While you might automatically think of squats and kettlebell swings when you hear the words "workout routine," there's a lot that happens outside the gym that allows your body to power through those exercises (think: sleep, nutrition, recovery and more).
Among those behind-the-scenes elements are the compounds that support your physical fitness on a cellular level — like taurine, an amino acid.
"[Generally,] amino acids are important for the body for several reasons — they provide the building blocks of proteins, and they are functionally required for cell development, survival and nutrition," says Brittany Allman, PhD, certified exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist.
Taurine is one of many amino acids, and Allman notes that it has many functions within the body, including several that can support a healthy workout routine, such as helping combat inflammation, increasing oxygen efficiency while exercising and thus increasing endurance, protecting the heart from overexertion by regulating calcium in the heart, supporting muscle development and balancing electrolytes to support hydration, among other benefits (more on those later).
Though taurine is produced naturally by the body, Allman says supplementing with it is not harmful. What's more, a December 2012 review in Amino Acids linked taurine supplementation with lower instances of heart disease in animal and laboratory models.
The most common food sources of taurine are animal products such as meat and dairy. But if you prefer your taurine with an extra dose of energy, another source you can turn to is Monster Energy Ultra, which has just 10 calories and 2,000 milligrams of taurine, plus naturally energizing ingredients like B vitamins.
Keep scrolling to learn even more ways adding this amino acid to your routine can help take your workouts up a notch.
Exercise initiates a series of reactions that trigger the release of a number of pro-inflammatory markers that are beneficial to muscular recovery, but only if there are anti-inflammatory agents to counterbalance them, according to Allman. "Taurine is known to reduce markers of pro-inflammation, and thus balance this equation," she says, referencing a November 2019 study in Physiology & Behavior.
2. Energy and Focus
Feeling in the zone mentally and ready physically is the goal when walking into your workouts — and taurine can help in that department, too.
"When combined with caffeine, like in many energy drinks, taurine can improve mental performance and mood," she adds. That's why Monster combines taurine with 150 milligrams of caffeine, so you can get your boost of energy and easily zero in on your workout goals for the day.
Taurine is found in the highest concentrations in oxidative muscle fibers, which are the muscle fibers that support aerobic activity, according to an August 2010 study in the Journal of Biomedical Science. "The effect of taurine on endurance performance may be due to taurine's role in calcium regulation, and the improvement in muscle cross-bridge formation and muscle contraction," Allman says.
"The jury may still be out on whether taurine supplementation improves aerobic performance or not," she says, citing a May 2021 review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. "Nonetheless, there does seem to be a small potential for an improvement in both trained and untrained individuals."
4. Reduction in Oxidative Stress
The last benefit to adding taurine to your pre-workout routine? Supporting your body's stress levels via taurine's antioxidant properties.
"Exercise increases oxidative stress, which is when there is an excessive amount of free radicals in the body, or the inability to buffer these free radicals," Allman says. "Taurine increases antioxidant enzyme production in skeletal muscle and decreases oxidative stress by reducing the production of free radicals."
Whether you're looking to boost your energy or support recovery (or all of the above), now you know a little bit more about how taurine may help.