meat (chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, and pork)
- Organ meat (heart, liver, and kidneys)
- Dairy (meat, cheese, and yogurt)
It’s best to boost your intake with a supplement to reach the recommended dose of 1 to 3 grams daily.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Have To Cycle Taurine?
No scientific papers or anecdotal reports suggest that we must cycle taurine for fear of building a tolerance or reaching toxicity. The body uses up the amino acid like any other, so it makes sense to consume it daily.
Does Taurine Expire?
Like any other dietary supplement, taurine can degrade over time, and its effects might diminish.
It’s best to check the label of the pre-workout or taurine supplement you decide to get to see how long it will last.
Can You Take Taurine Every Day?
You can take taurine daily, as research shows no adverse effects.
Doing so will allow you to maintain optimal levels and reap the benefits.
Does Taurine Wake You Up?
Contrary to popular belief, taurine is not a stimulant despite often being added to pre-workout and energy drink formulas.
The amino acid might have a slightly calming effect on the mind.
Why Take Taurine With Beta Alanine?
Taurine and beta-alanine are known to improve muscle function. However, their relationship is complex and not fully understood.
Combining the two is often recommended because they seem to ‘compete’ for the same transport system. So, if levels of one get too high, the body might become deficient in the other.
Does Taurine Make Caffeine Stronger?
It’s unlikely that the amino acid makes caffeine stronger.
Taurine can work well with caffeine because it has a calming effect (opposite to caffeine) and can take the edge off, allowing us to reap caffeine’s benefits without experiencing adverse effects like anxiety and jitteriness.
What To Read Next
- What Does L-Citrulline Do In Pre-Workout? Dietitian Explains
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About The Author
Philip Stefanov is a certified conditioning coach, personal trainer, and fitness instructor. With more than nine years of experience in the industry, he’s helped hundreds of clients improve their nutritional habits, become more consistent with exercise, lose weight in a sustainable way, and build muscle through strength training. He is passionate about writing and has published more than 500 articles on various topics related to healthy nutrition, dieting, calorie and macronutrient tracking, meal planning, fitness and health supplementation, best training practices, and muscle recovery.
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