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Understanding Glutamine Benefits for Training

If you’re an intermediate or advanced trainer that’s looking for every possible way to enhance your performance, speed up your post-training recovery and reach your goals sooner, you’ve no doubt heard about glutamine and are keen to find out more about how it can benefit your training.

In this article, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know to understand why glutamine is so important and the various benefits you’ll enjoy from including enough of it in your diet.

What is glutamine?

Glutamine (or L-Glutamine) is an amino acid (organic compounds that combine to form proteins) which is naturally found in the body.

Produced in the lungs but stored in skeletal muscle, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body with more than 61% of skeletal muscle consisting of glutamine.

Why it’s important to maintain good levels of glutamine

Found in everything from your organs, muscles, tissue, bones, skin and hair, proteins and amino acids are critical for the body to be able to function normally. From acting as an energy source, to transporting oxygen and valuable nutrients around the body in your blood and fighting off viruses, bacteria and infections, glutamine plays a crucial role in performing a wide range of essential bodily functions.

As a non-essential amino acid, the body can produce large quantities of glutamine without needing to rely solely on dietary intake. However, on occasion your body may require more glutamine than what it is able to produce—this is known as glutamine depletion.

If your body is unable to produce or source enough glutamine, it turns to the body's existing stores of glutamine in skeletal muscle, and as a result, muscle wasting can occur. For this reason, glutamine is also considered to be a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that in some circumstances (such as illness, injury or following intense physical activity) it needs to be sourced through your diet.

The key benefits of glutamine

The most valuable benefits of glutamine (particularly when trying to build muscle) include that it supports anti-catabolic recovery following intense training sessions, while also providing valuable immune support and aiding healthy digestion.

Anti-catabolic recovery

One of the most significant benefits of glutamine is its ability to prevent muscle wasting (or catabolism).

To be able to grow muscle or create a state of anabolism, the body needs to have a positive protein balance (i.e. protein synthesis must be higher than muscle protein breakdown). When your body does not have access to enough protein (including glutamine), it creates a negative protein balance or catabolism where muscle is depleted.

An adequate supply of glutamine can prevent your body from entering a catabolic state following an intense workout session, minimising tissue breakdown and stimulating protein synthesis to aid a faster recovery with less muscle soreness.

Valuable immune-support

Glutamine provides valuable support to the immune system by acting as an important fuel source for immune cells.

Not only is glutamine in high demand by the liver, kidneys and gut, but the immune system also consumes glutamine at a similar (if not greater) rate than glucose, and is integral for the production of cytokines (small proteins which are used to repair muscle).

When the body does not have access to enough glutamine, proper immune function can become compromised. For this reason, glutamine is also commonly used in medical settings for immunosuppressed individuals or to help patients prepare or recover following surgery or from injuries such as major burns.

For trainers following a rigorous or intense training regime (like when preparing for a bodybuilding contest), glutamine helps to keep you healthy and prevent illness.

Normal digestion

Glutamine is also a valuable energy source for intestinal cells (which is also an important part of the immune system), helping to maintain the barrier between the intestines and the rest of your body (known as a ‘leaky gut’) to prevent bacteria from spreading to other areas of the body.

Glutamine also assists in the growth of intestinal cells, supporting an overall healthier digestive system.

Additional glutamine benefits

Glutamine is also believed to provide a range of additional benefits, including:

  • Protection against exercise-induced hyperammonemia: The levels of plasma ammonia (a neurotoxin which can affect amino acid metabolism) increase significantly with high-intensity or prolonged exercise. Glutamine has been shown to provide protection against exercise-induced hyperammonemia.
  • Transportation of nitrogen into skeletal muscle: Nitrogen is required to enable vital organs to function properly and to repair wounds, and approximately one third of the nitrogen needed to do this is sourced from glutamine.
  • Increased protein synthesis: Glutamine is known to stimulate protein synthesis (the process whereby cells make protein).
  • Elevation in growth hormone: Glutamine can naturally temporarily increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels.
  • Increased focus during training sessions: As an effective fuel source, glutamine can help to keep you alert and focused throughout an intense training session by working to replenish tiring muscles.

Getting enough glutamine in your diet

While your body naturally produces glutamine, if you’re following a rigorous training regime or you think your body could do with some extra glutamine benefits, it can be valuable to increase your glutamine intake to ensure your body has a good supply.

Glutamine is found in varying quantities in a range of food sources, including:

Food source

Quantity of Glutamine (Gln) per 100g

Beef

1.2g

Eggs

0.6g

Skim milk

0.3g

Tofu

0.6g

White rice

0.3g

Corn

0.4g

While animal products generally contain more glutamine than plant-based products, some plant-based products (such as white rice and corn) can still be a valuable source of glutamine even if they have a lower overall protein content.

While it’s estimated that a standard diet is likely to contain around 3-6 grams of glutamine per day, when in an intense training period, this quantity is unlikely to be sufficient if you want to obtain the full spectrum of glutamine benefits.

That’s where taking a glutamine supplement can be valuable. It allows you to measure your intake to ensure you’re including enough glutamine in your diet without the unnecessary addition of other micronutrients.

A bit about our glutamine supplements

If you want to enjoy all the benefits that glutamine has to offer, our premium supplements are a great way to increase your glutamine intake.

Produced right here in Australia, one scoop of Max’s Glutamine+ powder supplement provides 5 grams of quality glutamine that can be taken straight or mixed with a protein shake or sports drink. Our glutamine supplements can also be combined with BCAA supplements for ultimate nitrogen retention to help you achieve optimal results.

Take a closer look at our advanced glutamine recovery complex or view Max’s full range of protein and training supplements to find the right product for you.

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