Glutamine is a common ingredient found in recovery supplements, but what does it do in the body and why is it important for athletes to consider implementing it? Let's take a closer look.
THE ROLE OF GLUTAMINE IN THE BODY
Glutamine is an important amino acid and a building block of protein in the body. Like many amino acids, there are two forms of glutamine: L-glutamine and D-glutamine. L-glutamine is responsible for building proteins in the body as well and serves as a main source of fuel in the brain. D-glutamine, on the other hand, is relatively irrelevant for living organisms.
L-glutamine is produced in the body within muscles to be distributed via the bloodstream, but can also be found in a variety of foods naturally. However, certain circumstances make it difficult for the body to produce adequate amounts of L-glutamine, including injury, illness, and other times of stress.
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid found in the body and is responsible for immune support, gut health, and repairing cells when damaged. Glutamine is often prescribed for those undergoing chemotherapy and other procedures where cells are damaged and require support to be repaired and avoid muscle wasting.
In the event that that body’s need for glutamine exceeds its ability to produce it, the body may begin breaking down protein stores in muscles to release more glutamine into the bloodstream for distribution. This “muscle wasting” happens in scenarios where the body is under severe stress levels, including post-workout as glutamine levels can drop up to 50% in the body during exercise.
IMMUNE & GUT HEALTH
Glutamine is a major component of immune and gut health as it is responsible for fueling blood cells as well as intestinal cells. Immune function can decrease when glutamine levels are low, and studies have shown that glutamine may improve health, decrease infection and promote healing following trauma and surgery.