I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while– probably for a few months, ever since I discovered the magic that is L-glutamine. I was working a shift at a GNC the second day after leg day, when the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) are at their worst, and a friend of mine fed me two l-glutamine tablets. Ten hours later, my legs felt almost completely better. And no, I’m not making this up.
Before we talk about why it should be part of your recovery routine, we need to understand what exactly glutamine is, and why it works. Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning we cannot make it ourselves and have to consume it in our diet in order to replenish it. The reason why this is important is that glutamine has implications in a number of functions, including protein synthesis, lipid synthesis, regulation in the pH levels in our kidneys, anabolic processes as well as metabolism and plays a role in normalizing our intestines/gi tract as well as supporting our immune system. During intense and stressful conditions or events, however, plasma glutamine levels decrease significantly. This can last from a few hours to a few days, and compromises a majority of the aforementioned benefits, one of them being that muscular cells are not able to sufficiently respond to stressful stimuli and induce efficient recovery.
Now, of course, you can supplement glutamine, or you can get it from your diet. However, very little glutamine from food actually enters the bloodstream. So supplementing with glutamine after exercise, when the body’s stores are depleted, makes sense. Especially if you think of it in the context of boosting the immune system and improving its response to natural inflammation after intense exercise, thus decreasing the level of muscle damage and improving recovery. And studies have shown that in a myriad of situations, glutamine assists in protein synthesis, which is integral for building muscle. Glutamine’s relation to hydration allows it to become an anabolic signal to muscle cells to increase in size, and that carries over to improving an athlete’s strength. And an LSU study, which focused on cyclists and glutamine supplementation, demonstrated that athletes who used glutamine supplements had a longer time to fatigue during exercise, and were able to recover and perform even better the next day, whereas the placebo group had a shorter time to fatigue and did not recover and performed poorly within 24 hours. For athletes who supplemented, peak power even increased in comparison to those who did not. *However, it’s important to remember that any study might be designed in a manner where results are misinterpreted, and this is one of them– it’s possible athletes in the glutamine group were stronger, or had different diets, both variables which may contribute to results. But, I’ll take my chances. Whether it’s the placebo effect or the glutamine working, I definitely feel better after a workout if I use glutamine compared to when I don’t.
Castell, L. M., & Newsholme, E. A. (1997). The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition, 13(7-8), 738-742. doi:10.1016/s0899-9007(97)83036-5
Castell, L. M., Poortmans, J. R., Leclercq, R., Brasseur, M., Duchateau, J., & Newsholme, E. A. (1996). Some aspects of the acute phase response after a marathon race, and the effects of glutamine supplementation. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 75(1), 47-53. doi:10.1007/s004210050125
Piattoly, T. (2005). L-Glutamine supplementation: effects on recovery from exercise. PDF. Louisana State University