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What is Glutamine? Benefits, Uses & Side Effects


Glutamine is an amino acid that is naturally occurring and abundant in the human body. Approximately 61% of your skeletal muscle is composed of glutamine.

Though it is not considered an essential amino acid, it plays an important role in healing the body from injury or illness.

It contains 19% nitrogen and when consumed can transport the nitrogen to your muscle cells through the blood.

Bodybuilders, weight lifters and athletes commonly take glutamine supplements to aid in the development of muscle mass and endurance. As well as to heal the body after a sports-related injury. [toc]

How Does Glutamine Work?

When taken as a supplement or gained through the diet, it stimulates the anterior pituitary glands, which works to increase plasma human growth hormones (HGH) levels.

This aids in the body’s ability to metabolise fat and supports the development of new muscle growth.

Glutamine helps the body to re-synthesize carbohydrates, restoring glycogen levels that become depleted during a workout.

It can take the body up to six days to replace the glutamine that is utilised during an intense workout, which is why it is a fantastic bodybuilding supplement.

Glutamine plays an important role in maintaining the body’s homeostasis, as well as supporting the function of the immune system.

As glutamine levels become depleted during workouts, the immune system can also become run down. That is why it is important to ensure your body has enough glutamine when regularly working out, to prevent illness.

Glutamine also promotes a healthy nitrogen balance and its anti-catabolism abilities prevent the muscles from wasting away.

Benefits of Glutamine

There are certainly benefits to be gained from glutamine:

#1: Better Immune System

Your body needs glutamine, and if you are not producing enough naturally your body may break down your protein stores, for example, your muscle mass, to release more of this amino acid [1].

There is research that suggests that supplementing with this amino acid can improve health and reduce the risk of infection after surgery [2].

Other studies have found that the immune function of animals that have been infected with bacteria and viruses may improve after supplementation [3].

#2: Intestinal Health

Glutamine is an important energy source for your intestinal and immune cells [4].

It helps protect against a leaky gut, by helping to maintain the barrier between your intestines and the rest of your body [5]. This barrier helps protect against harmful toxins and bacteria escaping from your gut.

#3: Better Exercise Performance

Some so-called experts and supplement companies will claim that glutamine can help build muscle, however, research proves inconclusive.

There are studies available that show that it had no muscle building benefits [6][7][8].

However, there are studies that have shown that glutamine can help to reduce muscle soreness and will help to improve recovery after you have performed intense exercise [9][10].

Potential Side Effects of Glutamine

For the vast majority of people, this amino acid will cause no harm. This is because it occurs naturally within your body.

However, there are studies that have raised concerns about long-term supplementation [11].

If you choose to add glutamine to your diet you may experience changes to the ways that your body absorbs and processes amino acids [12].

Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, have severe liver disease or suffer from seizures are recommended to avoid supplementation.

Who Should Take Glutamine Supplements?

As glutamine increases HGH levels within the body, it is a popular bodybuilding supplement for people who want to maintain muscle mass whilst cutting.

It has anti-catabolism abilities that prevent muscle loss as well as increasing the body’s ability to metabolise fat.

It is especially important for people who do intense bodybuilding training. As these training sessions deplete the body’s glutamine stores, which can then lower the immune system making them more susceptible to illness.

When Should You Take Glutamine?

Glutamine is best taken three times a day, in the morning, post workout and in the evening.

It is especially important after a workout because it helps the body to re-synthesize carbohydrates so that it can restore depleted glycogen levels.

This means you will recover from your workout faster so that you can be ready for your next workout sooner.

How Much Glutamine Should You Take?

It is always important to follow instructions when taking bodybuilding supplements and glutamine supplements are no exception.

The general recommended quantity for a bodybuilder to take on a daily basis would be about 10-15 grams per day in total. This should be spread out and taken at three different times.

Like all supplements, you don’t want to take more than is recommended, doing so can cause digestive disturbances.

That means it is important to check if you are getting glutamine in any other supplements you are taking. Such as protein powder, and if so, you should adjust your glutamine intake accordingly.

Glutamine FAQs

The following are frequently asked questions (to submit your own use the comment form found below this article):

Are Glutamine Supplements Safe?

If you stick to the recommended dosage then you should not encounter any issues.

Are Glutamine Tablets Any Good?

The only difference is personal preference.

Some people will prefer to take a tablet or capsule containing the amino acid. While others will prefer to use a powder, which is then mixed with water.

What Are Glutamine Rich Foods?

Glutamine is found in many animal products due to the high protein content of these foods. There are also plant-based foods that contain this amino acid.

The following foods are good sources:

  • Eggs – 0.6g in 100g
  • Beef – 1.2g per 100g
  • Skimmed milk – 0.3g per 100g
  • Tofu – 0.6g per 100g
  • White rice – 0.3g per 100g
  • Corn – 0.4g per 100g

If you focus on getting enough protein in your diet then you shouldn’t need to worry about additional supplementation.

Can Glutamine Be Mixed With BCAA?

Yes, they are all amino acids and there is no reason why they cannot be mixed together.

Which is Better Glutamine or BCAA?

One is not necessarily better than the other. However, one may not be needed due to it being naturally produced in your body.

BCAAs need to be externally sourced, so you may need to supplement.

Is Glutamine Better Than Creatine?

There is probably no real reason for you to supplement with glutamine. You are no doubt getting enough of it through your diet to experience the full benefits.

They both serve different purposes anyway, but most people would choose creatine over glutamine.

Will Glutamine Stop Ketosis?

No, this amino acid will not affect ketosis.

Conclusion: Should You Supplement With Glutamine?

The truth is that there is probably no reason for you to be buying or using a glutamine supplement.

Most of you will already be consuming adequate amounts of this amino acid in your diet already.

Your money would be better off spent buying better quality food.


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