Glutamine 101: Glutamine Supplements Guide

Okay, imagine for a second, that you’ve decided to stop being a wuss and to completely transform your physique by committing to a healthy diet and effective training regime. You stick to your diet religiously and stock up on bodybuilding essentials such as: Brown rice, chicken breast, steak, eggs, broccoli, spinach, white fish, sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, nut butters, and so on. As well as eating right, you also dedicate 5 days per week to training hard in the gym and working out, even when you’re exhausted.

As the weeks go by, you become more and more excited as you are certain you’ll have made some serious gains. The time comes to take your measurements and…barely a thing! Your arms, chest, delts, back, quads, traps, and even your calves have hardly gotten any larger at all. What’s more, you still struggle to fill out a T-shirt any larger than a boy’s large from Baby Gap. But why? Your diet was heathy, and you worked out, so what went wrong? Why did you barely gain a single pound of muscle over several weeks/months? Well, it could be because you weren’t utilizing supplements to your advantage. Once you have your diet and training on-point, the next logical step is to create a supplement stack.

Today we’re going to be talking about one of the unsung heroes of the bodybuilding world – Glutamine. Glutamine supplements provide numerous health and fitness benefits, yet people still consider them an afterthought. Here’s everything you need to know about Glutamine.

What is Glutamine?

L-Glutamine is an amino acid that is popular amongst bodybuilders. It is one of 20 naturally occurring amino acids found in protein molecules. It is also found in the human body, primarily within skeletal muscle. In fact, it is the most abundant amino acid found in the body as it is found primarily within the blood stream.

Glutamine comprises around 35% of amino acid nitrogen found within your blood. People often assume that, because the human body can naturally synthesize Glutamine, that it is non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are amino acids that the human body requires, but it can produce them naturally. Essential amino acids are amino acids which the body needs but cannot produce naturally. Instead, they need to come from supplementary or dietary forms.

Glutamine is what is known as “conditionally essential”. As mentioned, the body does produce glutamine. However, because it uses so much, we can benefit hugely by supplementing our diets with it. You see, in times of illness, or when we stress our bodies through intense physical exercise and exertion, we use more glutamine than usual. When this happens, reserves naturally run low. To counter-balance low glutamine levels, people supplement with glutamine powders.

Glutamine is found in both plant, and animal-based protein sources, though it is also available in powdered form and is sold as a supplement. Glutamine is found primarily within skeletal muscle tissue and it therefore plays a huge role in determining how quickly we recover after a strenuous workout. The lower the amounts of glutamine found in our muscles, the less efficient our muscles become, and the longer it takes us to recover.

What does Glutamine do in the body?

It’s easy to sit here and say that Glutamine does this, and Glutamine does that, but it’s important not only to talk about what Glutamine does, but to also talk about how it works. In your body, 70% of naturally-occurring glutamine is synthesized within your skeletal muscle tissue. Next, it goes on a mini-adventure around your body. From skeletal muscle tissue, it then goes on a journey to your small intestines, your white blood cells, and your kidneys. These are where the vast majority of glutamine found in your body is utilized for various health purposes.

The exact amount of glutamine you have in your body depends on a number of factors. Many people are deficient in this amino acid and aren’t even aware of this fact. Pregnant women and women whom are lactating will often suffer from Glutamine deficiencies as these processes both significantly deplete your body’s natural glutamine reserves. Illness, disease, malnutrition, and physical exercise also reduce the amounts you produce and store in your body, which is what makes it conditionally essential. Stress is another factor that can result in depleted glutamine levels. These are some instances where regular glutamine supplementation can be very beneficial.

So how does Glutamine work in the body and what does it do? Well, like other amino acids, Glutamine plays an important role in regulating protein synthesis and preventing muscle tissue breakdown. We already know that amino acids are important when it comes to protein synthesis, so that isn’t really news is it? Well, on top of that, Glutamine also affects the rate in which we metabolize BCAAs in the body.

Glutamine also helps increase nutrient uptake rates, it promotes digestive health, it boosts the immune system, it assists with the formation of glucose, it helps to regulate blood sugar levels, it plays a key role in neurotransmission, and plenty more besides. The kidneys consume a large percentage of the glutamine that you synthesize and consume. In fact, it is in the kidneys where ammonia, which is sliced from glutamine, is utilized in order to maintain PH levels. You see, if there is ammonia, there is glutamine, and vice versa.

From a bodybuilding standpoint, when you train physically hard and intensely, a process known as metabolic acidosis will be performed. The harder you train, the more metabolic acidosis will increase. When this occurs rental uptake levels of glutamine will shoot through the roof. Basically, the harder you train, the more glutamine your kidneys will utilize. Studies have found that, in less than a week, a regular training regime where the individual trains for at least 4 days per week, can result in a 25% reduction in glutamine levels. Again, this is why bodybuilders and athletes need to be supplementing with glutamine.

What are the signs of a glutamine deficiency?

Even though we can naturally produce glutamine, we can still benefit hugely from regular glutamine supplementation. Now that we understand why glutamine levels become depleted, particularly in times of stress, illness, or through intense physical exercise, we know that glutamine supplements can benefit everybody, not just bodybuilders. However, recent research has found that a large percentage of the population is in fact deficient in this amino acid, without even realizing.

Glutamine is beneficial for the human body for a number of reasons, and we’ll be looking at those later on in this guide. Right now, however, we’d like to focus on what the signs and symptoms of a glutamine deficiency are, in order to help you recognize whether you may be suffering with one yourself:

Weight loss

As a bodybuilder, the thought of losing muscle mass is probably one which keeps you awake at night. Bodybuilders put their bodies through hell to build muscle, so the last thing they want, nor need, is to find that they’re losing muscle mass for no obvious reasons. If you’re unfortunate enough to find that your muscles are in fact shrinking, despite you seemingly eating right and training hard, the reason for your sudden loss of mass could in fact be a glutamine deficiency.

If you are training hard, your glutamine levels will quickly become depleted, and no matter how much you produce naturally, it simply won’t be enough to compensate for the glutamine up-taken by your kidneys in response to physical exercise. This loss in glutamine will affect protein synthesis rates and will create a negative nitrogen balance in the body. This is very serious because a positive nitrogen balance is vital for protein synthesis, for muscle growth, and repair. It isn’t just bodybuilders that struggle with low glutamine deficiencies either. Even regular-sized individuals may lose weight because of a glutamine deficiency, as it can exasperate digestive issues affecting the gut, such as IBS, Crohn’s, or inflammatory bowel disease. To some, the prospect of losing weight may sound appealing, but sadly the vast majority of weight lost as a result of a glutamine deficiency is muscle mass.

Increased rates of illness and infection

It isn’t just your precious gains that will be affected if you don’t have enough glutamine in your system either. Experts have also found that glutamine deficiencies can result in an increase in the amounts of infections and illnesses that the individual suffers from. You see, Glutamine is present in white blood cells. One of its other primary roles in the body is to help strengthen and promote immune system health and wellbeing.

People often focus on vitamin C when it comes to the immune system, and whilst this vitamin is indeed very beneficial, some would argue that it is no more beneficial than glutamine, which many people other than bodybuilders, would never even consider supplementing with. Low amounts of glutamine in the body can hinder your immune system’s function, and a weakened immune system could cause the individual in question to become more susceptible to illness and infection.

When an individual suffers from stress, a natural response to this is for the body to produce and secrete a hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone which lowers the immune system. This is why people often get ill when they’re stressed and rundown. If you find that you are getting ill more frequently, and that it is taking you longer to recover from illnesses like common colds, it might be worth investing in a glutamine supplement.

Reduced energy levels

Do you ever find yourself waking up in a morning, and struggling to find the energy and motivation needed to get going? If you train early in the day, this can be difficult enough, but in extreme cases it can even affect things like being productive at work or around the home. Low energy levels will not only affect you physically, they will also affect you psychologically as well.

Being tired and lethargic will affect your levels of concentration and mental focus, which will make it harder to get into the ‘zone’ at the gym and to establish a strong mind-muscle connection whilst pumping iron. If you find that your energy and strength levels are low, despite you having had plenty of rest and food, the reason could be due to a lack of glutamine.

Digestive issues

As mentioned, glutamine also plays an important role in bowel and digestive health. You see, normally, when we consume food, the body digests it and converts a percentage of it into glucose which it then utilizes as a primary source of energy for the cells. Now, if you are very physically active, or if you aren’t eating enough, you may require more energy than you are able to get from the foods and beverages that you consume. So, what can you do? Well, this is where your body will utilize glutamine to provide energy for your cells.

In particular, you will find that this amino acid works most effectively within the gastrointestinal tract. If you already have naturally low levels of glutamine because of a deficiency however, this can result in your gastrointestinal tract becoming less efficient and you will become susceptible to various illnesses and ailments such as IBS or inflammatory bowel disease. People that suffer with digestive issues such as bloating, stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, or the aforementioned digestive issues we spoke of early, could suffer from these conditions as a result of naturally low levels of glutamine.

Is Glutamine the Right Supplement for You?

Glutamine is not an expensive or particularly fancy amino acid. Despite this, it is still a staple supplement for many keen bodybuilders and athletes and is found many popular supplement stacks. But is it the right supplement for you? Well, that will depend on a number of factors.

For example, are you physically active and do you lift weights and perform a lot of strength and resistance-based exercises during the week? If so, there’s a strong chance that your glutamine levels will have dropped naturally, in which case supplementation would prove useful.

As well as that, studies have also found that the amino acid can help people to build muscle and recover from strenuous workouts, so again, it would be effective. But it isn’t just athletes and bodybuilders that can benefit from glutamine. If any/all of the symptoms in the previous section sound familiar to you, you could be deficient in this amino acid, and again, a glutamine supplement would prove very useful.

When and How Should Glutamine Be Consumed?

Assuming you plan on using glutamine to help you to get big and jacked, it’s vital to understand how to use the amino acid to get the most from it. Remember, supplements need to be used safely and correctly, otherwise you risk your health, and you won’t reap the benefits. There is a lot of conflicting info out there regarding the optimal dosing of glutamine, but the general consensus does seem to be that optimally, you should take it twice per day.

Most experts recommend 5g in the morning, and 5g immediately after you finish your workout, although some people sip on glutamine during their workouts. This is because your muscles become damaged and worn down as you train, and you quickly use up the glutamine your body produces naturally, like we mentioned earlier. 5g after training will help to initiate protein synthesis and get your body in an anabolic state, as opposed to a catabolic state where you’re breaking down muscle tissue. Most bodybuilders will add a heaped teaspoon of glutamine to their post-workout protein shake.

To help get the protein and amino acids into the muscles quicker, a scoop of dextrose is often consumed instantly after training, as this creates a spike in insulin levels, which helps to shuttle the nutrients into your muscle cells much quicker. The sooner they get into the cells, the sooner they can start working their magic. If you are a serious lifter, or a particularly big dude, you may wish to consume a 3rd 5g serving of glutamine in the evening, perhaps with your casein protein shake before you go to bed. So, just to be clear, you should ideally be consuming 10g – 15g of glutamine per day, split into two or three servings. On days when you don’t train, it doesn’t really matter too much when you take your second serving of glutamine, as long as you get it in you. To avoid any confusion or potential health issues, always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturers of the glutamine that you purchased.

How to Get the Most out of Your Glutamine Supplement

Glutamine might not be anywhere near as expensive as whey protein isolate, but it isn’t exactly cheap either. Besides which, it doesn’t matter how much you’re paying for a product, when you buy a supplement you want to get the most from it, otherwise there’s no point. If you’re looking to get the most from your glutamine supplements, it’s important to know how to use them to your advantage. Here are some useful tips to help you get the most from them:

Use the right amount

As we just looked at, ideally you want to be consuming between 10g and 15g of glutamine per day. Some people out there using glutamine, however, have made the mistake of thinking that, the more they use, the more benefits they will be able to enjoy. It doesn’t work like that, your body can only utilize so much of the amino acid per day, and if you’re exceeding the recommended daily intake, or not consuming enough, you won’t see or feel the benefits. Basically, the glutamine won’t do what it’s supposed to do, and you may as well save your money.

Follow a healthy diet

Another effective way to get more from your glutamine supplementation is to ensure that you’re following a healthy and balanced diet. Assuming you’re reading this because you’re interested in bodybuilding and health and fitness in general, you’ll know just how important it is to eat the right foods at the right time. If muscle growth is your goal, glutamine will indeed help you to build and repair lean muscle tissue. However, the thing to remember is that your body can only build muscle if you’re eating enough protein. Not only that, but if you’re eating junk and failing to get enough nutrients, your health will still likely suffer so you won’t really notice a difference as far as the glutamine goes.

Train smart and regularly

Glutamine does help to promote muscle recovery and growth, but it doesn’t work miracles. If you’re taking glutamine and are simply hitting the gym and going through the motions when you feel like it, you won’t stimulate enough muscle fibres to build muscle and you won’t grow. If you aren’t breaking down the muscle tissue, there will be no need for the glutamine to be used to initiate protein synthesis and muscle repair, so it will simply be stored for use at a later date.

To get the most from your glutamine, and any other supplements you may be using, it’s important for you to train hard, to train smart, and to train regularly. You need to ensure that you’re pushing yourself in the gym in order to build muscle, otherwise you’re wasting your time. Each time you train you need to push yourself that little bit more. If, on the previous training session, you were able to bench 225 pounds for 5 reps, the next time you bench you should aim for 6 reps. It’s also important to switch up your training programs regularly in order to keep the body guessing. If you vary your workouts, commit to a regular training schedule, and really push yourself during your training sessions the glutamine supplements you use will help you to build muscle and get to where you need to be.

Benefits of Glutamine Supplements

We’ve established that glutamine supplements are indeed very good for you, especially when it comes to building muscle, but what precisely are the main benefits associated with glutamine supplementation? Some primary benefits include the following:

Great for the liver

Fatty liver disease is one of the leading contributors to premature death in the developed world. Fatty liver disease is very much lifestyle-orientated as it is caused by an unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol consumption, a lack of exercise, and being overweight. The disease is literally characterized by the liver becoming encased in a layer of fat, which places it under excessive strain and pressure.

Studies conducted into the effectiveness of glutamine with regard to liver health and function have found that glutamine can protect the liver from the progression of fatty liver disease. While it doesn’t appear to reduce the amount of fat coating the liver, it does help to stop the condition from getting worse. There is also evidence to suggest that glutamine supplementation could prevent the condition completely.

Increases muscle growth and repair

This is where all you bodybuilders will really start paying attention. You know how hard it is to build muscle, and how easy it is to lose muscle when you miss workouts or let your diet slip, which is why we need all of the help that we can get. Glutamine is an amino acid that many bodybuilders swear by.

Glutamine not only helps to enhance protein synthesis and improve the effectiveness of BCAAs, it also helps to increase your energy and endurance so you can train harder in the gym. After you finish training, glutamine levels can become depleted by as much as 50%, whereas your plasma levels will plummet as much as 30%. When this happens, you are at risk of entering a catabolic state whereby your body will use your muscle tissue for energy, rather than glucose.

Supplementing with glutamine during/after a workout, however, will help to prevent this from happening, so rather than burning muscle, you will actually be building it. As well as that, because glutamine helps you to generate more energy, strength, and power, your workouts will also improve drastically, and the more you do in the gym, the more muscle you will build.

Promotes recovery and endurance

We touched upon the benefits of glutamine for energy and endurance above, but we’ll now expand upon it a little. In the body, one of this amino acid’s primary roles is to act as a buffer for ammonia and lactic acid. It converts ammonia into other amino acids which the body needs to perform various physiological processes and functions. One hour of cardiovascular-based exercise can cause glutamine levels to drop by as much as 40%.

Supplementing with glutamine will help to negate these effects. Lactic acid and ammonia can cause muscle fatigue and cramping, which is obviously the last thing anybody needs when trying to work out. Glutamine helps to act as a buffer against these compounds, which in turn means that your muscles can work harder, and for longer, before they begin to tire and suffer from cramping and fatigue. Glutamine also helps to prevent overtraining syndrome as it helps to prevent the production of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone which has catabolic properties.

Cortisol suppresses testosterone production and growth hormone production, while slowing down the metabolism in the process. This in turn means that you will not only find it harder to build muscle, you’ll also find it easier to gain weight and it harder to lose fat. Basically, if you’re looking to enjoy more energy and to recover faster after a strenuous workout, glutamine is ideal.

Strengthens the immune system

Your immune system is what protects you against germs and bacteria looking to invade your body and make you unwell. The stronger your immune system is, the healthier you will be. On the flip side, if your immune system is weak, you’ll find yourself susceptible to all kinds of illnesses and diseases. Needless to say, keeping the immune system strong and healthy is absolutely vital for a number of reasons.

Glutamine helps to increase the amounts of T-cells that your body is able to produce, which in turn means that you’ll find it easier to fight off illness and disease and to stay fit and healthy. While nobody enjoys being ill, as a bodybuilder, being sick and unwell is the last thing you’ll want, as it will mean missing time in the gym as you recover. If you want to enjoy optimal health and wellness, be sure to supplement with glutamine on a daily basis, even if you aren’t particularly interested in getting big and jacked.

How to Choose a Glutamine Supplement

Contrary to popular belief, not all glutamine supplements are created equally. Some glutamine supplements cost more than others, which is likely due to the fact that they’re better quality. But how does one go about choosing a glutamine supplement? Well, here are some handy tips to help you out.

Read reviews

If you’re not sure whether a glutamine product is right for you, take a look at reviews left by other people online and see what they say. If the supplement has a lot of negative feedback and reviews, this should be a red flag and should set alarm bells ringing. On the other side of the coin, if a supplement has heaps of positive reviews, this likely tells you that the product is good and that it does what it needs to do.

Buy from a trusted brand

When you buy L-Glutamine supplements, or any other supplements for that matter, you should always buy them from trusted brands. You need to know that the product you are buying is not only good quality, but that it is also safe as well. If you come across a supplement from a completely new company with no reviews or feedback, for a cheap price, we recommend that you look elsewhere.

Don’t go for the cheapest option

Glutamine isn’t especially expensive anyways, so when buying it you shouldn’t need to cut corners to try to save a few bucks. If you look for the cheapest possible option, there’s a strong chance that it will suck and will be poor quality. You don’t need to buy the most expensive glutamine out there either but try not to look for the cheapest. If a product is cheap, it’s cheap for a reason.