As we all know, running requires endurance of body and mind if its potential benefits are to be reaped, so naturally it is interesting to look at ways in which performance can be improved. Researchers have studied the amino acid taurine in various studies to determine its effects on the body. Taurine is an organic acid present in tissue, found mainly in bile and the large intestine. Biological roles include autoxidation, membrane stabilisation and cardiovascular function. Taurine also aids in both the development and function of the central nervous system and the retina. Taurine offers benefits to bodybuilders in the form of maintaining function of certain tissues and a growth modulator and can lower blood pressure when taken on a long-term basis. In 2012, a study by scientists at the University of Cumbria attempted to develop a better understanding of taurine.
The study was conducted to ascertain whether taurine was capable of offering athletes a boost to their performance (1). Following up on two previous studies – a handful of Asian studies which showed taurine positively affected performance (2) and a Canadian study which said otherwise (3) – British researchers sought to clarify the issue.
Eight trained middle-distance runners with a mean age of 20 were chosen as participants of the experiment. Each subject performed a three-kilometre run on a treadmill on a total of two occasions each. Each athlete was given a taurine supplement of 1000mg two hours before the start of one session and a placebo two hours before the start of the other. This length of time was required to allow the taurine to fully enter the bloodstream. Every three-kilometre run was timed to compare the effects of the taurine compared to the placebo.
The results showed that those who had taken the taurine supplement completed the track an average of 12 seconds faster than those who had taken the placebo. There were no immediately obvious effects on the intake of oxygen in the subjects, nor were there any differences found in the pace of their heartbeats or levels of fatigue.
The study strongly suggests that taurine can increase speed and muscle endurance, but nobody is any closer to answering the question of exactly why it does that.
While at present, British scientists are still unable to pinpoint exactly how taurine works, the results of these tests was incredibly encouraging. It has been suggested that, since human muscle cells do not absorb taurine, the acid affects the membrane of muscle cells to boost the absorption of substances. Despite the fact that there was a rather small sample size in this experiment, it is apparent that taurine is beneficial to exercise and performance levels. Of course, like everything, it is to be used in moderation for the right types of exercise, but the results were at least encouraging. While standalone taurine can have a potential benefit we need to look beyond single nutrients and consider that taking taurine alongside essential amino acids or whole protein sources will produce a greater beneficial effect. Using these alongside taurine will assist in elevating protein synthesis and stimulating repair and recovery of muscle cells.
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1. Balshaw TG, Bampouras TM, Barry TJ, Sparks SA The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners, 2012 Aug
2. Zhang M, Izumi I, Kagamimori S, Sokejima S, Yamagami T, Liu Z, Qi B Role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men 2004 Mar
3. Rutherford JA, Spriet LL, Stellingwerff T. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on endurance performance and metabolism in well-trained cyclists 2010 Aug