If you read the label of your favourite pre-workout or post-workout recovery supplement you’ll likely find glutamine inconspicuously listed as an ingredient. You may also see small tubs of glutamine lost among the towering tubs of whey at your local Dis-Chem store. But for such a seemingly inconsequential supplement, glutamine punches above its weight in the world of muscle-building supplements.
The science-based facts
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in muscle tissue – it can account for as much as 60% of the free amino acids in skeletal muscle – and serves as an important building block for muscle and other protein structures in the body.
However, more then merely support structural growth, glutamine also has a number of other beneficial effects within the bodies of hard-training gym-goers.
Glutamine reduces muscle breakdown
Research suggests that glutamine levels may be a good indicator of overtraining. In other words, lifters who are overtrained generally have low levels of glutamine and high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Increasing your glutamine intake in these instances can directly prevent the cortisol-induced breakdown of muscle proteins.
For those looking to add significant muscle to their frames, glutamine also boosts natural human growth hormone (hGH) production. This property means it is a core ingredient is many of the amino acid-based hormone booster products on the market that stimulate the natural secretion of hGH.
This not only creates a highly anabolic (muscle-building) environment within the body, but also helps to improve strength. And with the ability to lift heavier weights in the gym comes a greater potential to increase muscle mass.
Glutamine, along with branched chain amino acids (BCAA), can also boost your immune system because glutamine stimulates the activity of certain immune cells, such as lymphokine-activated killer cells.
Various studies shown that many immune cells have an unusually high capacity to utilise glutamine, particularly when replicating, yet they are unable to create glutamine themselves (it is almost exclusively produced in the body by muscle cells). These immune cells therefore require a constant supply from the blood.
Unfortunately, hard training and the demands of the immune system during periods of stress or illness can deplete circulating levels of this important amino acid.
That means that while glutamine is generally considered a ‘non-essential’ amino acid, in instances where glutamine levels have been depleted, it effectively becomes a conditionally essential amino acid. Under certain conditions, the body is effectively unable to produce enough glutamine to meet its muscle-building and immune-support requirements.
It is therefore important to meet these heightened demands for this beneficial amino acid through your diet and with supplementation with well-formulated L-glutamine products.
This approach can help to reduce muscle breakdown during intense training and offers significant post-exercise muscle recovery benefits.
L-glutamine supplements also plays a valuable role in promoting a healthy digestive tract, thereby aiding digestion and supporting the immune system to help prevent illness.
Ideally take 3-5g (1 teaspoon) of supplemental glutamine, 1-3 times a day, or according to package dosing instructions. The most beneficial times to supplement with glutamine are before and after training, and before bed.