1) Take Taurine For Less Stress
Stress will kill you. And make you fat and unhappy. Even the most serene individuals often say they’d like to have less stress in their lives. Taurine can help us get there.
Taurine is an amino acid that calms the nervous system by facilitating the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. By helping to raise GABA levels, taurine will allow your body to manage anxiety so that your thoughts don’t go spiraling out of control and you don’t get the associated cortisol and adrenaline spikes that go with anxiety and stress.
Research shows that taurine supplementation can lower anxiety in stress-producing situations, thereby allowing for greater work output and performance. One study in Advances in Experimental Medicines and Biology found that giving rats a taurine treatment prior to an anxiety-inducing exercise maze resulted in less anxious behavior and better speed through the maze a rat group that were given a placebo.
A second study in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior found similar results in that taurine lowered anxiety and increased performance on a test that combined cognitive and physical elements. In this study, also performed on rats, found that those that received the taurine demonstrated greater social interaction, which as an indicator or less stress and anxiety.
If you have low taurine, your nervous system will be over-responsive to stress. A chronically excited nervous system means persistently high cortisol, and naturally, fat gain. If you have any experience with fat loss, you know that the body is most agreeable about giving up its fat stores when it is calm and not stressed or overly stimulated. The simple stress-lowering effect of supplementing with taurine will help you improve body composition and lose weight.
2) Eat Meat For Best Results With Taurine
Taurine is an organic acid that is derived from the amino acid cysteine. There is some debate as to whether taurine should be classified as an amino acid because it does not contain a carboxyl group in its molecular structure. In fact, taurine behaves more like a neurotransmitter because of how it calms the nervous system, and the key point is that getting an adequate amount will make you healthier.
Taurine can be synthesized in the pancreas if sufficient cysteine is available. For best results you should get taurine in the diet and take a supplement. I suggest taking extra taurine because resistance trainees and athletes will deplete this nutrient since it is involved in fat use for energy production and stress management. In my athletes, I’ve found that baseball pitchers and track throwers tend to be deficient in taurine and magnesium due to all the high velocity throws they perform.
Foods that are natural sources of taurine are meat and animal products such as seafood, meat, milk, and eggs. Vegetarians and vegans are known to be chronically deficient in taurine. One of the worst things about nutrient deficiencies associated with the vegan diet is that their lack of taurine will them very anxious. With the added stress and over-stimulated nervous system that goes with taurine deficiency, vegans are in for a rough time.
A supplement will help non meat eaters, but including organic grass-fed and wild meats and animal products is suggested because this will also provide a nice dose of DHA and EPA omega-3s. Plus, you’ll get extra carnitine (essential for fat burning and works synergistically with taurine), creatine (great for body composition and performance), and conjugated linoleic acid (helps prevent prostate and breast cancer).
Doses of up to six grams a day of taurine have proven to be very effective in protecting heart function. Smaller doses are typically used to improve brain function and prevent epilepsy. Two to three grams a day is a safe place to start, and you can increase intake up to six grams. There’s no evidence of negative health effects from supplementing with taurine.
3) Take Taurine to Burn Fat
Taurine is stored in the gallbladder in bile, and it helps the body digest food, particularly fats. Taurine helps the body metabolize fat, making it essential for energy production and a lean physique. But, it’s also necessary for many aspects of health because “good” fats play a role in the health of every cell in the body.
The value of taking taurine to support fat burning and lose weight is apparent with a recent study in the Journal of Biomedical Science that compared the anti-obesity effects of taurine and lotus leaf extract in rats who were fed a high-fat diet. Researchers measured triglycerides, cholesterol, and body weight gain in rats after six weeks in which they were fed either a normal diet, a high fat diet, a high fat diet with lotus leaf (a plant that is known to have fat burning benefits), or a high fat diet with lotus leaf and taurine.
The group what received the taurine in addition to the lotus leaf showed the most favorable cholesterol levels and blood lipid profiles of all groups. The taurine and lotus leaf were most effective at minimizing fat gain, especially visceral belly fat fain. The group that received just lotus leaf also gained less fat than the rats that only received the high-fat diet and no supplement, but researchers point to the added taurine as the best way to facilitate fat metabolism in the body.
You may remember from my article on carnitine and omega-3s
, that carnitine is responsible for the transport of fats into the cells to be used for energy in the body. By raising the level of muscle carnitine, you support the fat burning process, but you also must have adequate taurine for this to happen. Taurine plays a role in the initial phase of fat metabolism, while carnitine takes the fat into the cell to let your body burn it up!
4) Take Taurine for Insulin Health
Taurine is a well known supplement for preventing diabetes and improving insulin sensitivity. Taurine makes the cells more sensitive to insulin binding and glucose uptake by multiple mechanisms. First, taurine has what is called an “anorexigenic” effect on the hypothalamus gland, meaning that it minimizes feelings of hunger by improving energy production and metabolism. A recent study in the journal Amino Acids found that the anorexigenic action of taurine enhances the role of insulin in the control of food intake and helps stall body fat gain.
Taurine doesn’t just improve an already functioning metabolism. It has an antioxidant effect and has been found to lower chronic inflammation in the hypothalamus that results in greater insulin production by the pancreas, which in turn produces higher insulin levels and obesity. A related means by which taurine improves metabolism is by neutralizing free radicals in pancreatic cells called “beta cells.” Healthy beta cells are essential for gradual and modulated insulin secretion, and they help with glucose injection into cells for energy use.
A more concrete action of taurine on body composition is its ability to improve resting energy expenditure. Another new study in Amino Acids found that increasing taurine levels in rats increased fat burning during rest by activating two pathways (taurine improved them by as much as 70 percent) that play a role in insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal.
The benefits go on with data showing that taurine can protect cardiac tissue from oxidative stress, in part because of its antioxidant effect and partly because taurine increases the enzyme that sends the message to allow glucose to enter the cell for energy use. As mentioned above in number 1, taurine supplementation has been shown to activate the GABA hormonal system, which has the ability to protect brain tissue from damage due to a stroke. Another Amino Acids study showed that taurine helped minimize oxidative stress and protect the brain via GABA’s inhibitory action in calming the nervous system.
5) Take Taurine To Raise Testosterone
Taurine has been proven to raise testosterone production in males, while not raising the concentration of estradiol, an estrogenic hormone. A study in Amino Acids measured the effect of taurine on testosterone and related sex hormones in rats and in test tubes. In both studies, results showed that taurine stimulated testosterone production, but only if the amount of taurine administered, which was administered in drinking water, was below 400 microgram/ml—above 400 micrograms/ml testosterone production was blunted.
The ideal dose in rats appears to be 10 microgram/ml of taurine. In the test tube study, when taurine was not administered, testosterone production went down, indicating that for normal testosterone production, taurine is necessary. A suggested dose based on studies ranges from 3 to 5 grams of taurine a day for an 85 kg man.
More support for taking taurine for reproductive health is a study, also in Amino Acids, that showed taurine supplementation can prevent testicular oxidative stress and cell death, which leads to decreased sperm production, testicular toxicity, and reduced testicular weights. In this study, researchers treated rats with a toxin that is known to cause oxidative stress and abnormalities in the testes. Taurine treatment prevented nearly all of the abnormalities that were caused by the toxin and helped maintain normal reproductive health in the rats. The protective mechanism appears to be taurine's antioxidant effect in the body, and as shown in the first study mentioned above, it may play an intrinsic role in male testosterone production.
Obviously, having adequate testosterone levels is essential for the ideal male body composition because testosterone improves lean mass development and fights fat gain. Plus, it’s well known low testosterone in men is linked with poor health, particularly bad metabolism and the development of diabetes. Taurine is one nutrient among many that should be attended to for adequate reproductive health in both men and women (don’t worry ladies, taking taurine won’t raise testosterone production or make you big, but the research shows it can support metabolism and lower stress levels in women as well as men). Along with taurine, carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D are all essential for health and body composition.
6) Take Taurine and Fight Oxidative Stress
Taurine is an awesome, if lesser known, antioxidant. Its ability to abolish free radicals and keep cells alive and healthy is partly due to how it helps maintain homeostasis and balance in the body. Taurine can aid the detoxification process, while also minimizing the stress and insulin response.
The antioxidant action of taurine in the body makes it a treatment for various types of inflammation, including those already mentioned (from insulin resistance and high triglycerides, from exposure to toxins, from high cortisol levels), but it’s also been shown to counter the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that is due to a disordered metabolism. Research shows taurine reduces fat gain in the liver and minimizes liver inflammation and injury.
The integrated benefits of omega-3s and taurine in the body were demonstrated in a new study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine that measured the inflammatory status of fat tissue in response to a diet that included supplemental sardine protein. Sardines contain some of the highest concentrations of EPA and DHA omega-3s of all fish, making them an excellent dietary addition, and they also contain taurine and vitamin E, another potent antioxidant.
This study found that giving rats sardine protein along with a diet that was high in fructose (a carbohydrate source that is known to negatively alter metabolism) minimized fat gain, improved glucose uptake into cells, lowered oxidative stress markers, and improved inflammatory status. This research calls our attention to the need for a combined integrative approach when using taurine—adequate omega-3 fats are helpful, and other antioxidants and essential nutrients make everything work better in the body.
7) Take Taurine To Perform Better and Recover Faster From Training
Taurine supplementation will increase force production , improve endurance and performance in both aerobic and anaerobic system sports, and speed recovery from intense training. One recent study showed that intense exercise significantly lowers muscle taurine levels, but that administering taurine during the exercise session counters the loss of taurine and helps improve work capacity.
In this study, rats that were given taurine during a run to exhaustion test had better physical endurance than those that didn’t receive the supplement. Plus, following the exercise tests, urinary loss of creatine and other biomarkers were reduced. This means that taurine administration improved recovery and reduced the effects of muscle fatigue making it a useful performance enhancer.
One reason taurine improves performance and time to exhaustion is its ability to improve fat burning. One study showed taurine ingestion prior to a prolonged cycling time trial resulted in better performance and a 16 percent increase in total fat oxidation compared to a control group. Taurine also helps the fast-twitch muscles produce peak force by supporting the contractile properties and countering fatigue. It’s likely a combination of better energy production and the ability of taurine to maintain homeostasis in the body that play a role in increasing force in type 2 muscle fibers.
The antioxidant effect of taurine will also improve recovery from intense training. A study in the journal Cell Biochemistry and Function found that giving rats taurine for 15 days prior to an intense downhill run that involved repeated eccentric muscle actions significantly lowered evidence of muscle damage and oxidative stress. Researchers suggest that raising muscle taurine levels can improve recovery by minimizing the buildup of byproducts that cause muscle fatigue and damage during very intense training.
8) Raise Muscle Taurine Levels For Cardiovascular Health
Taurine will protect the heart and lower blood pressure, and raising muscular levels has been shown to improve the exercise capacity of patients with heart failure. A recent study in the Journal of Cardiology compared the effects of 500 mg of taurine three times a day with a placebo on patients with left ventricular heart failure. The patients who received the taurine significantly increased exercise distance, and they improved their functional mobility over a two-week period, while the placebo group demonstrated no changes. Researchers suggest taurine improves calcium homeostasis, which aids cardiovascular function, and has “an overall beneficial effect on the macrovascular system.”
The cardiovascular benefits of taurine are abundant and convincing. Multiple studies have shown taurine will lower blood pressure (it is particularly effective at preventing hypertension that is linked to insulin resistance and poor metabolic health), and a recent study in the Journal of Biomedical Science found that taurine and magnesium levels along with body mass index and total cholesterol were most directly related to the lowest cardiovascular risk in a population of healthy Japanese. Researchers suggest the combination of elevated taurine and magnesium stores support heart health in this population, and that the Japanese have higher levels of these nutrients due to the presence of fish in the diet.
One research group writes that taking taurine to prevent heart disease “may be of great public importance,” while another suggests that it is essential for “good health and longevity,” and that individuals should attend to both their magnesium and taurine levels for best results.
9) Sleep Better With Magnesium and Taurine
Take taurine for better sleep, but make sure you are getting a magnesium supplement that your body can absorb as well. Together these nutrients are the answer to abolish stress, calm the nervous system, and help you sleep better. You’ll also have a better overall mood. People who are deficient in either magnesium or taurine are at greater risk for depression and poor motivation.
Magnesium is well known to calm the nervous system, while countering fatigue. Similarly, taurine raises GABA levels, calming the nervous system and lowering anxiety and stress hormones that hinder rest. I suggest magnesium taurate, a form of taurine that is bound to magnesium for best results.
10) Take Taurine For Better Brain Function
Take taurine for better brain function. Taurine can delay the cognitive decline that comes with aging. It can improve learning and retention in older individuals and will aid the development of cognitive function in children.
Interestingly, research shows taurine will improve reaction time and minimize sleepiness in sleep-deprived individuals when paired with caffeine. A new study in the British Journal of Surgery tested the effects of a placebo, caffeine, or caffeine with taurine on surgery performance in sleep-deprived novice surgeons. The caffeine plus taurine reversed the negative effects of reaction time due to fatigue and minimized feelings of sleepiness, although not to baseline levels.
Researchers suggest that the combination is ideal because caffeine provides the stimulus, while taurine has a calming affect that functions as an anti-fatiguer. I’ve found green tea paired with taurine and carnitine to be very effective when in a sleep-deprived state because this mixture helps to manage anxiety and improve energy and focus.