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? Let's take a closer look.
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.
Gut health and the immune system have a symbiotic relationship thanks to the billions of bacteria present in the intestines and their impact on immune function. As an important fuel source for these cells, glutamine works to maintain the barrier between our intestines and the rest of the body, keeping these healthy bacteria in the intestines where they are beneficial, rather than other parts of the body where they can become harmful.
As with all cells, intestinal cells degrade and renew, and glutamine plays a vital role in this process as well. Glutamine is the preferred fuel of cells lining the small intestine and regulates tight junctions between protein in the intestines, suppresses pro-inflammatory signaling pathways, and protects the cell against apoptosis and cellular tresses during normal and pathologic conditions. When glutamine stores are depleted during severe metabolic distress or trauma, glutamine supplementation has been shown to improve symptoms of gut distress.
Where Does Glutamine Come From?
While we produce glutamine naturally, a good amount of l-glutamine can be found in food sources and through our dietary intake of several foods.
L-glutamine is found in both animal and plant proteins. While a higher level of L-glutamine is found in animal products due to their higher overall protein content, all food sources of L-glutamine have low content levels.
Some foods containing higher levels of L-glutamine include:
- Skim milk
- White rice
While these foods have higher contents of L-glutamine relative to other food sources, it is important to remember that these levels are relatively low. They are adequate for anyone whose body is not under regular stress. For those whose muscles are under regular stress from physical activity, these food sources may not be enough for adequate levels of L-glutamine without consequences.
What Does This Means for Athletes?
With any type of exercise, we cause stress on the body through physical movement, weightlifting, resistance training, and cardiovascular activity. While this is a normal process and exercise has been shown to be beneficial for the health of gut bacteria, too much stress without support can cause glutamine stores to be depleted, creating the possibility for immune distress and decreased gut health.
While the body is capable of producing glutamine naturally, it can often take a prolonged amount of time to replenish glutamine stores depleted through exercise, leading to muscle breakdown and wasting without adequate glutamine levels.
One of the major roles of L-glutamine for athletes is its capacity to move nitrogen to muscles for cell repair following exercise. In order to build muscle, a positive nitrogen balance is required for ensuring muscle cells are repaired in a timely manner. Supplementing L-glutamine can be beneficial for athletes to ensure adequate levels in the bloodstream following exercise.
L-glutamine is also shown to decrease fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) due to its role in the process of nitrogen transport following exercise. DOMS is categorized as the muscle soreness and stiffness experienced after exercise that usually begins 12 to 72 hours after the completion of the physical activity, and sometimes includes the muscle being hot to the touch. The soreness experienced with DOMS typically peaks between 24 and 36 hours following exercise and is typically a result of high intensity and eccentric exercises.
Glutamine also has anti-inflammatory properties, which complements its ability to reduce DOMS and increase muscle metabolism.
For endurance athletes, the immune system can be compromised following long-duration exercise such as marathons, making L-glutamine an essential supplement for promoting immune health.
In addition to these qualities, L-glutamine also reduces the cravings for sugar and carbohydrates and may be helpful for dealing with obesity and sugar cravings. This can be beneficial for athletes looking to manage their blood glucose levels and regulate insulin resistance surrounding their workouts.
Supplementing the L-glutamine you are getting from food sources with PNP’s Recover Surge can help ensure you have adequate glutamine in your bloodstream to prevent DOMS and muscle fatigue, allowing you to be in the gym more often and increase workout volume without losing recovery quality.
Glutamine is an important amino acid used for muscle repair and energy in the brain.
L-glutamine is the form of glutamine actively used by humans, and is important for gut health, immune support and has anti-inflammatory properties.
L-glutamine in supplement form can be beneficial for athletes for decreasing muscle fatigue, soreness, and breakdown, including delayed onset muscle soreness thanks to its capacity to move nitrogen into muscle cells for repair.
Supplementing glutamine can offset the glutamine depleting that happens during exercise to keep athletes in the gym by improving the recovery capacity of muscles.