Supplements

The Benefits of Glutamine

Nutritionist and IFBB Pro Linda Stephens tells you everything you need to know about glutamine and how it can help you.

Linda Stephens

Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, which simply means that your body makes it. Glutamine is also the most abundant amino acid within the body and you’ll find it in two places, your plasma (blood) and skeletal muscle.

What exactly does glutamine do and how can it benefit you?
Glutamine has many great roles it plays within our bodies and one very big role is immune system function. Illness, infection, surgery and exercise all contribute to decreased glutamine levels. During times of stress, as in those I just listed, your body will deplete its glutamine stores. Low glutamine levels in your blood can contribute to immune system suppression. For example, after a strenuous workout your glutamine levels get depleted and this can make you susceptible to infection. During times of stress glutamine becomes a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that you need to take in foods or supplements containing glutamine to help replenish levels. It has been show that supplementing with glutamine before and after a hard workout can lower your chances of contracting upper respiratory infections. Glutamine fuels disease-fighting cells that protect us from infections during times of stress. Glutamine supplementation in post-operative patients has been shown to reduce healing time when given intravenously compared to those patients who did not supplement glutamine.

Glutamine is extremely important to athletes and bodybuilding competitors
Glutamine helps to counteract protein and muscle breakdown when cortisol levels are high. Cortisol is a hormone that’s released when stress levels are high such as during a strenuous workout. It slows down amino acid absorption and stimulates protein catabolism, which in turn affects muscle building. For example, during contest prep, many athletes’ cortisol levels are high due to restrictive dieting and long cardiovascular sessions to reduce body fat. Many athletes feel that glutamine supplementation can stop the rise in cortisol levels during and after a hard workout allowing muscle synthesis to continue to occur even during the recovery phase. Another way that glutamine can assist athletes is to keep the immune system strong while dieting in order to ward off illness. There’s nothing worse for a competitor after months of dieting and training to become ill and never hit the stage.

What foods might contain glutamine and how much do you need?
Some dietary sources of glutamine are:

  • Lean Beef (preferably grass fed)
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Wheat (avoid though if you have gluten issues)
  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Spinach
  • Parsley (don’t discard your garnish, eat it!)
  • Whey protein powders (and most all other protein powders)

You can also choose to add extra glutamine to your diet through supplementation. Glutamine comes in powder, capsules and tablets. I personally like to use the powder. It’s very easy to add a teaspoon to your protein shakes to bolster your immune system and aid in recovery right after or before a workout.

Capsules and tablets usually come in 500mg servings. You can easily take 1-3 servings a day safely. If you choose the powder you can safely use 1-3 teaspoons a day.

Keep glutamine supplements at room temperature as heating glutamine destroys it value. For example, don’t add the powder to your oatmeal, as it will break down glutamine and you won’t reap the benefits.

I highly recommend supplementing with glutamine all year long but especially during cold and flu season. Glutamine will keep your gastrointestinal tract functioning properly and it will calm down any GI problems you may be experiencing.

If you suffer from kidney or liver problems check with your health care professional before supplementing with glutamine. If you experience any side effects from supplementation always check with your doctor or nutritionist.

In good health,
Linda

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