Glutamine, or L-Glutamine as it’s often called is one of the more popular and hyped up sports supplements on the training market today. Moreover, Glutamine is often associated with false claims that Glutamine supplementation is essential and helps speed up the recovery and muscle-building process, and is more related to performance outcomes. I’m here to hopefully offer some relief and provide you with a clear perspective on the supplement, how it applies to the research, and whether or not it’s a suitable option for your training and fitness goals.
GLUTAMINE IN SKELETAL MUSCLE CELLS
“It is the most abundant amino acid found in blood plasma and skeletal muscle and accounts for over 60% of the total intramuscular free amino acid pool.”1 2 Glutamine has been another frequently hyped-up supplement over the years but shows little promise throughout the scientific community in an attempt to enhance athletic performance, unfortunately. In one study, daily glutamine supplementation over 6 weeks while practicing in a resistance training protocol did not affect body composition, muscular performance, or protein degradation compared to a placebo. 3 The most notable study on glutamine for athletic performance came back in 2001.
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GLUTAMINE RESEARCH EXAMINED
Unfortunately, glutamine sounds like a king on paper as it serves several biological roles in the human body, but according to Kevin Kuhn, a large number of studies were performed in vitro, rather than in vivo dealing with an actual living body, which both you and I are. 4
IN VITRO - using components of an organism in an experiment or study that is performed outside a living organism in an artificial environment
IN VIVO - tests or experiments that take place in the living organism itself
In 2001, Candow performed an enlightening study on 31 individuals who were either male or female between the ages of 18-24. They were randomly assigned to two groups. One group utilized glutamine while the other group was administered a placebo of maltodextrin. Each group performed an approximate micro-cycle (6 weeks) of resistance training in classic hypertrophy training zones. After completion of the program, subjects were tested on various measures including 1rm Bench Press, 1rm Squat, peak knee torque, body composition utilizing a DEXA scan, and muscle protein breakdown via 3methylhystidine levels in the urine, a marker of breakdown. Contrary to the in vitro studies, there were no significant differences between them.
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Glutamine and Immunity
In closing, it’s beyond obvious that Glutamine isn’t essential for supplementation in athletes. “Glutamine is commonly marketed as an exercise supplement, but there are no consistent observed effects on athletic performance from supplementation with glutamine. However, glutamine may increase white blood cell counts and benefit weight reduction. “ 5
The one area where Glutamine can help you is with inflammation and immunity according to some research on the subject. 5 Lyle Mcdonald, pointed out years ago in one of his books that there is a lot of real-world evidence in conditioned athletes who are struggling with illness and feel better by taking Glutamine supplements. Moreover, the immune cells within your intestines prefer Glutamine as energy which may explain the potential benefit.
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#1-Fink, Heather Hedrick., et al. Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2006.
#2-Rowbottom, David G., et al. “The Emerging Role of Glutamine as an Indicator of Exercise Stress and Overtraining.” Sports Medicine, vol. 21,no. 2, 1996, pp. 80–97., doi:10.2165/00007256-199621020-00002.
#3-McArdle, William D., et al. Essentials of Exercise Physiology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000.