The human body needs amino acids, and with active physical activity, the need for them increases. One of the most important components that improves the well-being and health of an athlete is glutamine. Its source can be food, as well as nutritional supplements, which are indispensable for regular exercise. Find only proved glutamine benefits below!
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine belongs to the group of conditionally essential amino acids. It is synthesized in human skeletal muscle and is found in certain foods. Glutamine is involved in the formation of the building blocks for protein, with the help of which nutrients are transferred to all organs of the body.
Main Glutamine Benefits
Glutamine is necessary for the body of any person, but its role is especially great for people who go in for sports or undergo a course of recovery after injuries and operations. This amino acid has a beneficial effect on the work of the heart and brain, promotes rapid healing of wounds and burns. It prevents the destruction of the liver, stimulates the synthesis of growth hormone, and effectively removes metabolic products from the body. Glutamine can reduce the secondary effects of chemotherapy, improve the physical condition and well-being of people with HIV, and help the body fight stress.
Effects on the Immune System
Glutamine strengthens the immune system, being a source of energy for leukocytes. With injuries, diseases, and physical exertion, the level of the amino acid in the human body drops sharply, so the body begins to release it from the protein stores that are contained in the muscles. In such cases, it is necessary to take glutamine supplements, which provide support for the immune system.
Glutamine Benefits for Gut Health
Normal bowel function is a prerequisite for well-being and strong immunity. With intense exercise, the cells of this organ partially lose their ability to retain bacteria and toxins, allowing them to enter the bloodstream. The consumption of glutamine can reduce intestinal capacity. The amino acid strengthens the cells of this organ and prevents their damage, which creates a reliable barrier for pathogens and harmful substances.
Effects on Muscle Growth
In the human body, glutamine takes an active part in the processes of protein generation. It has been experimentally proven that the use of this amino acid does not stimulate the growth of muscle tissue, but accelerates the process of its recovery after intense sports.
Combined with carbohydrates, glutamine increases stamina, reduces fatigue, and protects muscle fibers from damage. Consuming the amino acid can help relieve muscle soreness after a grueling workout, as well as prevent muscle loss in diseases.
Glutamine Rich Foods
Glutamine acts as a constituent element of protein, therefore, protein foods of plant and animal origin are its natural source. The human diet usually contains ingredients that are high in protein. But some foods contain the maximum amount of glutamine per 100 g:
- beef – 1.2 g;
- chicken eggs – 0.6 g;
- tofu – 0.6 g;
- corn – 0.4 g;
- milk – 0.3 g;
- rice – 0.3 g.
With significant physical exertion or in the process of rehabilitation after injuries, a person may require more glutamine, which enters the body with food. In such cases, it is recommended to additionally consume the amino acid in the form of a dietary supplement. You can buy it in specialized sports nutrition stores, and the dosage depends on the state of human health, the presence of physical activity, and their intensity.
The daily intake of glutamine for an average person is about 5 g. This amount of amino acid can be obtained from foods high in protein, making up a balanced diet.
To accurately calculate the body’s need for glutamine, take into account the person’s lifestyle and well-being. Athletes need to take 3-5 g of the amino acid 2-3 times a day, and with intense physical exertion, this dose is increased to 10 g 2 times a day.
People with HIV, liver diseases, and mental disorders are advised to consume up to 40 g of glutamine per day.
How to Get 100% Glutamine Benefits
When using glutamine as a dietary supplement, it is recommended to follow several guidelines that increase the effective absorption of the amino acid by the body. Glutamine is taken before the start of sports training, after its completion, and in the evening before bedtime. On days off from physical activity, it is sufficient to take the supplement during the day and at night.
In the first days, the amount of this amino acid should not exceed 5 g per day, and then the dose is gradually increased to the required serving size. Glutamine is well absorbed by the body when consumed with a small amount of food or a serving of protein.
It has been experimentally proven that there are no side effects with daily use of a portion of glutamine up to 40 g. But the effect of this amino acid on the body during prolonged use has not yet been sufficiently studied.
Is Glutamine Deficiency Real?
Under certain conditions, a deficiency of this amino acid is observed in the human body. This can be due to intense physical training, insufficient protein in the daily diet, severe stress, or immune diseases. Glutamine deficiency is common in people who have received chemotherapy, are injured, or have a serious infection.
In conditions of a lack of amino acids, loss of muscle mass, a strong weakening of the immune system, and impairment of brain function are possible.
Effectiveness of Glutamine Benefits for Athletes
During intense physical training, the athlete’s body spends a lot of energy, which is accompanied by the decomposition of protein structures in the muscles and a weakening of the immune system. Glutamine not only quickly recovers strength after exercise but also prevents muscle loss by speeding up muscle regeneration. In addition, this amino acid blocks the action of cortisol, which triggers the breakdown of protein in muscles after exhausting physical training.
Athletes who consume glutamine do not get stronger and more muscular!
Glutamine is an old good sports supplement that has little to offer the athlete in terms of getting bigger and more powerful. However, Spanish scientists think differently. They suspect that athletes who do a lot of eccentric movements may respond positively to glutamine supplementation. Currently, most scientists believe that glutamine benefits have nothing to do with athletes’ performance.  Athletes who consume glutamine do not get stronger or more muscular, and even the theory that taking glutamine reduces the likelihood of contracting viruses has been grossly exaggerated.
Anyway, it’s entirely possible that a certain type of athlete does benefit from supplemental glutamine. Or that glutamine only works in a certain dose, not too low and certainly not too high.
Research on the Glutamine Benefits in Sports for Eccentric Movements
Spanish sports scientists published a human study in the Nutrients journal in which they examined the effects of a daily dose of 6 grams of glutamine on basketball players. In this sport, the amount of eccentric movement is significant.
For 20 days, the researchers gave 12 national and European athletes a daily supplement. In another case, the subjects were given a placebo for 20 days. The test took place during the competitive season, so the physical activity of the athletes was quite high.
Glutamine Benefits Investigation Results
At the end of the supplementation period, the players’ blood levels of creatine kinase (CK) and myoglobin (MB) decreased. This suggests that their muscles were damaged less.
In the 1990s, when glutamine was still a very popular supplement, fitness websites and magazines reported that glutamine lowers cortisol levels. The Spaniards did not find such an effect.
They found that glutamine supplementation reduced the concentration of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the blood of athletes. ACTH stimulates the secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands.
On top of that, the addition of glutamine altered the composition of blood cells. The proportion of lymphocytes decreased. This could mean that the athletes had fewer problems with infections while taking the supplements.
Glutamine Supplementation Reduces Circulating Markers of Muscle Damage
“In conclusion, the data presented show that glutamine supplementation leads to a decrease in circulating markers of muscle damage, accompanied by an adequate balance between catabolic and anabolic hormone response and leukocyte cell stability,” the researchers write.
“We hypothesize that controlling these specific parameters can help prevent inflammation and stress caused by intense exercise. In practical terms, glutamine supplementation can aid recovery from intense eccentric exercise that leads to muscle damage.” 
The Bottom Line
Glutamine is needed for muscles, intestines, liver, brain, and kidneys. With regular exercise, the body requires an increased amount of glutamine, since it is the main building material for muscle tissue.
Glutamine has a number of important functions in the human body. The need for it increases in the presence of exhausting physical activity, injury, or serious illness. This amino acid is synthesized in the human body, and can also be obtained from food and special supplements.
Glutamine has a beneficial effect on the immune system and intestinal function is useful for athletes and accelerates the body’s recovery process after injuries and illnesses. Short-term use of the amino acid is safe, but more experimental studies to investigate the effects of glutamine on the body with long-term use are required.
See more topics:
- Amino Acids vs Protein for Muscle Growth
- How to Build Muscle With Scientific Approach
- How to Prevent Injuries in Sports
- Glutamine: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects – HealthLine
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- The effect of glutamine supplementation on athletic performance, body composition, and immune function: A systematic review and a meta-analysis of clinical trials Amirhossein Ramezani Ahmadi, Elham Rayyani.Clin Nutr. 2019 Jun;38(3):1076-1091.
- Effect of Glutamine Supplementation on Muscular Damage Biomarkers in Professional Basketball Players. Alfredo Córdova-Martínez, Alberto Caballero-García. Nutrients 2021, 13, 2073.