The Benefits of Glutamine Supplementation
Glutamine is the most common amino acid, and because of that it is rarely in sufficient quantities in the human (bodybuilder’s) body.
There are a ton of supplements on the market that will claim to offer benefits to your workouts. Some are necessary, others are a waste of money. But if you are a bodybuilder or someone who trains with great weight and intensity each workout, be sure to incorporate glutamine in your regimen so that you can always be ready and able to take on every “next” workout.
The ‘non-essential’ amino acid glutamine has been getting a great deal of attention over the past few years in sport nutrition publications and scientific journals and for good reason. Though it might not be considered “essential,” glutamine appears to have many potential benefits for people interested in gaining new muscle and/or preserving that hard earned muscle.
Glutamine is required for countless functions in the human body from immune system function to liver function to gastrointestinal integrity, to name only a few.
Supplement companies have taken to adding glutamine to various products and athletes have taken to adding glutamine to their diet. For example, it is well known that low plasma glutamine levels are associated with a loss of lean body mass (muscle) and intense exercise is known to reduce glutamine stores. One study attempted to directly link glutamine levels with lean tissue loss.
The study divided 34 healthy men into three groups. One group did intense aerobic work (running) another group did intense anaerobic work (weight lifting and sprinting) and the third group was sedentary (AKA couch potatoes). The authors of this study found that the greatest loss of muscle was found in those men who had the lowest baseline glutamine levels, which demonstrates just how important this amino acid is for maintaining hard earned muscle tissue. Plain and simple, the harder you train the more glutamine you drain!
Because if its potential effects on the immune system, the use of glutamine may also help to prevent over training syndrome (OTS) in athletes who train too long and too hard. Several studies have suggested glutamine levels may be indicators for OTS.
Another interesting effect of glutamine is it may increase growth hormone levels (GH). One study took nine healthy subjects and fed them two grams (2000mg) of glutamine dissolved in a cola drink. Eight out of the nine subjects responded to the oral glutamine intake with a four fold increase in growth hormone (GH) output. This study was particularly interesting because: (a) the glutamine was given orally and not by intravenous administration like so many studies and (b) the study only used two grams of glutamine. Most studies that showed any effect on GH used very large doses and were given directly into the veins of the poor participants. That only two grams of glutamine taken orally had such an effect of GH bodes well for the use of glutamine by athletes. Whether or not a short spike in GH will lead to new muscle is another question however, and in truth, short lived spikes in GH in healthy young athletes does not appear to effect muscle mass.
Finally, glutamine may be useful in replenishing glycogen stores in muscle after intense exercise. Glycogen is stored in muscle cells for energy and other functions such as cell volume. As most athletes know, glycogen is rather important stuff to have around when you want to perform well. The researchers took six healthy volunteers and made them exercise at 70-140% of maximal oxygen consumption (a fancy way of saying they worked ’em real hard!) to deplete their muscle glycogen stores. They found that the glutamine enhanced glycogen storage after the intense bout of exercise. Exactly how glutamine improves glycogen storage is not clear. It might some how improve the uptake of glucose into muscle directly, or it might be that the glutamine is itself being converted into glucose and then being stored as glycogen in the muscles. The authors of the study seem to suggest the latter. Either way, this might just be one more amazing benefit of this amino acid for athletes.
Although no one have ever exploded with muscle from the simple addition of glutamine to their diet, glutamine gets a thumb’s up as a general health improving supplement that appears to have applications for athletes. 5-20 grams per day of glutamine added to a post workout shake is the norm.
Glutamine can be purchased in pill form or powder. However, with powder, it can be added to your post workout drinks, which will in turn speed up the recovery process, repairing muscle tears and tissue, relieving soreness, and helping with fatigue after a grueling workout.