Glutamine is essential for building muscle, for training and for weight loss. If you look at the list of ingredients for the top bodybuilding supplements, glutamine would be near the top of the list. There is good scientific evidence to back its importance and ranks it among creatine, protein and steroid alternatives used for losing weight and gaining muscle.
Glutamine is the most abundant of the amino acids found in the body. It’s supplemented because manufacturer’s claim the natural glutamine levels found in the body are depleted during exercise, particularly anaerobic exercise. It’s suggested that bodybuilders supplement because a deficiency can lead to a weakening of the immune system and muscle tissue wasting. However, this argument is not yet scientifically supported. There are studies that show there to be no significant effect of glutamine on the strength involved with bench pressing, knee extension torque or lean muscle mass in comparison with controls that gave placebos. Another study found that glutamine is helpful in raising T-helper/suppressor cell ratios in distance runners.
The primary benefit of glutamine is its role in mediating nitrogen levels. A positive nitrogen balance happens when the total amount of nitrogen lost as part of normal bodily functions, including urination, feces and sweat, is less than the amount of nitrogen consumed in the diet. In order for new muscle tissue to be synthesized, it’s important for the body to have a positive nitrogen balance. It’s also important to losing weight. If the protein intake is not enough to maintain tissue nitrogen balance, a negative balance in nitrogen occurs, therefore no new muscle tissue is made. A body in the state of positive nitrogen balance takes in enough protein to maintain the muscle tissue needs and nitrogen amounts that are entering and exiting the body are the same. This is the state the bodybuilders are trying to attain. Glutamine can also help keep the digestive system functioning normally in the stressful state put on it by athletes consuming food at a high frequency and volume.
The immune system is also fueled by glutamine, which can be depleted during extended periods of prolonged exercise. Intense exercise usually falls into the categories of spin cycle classes, where cycling is done at an intense rate over a long period of time. Keeping glutamine at an adequate level also prevents Over Training Syndrome and upper respiratory infections. When blood sugar is low, glutamine acts as a suppressor to insulin so that the sugar levels don’t fall any further. It accelerates the release of glycogen to aid in the increase of blood sugar to normal levels. Glutamine is also a glycogenic amino acid that converts sugar to energy production, a process that is called gluconoegenesis.
By providing enough glutamine through diet and supplements results in less muscle tissue, if any at all, being broken down in order to provide glucose. This fact is especially important to those who are on a restricted calorie diet with the problem of losing muscle mass rather than fatty tissue. Strenuous exercise depletes glutamine supply by 40%, if not more. As stated before, depleted levels of glutamine impact the immune system greatly, which can be one of leading causes of Over Training Syndrome. Additionally, ATP will be lacking which results in decreased energy and endurance.
The best opportunity to supplement glutamine is immediately after exercise with a recovery drink. Supplementing this way will greatly reduce getting sick and help with overall training improvement. Typically, the supplement is a micronized, soluble powder. There are several ways to approach using the supplement. It can be done with 5 or 10 grams of glutamine with a pre-exercise meal about 1 or 2 hours before long training sessions. It can also be used during training at .5-1 gram/hour when included in a carbohydrate or electrolyte drink. Or in the most effective way, which is about 5 grams immediately after exercise in a recovery drink.