Glutamine – What is it? Can you benefit from it?

Along with creatine and BCAAs, glutamine is one of the most used supplements in the fitness industry. While people seem to have some idea about the benefits of the former supplements, glutamine seems to be less understood. So let’s talk about what it is and why it may be of benefit to you.

What is Glutamine?

Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in dietary protein. It’s also one of six conditionally essential amino acids. That means you typically have enough glutamine but it becomes essential (needs to be consumed) when trauma, illness or stress creates a need that is in excess of its natural availability.

Exercise is a form of stress. Therefore, glutamine becomes essential if you are exercising regularly because it is depleted faster than the body is able to produce it. Aside from being a valuable supplement to support exercise, glutamine does have other benefits too.

Recovery

Glutamine has a few recovery roles. Research has shown that glutamine levels in over-trained athletes are depleted compared to healthy, well-recovered athletes, and that the amount of glutamine found in muscle is related to the rate of protein synthesis. Therefore, adequate levels of glutamine may promote faster muscle recovery and building post exercise.

Aside from protein needing to be resynthesized after training, muscle glycogen (glucose) stores need to be replenished too. This is largely accomplished by consuming the right types of carbohydrates after training. But, glutamine has been found to speed up the rate of glycogen repletion. So if you include a glutamine supplement to your post-workout carbohydrates you’ll recover faster!

Immune Function

Some research has shown that poor immune function has a correlation with low levels of glutamine. This is something I’ve seen in many of the array of athletes I’ve worked with over the years. Many of them were more susceptible to colds, flus and other illness during periods of high-volume training and competition. Depleted glutamine may have had a role in that due to physical stress of training and psychological stress of competition.

Gut Health

Glutamine assists in the repair and healing of the gut lining in a similar manner to its influence on muscle repair. While this is not directly related to training, it may have implications for you if you do have a problem with gut health. However, if you do believe that you have leaky gut syndrome it may cause autoimmune disorders so you should consult with a relevant medical professional. You may also need to remove foods from your diet that cause gut irritation.

Reduce Sugar Cravings

Up to 10 grams of glutamine consumed before a meal may reduce carbohydrate intake and reduce cravings for something sweet after the meal. This could be related to the glutamine’s ability to improve the rate of glycogen replenishment, but that’s a topic for a Masters or PHd student to examine! Just remember that glutamine may help cravings, but you still need to control them.

How To Take Glutamine

You can safely take up to about 0.65 grams of glutamine per kilogram of bodyweight in a day. Five to 10 grams per serving seems to be the most effective dosage. If you’re using it for recovery from training, include it in your post workout drink along with those BCAAs. If you need it to help with repairing your gut, take it with water on an empty stomach. And if you’re keen to see if it helps with the carb and sugar cravings, have it before or in between meals throughout the day.

Much like creatine and BCAAs, supplement companies will use a variety of marketing ploys to sell different varieties of glutamine. In my opinion, a pure glutamine powder or capsule is all you need.

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