Yes, Itís That Important!
Glance at magazines geared towards health and
fitness and several will contain articles discussing
glutamine. Surf the web for bodybuilding sites and
many, if not all will have at least one article
relating to glutamine. Research alternative methods to
ease the side effects of chemotherapy, and yes, once
again, glutamine will be named. Looking for a way to
feel centered and calm? You guessed it, recent
research is hinting at the ability of glutamine to
Glutamine for general health and fitness, as a
bodybuilding supplement, to reduce the ravages caused
by chemotherapy and a mood elevator? Yes, glutamine is
What is Glutamine?
Starting with the basics, glutamine is one of the
twenty nonessential amino acids. Nonessential does not
mean that glutamine is not important, but rather the
body can produce this substance itself. Sixty percent
of our glutamine is found in the skeletal muscle, with
the remainder residing in the lung, liver, brain and
stomach tissue. More than sixty percent of our free
amino acids come in the form of glutamine and under
normal conditions our body is able to produce more
than enough to handle the load. But, during times of
stress, glutamine reserves are depleted and need to be
replenished through supplementation.
What kinds of stress cause glutamine depletion?
Research is showing that glutamine depletion caused
by stress can be activated by something as minor as a
common cold and the level of depletion increases with
the severity of the disease. Patients undergoing
surgery, burn victims, those suffering acute trauma,
as well as HIV and cancer patients will all find their
glutamine levels severely depleted by their condition.
The important thing, as fitness enthusiasts, is to
remember that stress related glutamine depletion does
not only occur with illness, but also occurs due to
stress caused by exercise.
Glutamine and itís role in bodybuilding and
Intensive exercise will disrupt immune function,
increase lactic acid and ammonium levels. High levels
of ammonia can affect muscle function. Within the
first five minutes of exercise glutamine levels will
rise and catabolic hormones are released. But, the bad
news for exercisers doesnít stop there, because even
at the conclusion of the exercise session the muscles
will continue to release glutamine causing a severe
depletion situation. And the harder you train the
higher the rates of depletion. Why does glutamine
depletion happen so quickly? Because glutamine
increases the hydration state of the muscle cells.
Hydration of the muscle cells can change rapidly, and
once the cells are dehydrated they enter a catabolic
state. During times of catabolic stress research has
shown that glutamine levels can drop by as much as
Overtraining will result in less gains, but also
higher disease rates, infections and a poor immune
system, due to the heavy demands place on the energy
reserves of the body. Higher levels of training result
in higher stress demands on the body, which lead to a
reduction in plasma glutamine levels.
Too little glutamine results in muscle loss.
Catabolic states, muscle loss, depletion,
cell dehydration and muscle atrophy are phrases that
weaken the knees of even the most seasoned of
weightlifters or bodybuilders. How can one little
supplement that is produced in abundance by the body
be responsible for so many concerns?
According to Ronald Klatz, MD, President of the
Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Chicago, ďGlutamine
promotes the assimilation of nutrients, regulates
protein synthesis, stimulates growth-hormone
production and enhances the immune system.Ē
Weightlifters and bodybuilders need to realize that
glutamine is critical for muscle building because it
is a nitrogen donor, meaning that it moves the
nitrogen around in the body to where it is needed.
Anyone that pushes the iron understands that a
positive nitrogen balance is a necessary criteria in
the effort to gain muscle mass.
Entering the Krebs cycle as a non-carbohydrate
source of energy, glutamine converts to glutamate and
produces ATP which is an energy molecule. With
adequate amounts of glutamine in the body through diet
and/or supplementation, little or no muscle is broken
down to provide glucose. And, remember, too little
glutamine results in muscle atrophy.
How much glutamine is needed?
The typical American diet provides 3.5 to 7 grams
of glutamine daily which is found in animal and plant
proteins. Many people are choosing to supplement daily
due to the long growing list of benefits.
Research shows levels of supplementation from 2 to
40 grams daily. Two to three grams has been found to
help symptoms of queasiness. This two to three gram
dosage used post workout builds protein, repairs and
builds muscle and can induce levels of growth hormone
found in the body.
High levels of glutamine supplementation have been
used in hospital settings with doses of 20 grams per
day to treat colitis, Crohnís disease and diarrhea.
40 grams per day of glutamine are used with HIV,
cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and burn
victims. Today, hospitals are beginning to
study the effects of glutamine on reducing the number
of days required for a hospital stay and are showing
their confidence in the safety of glutamine by
supplementing the nutritional needs of low,
birth-weight babies with glutamine.
Can everyone take glutamine?
Current research shows that diabetics should use
caution when supplementing with glutamine because they
metabolize glutamine abnormally. Also, supplementation
with cancer patients is controversial because of the
reaction of glutamine on rapidly dividing cells, which
is characteristic of a tumor. But, the latest research
shows that glutamine prolongs survival of cancer
patients by slowing down catabolic wasting and helps
the depleted immune system.
As with all supplements, you should consult the
advice of your physician before taking.
Additional benefits of supplementing with
As the chief source of energy for the intestines,
glutamine aids in diseases that effect the lining of
the intestines. In addition, it can reverse some of
the intestinal damage caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatories,
such as ibuprofen. And in itís capacity to protect
the brain from ammonia toxicity, glutamine is being
researched with regard to itís positive effects on
neurodegenerative diseases. As an energy provider to
the brain, glutamine is a mood elevator, improves
mental performance and helps with long and short-term
memory. Glutamine research continues to produce
additional benefits of this supplement on a daily
basis. With the apparent lack of side effects, it is a
supplement that all in the fitness industry should
give serious consideration.
1. Bowtell, J. L., K. Gelly, M. L. Jackman,
A. Patel, M. Simeoni, and M. J. Rennie. Effect of oral
glutamine on whole body carbohydrate storage during
recovery from exhaustive exercise. Journal of
Applied Physiology. Vol. 86, Issue 6, 1770-1777,
2. Galassetti, P., F. Gibbons, K. Hamilton,
D. Brooks Lacy, A. Cherrington, and D. Wasserman.
Enhanced muscle glucose uptake facilitates nitrogen
efflux from exercised muscle. Journal of Applied
Physiology. Vol. 84, Issue 6, 1952-1959, June
3. Kuhn, K., K. Schuhmann, P. Stehle, D.
Darmaun, P. Furst. Determination of glutamine in
muscle protein facilitates accurate assessment of
proteolysis and de novo synthesis--derived endogenous
glutamine production. American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 4, 484-489, October 1999.
4. Welbourne, T. C. Increased plasma
bicarbonate and growth hormone after an oral glutamine
load. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
Vol. 61, 1058-1061, 1995.