We all know the most abundant amino acid in the body is L-Glutamine. And that must mean it’s important, right? Well, let’s take some time today to find out what all the hype is about.
Unlike most other amino acids which end up in our muscles, glutamine is actually produced in our muscles. The abundance of glutamine in the body really shows how critical it is to so many different processes. Glutamine is involved in immune function and gut function, and is supplemented in sickle cell patients as well as those struggling with burns or post-surgery healing. For this blog, we’ll just focus on the benefits of glutamine that matter for sports performance.
No one can train well while they’re sick, and glutamine is a critical component of how the immune system works. Major cell-level players in the immune system, like lymphocytes and macrophages, use glutamine as an energy source. Normally, body cells use glucose as their main source of energy, but immune cells often have to function when your body has low levels of glucose - like when you haven’t been able to eat normally in days since you caught the flu. As a result, doctors often supplement glutamine in people who are immunocompromised or recovering from surgery or infections.
For intra-workout function, however, glutamine is critical for its anti-fatigue abilities. On a cellular level, fatigue has multiple causes. Anything from glucose depletion to ammonia build up and pH changes can decrease your cells’ ability to work. Luckily, glutamine is involved in helping to prevent many of these situations. Glutamine is involved in how your body creates more glucose, a process known as gluconeogenesis.
Further, when you place your cells under metabolic stress (with resistance exercise, for example), ammonia can build up in your cells, since it is a byproduct of metabolic processes. Glutamine is handy here as well, since it is the body’s main transporter of ammonia. Glutamine can take the ammonia away from where it’s not supposed to be, and put it where your body can process and release it. Finally, it seems possible that glutamine might even help with fluid and electrolyte uptake in your body. Glutamine interacts with cells in your intestines to help open channels for water and electrolytes to cross from your GI tract into blood circulation. This is critical for anyone who needs to stay hydrated while they train (that’s everyone).
All these seem like pretty good reasons to make sure you’re topped up on glutamine before, during, and after your training. Immune function and fatigue reduction are two huge building blocks for anyone’s swole journey, cause you can’t get huge if you’re sick and tired!