The Truth About Glutamine – what it is, and why you need it

What Is Glutamine?

Glutamine is a building block for protein produced naturally by the body, also known as an amino acid. It is one of the 20 amino acids naturally found in the human body, however, it is one of the non-essential amino’s since it can be produced by another amino acid called glutamic acid.

Glutamine is unique because it’s the most abundant non-essential amino acid that is naturally produced by the body. It’s also one of the few amino acids that can freely cross over the blood-brain barrier.

In the diet, protein-rich foods are an excellent source of glutamine and glutamic acid, including nuts, red meat, beans, and fish, but it is also popularly as a supplement to increase muscle mass and improve brain activity.

Whether it be in food or supplement form, glutamine can be used to offset side effects caused by a number of medical treatments. It can –

  • remedy the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy that include nerve pain, diarrhoea, and muscle and joint aches.
  • support the health of the immune and digestive system during courses of radio-chemotherapy.
  • aid in recovery after bowel surgery or a bone marrow transplant.
  • improve general health for sufferers of traumatic injury.
  • reduce the risk of infection in chronically ill individuals.

How does it work?

As mentioned above, amino acids found in the body are building blocks for protein. The amino acid glutamine is naturally produced by muscles, where it is then circulated in the bloodstream to necessary organs.

90% of glutamine in the body is synthesized by muscle mass.

In addition, the brain and lungs release small amounts of glutamine. The liver also plays a significant role in glutamine production by metabolising the amino acid as it is released from the digestive tract.

At its most basic level, glutamine is used to quickly supply fuel, like carbon and nitrogen, to cells throughout the body. Glutamine can also be used to produce important bodily compounds like glucose and other amino acids. As glutamine circulates through the body in normal, regular production, it continually supports the immune system and digestive health, especially when the body undergoes chronic stress.

Since the average diet contains an estimated 5-8 g of glutamine per day, it’s common for people to take glutamine as a supplement for a number of reasons. Glutamine may be used to improve digestion and support recovery for the many health issues listed above; it can also enhance workout results by decreasing muscle breakdown.

What are the benefits of taking Glutamine?

If you’re wondering whether you should take glutamine as a supplement, here are a number of benefits that you can receive from using a glutamine supplement:

  • Improved stamina. Every day, the body is vulnerable to a number of outside stressors, including regular exercise. Long-term, chronic stress can weaken immune function and even suppress healthy glutamine levels in the body. Taking a glutamine supplement can improve stamina and performance, increase muscle strength, and aid in recovery. Endurance runners are especially susceptible to glutamine deficiencies, making supplementation pretty much a non-negotiable.
  • Better immune function. If you find yourself unable to shake a cold or seasonal allergies, low glutamine levels may be to blame. When you exercise frequently and don’t replenish glutamine between workout sessions, you may be more vulnerable to common illness. In particular, high intensity exercise (e.g. HIIT) quickly exhausts glutamine levels. To keep sickness at bay, a glutamine supplement is recommended, as well as proper recovery time between intense workouts.
  • Enhanced digestive health. Since glutamine is responsible for supplying vital fuel to the colon and small intestine, taking a supplement could preserve gut integrity and improve intestinal damage. A glutamine deficiency can greatly affect digestive health and has been linked with chronic gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • A severe deficiency can also trigger both muscle and weight loss, undermining the results of a regular workout program. When taken properly as a supplement, glutamine can support healthy weight loss while preserving lean muscle mass. Glutamine also plays a critical role in replenishing glycogen in the body after intense exercise.

Evidently, glutamine is key contributor to improving day-to-day health. When used to enhance exercise results, glutamine can improve:

  • Protein metabolism
  • Anti-catabolism
  • Cell volumizing
  • Human Growth Hormone production
  • Positive nitrogen balance
  • Muscle preservation

When and How Much

Glutamine comes in both powder and pill form. There are also multiple protein powders on the market that contain glutamine as an active amino acid ingredient. It’s essential to follow the instructions for daily dosage on glutamine supplement packaging.

Most manufacturers recommend that glutamine is taken at two specific times per day:

  1. During or directly after intense exercise
  2. Directly before sleep

The reason for these specific directions in timing is because muscles are desperately in need of replenishment immediately following a workout. It’s recommended to take a glutamine supplement with protein and carbs during or after exercise to build instead of break down lean muscle mass. When a glutamine supplement is taken right before bed, the amino acid will support speedy recovery as you rest for the night.

In most cases, glutamine pills or tablets should be taken on an empty stomach one hour before or two hours after eating. In the powder form, glutamine can be taken with a snack or meal, unless directions state otherwise.

When taken for health reasons, your health professional may recommend supplementing with glutamine several times a day. As always, it’s important to follow both manufacturer’s directions and doctor’s instructions when taking a supplement of this kind.

Glutamine is safe in doses divided throughout the day, however, people with liver or kidney disease should consult with a doctor before supplementing with glutamine.

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