Taurine for Pre-Workout & Energy? Not So Fast!

Taurine Health Benefits
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Taurine is one of the most widely used ingredients in pre-workout formulas, energy drinks and sometimes even added to protein shakes but does it really provide a measurable benefit?

I went through all the human case studies one by one to find out and what I discovered surprised me a bit as the results were not as cut and dry as many would lead you to believe.

Most of the time (although not always) when a particular ingredient becomes mainstream its potential benefits get blown way out of proportion.

And sometimes there is no actual scientific evidence backing it up at all, like what happened with fenugreek and testosterone.

But as the old saying goes “if they tell it to you enough times, you’ll naturally start to believe it”. Unfortunately that seems to be the case with taurine as the scientific evidence simply does not backup most of the hype.

Let’s take a closer look at the HUMAN case studies and you can judge for yourself.

Does Taurine Increase Anaerobic Power and Performance?

Taurine along with caffeine was given to 20 NCAA Division 1 Football players in a test to determine if it helped increase sprint times and anaerobic power.

The study was a double blind crossover study which means that neither the football players nor scientist new who received the supplement or the placebo until all of the numbers of the test results had been ran.

At the end of the study, the researchers found neither the sprint times nor the anaerobic power of the football players were increased. (1)

Does Taurine Increases Energy & Mental Performance?

Some studies in mice suggest it may, however, tests on humans, as is often the case, tells a very different story.

48 participants in a double blind case study recieved one of the following possible combinations of supplement:

  1. 200 mg caffeine/0 mg taurine
  2. 0 mg caffeine/2000 mg taurine
  3. 200 mg caffeine/2000 mg taurine
  4. 0 mg caffeine/0 mg taurine

When given caffeine alone, the participants saw an increase in working memory as well as positively reduced simple and choice reaction times.

When the participants received 2,000 mg of taurine on its own, they saw an increase in choice reaction time, however, it reduced working memory tasks!

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that caffeine alone and not taurine is responsible for any reported changes in cognitive performance after consuming energy drinks. (2)

Does Taurine Increase Workout Recovery Time?

Researchers wanted to find out if taurine as a stand alone supplement or if combined with BCAA’s would help minimize delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

36 untrained males were given one of the following supplements three times a day for 2 weeks prior to exercise and 4 days after exercise.

  1. 2g taurine and 3.6g BCAA
  2. 2g taurine and placebo
  3. 3.6g BCAA and placebo
  4. Placebo and placebo

The researchers found that the combination of taurine along with BCAA’s did in fact improve recovery time after exercise over either taurine or BCAA’s by itself. (3)

However, there are a couple of important points which need to be noted here.

  1. The total amount of taurine consumed daily was 6g
  2. The total amount of BCAA’s consumed daily was 10.8g
  3. The men who participated in the study were untrained

Personally, I would like to see a study on men with weightlifting experience and using a single dose of taurine in the 1 – 1.5g range.

I don’t believe I have ever even seen a pre-workout drink with more than 1g of taurine in it.

While this study does certainly warrant future studies on muscle recovery, it is far from conclusive as downing 2 grams of taurine 3 times per day is not practical for most people even if it will still have a positive effect on trained men.

Does Taurine Increase Aerobic Performance?

The evidence suggests it does! The best human case study I could find for this one was done using trained middle distance runners.

8 males were given either 1g of taurine or a placebo in a double blind crossover study and then asked to run a 3k (1.86 mile) time trial.

When the men took taurine before the time trial they saw an average of 1.7% improvement (12 seconds) over their placebo time. This may not seem like a huge difference but 1.7% in a highly competitive race could mean the difference between 1st place and missing the podium. (4)

Interestingly, relative oxygen uptake, heart rate and rate of perceived exertion remained unchanged so the researchers were unable to identify exactly why there was a performance increase.

However, in terms of sports performance, athletes don’t need to know exactly why a supplement is helping them improve as long as they know it is safe and effective.

It would be nice to see another trial on more than just 8 trained individuals so we could see a larger sample size but that’s enough for me to confidently say, unless it is later disproven, I’m taking 1g of taurine before a race.

Conclusion

Taurine does not seem to have any significant effect on anaerobic power or mental performance on humans.

It “may” aid in decreasing muscle soreness but we need to see a human case study on trained individuals to see if this holds up. At any rate there are likely better and certainly more proven supplements to speed recovery like creatine, nitrosigine arginine and l-citrulline malate.

It does appear to play a role in increasing aerobic capacity and unless a future, larger scale study comes out disproving the results, I would not hesitate to supplement with it for that purpose.

References

  1. Nnamdi Gwacham and Dale R. Wagner. Acute Effects of a Caffeine-Taurine Energy Drink on Repeated Sprint Performance of American College Football Players. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Volume 22: Issue 2. Pages: 109–116 – Link
  2. Grace E. Giles, Caroline R. Mahoney, Tad T. Brunyé, Aaron L. Gardony, Holly A. Taylor, Robin B. Kanarek. Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: Caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. Volume 102, Issue 4, October 2012, Pages 569-577 – Link
  3. Ra SG, Miyazaki T, Ishikura K, Nagayama H, Suzuki T, Maeda S, Ito M, Matsuzaki Y, Ohmori H. 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.- Link
  4. Balshaw TG, Bampouras TM, Barry TJ, Sparks SA. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners. Amino Acids. 2013 Feb;44(2):555-61. – Link
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