Photo credit: San Juan de Aznalfarache

What Are The Benefits of Glutamine?

Have you heard about glutamine? A lot of blogs are pushing it, but many of their claims seem farfetched. We’ll run through some of the research, so you can decide if it’s a good addition to your routine.

What’s Glutamine?

Glutamine is an amino acid, and the most common protein building-block in your body. It’s mostly used for making energy and building muscle, but it’s also essential for producing bone marrow, supplying the immune system, and feeding digestive organs.

Where does it come from?

Glutamine’s in a lot of our foods, from any kind of meat to uncooked leafy greens. The human body even produces some of its own. We use a lot of it in our muscles and organs, so endurance athletes and people with compromised immune systems might develop deficiencies. If you need to get more in your diet, glutamine supplements might be a good choice for you.

What are the benefits of glutamine supplements?

There’s relatively little research on glutamine, but right now it looks like glutamine supplements are most effective at promoting exercise recovery in amateur athletes, reducing body fat in people with metabolic diseases, and possibly fighting off infections in endurance athletes. Here’s the rundown:

Recovery from exercise

Glutamine supplements might help athletes recover from exercise, but perhaps, just beginner athletes. In a placebo-controlled study, glutamine was linked to improved strength recovery and relief of soreness over 3 days following a tough workout in non-athletes. A separate study found that glutamine supplements provided no significant effect on strength, muscle mass, or biopsy measures of muscle stress after hard workouts in more active people who exercised at the gym 2–4 times per week.

Reducing body fat

Glutamine might also be able to help cut your waistline, according to 2 studies. In the first, researchers gave one group of diabetes patients a glutamine shake 3 times a day for 6 weeks, and another group got placebo. Beyond drinking the shakes, they didn’t change their diet or exercise, and the glutamine didn’t replace any meals. At the end of the study, doctors measured an average 1.33 cm reduction in waist circumference, as well as a 1% reduction in body fat and 0.07% reduction in fasting blood glucose. Another small study of non-diabetic obese women seems to support these findings too — patients who drank daily glutamine shakes lost an average 6 lbs. and 1.5 inches off their waistlines over 4 weeks without any other change to their lifestyles.

Fighting infections

Here’s where the research gets a little messy. Glutamine might help to reduce infections in endurance athletes, but the research isn’t conclusive yet. We know that high-intensity or endurance exercise can decrease the body’s glutamine reserves, and that endurance athletes are more likely to get sick. So researchers gave glutamine supplements to a group of long-distance runners immediately after a run, and then again 2 hours later. Then they waited a week, and asked how many of them got sick. From this, they concluded that glutamine supplements can reduce your risk of upper respiratory tract infection. Unfortunately, two follow-up studies by other researchers haven’t supported these findings. We won’t be able to say for sure until more research is done.

What are the risks?

The risks of side effects from glutamine are very low. However, like any proteins or amino acids, you should moderate your intake to avoid over-working your kidneys. Most servings sizes are 5 g or less. And like any other supplements, our best recommendation to you is to look into independent third-party testing so you know exactly what you’re getting.


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