Are Pre Workouts Harmful or Helpful: Tyrosine and Taurine

Lets talk two amino acids today and kill two birds with one stone. Tyrosine and taurine are up to bat today so lets review them and see what benefit or detriment they may offer.

Tyrosine

Tyrosine is an amino acid that is formed from phenylalanine and thus is not an essential amino acid. It is a precursor for other compounds such as dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.

Tyrosine is marketed as being used for increased cognition and stress intolerance. This makes some sense seeing as how it helps replenish the norepinephrine in the body. Reading comments from people who have bought and used the supplement you are bound to see things like, “It has helped me with morning fog” or “I feel so much more energized in the morning” or “I don’t feel like killing my kids..”. Ok so the last one was made up but you get my drift.

Does tyrosine really help, at least from a scientific standpoint?

In a study of cyclists, researchers gave 4 different drinks; placebo, tyrosine, tyrosine with carbs, and carbs at 6 different times before and during a 60min ride and then a time trial. The tyrosine was dosed at 25mg/kg body weight and the carbohydrate was a 7% solution or 70g/L.

The cyclists who had the carb solution finished the time trial in 27.17 ± 0.92 min while the carb/tyrosine group finished in 26.11 ± 1.01 min. These times were significantly lower than performance times for placebo (34.44 ± 2.89 min) and tyrosine (32.64 ± 3.05 min) [1]

This study makes it look like carbs are likely the key to increased performance, which would make sense especially in a sport like cycling where many calories are being burned. The authors were careful not to conclude that tyrosine has no effect since it’s possible that the manner in which it was dosed might give diminishing returns.

In another study of men performing different activities, tyrosine was administered at 150mg/kg of body weight 30 min before exercises were performed. These included load carriage treadmill sessions, pull-ups, stair stepping with weight and handgrip strength. There were not significant differences between groups. [2]

Tyrosine is often noted in marketing to help with recovery or mental alertness. One study shows this latter effect in military personnel who were subjected to high altitude and low temperatures. Subjects were given 50mg/kg tyrosine just before tests and 40 min later. They were subjected to multiple tests and their reaction times as well as tolerances to multiple things were measured as compared to placebo.

Cold tolerance was improved as well as muscular fatigue, perceived distress, sleepiness and headache. [3] So, at least in conditions of cold and high altitude, tyrosine may benefit an athlete from a fatigue perspective as well as focus, but for the rest of us not studying or running stairs in the inter-mountain west, tyrosine may not be super beneficial.

In another look at psychological factors, women were given a stress test 5 hours after having been given a drink with amino acids. The “placebo” contained all essential amino acids, 1 group had no tryptophan, and the 3rd had no phenylalanine or tyrosine. Women in the 3rd group experienced more feelings of depression, anxiety, feeling tired, hostility, being unsure and confusion. [4] The change was noted only after the stressors.

So again tyrosine may be beneficial for some focus and/or good feelings, but it doesn’t appear that it will help you lift more or run any faster. It may help you push through a workout much like caffeine may help a person perceive less exertion and push through a tough workout.

Because of how tyrosine works, it’s a good idea to avoid it if you do decide to take it if you have heart problems. Because it increases norepinephrine and epinephrine the potential to cause problems in people predisposed to them is higher. I read one report once about a man who took tyrosine 500mg with his Adderall on accident and his blood pressure and heart rate went up significantly. While this supplement has been used for things like ADHD it is something that should be respected. Consult a competent medical provider who has experience with these before doing something you might regret if you have heart problems.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that plays a role in facilitating the digestion/absorption of fats (via formation of bile salts), maintaining cell volume (osmoregulation), neurotransmission/neuromodulation, antioxidant functions, anti-inflammatory/immune functions, anti-arrythmic/cardiac functions and neurological/retinal development.

To say it’s unimportant is like saying pies don’t need filling. It’s utter nonsense and will likely have you thrown out of my house, especially around my birthday because hey, cherry pie. (During this time of year I’ll also accept peach, strawberry rhubarb, pumpkin, coconut cream and a whole host of others, just no pecan)

Even with all of these important functions will taurine give you that edge that you so desire on the field or in life?

Red Bull is a popular drink that markets taurine as part of the formula to help with energy and focus. I think it’s funny that there is the myth that taurine is from bull’s testicles. Definitely “broscience”.

Some people actually think taurine comes from bull testicles. Mmmmm no.

Some people actually think taurine comes from bull testicles. Mmmmm no.

There was a study done by some researchers who had been working with Red Bull and showed that taurine with caffeine increased stroke volume and diastolic inflow (the heart was working more efficiently) compared to two other drinks, one containing no taurine and the other without caffeine or taurine (placebo). [5]

This study had the drinks supplied from the Red Bull company which is a ginormous red flag. Only 12 participants were in the study which doesn’t lend a lot of credence because of the small size and the fact that in the group that took the placebo had a higher diastolic inflow velocity than the caffeine group. That’s almost like comparing two camaros, one with nitrous and one without and saying the camaro without is creating more horsepower. Is it possible? Well if the workers at Chevrolet decide they’re gonna start putting corvette engines in the base camaro model I guess it could happen.

The reason that last point is so interesting is because you would’ve expected it to be lower than the caffeine group because we know caffeine has this effect by itself.

In a similar study, caffeine was given with glucoronolactone and taurine (essentially Red Bull) and compared to placebo while looking at stress tests with motor reaction times and also recorded feelings of well-being. Not surprising, the active group reported more feelings of well-being and had quicker reaction times. [6] But again this doesn’t prove that taurine does anything beneficial as it’s mixed with the other two components.

Another study showed that a drink containing a combination of branched chain amino acids, creatine, taurine, caffeine, and glucuronolactone increased the total reps and volume of exercise. But again in this study the effect cannot be attributed to taurine alone.[7]

Some studies show that taurine may help reduce muscle damage and oxidative stress. [8-10]

One study shows there may be benefit to people with heart failure who exercise if taurine is used.[11]

Taurine doesn’t seem to be quite the ergogenic aid that the supplement companies want you to believe it is. One benefit of taurine is that it can help you keep your levels up if you constantly use beta alanine as they both compete for the same receptors. So if you decide to use beta alanine it might be beneficial to use taurine to keep from becoming depleted. If you have a healthy diet including plenty of quality meat and liver and fish this may not be an issue.

So tyrosine may help with some focus and mental energy and taurine may help with exercise if you have some heart failure. I’m not discounting the fact that having a mental energy jolt isn’t helpful while doing things like lifting heavy or sprints, but it’s possible to get the same effect from caffeine. This is where N=1 studies come in handy. You can try both or one or the other to see if a difference exists. If not you can change it up accordingly.

I personally don’t use either of these. I think the benefit of both can be had from proper diet and/or the right pre workout. But you be the judge. If you have any experiences let me know in the comments.

CIAO

Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk

 

1.Chinevere, Troy D., et al. “Effects of L-tyrosine and carbohydrate ingestion on endurance exercise performance.” Journal of Applied Physiology 93.5 (2002): 1590-1597.

2.Sutton, Erin E., M. R. Coill, and Patricia A. Deuster. “Ingestion of tyrosine: effects on endurance, muscle strength, and anaerobic performance.” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 15.2 (2005): 173-85.

3.Banderet, Louis E., and Harris R. Lieberman. “Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans.” Brain research bulletin 22.4 (1989): 759-762.

4.Leyton, M., et al. “Effects on mood of acute phenylalanine/tyrosine depletion in healthy women.” Neuropsychopharmacology 22.1 (2000): 52-63

5.Baum, Michael, and M. Weiss. “The influence of a taurine containing drink on cardiac parameters before and after exercise measured by echocardiography.” Amino Acids 20.1 (2001): 75-82.

6.Seidl, R., et al. “A taurine and caffeine-containing drink stimulates cognitive performance and well-being.” Amino acids 19.3-4 (2000): 635-642.

7.Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “Effect of a pre-exercise energy supplement on the acute hormonal response to resistance exercise.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22.3 (2008): 874-882.

8..Dawson Jr, R., et al. “The cytoprotective role of taurine in exercise-induced muscle injury.” Amino acids 22.4 (2002): 309-324.

9.Silva, Luciano A., et al. “Taurine supplementation decreases oxidative stress in skeletal muscle after eccentric exercise.” Cell biochemistry and function 29.1 (2011): 43-49.

10.Zhang, M., et al. “Role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men.” Amino acids 26.2 (2004): 203-207.

11.Beyranvand, Mohamad Reza, et al. “Effect of taurine supplementation on exercise capacity of patients with heart failure.” Journal of cardiology 57.3 (2011): 333-337.

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