Taurine is an amino acid. It’s found naturally in your body’s tissues- with most of it in the heart, eyes and muscles.
Amino acids are best known for being the so-called building blocks of muscle tissue. The protein we eat in our diets gets broken down into amino acids, which your body then uses to repair muscle tissue, and build new muscles.
But taurine, despite its reputation as a sports and exercise aid, is different. Taurine is one of the few amino acids that is not involved in this muscle-building process.1
Taurine is not an ‘essential amino acid’, which are the type that your body can’t make so you must get from your diet. Taurine is technically a ‘conditionally essential amino acid’2, which means your body can make it, but levels can get depleted due to illness or poor nutrition.
Why does the body need taurine?
The body uses taurine for lots of different things, with its main functions including enabling the body to produce bile (which helps you digest fats), and helping to maintain the electrolyte balance of cells, the functioning of the central nervous system as well as the immune system.
Taurine also taurine holds antioxidant properties, which means it helps protect organs against damage from oxidative stress.3 It’s been linked to better heart health and general cardiovascular health.45
Taurine is also used to enhanced performance in sport and exercise.
Where is it found?
Taurine is only needed in small amounts and in most healthy people, their body makes all the taurine they need.
A normal daily diet provides a top-up of taurine. The major sources of taurine are meat, fish, seafood and dairy products like milk, cheese and eggs.
While there are some natural vegetarian sources of taurine, they are absorbed by the body much less easily than meat, fish and dairy sources.
Taurine is most abundantly available and best absorbed by the body in supplement form, such as powders or capsules. It’s also frequently added to energy drinks, although these can be packed with sugar and caffeine and aren’t usually recommended for daily consumption.
How might taurine help sports and exercise performance?
Some studies have indicated that taurine supplementation can have benefits among healthy individuals, especially those who exercise or participate in sport.6
Taurine supplementation has been linked with reduced fatigue, less muscle damage and less muscle soreness after an exercise session.7
In one 2013 study at the University of Stirling, it was found that taking 1000mg taurine ‘significantly improved’ the time it took trained runners to run a distance of 3km.8
A Brazilian study, also in 2013, declared that taurine supplementation improves performance while decreasing muscle damage after strenuous exercise.9
Is taurine supplementation safe?
Taurine supplementation is considered very safe. This is because people in studies have tolerated it well with no adverse side effects, including in high doses and over long periods.10
However, everyone is different and if you have any concerns about taurine supplementation, consult your GP or a registered dietician.
Last updated: 26 May 2020
9 Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2014, 39(1): 101-104