Glutamine Supplementation

October 4, 2009

iStock_000003763581XSmallSeveral posts ago, Rob Northrup asked, “What is your opinion of Glutamine as a natural energy booster?”

Well, I’m not a nutritionist, but here’s my best shot at correctly answering Rob’s question (you nutrition experts out there, please add your input and correct me if I say anything out of line!).

First, what is glutamine? Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid.

What’s an amino acid?  Amino acids combine to form proteins.  There are 20 amino acids required by the body.

What is a nonessential amino acid? Nonessential amino acids are amino acids that are manufactured by the body from compounds already in the body.  In contrast, essential amino acids cannot be manufactured within the body.  They must be supplied from the food we eat.

What are proteins used for?  Proteins are used in blood plasma and tissue structures like muscle, visceral tissue, nails, hair, skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.  Proteins are also important contributors to the body’s metabolic, transport (arteries, veins, capilaries), and hormonal systems.

In clinical tests glutamine was shown to help reduce the breakdown of muscle protein, and to augment protein synthesis in the body.  Infusing glutamine following a workout promotes muscle glycogen accumulation.  Intramuscular glycogen supplies the major carbohydrate energy source for active muscles during exercise.  Because of its potential anti-muscle breakdown and glycogen synthesizing effects, it has been speculated that glutamine supplementation might help responses to resistance training.  Alas, during a study in which glutamine supplementation (0.9 grams/kg lean tissue) was employed in healthy young adults, no affect in muscle performance, body composition, or muscle protein degradation was noted when compared with a placebo.

As for it being an energy booster, perhaps some have claimed this because of glutamine’s glycogen synthesizing effects (my guess).  However, it is thought that this effect is due to the body using glutamine to form glucose (gluconeogenesis).  If this is the case, consuming sufficient carbohydrates would likely have the same effect.

So, if you eat a balanced diet, fats and carbohydrates will be your major energy sources, with protein coming in a distant third.  Protein plays a larger role in supplying your body with energy when you are in a glycogen (carbohydrate) depleted state.  Such a state can occur through dieting or prolonged (2 – 4 hours or more) exercise.

Conclusion: Instead of supplementing glutamine for energy, eat a balanced diet with adequate amounts of carbohydrates.  Make sure the lion’s share of your carbohydrates are low glycemic carbs.  Use google to get a listing of low glycemic index carbohydrates.


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19 Responses to “Glutamine Supplementation”

  1. JJ Jalopy says:

    I took Glutamine once at a party. It never kicked in! 🙂

  2. Pam Schulz says:

    Always such great advice. Thanks Darryl!

    Expert Houston Retirement Planning & Wealth Management Services

  3. Kate McKeon says:

    All sorts of anecdotal evidence about glutamine . . . how powerful placebo can be depends on you. If it works, go for it. It won’t do damage in moderation.

    Leadership in Education, Kate

  4. Greg says:

    That’s for expanding my dieting vocabulary!

    Greg Dougall, Philanthropist-in-Training

  5. Lisa says:

    Very informative! I love how your broke down the definitions of everything in the beginning, without that I would’ve gotten lost in the infomration.


  6. Mister P says:

    Informative post. There is so much benefit to eating right. Too bad it takes so much effort.

    Bert (alter ego- Mister P)

  7. Vicki says:

    Good advice about having a balanced diet.I would rather spend my money on the food I put in my body than a supplement. Choosing the right foods can you do this.


  8. Scott Payne says:

    You always present great info…. the site looks great… I applaud you.

  9. Katie says:

    Great work Darryl! Yes, Martin, the body is it’s own best pharmacy – we have such amazing machines.

    Intense workouts and other forms of significantly increased stress. Sedentary stress can qualify if it is of epic proportions.

    The Dangers of Fasting, Katie

  10. What a indepth and thorough explanation of the role of glutamine in our diets. Now how about lysine? I take it for the effect is has on the immune system in combination with Vitamin C.

    Steve Chambers
    Sales Training Speaker

  11. Keri Eagan says:

    Excellent advice Darryl, thank you for clearing up the confusion.

    Keri Eagan
    Anything Alternative

  12. Great answer. You covered all the bases.

    Robert Martin

  13. Hi Darryl,

    indeed, that sounds like sound advice. In fact, I’ve been feeling a little fatigued in the last 2 days and have made a point to increase my intake of mixed organic greens to rush more nutrients to my bloodstream faster because our systems digest them so quickly.

    And sipping water to oxygenate my body better.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

  14. Wow, that was a lot of great in-depth information packed into one blog post! I know very little about amino acids. Thanks for the lesson. could there be a perfect diet for the general public of what to eat each day to get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, amino acids, etc.?

    Lisa McLellan
    Child Care Expert,
    Babysitting Services, Babysitting Tips, Babysitters, Nannies

  15. Martin says:

    If it’s non-essential, I’d tend to trust the body to manufacture the exact amount needed at just the right time. The body is an amazing pharmacy.

  16. Lynn Lane says:

    I think you covered it all very well. You echo all I know about it.

    The only time I ever use it is 2 x a week or after a very hard workout as you mentioned in your response to Rob.

    Lynn Lane

  17. Rob Northrup says:

    I first heard of gluatamine throught the SImpleology 103 that John Ho mentioned above. I have used it and found that it did increase energy. But I wasn’t sure if it was a placebo effect or not,

    thanks for answering my question so thoroughly Darryl, it sounds like it can’t hurt us in moderation… and it may or may not help…

    Seize the Day,
    Emergency Preparedness For the 21st Century Family

    • Darryl says:

      Hey, Rob, there was one potential benefit of glutamine supplementation that showed up over and over in journal articles and exercise physiology texts. That was that it may help to support the immune system after bouts of very intense exercise.

      After a very intense exercise session or competition (e.g. a marathon), there is a temporary drop in immune system response. The exercise must be very intense for this to occur. Some studies have shown this drop to be attenuated if glutamine is ingested after exercise is complete.

      This doesn’t have much to do with your original question, but I thought it might be interesting nonetheless.

      Health, Fitness for Working People — Darryl Pace

  18. John Ho says:

    Mark Joyner, in his Simpleology 103 “The Simple Science fo Personal Energy”, listed out the importance of managing in the following descending order:

    – Decrease Distress
    – Use Proper Fuel
    – Increase Eustress
    – Conserve
    – Boost

    So the booster is the least important int he overall scheme of things.

    John Ho
    Numerology Expert Helps Understanding Personality for Better Influence & Persuasion



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