Key words: taurine, glutamine, creatine, carnitine, insulin, somatotropin, sertonin, GABA, anabolic, anticatabolic, psychostymulant, thermogenic.
It was discovered by Tiedemann and Gmelin in 1827 in ox bile. Its name derives from Latin ‘taurinus” that means ‘relating to or resembling a bull’.
It’s an abundant amino acid in the body; however, it’s different to amino acids that build our muscle proteins. Its acid group does not come from organic carboxylic acid, but from inorganic sulphuric acid. Therefore, it does not build any proteins, only simple micropeptides at best. Amino acids that do not build proteins are called non-proteinogenic amino acids. They are not less important from proteinogenic ones, see creatine and carnitine.
Taurine was not in the field of interest of medicine until 1970’s. It was thought that it is needed only to produce bile acids, to be precise – taurocholic acids. Everything has changed when it was discovered that taurine content in a human body was 1/1000 of body weight and that bile consisted of just few percents of it.
1/1000 – is it a lot?
If you weigh 100kgs, taurine builds 100g of your body, mainly muscles, because they store the vast amount of the amino acid. It is worth mentioning there is no other amino acid that would be present in a body in such a great concentration. For example, carnitine is very important to or body and there are only 30 grams of it.
In this situation, it seems to be obvious that a compound, which is so prevalent in our body, has to be of a great importance to it. Scientists are systematically trying to discover different aspects of it.
Modern medicine employs taurine in cardiology, hepatology, ophthalmology, diabetology, and neurology with a great success. Also, oncology has high hopes of taurine as it may protect us from cancer caused by nicotine and industrial pollution. However, I suppose that these aspects are not very interesting for you… Information you are seeking for in this article concerns anabolic properties of taurine. Therefore, I am going to concentrate on performance enhancement and take no notice of health aspects.
Taurine is getting more and more popular as a sport supplement because of its four advantages: anticatabolic, anabolic, psychostimulating and thermogenic.
The mechanism of anticatabolic action of proteogenic amino acids is rather well known. Muscle catabolism is governed by catabolic (proteolic) enzymes, which break protein into free amino acids. However, when the body obtains enough amino acids from protein breakdown, amino acids inhibit reflexively enzymes activity, what in turn protects the body from excessive protein loss. The activity of the enzymes may be also inhibited by supplementing amino acid tablets, what increases the level of amino acids in muscle cells.
However, taurine is non proteogenic amino acid, therefore it does not work this way. Even if it worked that way, it would not be its basic mechanism of anticatabolic action.
The process of catabolism (protein breakdown) is the most intensive during work (post-exercise catabolism) and sleep (post-absorptive). When the level of free amino acids increases in your blood stream after a meal, they penetrate your muscles and create muscle proteins which serve as their store. This is similar to fat storage. During a strain (workout) or a long break between meals (dream), catabolic enzymes break proteins down in order to release stored amino acids as other tissues need them. Even though free amino acids aren’t normally transported for long distances, the way from muscles to brain or kidneys is very long. Your body does the gimmick – it doesn’t transport whole amino acids but nitrogen itself which is used by tissue for production of needed amino acids. First, nitrogen is pulled off from amino acids and then attached to glutamic acid; glutamine – nitrogen store and transporter – is created in this reaction. In target tissues amino acid degradation takes place; this proccess is called transamination. Your body destroys proteins and amino acids until a certain level of glutamine is reached. Glutamine provides tissues with nitrogen. When the glutamine level is high, catabolism stops…
Due to its unique anticatabolic activity, glutamine is eagerly used by athletes, especially body-builders. It seems that taurine has a similar function of nitrogen store and stransporter. There are at least two things that prove it… Firstly, about 50% of non-protein nitrogen (nitrogen that remains in your body not stored in proteins) in stored in taurine. Secondly, the more taurine you supplement, the less glutamine is produced by your body; this may prove that taurine may replace glutamine in nitrogen transport.
In order to replenish taurine, your body must get about 4g of it a day. If we have a well-balanced diet, we are able to get half of this amount from food. The rest of it is produced by your body from cysteine and metionine, amino acids coming from protein breakdown. In the same manner other non-proteogenic amino acids, ex. creatine and carnitine, are produced. Creatine is produced from arginine and glycine, whereas carnitine from lysine and metionine. Musle proteins don’t contain high amounts of metionine and cysteine, therefore a lot of muscle proteins must be broken down to obtain an adequate amount of taurine. To produce 1g of taurine your body uses about 120g of lean muscle mass. If we look at it from the other hand, we will see that supplementing your body with 1g of taurine will help us save 120g of muscles.
Anticatabolic effect of creatine and carnitine which is related to the mechanism of non-proteogenic amino acids synthesis is significantly lower. This is due to the fact that amino acids needed to its production are very popular in proteins. Synthesis of 1g of creatine or carnitine requires a break down of about 40g muscle proteins. What is more, your body may use arginine and lysine available from proteins that were already broken down to make cysteine and metionine available for taurine synthesis. Your body breaks down the biggest amount of protein to renew taurine stores, therefore taurine is the strongest amino acid that prevents catabolism.
There is one more well-described mechanism of taurine anticatabolic activity – lysosome stabilisation.
As mentioned earlier, proteolitic enzymes (lysosome enzymes) are responsible for catabolism. They are called lysosome enzymes because they are stored in certain cell structures called lysosomes.
Physical acivity (ex. training) and starvation (ex. long, night break between meals) change physicochemical environment in cells what leads to destabilisation of lysosome membranes and then releasing catabolic lysosome enzymes.
Admittedly, it is said that non-proteinogenic amino acids don’t build proteins; however, this is not entirely true… Non-proteogenic amino acids aren’t build in proteins via genetic pathway (transcription and translation) and don’t create strong chemical bindings. However, after synthetising protein via genetic reactions network, these amino acids can bind and stabilise protein molecules using some weak chemical interactions. Such binding occurs in lysosome membranes what stabilises these membranes and limits enzymes releas and what in turn prevents catabolism. Phosphocreatine, acetylocarnitine and… taurine act in this way. Taurine is the most important here! It is said that in 80% it is responsible for cell membrane stabilising with non-proteinogenic amino acids.
There’s one more interesting mechanism – inhibition of catabolic hormones activity. While secreted by adrenal glands cortisol and hydroxycortisol are the best known catabolic hormones, more and more serotonine which is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system is talked about.
On the one hand, catabolic hormones inhibit the activity of anabolic hormone, on the other hand they stimulate genes to produce more catabolic enzymes.
Taurine plays a vital role in maintaining a normal brain activity, but I will talk about it in a little while… It inhibits releasing of ACTH, pituary hormone responsible for stimulation of cortisol, hydroxycortisol and serotonine production. In effect, less amount of catabolic hormones is released what proves that taurine may have anticatabolic activity.
What is more, there are a few experiments that show taurine can chelate calcium ions in muscle cells. These ions play an extremely important role during a workout because they initiate muscle contractions and therefore strength impulse. However, in post-workout time lowering of the calcium ions amount in muscle cells is essential for gaining muscle mass. If these ions are still active, they stimulate strong catabolic enzymes what results in protein degradation. Taurine binds calcium ions and lowers their activity after workout.
Taurine as an anabolic agent
Not only does the mechanism of nitrogen distribution have anticatabolic properties, but also it has anabolic ones. This is due to the fact that nitrogen is used for rebuilding aminoacids and protein.
A high level of free aminoacids in muscle cells can inhibit and even reverse the activity of lysosomal enzymes. This means that their catabolic properties are changed into anabolic! Admittedly, enzymes don’t create big protein molecules because it requires gene apparatus participation; however, they are able to create small proteins – peptides, which importance we still cannot assess. Some of them have well-defined metabolic activity and can stimulate protein synthesis what make them similar to anabolic hormones. For example, taurine binds with glutamine forming glutataurine, hormon peptide which demonstrates similar properties to glutathione. Glutathione is a detoxifier as well as antiradical and anabolic agent. Although glutathione anabolic activity was discovered long time ago, its mechanism has been described recently. It seems that glutathione (and probably glutataurine) stimulates certain cell enzymes called kinases that in turn stimulate transcription factors and preinitiation complexes that control gene expression and protein anabolism.
However, the most important mechanism of taurine anabolic activity is linked to its influence on anabolic hormones.
Insulin is a very strong anabolic hormone. The pancreas produce and release it when food we eat is rich in glucose. This is why people try to stimulate insulin release with high amounts of glucose, hoping this will help them to build muscle mass. However, this is no good at all. On the contrary to other anabolic hormones such as testosterone and somatotropin, insulin helps to develop both muscle mass and unwanted fat tissue. What is more, glucose is the most important component of adipose tissue, even though it is thought differently! This is due to the fact that glycerol, another constituent of adipose tissue, can be only synthesised from glucose.
Glucose stimulation of insulin leads sometimes to so-called insulin resistance where muscle tissue reacts weaker to insulin than fat tissue, which reacts much stronger.
Taurine stimulates the pancreas to produce and secrete insulin; but a mechanism of its action is completely different to glucose. Glucose gets in pancreatic cells and stimulates insulin with the by-products of its breakdown (glycolysis). However, taurine may act on receptors (uptake points) which are located on the pancreatic cell membrane. As glucose excess destroys pancreatic cells and leads to their failure (diabetis), as taurine protects, regenerates and makes them more efficient.
Taurine has also some influence on target tissues of insulin. It regenerates insulin receptors and counteracts insulin resistance; it also makes muscle tissue more sensitive to anabolic activity of insulin.
Not only does taurine have a positive influence on the pancreas, insulin and insulin-dependent tissues, but also many other sulphur compounds have similar effect. Sulfonylurea derivatives are a class of antidiabetic drugs which are the strongest ones.
Because insulin is a hormone which helps in storing important nutrients and sulphur is one of them (apart from sugars, fats and amino acids), nature has created an independent way of transport. Therefore, the pancreas, which normally works only in the presence of glucose and some amino acids, strongly reacts for organosuplhur compounds.
Organosulphur compounds may also act as direct anabolic agents. It is believed so because they regenerate and rebuild pancreatic and other insulin-dependent cells. What is more, it has been noticed in some experiments that they had anabolic properties although the mechanism of their action hasn’t been discovered yet. This suggests that taurine may be a direct hormone-like anabolic agent. Hormonal activity has been proved recently and you may find out more in the article “Taurine burns fat” (Thermogenics and other fat burners section.)
However, the influence of taurine on other anabolic hormone, growth hormone (GH) / somatotropin, still remains unknown.
Its central activity (in brain) which I’m going to elaborate on shortly is concentrated on neurotransmitter called gammaaminobutyrate (GABA) which is responsible for producing and secreting somatotropin. Taurine probably stimulates somatotropin; however, this requires further evidence.
This shows that taurine is a unique anabolic agent that can stimulate insulin and somatotropin at the same time. It’s unique because insulin and somatotropin intensify their own anabolic activity on muscle tissue as well as neutralize each other’s action on adipose tissue. This is why insulin-somatotropin combo is so popular in forbidden hormonal doping. It lets you build monstrous muscles with no fat gain. While it’s true that we cannot expect taurine will match up its effectiveness to doping, it is still relatively effective, entirely safe and healthy alternative.
Last but not least, let’s go back to chelatng of calcium ions problem. During strain period calcium ions initiate muscle contractions and start nerve/strength impulses. At the same time calcium ions activate an enzyme that stops anabolism. It’s logical – anabolism rebuilds protein damaged during workout and you cannot repair a car while it’s going… Anabolism requires almost 90% of energy that’s needed for biosynthesis; therefore, if your body didn’t stop this process for the time you exercise, it wouldn’t have enough energy for muscle contractions and you wouldn’t be able to lift your lightest dumbell…
Removing calcium ions from muscle cells after workout deactivates this catabolic enzymes and in the same time stimulates anabolism. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain taurine’s role in this subject.
Before it has been employed as an anabolic agent, taurine was used as a psychostimulant together with caffeine. However, it has been known as psychostimulant for ages, the mechanism of its psychostimulating action has been revealed recently.
Taurine acts on two brain centres: serotoninergic, where the impulses are transmitted by serotonin, and gabaergic, which is dependent on gamma aminobutyrate (GABA).
It has been said earlier that the inhibitory action of taurine on serotonin was its basic psychostimulating mechanism. Serotonin is a neurotramsmitter responsible for relaxation; therefore, its inhibition may prolong psychomotor activity. Nevertheless, it is now said that taurine influences gabaergic centre and this may explain its original action.
Stimulation of gabaergic system with taurine reminds an action of small doses of anti-anxiety drugs or… ethyl alcohol. Waking state is prolonged and anxiety is diminished. However, taurine has a certain advantage on drugs and alcohol. In greater doses, both of them cause euphoria, then intoxication, and mental blackout; whereas taurine, even seriously overdosed, will not do anything more than diminish anxiety and prolong waking state. This is why drivers and athletes love taurine and caffeine drinks.
It is good to drink one or two bottles of such an energy drink before training with weights. Your physical capabilities will improve and you will be also livelier and pepped up.
If you are interested in thermogenic properties of taurine, please read “Taurine burns fat”.
At the end, based on researches, I have prepared a few taurine supplementation plans that should suit your individual needs.
These will be only examples. I hope you are creative. However, you should remember about three things when using taurine in your supplementation plan.
Taurine and glutamine cause that there are significant amounts of nitrogen in your body. It is very beneficial for building muscle mass; nevertheless, it may decrease your aerobic training capability because of nitrogen load. Therefore, if you are going to do some cardio or your train resistance sports, it is better for you to supplement taurine and glutamine after your training.
Taurine prolongs a waking state of consciousness. Even though it is so called calm waking state that should not interfere with falling asleep, it may happen that high dosage of taurine (esp. with caffeine) will cause problems with falling asleep.
Taurine improves creatine absorption via insulin secretion pathway stimulation. However, to some extent these are marginal effects of taurine. You shouldn’t perceive taurine only as a creatine transporter as this amino acid is mainly an anticatabolic and anabolic agent!
Taurine supplementation: 3 capsules before breakfast and 3 capsules after training.
Anticatabolic supplementation: 2 capsules of taurine and glutamine before breakfast, 2 capsules of HMB before training, 2 capsules of taurine and glutamine after training, 2 capsules of HMB and glutamine before bed.
Strong anticatabolic supplementation: 2 capsules of taurine, glutamine and ALC before breakfast, 2 capsules of HMB and ALC before training, 2 capsules of taurine and glutamine after training, 2 capsules of HMB and glutamine before bed.
Complete anticatabolic supplementation: 2 capsules of taurine, glutamine, ALC and BCAA before breakfast, 2 capsules of HMB and ALC before training, 2 capsules of taurine, glutamine and BCAA after training, 2 capsules of HMB, glutamine and BCAA before bed.
Creatine and taurine supplementation: 5 capsules of magnesium creatine chelate (Magna Power) and 5 capsules of taurine before breakfast, 5 capsules of creatine monohydrate and 1 serving of carbohydrate powder after training, 5 capsules of magnesium creatine chelate (Magna Power) and 5 capsules of ribose before bed.