Glutamine: A Supplement Review
What it is—Glutamine is an amino acid. As I stated in my previous article; Everything You Need to Know about Protein, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. All amino acids however are not the same.
Some are considered essential, which means they must be taken in through the diet, and others your body can make itself, and are therefore considered non-essential. Of the 8 essential amino acids, glutamine is not one of them. So why is glutamine so popular?
Like Britney Spears' career, glutamine is in a grey area. It is considered a 'conditionally essential' amino acid. This means that the average inactive person, eating a generally healthy diet, has no need for supplementing glutamine. This is because glutamine is found naturally in foods like beef, fish, organ meats, chicken and even beans as glutamic acid.
So who needs it? Anyone under any kind of stress can benefit from increased amounts of glutamine. You see, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. It is found in amounts 3-4 times that of any other amino acid.
It is primarily used to ensure optimal performance in the small intestine, however it is also found in muscles, skin, and organs such as the kidneys and the liver. Because stress inside the body usually results from an injury to the skin or muscles, or internal distress, these situations mean an increased need for glutamine.
Remember that resistance training creates small tears in the muscles, and we know that after training, glutamine levels in the body are reduced.
Glutamine also has benefits to our immune system. Recall that we just said that glutamine is used for the optimum performance of our small intestine. Well, guess where the majority of our immune system stems from? You guessed it, it's our small intestine.
How Much Do I Need?
As with any supplement it is essential to talk to your doctor before incorporating it into your daily intake. Remember that the following is only a general guide for the average healthy strength training individual. It is recommended that individuals take between 1-5 grams of glutamine each day.
Many bodybuilders take more than 5 grams of glutamine per day which is fine, however, with higher amounts it is important to maximize absorption as to reduce wasting.
The best way to maximize absorption of any nutrient or supplement is to take it when your body has the greatest need for it. This would be first thing in the morning, and immediately post workout. Some other beneficial times would be 1 hour before your workout and before going to bed.
What Does The L Mean?
Glutamine is usually sold as L-glutamine. I always thought some guy named Larry was taking credit for this amino acid, but it turns out that the L simply dictates the particular isomer.
Think of it as you are looking in the mirror. Both the image in the mirror and the actual you are the same right? Well, not quite. Your image is the same, but flipped. So what was right is now left, and visa versa. In chemistry, there are two isomers of amino acids, L and D. Confused yet? Well, don't worry about it. The only isomer we are concerned with is the L isomer, and that also happens to be the form it comes in as supplements.
Help When Dealing With Overtraining
Overtraining can affect us all at one point or another. This happens when your body is exhausted, and the results stop coming. Supplementing with glutamine, along with rest, and healthy eating can help repair long damaged tissues resulting from overtraining and get you back on track.
What To Expect
Glutamine is not like caffeine or fat burning supplements or the sauna belt, where you can feel an immediate result after consumption. Ok, maybe not the sauna belt. The effects of glutamine you can expect are increased post workout recovery with decreased DOMS (delayed onset of muscular soreness). Beyond this, the effects are generally not noticed, but are still there, such as increased resistance to illness, and a decrease in muscle breakdown.
There have been no incidences of toxicity reported with glutamine supplementation. Side effects seen with over-consumption have been constipation and upset stomach.
Glutamine has long been one of my staple supplements. I use it year round along with the following:
- Whey protein
- Omega 3 EFA oils
- Creatine (in 6 week cycles)
With strong support from both scientific studies, and anecdotal evidence, glutamine has emerged as one of the most popular supplements on the market today. It most definitely is worth trying and best of all, it won't break the bank.