The Effect of Glutamine on Athletic Performance


The Effect of Glutamine on Athletic Performance

Posted by Ron Slavick on


The Effect of Glutamine on Athletic Performance

Athletes need to use every advantage they can get these days and using legal supplements is something that can boost their performance levels.  There are many different supplements an athlete can take such as Creatine, Nitric Oxide Boosters, Branch Chain Amino Acids, and several others. However, Glutamine is a great product that oftentimes might go unnoticed by some athletes and gym rats alike.  Glutamine is a great tool to help recovery after intense exercise or a hard-fought game.

What is L-Glutamine?

Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in your body.  There are 20 of these amino acids in total and Glutamine is an extremely important one for sure.  All Amino Acids are building blocks of protein and your body needs them to thrive, especially during and after intense exertion.  Glutamine makes up for about 35% of the amino acid nitrogen in your bloodstream. Basically, Glutamine is the most abundant Amino Acid in your body so you can see why it’s vital to your health and recovery, not to mention athletic performance.  

It isn’t easy to get the right amount of Glutamine from your food so it’s important to take it in supplement form.  Athletes who are looking to speed up the recovery process should definitely take L-Glutamine supplements. They will find an added benefit of muscle growth as well with the right amount of Glutamine before and after a game or practice.

How much Glutamine Should you Take?

There are many schools of thought on how much L-Glutamine you should take.  It also matters how strenuous your sport or activity is. The base dosage tends to be 5 grams per day.  However, some studies have been done with subjects taking up to 45 grams of Glutamine and no negative side effects were found.  

Most athletes should start with supplementing 5 grams of L-Glutamine per day and increase it to 10 grams if things feel right.  You will probably be best served to take 5 grams on most days and 10 grams on game days or the day after a hard fought game. It will vary on your diet and the type of sport you play as some exert much more energy and are harder on the body than others.  However, pretty much every athlete will benefit from at least 5 grams of L-Glutamine.

It should be noted that some studies suggest that using Glutamine supplements in the short term is best.  Some scientists state that the long-term effects of Glutamine supplementation may be harmful and possibly screw up the way your body processes proteins into the bloodstream according to a 2013 JPEN study.  Scientists also say that Glutamine supplements may have a different effect on those with high animal protein diets as compared to those on plant-based diets. However, with the unknown long-term effects, more studies need to be done about the different types of diets and how that affects Glutamine supplements.

How Does Glutamine Benefit your Body?

So, what are the specific ways Glutamine benefits your body?  Glutamine helps the recovery process after strenuous physical activity or even a hard training session in the gym.  Glutamine also helps build muscle when combined with a good exercise program and a healthy diet. When you take in carbohydrates with L-Glutamine supplements they work together to fight fatigue during a sporting event such as football or hockey.  

Glutamine also helps your body push harder and be stronger throughout the game.  After intense activity, your Glutamine levels decrease by 50%. This is why Glutamine supplements are important for athletes.  You’ll also find Glutamine to help decrease your fat levels which is an added benefit along with those mentioned above. With increased energy and stamina you’ll put yourself in the right place to succeed on the field or court.  

Some extra benefits from Glutamine are brain health.  Glutamine is said to boost brain function which will help you make better and quicker decisions during the game.  It’s a precursor to the neurotransmitter in your brain. It also fights stress and anxiety allowing you to be in a peak mental state during the game as well.  

Another great benefit you’ll get from Glutamine supplements is a better immune system.  There are various cells in your immune system like macrophages and lymphocytes which rely on Glutamine as their main fuel source.  You’ll miss fewer days of practice and fewer days in the gym with when you maintain the proper Glutamine levels. And again you’ll feel stronger and more capable for more of the season as well.

What is the Best Glutamine Supplement?

There are hundreds of brands and different kinds of L-Glutamine supplements out on the market and the decision on which to purchase can be quite daunting.  What you’ll want to look at is the grade or quality of the supplement. You should use a pharmaceutical grade form of GlutamineThat way you’ll know you are putting only the best quality Glutamine in your body.  This will also increase the benefits you’ll experience as opposed to using a cheaper or poorly made supplement.  

Some companies use a bunch of fillers to stretch out their bottom line.  You’ll want to read up on any supplement you choose and also find reviews which are consistent over long periods of time.

You’ll want to make sure the specific Glutamine supplement you choose promotes recovery while preventing muscle breakdown.  You’ll also want to be sure it promotes cellular growth as well. Remember the key is to protect yourself from overexertion or overtraining.  It is also probably bested to make sure the product is Non-Gmo and gluten-free. Another thing to check for is that the product is 3rd party tested independently.  You should be able to get a high-quality Glutamine supplement of 40 servings for under $40. It’s your body and you want to put yourself in the best shape possible to succeed.  The right kind of Glutamine can help you achieve a higher level of athletic performance.

What Form Should You Take It In?

Glutamine typically come is tablet/pill or powder form.  I prefer powder form of supplements and this goes for Glutamine as well.  The powder form is much more easily absorbed and broken down in your body.  It’s also easier on your liver and won’t force it to work too hard. Your liver is working hard enough as it is on everyday functions and you don’t want to place added stress to one of the most important organs in your body.

What Foods Provide the Body with Glutamine?

Eating foods that are high in Glutamine is another great way to boost athletic performance.  Foods such as beef, eggs, tofu, skim milk, corn, and white rice all have fairly high amounts of protein percentages made up of glutamine.  This will naturally increase performance and aid in recovery from the big game or a tough week of practice. Below is a list of these foods and the percentage of protein they have which is made up of L-Glutamine.

  • Corn:16.2%
  • White Rice:11.1%
  • Tofu: 9.1%
  • Skim Milk: 8.1%
  • Beef: 4.8%
  • Eggs: 4.4%

Eating these foods along with taking your Glutamine supplements will provide a great benefit to you before during and after an athletic performance.  Remember the harder you play the more Glutamine your body uses up and therefore the more Glutamine you need to put back into your body to maintain optimal performance levels.

Are There Other Forms of Glutamine?

Yes.  There is also D-Glutamine however, D-Glutamine does not seem to have much of an effect on living organisms.  It is what is called a non-essential amino acid and therefore not one of the 20 considered to be beneficial to protein breakdown and athletic performance.  

When is the Best Time to Take Glutamine?

Timing is everything in life right?  And timing when taking supplements like Glutamine is important also.  Taking Glutamine post performance is said to be the best time. Studies have shown this tends to work best for recovery.  There are also some who say to take it during your athletic performance.

Taking it after a game prevents the body from using muscles as its energy source.  It allows for your body to continue burning carbs even if they are fairly depleted already.  What this also does is allows you to maintain more muscle mass. Taking Glutamine post workout increases your bodies HGH (Human Growth Hormone) production levels.  Higher HGH levels increase metabolism and muscle tissue while decreasing body fat. This process will also suppress insulin levels. If you happen to have an insulin sensitivity taking a Glutamine supplement is a great tool to combat against erratic blood sugar levels.    

As far as how long after a workout or athletic performance, you should take your glutamine supplement; the answer is within 20 minutes.  You can take it alone or with a protein shake. It should be noted that some people opt to take their Glutamine both pre and post-performance.  This is perfectly acceptable and if you do choose this route you should split your full dose in half. For instance, if you are taking 10 grams of Glutamine, take five before and five after.  You may find your body will respond better to this approach.

What Other Supplements Should you Take with Glutamine?

Creatine and Glutamine

A lot of athletes take Creatine already and find that teaming Glutamine with Creatine have added strength and muscle benefits.  Creatine is another Amino Acid which occurs naturally in your body and partners well with Glutamine to support athletic performance.  Many strength and conditioning coaches recommend taking these two supplements together right after intense athletic activity.

HMB and Glutamine

HMB is said to build strength and to support stamina and increase endurance levels.  It’s an active metabolite of Leucine which helps prevent muscle breakdown. HMB is seen to be anticatabolic to your muscles.  So using HMB with Glutamine will both increase muscle growth and prevent muscle breakdown effectively and efficiently.

Beta Alanine and Glutamine

Beta Alanine is another great teammate for Glutamine.  Beta Alanine is a naturally occurring Amino Acid found to boost high-intensity athletic performance for short and medium time spans.  It also is said to increase power and delay fatigue. Beta Alanine boosts carnosine production which aids muscle endurance during high-intensity activity.  Glutamine works great in tandem with Beta Alanine.

Lesser Known Glutamine Benefits

Glutamine is also said to elevate alkaline reserves as well as plasma growth hormone.  Glutamine can also be used to combat some side effects of medical treatments such as chemotherapy and anyone fighting a virus or infections.  Side effects like swelling of the mouth, nerve, muscle, and joint pain, as well as diarrhea according to a 2011 study in the Yonsei Medical Journal.

Glutamine also protects your digestive system and improves or speeds up the recovery rate after a bone marrow transplant and bowel surgery.  Glutamine is said to increase the well-being of anyone who suffered a traumatic sports injury such as a broken bone, sprained ankle, separated shoulder, or a torn meniscus.  

Glutamine may help with stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.  It can also have positive benefits on moodiness and depression, as well as anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.  Another little known positive benefit of glutamine is preventing weight loss in HIV or AIDS victims. Glutamine may help protect the gastrointestinal tract lining called the mucosa and help with inflammatory bowel disease according to UMMC (University of Maryland Medical Center) and a University of Michigan Medical study.

Glutamine may also support those who suffer from ADHD cystinuria (a urinary condition) and sickle cell anemia while supporting alcohol withdrawals.

Glutamine and Diabetes

Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes have a lower level of amino acid glutamate going through their body.  According to a 2014 NCBI study If you have type 2 diabetes, it is best to take 15 grams of Glutamine per day after each meal.  Doing so can help to reduce your waistline, blood glucose levels, body fat, and systolic blood pressure. Glutamine was also associated with mild plasma volume expansion.  As always consult your doctor or physician when starting any supplementation process.

Athlete’s Comments

Serena Bishop cyclo-cross and mountain bike racer and the first female finisher of the High Cascades 100 said of running out of gas; “It feels like that movie of a robot running out of power; it starts walking and talking very slowly. It’s gradual at first, but if you don’t fuel up, it’s curtains.”  The High Cascades 100 is a 100-mile endurance mountain bike race in Bend Oregon. The 37-year-old Bishop finished the race in eight and half hours. She credited her diet and supplementation with products such as Glutamine for her success.  

Cons or Side Effects

Most studies have reported no adverse effects of taking L-Glutamine supplements.  However, there have been athletes who have stated they did feel some side effects when ingesting Glutamine supplements.  Some athletes have claimed they experienced bloating and constipation. While others have said they did experience some nausea and stomach pain.  Some have said they noticed swelling to their extremities along with chest, muscle and joint pain.

Since most medical studies conclude there are really no adverse side effects of even high doses of Glutamine (40 grams) the conclusion here as far as negative or adverse effects of Glutamine is on a person to person basis.  Basically, some people seem to simply be ultra sensitive to Glutamine supplementation. If you do experience any of these side effects when taking Glutamine you should contact your doctor immediately.

Who Should Not Take Glutamine?

There are some instances where it is not recommended to take L-Glutamine supplements.  These situations include:

  • Those under the age of 18
  • Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Those suffering from Cirrhosis
  • Anyone with severe liver disease who has difficulty thinking or confusion
  • Those sensitive to MSG may also be sensitive to L-Glutamine
  • If you suffer from the mental disorder Mania
  • If you suffer from Seizures

*As always you should use caution when taking any kind of supplements and the same goes for Glutamine.  If you have any of the above issues you should err on the side of caution and refrain from taking Glutamine.

Extra Info

Glutamine can also help you lift more weight in the gym.  Because of its properties, you may be able to gain added strength when you take Glutamine on days you are hitting the weights.  The best way to utilize Glutamine for this is to take it pre-workout and during your training. Just make sure you are using the highest quality pharmaceutical grade Glutamine supplement and you should see this added benefit along with the previously mentioned effects.  

Is There a Loading Phase?

A loading phase with Glutamine supplements is not needed.  However, there is a dosage plan that some athletes including myself have used with success.  I used this dosing schedule throughout the season and it seemed to work very well. You can take 2.5 grams upon waking and then another 2.5 grams pre-workout or before a game or practice.  Then another 2.5 grams post performance and an additional 2.5 grams before bed.

This ensures that you’ll constantly have the adequate amounts of L-Glutamine running through your body and be able to maintain peak performance levels throughout the season.  When I was on this plan I would cycle off most of the off-season. Again everyone is different and will react in their own way to this dosing schedule so you should be mindful of what is happening with your body if you do this.  Especially in the first week or two.

Summary

We have covered a lot of ground here concerning Glutamine and its benefits to athletic performance.  Now you have a roadmap of how much Glutamine to take and when to take it. You know all of the potential benefits and how it can propel you to better results on the field, in the arena, or whatever other venues your sport may be played.  You also know there may be some adverse effects when using Glutamine supplements, however, those are few and far between. Just be mindful of everything your body is experiencing.

You also know what are the best foods you can eat to boost the naturally occurring Glutamine in your body.  We’ve heard from an athlete as well on how it worked for them along with knowing what my daily Glutamine plan was during the hockey season.  If you happen to be diabetic you know what ways Glutamine may help improve your daily well-being.

You know who should not take Glutamine.  You also know that a loading phase is not needed with Glutamine supplements as well as what other supplements work well with it.  Supplements such as Creatine, HMB, and Beta Alanine.

Our goal is to make sure you obtain every possible advantage to be the best you can be.  We also hope you can achieve every goal you set out to do and be a champion. We know sports are won and lost by inches and every little positive benefit you can provide yourself with can make the difference between winning and losing.


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