Taurine is a non-protein amino acid, which means that it occurs in its free form, without forming proteins. The average human body contains around 70g of taurine - most of it in the brain, muscles and heart, where it has its most important functions. What is the effect of taurine in the body? Why is taurine recommended for athletes? From which foods can it be obtained? When is supplementation recommended?
What is taurine?
Taurine is a 2-aminoethylsulphonic acid, a beta-amino acid that occurs in a free form in human and other animal tissues. As opposed to alpha-amino acids, taurine does not form peptide bonds, and consequently proteins. The largest amounts of taurine are found in heart muscle, skeletal muscle, brain, retina and blood platelets.
Taurine can be synthesised in the body from the sulphur-containing amino acids - cysteine and methionine, but its endogenous production is insufficient to cover human requirements. Therefore, taurine must be supplied through the diet. The taurine requirement is difficult to establish and depends on the availability of the sulphur amino acids but it is usually recommended to consume more than 400 mg of taurine from the diet each day.
Recommended products with taurine
Taurine - role and effects
The action of taurine in the body is wide and varied. Its functions include:
- retina protection - taurine represents about 50% of amino acids in the retina; it protects it against oxidative stress caused by light rays, prevents lipid peroxidation and DNA damage. Taurine takes part in the differentiation of retinal cells during the development of photoreceptors and in the organisation of the functioning of healthy and regenerating retina.
- activity in the nervous system - taurine participates in the development of the central nervous system, it is a neurotransmitter and a neuromodulator. Protective action of taurine is based on reduction of intracellular calcium concentration in nerve cells, which prevents mitochondrial damage and initiation of apoptosis - cell death. Taurine participates in the transmission of signals in the nervous system. It is an agonist of GABA receptors.
- regulating calcium concentration,
- controlling muscle contractility,
- antioxidant action,
- osmoregulation - regulation of pressure and concentration of osmotically active substances inside and outside the cell, hydration of the cell,
- forming bile acids, controlling cholesterol metabolism,
- stabilisation of cell membranes, modification of phospholipids and cell membrane functions,
- regulating protein phosphorylation,
- participation in the inflammatory response - it is a component of leukocytes - and immunomodulatory activity.
- blood glucose control - it is suspected that taurine present in pancreatic cells positively influences the mechanisms of glucose metabolism and reduces blood glucose levels over long periods of time.
Not all mechanisms of taurine action in the body have been investigated in detail. Many of them are still a mystery to scientists. bserving the significance and action of taurine, as well as the fact that it is not produced in the body in sufficient quantities, there are some claims about including taurine as a vitamin. It points out its significant role in health.
Taurine for athletes
Taurine as a supplement is most commonly used to improve sports performance. It seems to be reasonable considering the role it plays and its concentration in muscles. Animal and human studies show that taurine:
- increases muscle contractility,
- increases muscle strength,
- enables muscles to work out longer and harder,
- reduces fatigue during training,
- reduces muscle damage during training,
- removes metabolic products that lead to fatigue,
- protects muscle cells from oxidative stress,
- can increase the use of fat as an energy source during physical activity.
Taurine is beneficial for both strength and endurance athletes. Weightlifting athletes notice increased strength and less muscle soreness as a result of taurine use. Cyclists and athletes in other long-distance sports can extend their training or achieve better time results. The increased endurance performance is due to taurine's effect in the supply of energy from fats and the removal of fatigue-inducing metabolites.
The recommended dosage of taurine in sports is between 500 and 3000 mg per day. However, even at higher doses, side effects are unlikely to occur and unused taurine is excreted in an unchanged form with the urine. In scientific studies, doses of up to 6g of taurine per day are used.
Taurine for brain health
Taurine is an important substance in the proper functioning of the brain, and as we age, the concentration of taurine in our tissues decreases. Its supplementation may help to prevent the amount of taurine in the brain from reducing with age. Some researchers believe that supplementation may also prevent neurodegenerative conditions associated with ageing. There are no human studies available so far, but animal studies show that taurine supplementation can reduce learning and memory impairment as well as improve long-term memory. It has also been noted that people with epilepsy, autism and after brain injury have low levels of taurine in the brain. It suggests a role for taurine in the balance of the nervous system.
The best dietary sources of taurine
Taurine is mainly found in foods of animal origin. Its richest sources are seafood and fish, followed by poultry meat. To a lesser extent, taurine is present in red meat and dairy products. It also occurs in plant foods but in very small amounts. The only rich sources are dried seaweed used to prepare sushi and prickly pear fruit. People on a vegetarian diet, especially vegans, should consider taking taurine supplements. Vegans have much lower (up to half) levels of taurine excreted in urine compared to people eating meat. It means lower levels of this amino acid throughout the body.
Very high losses of taurine occur during cooking and frying. Heat treatment can reduce the amount of taurine available in a product by even 75%, which is especially common with poultry. It must be taken into account when planning taurine intake with food.
The foods richest in taurine are:
- Prawns and crawfish
- Red meat
- Peas and lentils
- Beverages with taurine
The darker the tuna meat, the more taurine it contains. As much as 964 mg of taurine can be found in 100g of raw tuna.
Carp meat provides 868 mg of taurine per 100g.
Scallops are the richest in taurine. 100g of this seafood provides as much as 827 mg taurine. 100g of mussels are a source of 655mg taurine.
Catfish are also an excellent source of taurine. A 100g serving has 700mg of taurine.
Gourmets of octopus will be pleased to know that 100 g of this delicacy is 335 mg of taurine.
Turkey meat is the richest source of taurine of all meats. However, not all meat, but only from animals that have grown slowly, at a natural rate and have been fed high-quality feed. Such turkeys have dark, pinkish-red meat. There is 306 mg of taurine in 100 g of meat from an organic turkey. In turkeys from industrial farms - only 30 mg/100 g.
The story with chicken is exactly the same as with turkey. Organic chicken meat provides 170 mg of taurine in 100g, while industrial chicken provides only 18 mg. Thigh meat - darker in colour - is richer in taurine than breast meat.
These seafoods contain between 115 and 140 mg of taurine.
In beef and pork, you can find about 100 mg of taurine in a 100 g serving of lean meat.
Pork and beef liver provides 42 mg of taurine in 100 g, and poultry liver provides 110 mg.
During dairy production, much of the taurine from milk passes into whey. There is 66 mg taurine in 100 g of whey powder, so whey-based protein supplements can be considered a source of taurine.
Dried pea seeds contain 30 mg of taurine in 100 g, and lentils contain 40 mg.
Taurine is also added to energy drinks and drinks specifically for athletes. One serving of approximately 250 ml provides 600-1000 mg taurine.
Please note that all values apply to raw fish, seafood and meat. It must be assumed that about half of the taurine content is lost during thermal processing.
When the supply of taurine with the diet is difficult or when the need for taurine increases, for example with regular physical exercise, you can reach for supplements. Taurine is available in capsule form and as a powder to be mixed with water, juice or a protein shake containing milk. A taurine supplement is recommended to be taken 15 minutes before training. A dose of 3g taurine is usually recommended for athletes. Vegetarians and vegans, on the other hand, may consider taking at least 500 mg of taurine daily.