Glutamine is often discussed but rarely explored. You probably know it’s related to health and fitness—and you may even know that it plays a role in muscle building. That being said, glutamine is a lot more than just a workout supplement. Whether you’re considering taking glutamine or you’re simply curious about its purpose in your body, we’ll give you the rundown on all things glutamine. Read on for this comprehensive guide on glutamine!
First Things First:
What is Glutamine?
Great question, and lucky for you, we have a pretty simple answer. Glutamine is an amino acid, and it’s found naturally in your body. That’s right—your body produces this stuff all on its own! Amino acids are the leftovers of protein. Once your body digests protein, it is broken down into these components (amino acids), which the body uses to help it carry out necessary functions. In other words, amino acids are important. And glutamine is one of them.
Glutamine is typically used for fitness purposes because most of the time, it’s stored in your muscles. It’s used to fuel your body, boost your immune system, and help with endurance. We’ll get to the nitty-gritty of that shortly.
The Science Behind Glutamine
If you’re a science nerd, you’re in luck. Glutamine, like any other naturally produced component of your body, has some science behind it. You already know it’s an amino acid, but to get a little more specific, it’s an α-amino acid/alpha-amino acid. By definition, this means a simple molecule that is made of a central C-atom, labelled Ca, that is bound to a primary amine group NH2 and to a carboxylic group COOH. There are over 20 other common alpha-amino acids on the same list as glutamine—to name a few: lysine, valine, alanine, and serine. Glutamine is actually the most common amino acid present in your muscles, making up more than 60% of the skeletal muscles in your body.
What Does Glutamine Do?
Because glutamine can be taken as a supplement, lots of people think it’s a bonus. In reality, it’s a necessity. Your body naturally produces it, which means that it’s something your body needs and craves on its own. The supplement option is to help you increase your glutamine levels to really capitalize on the benefit that comes along with it.
With that said, let’s talk a little more about what glutamine does. There are several different ways it impacts the body.
Glutamine is present in skeletal and smooth muscles. Because glutamine consists of 19% nitrogen, it’s one of the main ways that nitrogen is transported into muscle cells—which facilitates muscle building.
One important function of glutamine is to bolster and fuel the immune system. Cells of the immune system use glutamine almost as much (in some cases, as much) as they use glucose. This certainly attests to the importance of glutamine in the body, but it also shows you just how easy it is to have a deficit of glutamine. When your immune system is using up a lot of glutamine, your natural levels of glutamine decrease, leaving you with a need for glutamine. This is one of many reasons why people take glutamine supplements.
It has been shown that glutamine increases gut permeability, which is a fancy way of saying that it helps substances pass through your intestinal wall with greater ease. Another plus is that glutamine can help reduce inflammatory bowel disease symptoms. Gut health is such a critical part of your body’s overall health and capabilities, so it’s a bonus that glutamine plays a role in this area of your body too.
Strength and Stamina
Because glutamine is a prevalent amino acid found in your body and it carries nitrogen to your muscle cells, it has a huge impact on your fitness goals—specifically, the strength and stamina of your body. When you train or exercise with intensity, your body uses up your glutamine reserves to give it the fuel it needs. But if you’re exercising frequently, you may lose too much glutamine because of this—that’s why lots of serious exercisers take glutamine as a supplement!
Foods Containing Glutamine
As you know, your body naturally has glutamine, and a lot of this comes from the foods you eat. You may not even realize it, but you could be eating foods that give you extra glutamine. On the flip side, though, you may have a diet that lacks glutamine. To get a good idea of how much glutamine is in your body without taking supplements, look at this list of foods that are rich in glutamine:
Seafood lovers are in luck because most types of fish are packed with glutamine. For an extra dose, try incorporating more saltwater fish into your diet. They generally have more glutamine than freshwater fish.
While we can’t say that nuts are the healthiest for you, they do contain glutamine that can give you an extra boost. It’s best to steer clear of snacking on nuts all day every day, but every now and then a handful will give you a good boost of glutamine.
You probably know meat for its high levels of protein, and since protein levels are linked to amino acid levels, you’re also guaranteed higher glutamine intake when you consume meat.
Eggs are all-around good for you, as they contain Vitamin K, biotin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and glutamine. Not everyone loves eggs, but if you happen to be a fan of them, it’s a great way to get glutamine back in your diet.
Why Take Glutamine Supplements?
While there are several different types of foods that contain glutamine, sometimes you need more. In fact, most of the time, you need more. People who exercise regularly or work toward muscular endurance/strength will experience lower glutamine levels. Remember: That’s okay. That’s what the body does. But, you’ll need to replace those glutamine levels in order to reach and maintain a sufficient level of muscular endurance and strength.
As you lose these glutamine levels, through intense workouts or long runs, your body wants more for fuel. That’s what brings us to glutamine supplements, which will speed up the time it takes to replace lost glutamine in the body. Taking the right supplement will replenish glutamine in the body and help train the body to use glutamine in an optimal way.
When to Take Glutamine Supplements
If you’re on board for glutamine, the next step is to determine how you will take it. Like anything, you can decide how you want to go about it—and glutamine is no different. The best time to take glutamine is right after your workout, aka your post-workout glutamine. This is when your glutamine levels are the lowest and when your HGH production can peak the highest. HGH, or human growth hormone, helps with muscle development and metabolic activity. If you take your glutamine supplement right after your workout, you’ll increase the production of this hormone, which will help your body recover faster.
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Here’s where things can either go really right or really wrong. Nailing down the right dosage is critical, so make sure you do your research beforehand. Too much of anything can have adverse side effects, so we recommend you don’t ever take more than 30g in one day. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to take around 5g per day. This will allow you to ease into it and see how your body reacts to the supplement. From there, you can up it to 10-15g per day. It’s important that you stay in tune with your body throughout the process because only you know what feels best for your own body. That being said, it’s recommended that you consult a doctor or personal trainer to get their perspective on your health and natural glutamine levels before taking a supplement.
Now that you’re a glutamine pro, you can start applying what you know to your diet and workout routines. Glutamine has been increasing in popularity for many reasons, so it’s a great time to hop on the bandwagon and try it out. The most important thing to remember is that glutamine is there to help you, not hurt you. It’s not a sprint, so don’t force yourself or push yourself to do anything that isn’t comfortable to you. As long as you do your research and stay in tune with your body, you’ll be feeling the positive impact of glutamine in no time. Good luck!