As far as working out is concerned, obviously you won’t need any of us to tell you just how physically and mentally draining the entire process can be, especially when you really push your body to its limits and force it out of its comfort zone. Exercise is of course a crucial part of everyday health and fitness, yet unfortunately we only do so much and can only work so hard before we begin to encounter certain issues, namely fatigue, and perhaps more seriously, and indeed more painful, muscle cramps as well. We can of course encounter muscle cramps at any time, but the most common time is during prolonged spells of physical exercise, when lactic acid levels have increased. If you’ve ever experienced muscle cramps, especially in your hamstrings, you’ll know just how painful they can be and just how difficult they can be to recover from. The good news however, is that one ingredient, an amino acid named Taurine, could actually help play a significant role in the reduction of muscle cramps during and following prolonged spells of physical activity and exertion. Here’s a look at how.
What is taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid, that once upon a time was classed as non-essential, but is now actually classed as being essential thanks to new research uncovered by experts. When it comes to sugar, fat, and protein metabolism, taurine has been found to play a very significant role in all of the above. As if that wasn’t enough, studies have also found that taurine helps to promote increases in calcium levels within the body, making it beneficial for bones and teeth, and it even helps to promote healthy nerve function. If you’ve ever taken a look at the ingredients found in most bodybuilding and sports supplements however, particularly pre and intra-workout supplements, you’ll find that taurine is also a key ingredient in many of these products, due to the fact that the muscles within our bodies rely so heavily on this amino acid. Because of this, there is evidence to suggest that muscle cramping can be reduced greatly, or even avoided entirely, with regular taurine supplementation.
How is taurine effective?
When we exercise, the amount of nutrients within our bodies, particularly our muscles, become depleted rapidly, and taurine is most certainly no exception. Prolonged physical exercise quickly depletes the amount of the taurine amino acid found within our muscles. Studies have found that individuals with lower than average taurine levels, or those suffering with a taurine deficiency, are far, far more likely to experience painful muscle cramps than those with healthy amounts of taurine in their muscle tissue. What’s more however, is that by increasing the amount of taurine within the body, experts have found that muscle cramping can be put off for much longer, which basically means that the muscles can work harder and faster for a much longer period before they begin to experience the effects of lactic acid build up, which in turn results in painful muscle cramping.
What makes it so effective?
There are a number of examples that show just how effective taurine is, but exactly what is it that makes it so prolific at reducing/preventing muscle cramps? Well, to begin with, as taurine is an amino acid, and as you know, amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules which the muscles thrive upon, it helps to prevent the amount of damage afflicted upon the muscles during times of physical exertion and high intensity exercise. In skeletal muscles for example, the amount of this amino acid present is particularly high, but what’s especially interesting is that it is also naturally high in the heart muscle tissue as well. Many people seem to forget that the heart itself is a muscle, and so it too can benefit from certain exercises and supplements. Study after study have found that regular taurine supplementation is able to effectively prevent what is known as exercise-induced muscle fatigue, which is actually exactly as it sounds. The muscles can only work so hard for so long, so obviously if they become overexerted and overworked, they will suffer and they will begin to fatigue as they run out of energy and nutrients. Taurine has also been found to help prevent exercise-related injuries as well. There is also research to suggest that taurine supplementation will help to improve magnesium deficiencies within the body, which have also been linked to muscle cramping and reduced energy levels. Magnesium is essential because it works as a signal for our muscles, basically telling them when to relax, which helps stimulate post-workout recovery. There’s also the calcium to consider as well. Taurine has been proven to help regulate calcium within the body, as well as potassium, and as you now know, magnesium as well. Taurine helps to shuttle these minerals into the cells, which in turn helps to make the muscles far more efficient, functional, and healthy.
What are the best sources of taurine?
As mentioned, taurine is an amino acid, though this doesn’t mean that it is found in all sources of protein. It has instead been found to exist within certain intracellular fluids found within a number of whole food sources. Of course it is also available in supplement form for added convenience but in any event, here’s a look at the best sources of natural taurine:
• Sea algae
• Human breast milk (for infants obviously)
• Pre-workout products
• Energy drinks
• Natural supplement form
The human body is also able to naturally synthesize taurine from the essential amino acids cysteine, and methionine. Young infants and newborns however, are unable to naturally synthesize taurine, which is part of the reason why it was recently reclassified as an essential amino acid.