Our expert guide to glutamine explains the different types of glutamine supplements, what they do, and how to use them.
Glutamine has become one the most talked about supplements on the market and has become a huge discussion in the health and fitness industry. You only need to browse the internet and you can find hundreds of discussions on glutamine.
Glutamine has gained much more importance through new studies which have found it to have many great health benefits and not just for building muscle. Everyone, regardless of lifestyle, can benefit from using it. Here is a brief list of the possible applications of supplemental glutamine.
- Improves athletic performance
- Improves the fuction of the brain
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Helps the heart function better
- Strengthens the immune system
- Maintains the health and functioning of the gut lining
- Improves the body recovery speed
- Helps maintain proper acid/alkaline balance
- Possible cancer benefits
What Is Glutamine?
Most people think of glutamine as the bodybuilding supplement, but glutamine really is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body. It isn’t classified directly as an essential amino acid because the body can manufacture it up to some degree from other amino acids in the body.
The glutamine that you currently have in your system is primarily stored in your muscles, with the remainder being found in the lungs, which is the site where glutamine is manufactured in the body. Potentially the most important use for glutamine in your body is with the immune system as it serves to prevent illness, speed recovery, and enhance the way the body feels and functions.
In addition to this, glutamine also plays a role in DNA synthesis and as an alternative source of fuel for the brain. Finally, glutamine helps to prevent the catabolic reactions that occur in the body when cortisol is present, which is a benefit that is especially interesting to those who are involved with building muscle tissue.
Glutamine Has Been Shown To:
- Improve athletic performance
- Improve the fuction of the brain
- Stabilize blood sugar
- Help the heart function better
- Strengthen the immune system
- Maintain the health and functioning of the gut lining
- Improve the bodies recovery speed
- Help maintain a proper acid/alkaline balance
- Increase gowth hormone
Glutamine Should Help If You Are Involved In:
- High intensity weight training
- Heavy endurance training
- High level games training such as football and rugby
- Competitive endurance races
- Marathon running
Glutamine is a great supplement that can aid performance in several ways:
Improved Immune Function
The immune system defends the body from virus attacks and infections. When you do intense exercise you increase the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol these can cause a reduction in your glutamine and immune system function levels. Glutamine is essential for the immune system cell lymphocytes.
Glutamine supplementation improves glutamine levels in the blood and prevent reduced immune function. Studies show glutamine supplementation prevented reduced immunity by producing an 18-fold increase in immune cells. Nutritional deficiencies have also been shown to have immune suppressing properties.
Prevents Muscle Tissue Breakdown
In theory, glutamine prevents muscle tissue breakdown during high resistance training. Glutamine draws water into your muscle cells increasing their volume. This process is known as ‘cell volumisation’. By drawing water in, muscle tissue breakdown and the action of stress hormones are prevented.
Glutamine improves recovery after exercise by re-fueling your energy stores. This is beneficial for endurance athletes when carbohydrates are the main source of energy. Some bodybuilders restrict their carbohydrate intake when cutting body fat and this can benefit them, as restricting carbohydrates will reduce recovery and energy stores. Glutamine speeds the rate at which your energy stores are refuelled enabling you to train again sooner.
Increased Growth Hormone
Glutamine supplementation after exercise increases growth hormone levels. Glutamine increases the levels of the amino acids Arginine and Glutamate, which are also capable of boosting growth hormones. Growth hormones are strong protein anabolic agents that improve nitrogen sparing and protein retention by increasing protein synthesis. Growth hormone stimulates the breakdown of fat and spares carbohydrate stores.
How To Use Glutamine
Glutamine can be mixed with water or added to your post workout meal replacement, protein or creatine drinks.
It is recommeded to take between 1 to 5 grams of glutamine per day. Many bodybuilders take more than 5 grams a day which is perfectly fine, however with higher amounts it is important to maximize absorption as to reduce wasting.
The best time to use glutamine is first thing inthe morning and immediately after a workout , within 2 hours of your workout. This is when your glutamine levels will be at their lowest. You may want to consider using 2 doses if one of the following applies to you:
If you are in high intensity training
Are susceptible to sore throats
Are a vegetarian or eat low amount of glutamine containing foods such as fish, meat or dairy products.
Tendency to recover slowly
Types Of Glutamine
Glutamine supplements are all pretty much the same between brands so don’t be put off by the large product range. Glutamine supplements typically come in the form of L-glutamine powder – this is a white, flavourless, odourless powder that only contains glutamine.
Glutamine can also come in the form of glutamine peptides. The differences are glutamine peptides are pre-digested and bonded with other amino acids to theoretically improve absorption and utilisation. L-glutamine is glutamine in its free form, meaning that it has not been bound to other amino acids. There is no evidence to suggest that one over the other is superior.
Meal replacements and proteins are often fortified with around 2g of glutamine so keep a look out for it if you use these products.
Potential and Adverse Effects
Glutamine is an amino acid that is naturally found in our body. Glutamine is a safe and natural supplement that does not play with your hormone levels like some supplements. You should only use the recommended amount stated on the product. There are no know side effects for supplementation for bodybuilding.
Its recommened that people with kidney disease, liver disease, or Reye’s syndrome should not take glutamine. If you are sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG) it may also be advisable to avoid glutamine supplements, since the body can convert glutamine into glutamate.
What Else Can Increase Stress and Reduce Immune Function?
Other stressors on the immune system include lack of sleep, severe mental stress, malnutrition and weight loss. A review of research found that 852 endurance athletes in Germany had high incidences of URTI when they also reported feelings of stress and were sleep deprived. Therefore increased stress, that is common to pre competitions were you have to travel and the stress of performance outcome is high may increase the chances of reduced immune function.
Why Should You Use Glutamine Within 2 Hours Of Recovery?
For several hours after heavy exertion the immune system experiences suppressed function. Glutamine consumed immediately after a marathon and then again 2 hours later reduced incidences of URTI in the 7 days after the race.
Are There Any Other Supplements That Will Help Prevent illness and Injury?
Supplementing with BCAA before endurance exercise prevented 40% of the reduced immune supporting lymphocytes and prevented the drop in plasma glutamine levels that are observed post exercise.