Amino acids are components of proteins, and sometimes referred to as ‘the building blocks of life’. L-glutamine is the most common amino acid in the human body, performing a range of functions involving primarily metabolic function, but also others, and is a popular supplement especially for athletes and bodybuilders.
Glutamine is an essential component of glucose synthesis, as well as being key for the creation of many proteins.
What is Glutamine and what role does it play?
Glutamine is usually described as a non-essential amino acid, which means that it can be synthesized by the body given the right circumstances.
However, research shows that under certain conditions, such as in times of great physical exertion, the body cannot produce glutamine fast enough to keep up, and a deficiency in the amino acid causes sub-optimal performance.
Other areas of the body where glutamine plays a core role include the immune system, brain and muscles.
Glutamine is consumed as fuel by many different kinds of cells, for example in the immune system where it is needed by lymphocytes, fibroblasts and macrophages, all cells that help to fight diseases and keep the body healthy, so ensuring that they are properly fueled is very important.
The majority of glutamine in the body is stored in the muscles, where it is used to fuel muscle contractions.
When other areas of the body need extra glutamine, they dip into the supplies in the muscle tissue, which is one of the reasons why illness can make our muscles feel weak – they are being deprived of their energy source – and one of the reasons why supplementing the diet with L-glutamine can help to reduce this incidence of weakness by maintaining healthy levels of glutamine in the muscles.
L-glutamine against severe diseases
Most research into the positive health effects of L-glutamine centers around its ability to support the metabolic system in times of increased workload, such as when a person is ill, or when they are taking part in intensive exercise.
Evidence suggests that L-glutamine can be useful in the treatment of many serious and prevalent diseases such as cancer, HIV AIDS and heart disease, and that in fact is produces beneficial effects in most incidences of critical illness.
L-Glutamine was shown in one study to potentially contribute to prolonging the lives of critically ill patients by up to twenty percent.
The mechanisms behind these beneficial effects of glutamine are many and various.
As well as supporting the immune system and providing energy to all kinds of cells throughout the body, glutamine plays a role in maintaining healthy gastrointestinal function and can help prevent the build-up of ammonia in liver cells.
Glutamine has also been proven to slow the degeneration of healthy tissue in patients with cancer and AIDS, primarily due to its catabolic function, which means that glutamine provides the harmful agents with energy from itself, so that healthy body tissue is not consumed.
Glutamine is very self-sacrificing in this respect.
Purpose of its intake
It is this catabolic function that L-glutamine began to be investigated as a supplement for athletes and bodybuilders.
When we exercise hard, our bodies consume a huge amount of energy, much of it used by the muscles.
If energy supplies are exhausted due to exertion, our bodies will begin to consume their own fat stores, but also muscle tissue in order to keep the energy supply flowing.
This is known as being in a catabolic state, and is obviously extremely counterproductive if the goal of the training is to gain lean muscle mass.
Supplementing with L-glutamine before, during, and after exercise helps to maintain healthy supplies of glycogen in the muscles and other tissue in the body, and prevents the creation of a catabolic state where muscle tissue may be consumed.
Additionally, athletes reported that the increased energy supplies provided by L-glutamine enabled them to train harder, for longer, and also improved their levels of concentration during exercise.
They also noted that continuing supplementation of L-glutamin following a workout reduced the time that their muscles needed to recover, allowing them to train more often.
The culmination of which is that they were able to produce better training results as a result of taking L-glutamine.
Further studies into the beneficial effects of L-glutamine seem to indicate that it can play a role in increasing protein synthesis in the body.
Combined with regular weight training, this would contribute to a larger gain of lean muscle mass compared to someone who was not supplementing with L-glutamine.
In addition, more muscle mass means increased metabolism, which is why supplementing with L-glutamine as part of a healthy diet and exercise program can help people to both gain lean muscle mass and lose weight more quickly.
Who can use it as supplement?
L-glutamine supplementation is particularly recommended to people who are either suffering from, or recovering from, a debilitating illness.
In such instances, your doctor should be able to advise you on appropriate levels of supplementation in order to assist your recovery.
For athletes and bodybuilders supplementing with L-glutamine as a means of improving the results of their training, glutamine supplements are available in a variety of forms, primarily capsules and powder, and often as part of a complete workout formula including quality protein, vitamins, minerals, creatine and other beneficial supplements.
There are few reported side-effects of supplementing with L-glutamine, but if you do experience any at all after taking the supplement, cease immediately and seek medical advice.