Anyone who has set foot inside a gym, Vitamin Shoppe, or locker room has undoubtedly heard mention of “Glutamine.” One of the first supplements to be made readily accessible to weight-lifters, glutamine has rapidly become an essential supplement for many, second only to creatine and nitric oxide products. Through recent advances and research, a variety of companies have begun manufacturing glutamine supplements in various forms and combinations. But what does it actually do?
What is Glutamine, Anyways?
L-Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the human body that is responsible for a variety of tasks (the most notable of which include removing excess ammonia from the body, providing energy for the immune system, and facilitating brain and digestive functions). Â It is primarily stored within the muscle and liver cells, though it is utilized by processes all over the body. The body requires a consistent supply of glutamine as a source of fuel for the immune system, one of its primary functions. (Glutamine is often recommended following abdominal surgeries for it’s ability to speed the healing process and promote recovery.)
Glutamine is especially important to athletes and bodybuilders because it is the most widely used amino acid and is responsible for muscle development -it is necessary to facilitate muscle recovery after training and assists in driving protein synthesis as well asÂ maintainingÂ a positive nitrogen balance. Following an intense workout, the body’s glutamine levels are depleted by up to 50% and as a result the body may breakdown muscle cells for an additional source of glutamine.
How CanÂ SupplementingÂ with Glutamine Help Me?
- Reduces muscle deterioration – prevents the breakdown of muscle tissue that normally occurs once the body’s glutamine levels are depleted (as in weight-training)
- Helps to accelerate recovery after trainingÂ and reduces muscle soreness.
- Supports immune and intestinal health
- Can assist with nitric oxide synthesis – works especially well when combined with arginine or citrulline
- Increase nitrogen retention and assists in protein synthesis
The Verdict – Does it Work?
Although the importance of glutamine is widely known, the use of these widespread supplements is another issue. It has been a topic of much debate lately as to whether or not they really work. The amino acid is often unable to survive the pass through the body, and much of it (some studies show it to be as high as 90%) is absorbed by the intestinal tract as a source of fuel- thus never even making it to the muscle cells. Given this, the suggested intake for glutamine has risen, as it is now assumed that the majority of what is ingested is wasted.Â (In addition, many of the foods we eat -like milk, tofu, and meat- supply the body with a source of glutamine, and if it is ever truly lacking, the body is always able to manufacture it’s own. )
While glutamine supplementation is by no means useless, it does not always live up to the claims. It would be recommended for those who undergo intense bouts of training or anyone training on a severely reduced calorie intake to preserve muscle mass. Many swear by glutamine as a staple, while other claim it to be obsolete. Then again, some people respond better than others, so the only way to truly know if it works for you is to try it.
How Should I Take It?
Glutamine should be taken immediately post-workout and anytime you are training on an empty stomach to prevent muscle catabolism and improve recovery.
Begin with a low dose of 3-5 grams a day and slowly increase as necessary. It is not unheard of to go as high as 30 grams split throughout the day for intense training sessions, but again start low – taking too high a dose at once may cause an upset stomach.
Glutamine is found in both capsules and powder form, depending on your preference, and is sold online as well as in most nutrition stores and pharmacies.