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Power up your workouts with this amino acid

Power up your workouts with this amino acid

“Amino acids” is probably not the most glamorous or exciting-sounding phrase you will ever encounter.  But we wouldn’t survive long without these crucial molecules.  Among other tasks, amino acids are essential for creating protein and growing and repairing body tissue, including muscle.

Taurine, an amino acid found in fish, meat, and dairy products, is often added to energy drinks and workout supplements for its reputed ability to enhance physical performance.  But this versatile amino acid has other health-sustaining properties as well.  So let’s check out some of taurine’s most compelling benefits.

Taurine works “behind the scenes” to keep the body running

Taurine is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning the liver generally produces enough to meet the body’s needs.  However, the body might require more taurine from dietary sources or supplements during illness, injury, and stress.  The original “multi-tasker” taurine contributes to various important processes.  For example, it helps create bile salts - needed to break down fats and cholesterol - balances electrolytes in the body, regulates cellular calcium levels, supports nervous system development, and reinforces immune system health.

Taurine may help boost physical performance

Taurine helps to regulate electrolyte and hydration balance in the body.  Not only that, but taurine enhances muscle contractions - a definite “plus” in physical activity.  In addition, taurine helps to support immune system health, allowing your body to fight off infections that could otherwise sideline you from workouts.  In an extensive 2021 review of studies published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers addressed the impact of taurine on vigorous physical activity. 

While they reported more study is needed to better understand taurine’s various effects, the authors cited multiple studies showing that taurine increased oxygen uptake, improved strength, and power, and delayed the onset of fatigue.  The researchers also noted that taurine supplementation improved post-workout recovery time while reducing muscle damage and inflammation, helping to ease the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) following vigorous exercise.  According to the review, the most effective amount of taurine was one to three grams daily, taken one to three hours before workouts for at least six to 21 days.

Support heart health with taurine

Taurine is believed to improve heart function, even in those with congestive heart failure - a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.  According to a study published in Therapies in Advanced Cardiovascular Disease, participants with congestive heart failure who took 1500 mg a day of supplemental taurine for two weeks showed improvement in their exercise capacity.  (While this may sound like a minor benefit, the fact is: exercise capacity is one of the most critical factors in long-term survival for heart failure patients). 

In addition, taurine decreases the blood flow resistance in the blood vessel walls and makes the heart contract more efficiently, helping lower blood pressure.  Finally, higher levels of taurine are associated with lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.  So when it comes to overall heart health, maintaining adequate taurine levels appears to be a wise move.

Taurine may help maintain cognitive function into old age

Some researchers believe that taurine supplementation could help maintain cognitive function and memory.  In one recent review, the authors noted that taurine supplementation seemed to benefit older adults by promoting efficient long-term memory storage.

And there is evidence that suggests that taurine may help you calm down and “chill out.”  It appears to ease the damaging effects of a chemical known as glutamate, which can have overstimulating, anxiety-creating effects when present in the brain in excessive amounts.  By promoting the expression of the calming amino acid GABA, taurine helps to inhibit the effects of glutamate and can lead to a calmer, more relaxed mood.

You can increase your dietary intake of taurine with fish, meat, and poultry.  Yellowfin tuna is the “gold standard” supply for taurine, offering up to nearly 1,000 mg per 100-gram serving.  Tilapia, scallops, and clams are also good sources, as is poultry (dark meat in particular), grass-fed beef, and dairy products.  (Vegetarians and vegans can find taurine in nori, the dark green wrap used in sushi rolls).  Taurine is also available in supplementary form but check with your integrative healthcare provider before adding it to your health regimen.

Whether you’re a senior hoping to preserve precious cardiovascular and cognitive function or a young athlete aspiring to better workouts, taurine is a valuable ally.

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