energy

Taurine vs. Caffeine

Most of us are also familiar with the energizing effects of caffeine. However, there’s another stimulating ingredient that also makes an appearance in a variety of energy drinks: Taurine.

Never heard of taurine? Not sure where you stand on the taurine versus caffeine debate? Read on for some helpful comparisons so you can decide which ingredient is a better fit for you.

 

 

What Is Taurine?

Taurine is an amino acid. It occurs naturally in your body and is found in high concentrations in the brain, eyes, heart, and muscle tissues [1]. This amino acid is different from many others because it isn’t used to build proteins. It aids in several other important bodily processes, though, including the following [2]:


  • Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance
  • Forming bile salts to aid in digestive processes
  • Regulating mineral balance within the cells
  • Supporting central nervous system function
  • Regulating the immune system

Taurine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid. This doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary. It just means the body can produce it on its own. However, it’s also found in a variety of foods like fish, meat, and dairy products. 

salmon steak dinner

Taurine is also a common ingredient used in energy drinks and sodas. However, it doesn’t appear to have direct energizing effects. In fact, it seems to be more of a relaxing amino acid, and some research from scientists at Cornell University suggests that it may contribute to the crash some people experience after drinking an energy drink [3]. As always, more research is needed for further conclusions. 

 

 

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant and works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain and causes you to feel tired [4]. Levels of adenosine build up throughout the day and cause you to feel tired when nighttime rolls around.  

Caffeine can also increase levels of adrenaline in the blood and increase the activity of other neurotransmitters: norepinephrine and dopamine [5]. When adrenaline goes up and norepinephrine and dopamine activity increase, you’ll feel more alert and focused.

 

 

Taurine vs Caffeine: Pros and Cons

There’s a lot of confusion out there when it comes to using taurine and caffeine for increased energy or athletic performance, especially since they both appear in lots of energy drinks. 

The issue is not necessarily that one ingredient is good and the other is bad. It’s important to know the pros and cons of each one, though, so you can make an informed decision about which one you want to use. 

Keep in mind, too, that it’s always best to talk to your doctor before including any type of supplement into your routine. They can provide more detailed information about each ingredient that is tailored to your specific medical history and healthcare needs.

 

Taurine Pros

That being said, the following are some of the most well-known benefits that taurine may offer:

Improved Blood Sugar Balance

Some early research suggests that taurine might be good for balancing blood sugar levels. In diabetic rats, for example, one study showed that long-term taurine supplementation lowered their fasting blood sugar levels, without making any changes to their diet or exercise regimen [6]. More research is needed to determine whether or not this is the case for humans. It’s worth noting, though, especially since people with diabetes are also more likely to have lower levels of taurine [7]. Speak with your doctor if there’s any questions or concerns.

Improved Heart Health

Taurine may be good for heart health as well. It has been shown in some studies to lower blood pressure in two ways. First, it decreases the resistance to blood flow within the walls of the blood vessels. It also minimizes nerve impulses to the brain that can cause blood pressure to rise [8].

Improved Exercise Performance

Taurine doesn’t stimulate the nervous system directly to increase energy. However, it may still minimize muscle damage and muscle fatigue during workouts. One study showed that weightlifters who used taurine had fewer markers of muscle damage and were less sore than those who didn’t use it [9].

 

Taurine Cons

Taurine also has some potential downsides, including these:

Possible Side Effects When Combined with Caffeine

In general, taurine is considered to be a safe supplement, even in large quantities. It has an upper limit of 3,000 milligrams per day [10]. However, some studies have shown that there may be risks of combining taurine with large doses of caffeine (such as those found in certain types of energy drinks) [11].  

May Be Better as a Nootropic

Taurine might be better used as a nootropic, rather than as an energy-enhancer for athletes and other active people. Taurine may help to promote focus, and some studies show it supports the growth of new brain cells, particularly in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory formation [12].

 

Caffeine Pros

Here are some of the most noteworthy benefits you can experience from caffeine:

Increased Energy

Of course, the main benefit of caffeine is that it can provide a nice boost in energy. As we mentioned above, it blocks adenosine and can help you avoid feeling sleepy. 

cup of coffee coffeemaker

For those who need a little extra kick to get motivated for their workouts or tackle their to-do list, caffeine can increase energy and alertness.

Improved Mood

There is some research that shows caffeine has mood-boosting benefits, too. In fact, one study found that there’s a 13 percent reduction in depression among caffeine drinkers [13]. 

This likely has to do, in part with the fact that it increases norepinephrine and dopamine levels. When these neurotransmitter levels go up, people tend to feel happier. 

Improved Exercise Performance

Caffeine can improve exercise performance and stamina as well. When you’re less fatigued, it’s easier to push yourself harder in the gym and see more results from your efforts. 

Research has also shown that caffeine increases stamina because it improves your body’s ability to use fat for fuel. This helps your glycogen stores to last longer, which provides you with more fuel sources for your workout [14].

Improved Heart Health

Moderate caffeine consumption does not appear to increase your blood pressure or contribute to heart problems. In fact, it may reduce your risk of heart disease. Among those who consume anywhere from 100-400 milligrams of caffeine per day, the risk of heart disease drops by 16-18 percent [15]. Again, more research is needed and consumption levels may be tailored to fit an individual’s health history. 

 

Caffeine Cons

Despite its benefits, caffeine has some possible downsides as well, including the following:

Possible Side Effects in Large Quantities

The safe upper limit for caffeine consumption is about 400 milligrams per day (that’s equal to about 4 cups of coffee) [16]. If you go above this amount on a regular basis, you may be more prone to side effects like anxiety, tremors, or difficulty sleeping (depending on the person).

Overdoing it on caffeine (exceeding the 400-milligram threshold) may also increase your risk of dehydration [17]. This is especially true if you’re not consuming enough fluids or electrolytes. 

 

 

Taurine vs Caffeine: Which Should You Choose?

If your primary goal is to feel more energized, it appears that you’re better off choosing caffeine instead of taurine. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system more directly to reduce fatigue and increase alertness. 

Taurine may help to reduce muscle damage and fatigue. However, at the same time, it may actually cause you to feel more tired,  especially in large doses.

 

 

Maximize Caffeine’s Effects with L-theanine

Caffeine certainly can increase your energy levels. Caffeine’s effects are not always particularly long-lasting, though, and you might experience an unpleasant crash after consuming it. 

coffee powder caffeine

The good news is that there are steps you can take to maximize and prolong the effects of caffeine. For example, instead of using an energy drink that contains a high level of caffeine plus taurine (which has been linked to some negative side effects), you can combine caffeine in smaller amounts with L-theanine. 

 

What Is L-Theanine?

Like taurine, L-theanine is an amino acid. 

The cool thing about L-theanine is that it promotes feelings of calmness, similar to taurine, but it doesn’t seem to cause those who consume it to feel tired. It relieves anxiety without leading to drowsiness [19]. 

 

Why Use L-theanine and Caffeine Together?

Research shows that combining L-theanine and caffeine can help you to experience the best of both worlds. The caffeine gives you energy, but the L-theanine promotes relaxation so you can feel focused and alert without being jittery or anxious.

The results of one study showed that young adults who consumed caffeine and L-theanine together had an easier time focusing while performing demanding tasks. They also reported feeling more alert and were less tired than their peers [20]. Think of the duo like a superhero and sidekick—you need both to get the job done. 

And if you want even more, get the energizing effects of L-theanine and caffeine plus hydration from balanced electrolytes with a drink mix like our Hydrant ENERGY line. 100mg of caffeine, 200mg of L-theanine, and balanced electrolytes for hydration. It’s the perfect solution for athletes, adventurers, and anyone else who needs a sustained boost without the crash. 

 

 

Get Energized Today

Both taurine and caffeine have benefits. However, from an energy standpoint, caffeine seems to be the winner. 

 

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Sources

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[2] Ripps H, Shen W. Review: taurine: a "very essential" amino acid. Mol Vis. 2012;18:2673-86. Epub 2012 Nov 12. PMID: 23170060; PMCID: PMC3501277.
[3] Cornell University. Scientists close in on taurine's activity in the brain. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2008/02/scientists-close-taurines-activity-brain
[4] Dunwiddie TV, Masino SA. The role and regulation of adenosine in the central nervous system. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2001;24:31-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.24.1.31. PMID: 11283304.
[5] Ferré S. An update on the mechanisms of the psychostimulant effects of caffeine. J Neurochem. 2008 May;105(4):1067-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.05196.x. Epub 2007 Dec 18. PMID: 18088379.
[6] Kim, K. S., Oh, D. H., Kim, J. Y., Lee, B. G., You, J. S., Chang, K. J., Chung, H. J., Yoo, M. C., Yang, H. I., Kang, J. H., Hwang, Y. C., Ahn, K. J., Chung, H. Y., & Jeong, I. K. (2012). Taurine ameliorates hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia by reducing insulin resistance and leptin level in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima fatty (OLETF) rats with long-term diabetes. Experimental & molecular medicine, 44(11), 665–673. https://doi.org/10.3858/emm.2012.44.11.075
[7] Franconi F, Bennardini F, Mattana A, Miceli M, Ciuti M, Mian M, Gironi A, Anichini R, Seghieri G. Plasma and platelet taurine are reduced in subjects with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: effects of taurine supplementation. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 May;61(5):1115-9. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/61.4.1115. PMID: 7733037.
[8] Abebe W, Mozaffari MS. Role of taurine in the vasculature: an overview of experimental and human studies. Am J Cardiovasc Dis. 2011;1(3):293-311. Epub 2011 Sep 10. PMID: 22254206; PMCID: PMC3253515.
[9] Da Silva, Luciano A. et al. Effects of taurine supplementation following eccentric exercise in young adults. 2013 June 25. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2012-0229
[10] Shao A, Hathcock JN. Risk assessment for the amino acids taurine, L-glutamine and L-arginine. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2008 Apr;50(3):376-99. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2008.01.004. Epub 2008 Jan 26. PMID: 18325648.
[11] Clauson KA, Shields KM, McQueen CE, Persad N. Safety issues associated with commercially available energy drinks. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2008 May-Jun;48(3):e55-63; quiz e64-7. doi: 10.1331/JAPhA.2008.07055. PMID: 18595815.
[12] Urology of Virginia. Grow New Brain Cells. https://www.urologyofva.net/articles/category/longevity/44208/grow-new-brain-cells-life-extension#:~:text=Cutting%2Dedge%20research%20has%20shown,in%20creating%20new%20brain%20cells.&text=Experts%20are%20beginning%20to%20recognize,and%20fundamental%20threat%20to%20health.
[13] Grosso, Giuseppe, et al. Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk of depression: A systematic review and dose–response meta‐analysis of observational studies. 2015 October 31. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201500620
[14] Costill DL, Dalsky GP, Fink WJ. Effects of caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports. 1978 Fall;10(3):155-8. PMID: 723503.
[15] Wu Jiang-nan, et al. Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: A meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies. 2008 August 15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2008.06.051
[16] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/advisory-report
[17] Maughan RJ, Watson P, Cordery PAA, Walsh NP, Oliver SJ, Dolci A, Rodriguez-Sanchez N, Galloway SDR. Sucrose and Sodium but not Caffeine Content Influence the Retention of Beverages in Humans Under Euhydrated Conditions. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018 Oct 15:1-10. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0047. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 29893590.
[18] Caffeine Informer. 25 Common Caffeine and Drug Interactions. https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-drug-interactions
[19] Nobre, Anna C.; Rao Angling; Owen, Gail N. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/17%20Suppl%201/167.pdf
[20] Giesbrecht, T.; Rycroft, J.A.; Rowson, M.J.; De Bruin, E.A. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness. https://doi.org/10.1179/147683010X12611460764840