What is glutamine?

Molecule of the glutamine amino acid

Image source: JeffreyRasmussen
Molecule of the glutamine amino acid

Glutamine is important to athletes and bodybuilders because it drives muscle building nitrogen into muscle cells, where it is synthesised for muscle growth.

Glutamine is an amino acid produced naturally in the human body. It is mostly found in skeletal muscle, but also resides in the lungs, liver and stomach.

The substance is the primary fuel for the immune system, and a secondary fuel source for the digestive system.

The benefits

Maintaining sufficient glutamine intake has multiple benefits:

  • Helps prevent muscle tissue from breaking down (it is anti-catabolic)
  • Accelerates protein synthesis and muscle growth
  • Aids muscle recovery
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Increases the production and release of growth hormones
  • Promotes nitrogen retention
  • Increases endurance by replenishing glycogen
  • Boosting glutamine

    When somebody is injured, undergoes surgery, has an infection or is dealing with a prolonged period of stress, their glutamine levels can fall and a glutamine supplement could help. People who undertake intense physical activity may also benefit from a glutamine supplement.

    How does glutamine help the bodybuilder or endurance athlete?

    Supplements can help maintain high glutamine levels during workout

    Image source: lunamarina
    Supplements can help maintain high glutamine levels during workout

    Maintaining a positive nitrogen balance and high glutamine levels is crucial to building muscle. Your body will try to keep a constant level of glutamine in the bloodstream. But when you workout, your muscles release glutamine into your system.

    If your body does not have a sufficient store for your workout needs, it will take its supply from the glutamine stored in your muscles, pushing your body into a catabolic – muscle consuming – state.

    Glutamine supplements are designed to prevent this from happening – providing the body with all the glutamine it needs during periods of physical stress.

    Which glutamine supplement?

    Glutamine can be added to your diet in one of two ways:

    1. As a glutamine supplement

    Designed to provide a potent dose of pure glutamine directly into your muscle cells, glutamine supplements come in tablet, pill, capsule or powder form.

    If you prefer tablet form, try something like Matrix Pure L Glutamine or if you prefer powder Reflex Nutrition L-Glutamine might fit the bill.

    If you go for powder, be sure to take it with a cold liquid, not hot, as heat destroys glutamine.

    2. As part of a protein supplement

    Look for added glutamine in the list of ingredients. Protein supplements come in powder, capsule, tablet or liquid form.

    A good example of a protein powder containing glutamine is Matrix Anabolic Protein Powder.

    How to use glutamine supplements

    Glutamine supplements are needed most during the recovery period, when your body has depleted its levels and is in danger of falling into a catabolic state. Having sufficient glutamine in your system will enable your body to recover faster and more effectively.

    It could also be appropriate to top up your glutamine level before training, ensuring that your body doesn’t run short during your workout.

    How much glutamine you need will depend on the level of activity you undertake. Always check the label for the recommended dose, and consult a medical professional before use, particularly if you are diabetic.

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