As a gym-goer, when planning on adding supplements to your diet, you may have heard about the benefits of glutamine. Maybe you want to incorporate glutamine into your diet to keep your glutamine levels up during exercise and decrease muscle fatigue. But it’s easy to get it confused with the term ‘glutamate’ as both are similar sounding.
Though both glutamine and glutamate are similar, they are not the same thing. One of the main differences is that glutamine is a conditional amino acid, whereas glutamate is a nonessential amino acid.
Amino acids are responsible for building proteins in the body. This helps in growth, the repair of body tissue, the breakdown of food and other bodily functions. Amino acids are further classified as:
- Essential- Essential amino acids are not naturally produced by the body; they are obtained from food sources. They are important for tissue repair, protein synthesis and nutrient absorption. Some examples are histidine, lysine, and valine.
- Nonessential- These amino acids are produced by the body even if they are not obtained from food sources. These are important for immunity, tissue repair, hormone synthesis and the formation of red blood cells. Examples are cysteine, glutamate, glycine, serine, and tyrosine.
- Conditional- Conditional amino acids are usually needed only in times of stress and illness. Examples are glutamine, arginine, and ornithine.
Both glutamate and glutamine are produced naturally by the body. Glutamine is a supplement that can be taken to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, especially during exercise.
However, for overall fitness and health during exercise and training, you should maintain a well-balanced lifestyle with proper nutrition.
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine is made by the body and can also be found in different types of food, especially animal products because of their high protein concentration. Glutamine can be divided into two types: L-glutamine and D-glutamine. Among these two, it is the L-glutamine that is important for bodily functions. D-glutamine is relatively unimportant for living organisms.
L-glutamine can be found in different types of food like beef, skim milk, white rice, corn, tofu and eggs. If you increase the amount of protein in your diet, you can naturally increase the amount of glutamine in your body.
Glutamine is mainly used by the intestines and kidneys. It helps with gut function, improving immunity in your system and provides ‘fuel,’ i.e. nitrogen and carbon, to different parts of the body. In the medicine world, glutamine is used to treat burns, injuries, bone marrow transplants, surgery, cancer chemotherapy and other illnesses.
However, when it comes to training and exercise, glutamine supplements have proved to decrease muscle soreness, keep glutamine levels consistent and improve recovery after working out. You can easily find glutamine supplements in the form of nutrition bars or protein drinks.
What is Glutamate?
Glutamate is also known as glutamic acid and is absorbed by the body for cell energy production and to build proteins. Like glutamine, glutamate helps to build immunity and provide energy during exercise.
However, the more important function of glutamate is its role as an excitatory neurotransmitter. In simple words, it helps nerves to transmit actions to the brain. This is also known as a nerve impulse.
Glutamate is also a precursor to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This is an inhibitory transmitter that helps in learning and muscle contraction. It is also known as the calming transmitter as it helps a person to sleep and reduce anxiety.
Glutamate is released by the brain and central nervous system in order for the neurons to send chemical messages and communicate with each other. Though glutamate is produced by the body, it can also be found in food sources like eggs, tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, soy and meat, and some dairy products like cheese or milk. But if you have good health and are able to obtain nutrients naturally, you do not need to take glutamate supplements.
A common example of glutamate is MSG (monosodium glutamate). Excessive amounts of glutamate in the body are said to cause epilepsy, depression, diabetes and migraines. However, the FDA says that MSG is safe up to certain amounts.
Glutamate supplements to be taken only when advised by a physician. It is suggested that you do not take glutamate as a supplement if you have a nervous system disorder.
Glutamine versus Glutamate - How They Differ
Now that we have discussed what glutamine and glutamate is, let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between the two.
- Glutamine and glutamate belong to the amino acids group.
- They are both produced by the body and useful for everyday bodily functions.
- Both glutamine and glutamate can be obtained from food sources.
- They both contain nitrogen and belong to a carboxylic acid chemical group.
- They are both alkaline in nature.
- The molecular structure (chains) is unique for glutamine as well as glutamate.
- Glutamine does not carry any charge at all, whereas glutamate has a negative charge.
- Glutamine is a conditional amino acid, whereas glutamate is nonessential.
- Glutamine can be taken as a supplement, whereas glutamate should not be taken as a supplement, unless prescribed for medical reasons by a physician.
When Are Supplements Necessary?
For those who exercise, certain supplements are taken to help improve energy. Others are to build endurance, to build muscle or to help the body repair muscle and tissue. Knowing which supplement you should take and how much of it to take is important.
For example, creatine is used for improving muscle strength, caffeine is used to improve performance during exercise, and protein is used for muscle building.
Keep in mind that supplements can only help to a certain extent. You need to train in the correct manner and maintain a balanced diet and lifestyle for overall fitness.
If we analyse glutamine versus glutamate, it’s clear that only glutamine is beneficial when taken as a supplement during exercising. However, glutamate has its own functions in the body, so its value cannot be underestimated. But under normal circumstances, its balance and production should be left up to the body to regulate.
It is best to speak to a coach or trainer for advice on personal training and development. Each person is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Contact us today to find out what options will help you. We will be happy to assist you with your fitness journey.