Taurine + BCAAs - Scientists Identify Unkown Synergy of Branch-Chained and Sulfur-Amino Acids: Redutions in DOMS, Faster Recovery and Reduced DNA Damage

If this is true and sore is the new sexy, the combination of taurine + BCAA's may turn you into an ugly worm.
You know them and I would bet that >75% of you have already taken them: Branch-Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs) and the sulfur-amino acid taurine. Maybe you have taken the former for their beneficial effects on skeletal muscle protein synthesis and the latter for its anti-oxidant effects and the cascade of beneficial downstream effects I have written about quite extensively, here at the SuppVersity.

If I am asking you whether you have taken both in conjunction as a means to reduce post-workout delayed-onset muscle soreness and the expression of purported markers of muscle damage, on the other hand, I'd expect only few people to raise their hands... right?

Sometimes it's worth taking another look

The currently available literature on the beneficial effects of BCAAs on DOMS is pretty inconclusive. If you restrict your review of the literature to studies using resistance training as a trigger for muscular damage (Jackman et al. (2010), Howatson et al. 2012; etc.), it does yet appear warranted to say that the chronic ingestion of a high dose of BCAAs can ameliorate the peak in delayed muscle soreness after 24-48h.
You can learn more about taurine & BCAAs at the SuppVersity

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In the previously referenced 2012 study by Howatson et al. we are talking about a ~50% reduction after 24h and a 25% reduction after 48h. Both statistically and physiologically relevant, but if the decrease in maximal voluntary contraction had not been blunted, as well, it'd been another instance of much ado about nothing. Similar beneficial effects have been observed with taurine, as well:
  • Taurine & caffeine make another super-stack; but only at the right ratios | learn more
    Zhang et al. report that taurine can "attenuate exercise-induced DNA damage and enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties" in the musculature of healthy young men (Zhang. 2004)
  • Silva et al. observed in a rodent model of skeletal muscle damage in response to eccentric exercise that taurine decreases the oxidative stress, in association with decreased superoxide radical production (Silva. 2011)
  • learn more in previous SuppVersity articles about taurine
Against that background it was to be expected that the previously sedentary subjects of a very recent study from the University of Tsukuba in Japan was attenuated, irrespective of whether they were taking 3x3.5g of BCAAs or 3x2.0g of Taurine for 2 weeks before they performed a standardized eccentric exercise test:
"For the ECC protocol, subjects were seated on a bench with their arm positioned in front of their body and resting on a padded support, such that their shoulder was secured at a flexion angle of 0.79 rad (45°) and their forearm was maintained in the supinated position throughout the exercise. Subjects were repeatedly weight-loaded upon
dumbbell lowering to achieve a 90% MVC (34.3 ± 1.3 Nm). Subjects performed six sets of five repetitions of elbow extension from the flexed position at 90° to the fully extended position slowly over 5 s, while maintaining a constant speed of movement by following a verbal metronome provided by the investigator." (Ra. 2013)
What we could not necessarily be sure of is whether these effects would also add up in those 12 untrained male subjects (22.5 ± 3.8 years) who were assigned to the taurine + BCAA group.
Figure 1: Post workout muscle soreness, left; post workout arm circumference in response to cell swelling, right (area under the curve for the 96h after the eccentric exercise test; based on Ra. 2013)
Now that you've taken a glimpse at the data in Figure 1, it's probably pointless to ask you to make an educated guess. It's too obvious that the individual DOMS reducing effects of taurine and BCAAs add up. What's yet even more obvious is that only the combination of both leads to a rapid reduction in muscle swelling, the effect size of which goes far beyond what additive effects could achieve - this indirect marker of muscle damage would thus suggest that there is a special synergy between taurine and BCAAs, a synergy due to which a reduction of 35mm/96h + 45mm/96h (the individual changes for BCAAs and taurine) does not translate into a -80mm/96h, but into a 465mm/96h reduction of this commonly used indirect measure of skeletal muscle damage.

"Synergy" is the name of the game

If you take a parting look at the data in Figure 2, you should actually be able to understand why the combination of branch-chained amino acids and the sulfur amino acid taurine works so well: One excels where the other has only minor effects.
Figure 2: CK, left, and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), right (area under the curve for the 96h after the eccentric exercise test; based on Ra. 2013)
While the branch-chained amino acids have a more pronounced effect on the expression of CK and LDH (not shown in Figure 2), they do very little to protect the muscle from oxidative damage (as indicated by the quasi non-existent effect on the levels of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), a marker of DNA damage.
Suggested read: "Rats 'On' Taurine Can't Ever Get Enough... Exercise of Course! What Were You Thinking About? Mice Cover 50% More Distance W/ HED of 3-4G of Taurine Post Workout " | more
Bottom line: Actually there is very little I have to add to the researchers conclusion that "his study confirmed that a combination of 3.2 g BCAA and 2.0 g taurine, three times a day, two weeks prior to
and three days after exercise attenuates some subjective and objective markers of DOMS and muscle damage induced by high-intensity ECC, which could not have been influenced by BCAA or taurine supplementation alone." (Ra. 2013)

I am not 100% sure if they are also correct in their assessment that this supplement is particularly useful for beginners who would be more motivate to continue an exercise program, if it doesn't hurt so much, though. That it could help competitive athletes to train at higher intensities on the other hand, is something I would fully subscribe - whether that's necessarily going to be more productive, on the other hand, is question I would not want to answer without a follow up study ;-)
  • Jackman, S. R., Witard, O. C., Jeukendrup, A. E., & Tipton, K. D. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid ingestion can ameliorate soreness from eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 42(5), 962-970.
  • Ra, S. G., Miyazaki, T., Ishikura, K., Nagayama, H., Komine, S., Nakata, Y., ... & Ohmori, H. (2013). Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 51.
  • Silva, L. A., Silveira, P. C., Ronsani, M. M., Souza, P. S., Scheffer, D., Vieira, L. C., ... & Pinho, R. A. (2011). Taurine supplementation decreases oxidative stress in skeletal muscle after eccentric exercise. Cell biochemistry and function, 29(1), 43-49.
  • Zhang, M., Izumi, I., Kagamimori, S., Sokejima, S., Yamagami, T., Liu, Z., & Qi, B. (2004). Role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men. Amino acids, 26(2), 203-207.
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