Glutamine is one of the 20 naturally occurring amino acids – the molecules that make up protein structures. It’s the most abundant free amino acid in living organisms.
Although glutamine is naturally produced in the muscles and transported through blood vessels to where it’s needed, it’s a conditionally essential amino acid. Essential amino acids are amino acids that our bodies cannot produce and must be supplied through food. Conditionally essential amino acids are those that the body may be unable to produce under certain circumstances such as chronic diseases, infections, heavy muscular strain, endurance training, and trauma.
GLUTAMINE VS L-GLUTAMINE
Like many other amino acids, glutamine has two isomers with slightly different molecular arrangements: D-glutamine and L-glutamine. L-glutamine is naturally abundant in the body, food and protein powder with glutamine. Dietary supplements sometimes list "glutamine" as an ingredient when referring to L-glutamine. So, in most cases, the words "glutamine" and "L-glutamine" are used interchangeably to mean the same thing.
WHAT FOODS CONTAIN GLUTAMINE?
Protein-rich foods usually contain high levels of glutamine and are great sources of L-glutamine. Animal products have the largest amount of glutamine due to their high protein content. Some plant-based foods may have a greater percentage of glutamine, but overall, the protein content may still be too low. Here is a list of some of the popular foods containing glutamine protein:
- Meats (beef, chicken, pork, etc.)
- Dairy products (milk, whey protein, yogurt, cheese, etc.)
- Legume products (soy, beans, tofu, etc.)
Although glutamine is highly abundant in protein-rich foods, especially animal-based products, an average balanced diet may only provide 3-6 g of glutamine per day. Given that glutamine is such an essential nutrient, physicians and nutritionists often recommend or even prescribe glutamine supplements to patients with compromised immune systems, athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
THE ROLE OF GLUTAMINE IN THE BODY
Glutamine is essential for several physiological processes. One of the most critical functions of glutamine is its role in the immune system's health. Glutamine is an energy or fuel source for immune cells. A drop in glutamine production significantly affects the immune system's vitality and health. Various case studies have shown improved immune responses in the presence of glutamine.
Glutamine also energises and supports the growth and functions of intestinal cells. This helps maintain a barrier between the intestines and the rest of the body and also prevents toxins and harmful pathogens from reaching the bloodstream through the gut.
This essential amino acid also plays a critical role in maintaining the acid-base ratio in the body. It does this by helping metabolise ammonia and enabling the kidneys to alter ammonia’s acidity as needed before it is excreted as urine. These processes also detoxify the body by expelling unwanted chemicals.
GLUTAMINE AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
The scientific literature on the effects of taking glutamine in otherwise healthy individuals is mostly inconclusive, making it hard to determine its direct benefits to athletes who are mostly already on supplemented protein-rich diets. However, research also indicates glutamine may be worth considering, especially for those involved in endurance and strength exercises.
BUILDING MUSCLE AND WORKOUT PERFORMANCE
Studies similar to this one have shown that short-term glutamine supplementation does not necessarily increase weight lifting or athletic performance. However, some researchers have found that high glutamine levels reduce the blood marker for fatigue during heavy workouts and endurance training. Scientific facts in this area are scarce and indeterminate – more research is needed. So, let's look at glutamine's role in physical performance from a different perspective.
CATABOLISM AND HYDRATION
In this context, catabolism refers to the body’s chemical processes of breaking down complex molecules into simpler ones that can then be used to produce energy or as raw material for anabolic processes. During intense or prolonged workouts, the body may break down protein molecules in skeletal muscles to produce energy. Glutamine is a known anti-catabolic agent. That means it can prevent muscle wear during workouts or when trying to lose weight by stopping catabolic processes.
Glutamine has also been shown to improve the absorption of water and electrolytes and could, in theory, be used as an indirect hydration supplement.
IMMUNITY, INJURIES AND RECOVERY
Bodybuilders and athletes are more susceptible to infections and common colds. However, it's still unclear how stressing the body reduces its immune response. But we know that glutamine levels decrease during exercises, depleting the immune system's energy supply needed to maintain normal functions. So, taking glutamine supplements between workout sessions can help reduce some of the immune system's weakness
Additionally, glutamine is a raw material for protein synthesis; it provides DNA bases in rapidly dividing cells. It’s also associated with the production of growth hormones that help the body repair and restore damaged tissues. Ideally, high levels of glutamine in the bloodstream and muscles may improve and even accelerate wound healing. Also, taking glutamine supplements can reduce muscular strain recovery time after prolonged workouts.
GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TRAINING WITH AMINO ACID SUPPLEMENTS
Although there is little evidence to support the benefits of taking amino acid supplements, particularly glutamine, there are still many reasons to enrich your diet with glutamine during training. It will help boost your immune system, optimise your gut functions and enhance your training experience.
Try our pure glutamine supplements for that undiluted glutamine intake or our blend of BCEAAs and essential amino acids to get a full dose of all the amino acids your body needs. Body Science supplements are HASTA Certified, conveniently packaged and safe to consume. You can take anywhere between 5 g and 14 g of our high-quality amino acid supplement daily, between meals or before and after workout sessions for the best results. Buy now and see for yourself how a protein-supplemented diet leads to healthier, stronger muscles.