Glutamine is at the top of my “standard issue” group of supplements, meaning it’s not an option. If you train hard and you’re serious about growing, it’s a given that you should be taking supplemental glutamine.
I assume you’re getting the vitamin/mineral and antioxidant insurance you need by taking a quality multivitamin/multimineral pack in addition to eating a wide variety of healthy foods, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. I also figure you’re getting the protein you need (at least a gram [g] per pound of lean bodyweight per day, and preferably 1 g or more per pound of total bodyweight).
If you could buy only one supplement to support muscle growth, it should be glutamine, not creatine. In fact, if the primary source of protein in your diet is whole foods (rather than supplements), it’s even more important that you supplement your diet with glutamine. Surprised? Don’t be.
Creatine is the most popular supplement for fast mass and strength gains, and it’s a standard issue in most cases. Taking 5 g per day without any loading is plenty to keep the muscles flushed with high-test contractile fuel, while fully supporting recovery and growth over the long term.
WHY YOU NEED GLUTAMINE
Here’s a brief, but convincing, list of reasons why you should supplement with glutamine.
1) Your body can’t make enough of it when you’re training hard.
Glutamine is an amino acid: one of the building blocks of protein. It’s classified as a “conditionally essential” amino, meaning that, although the body can make glutamine from a variety of precursors like the branched-chain aminos, it can’t always make enough to satisfy the body’s needs. The shortages occur during various types of diets and when stress levels are elevated due to illness, injury, surgery, hard or prolonged exercise, etc.
2) Glutamine can be considered the controlling amino acid for muscle growth.
During times of stress, glutamine is released from muscle, which is the major site for its synthesis and storage. This happens because glutamine is more critical to other tissues of the body that cannot make it, including cells of the immune system and the intestine. When glutamine leaves muscle, the muscle begins to dehydrate. Dehydration, in turn, leads to muscle protein catabolism. Raising glutamine levels in the body leads to increased cell hydration and greater protein synthesis, both of which drive muscle growth.
3) It is essential for optimal immune function.
This function is the most critical key to recuperation and repair of musculoskeletal tissues. Furthermore, a healthy immune system enables you to train hard without the interruptions of minor, but nonetheless frustrating, colds and viruses.
4) Glutamine enables you to train harder.
Glutamine does this not only by improving recovery, but also by acting as a buffer for fatigue-inducing acids inside muscle.
5) Glutamine can enhance brain function.
You may be unaware of the relationship between brain chemistry and muscle growth, but there definitely is one. For example, glutamine can boost the level of neurotransmitters such as gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), which supports relaxation and recovery, among other things, and can even increase growth hormone secretion. I bet you like the sound of that.
6) You can’t get enough glutamine from your food.
Even if your diet is high in protein, you still won’t get enough glutamine. Sure, you get some glutamine from your diet since it makes up 4-8% of most food proteins (with the highest concentrations in milk, meat and some nuts). However, a high-protein diet derived mainly from whole foods (as opposed to supplements) may actually lead to decreased availability of some amino acids (glutamine among them) potentially causing reduced muscle protein synthesis. Adding supplementary glutamine can help correct any relative deficiency, as well as increase the amount and efficiency of protein synthesis.
7) Glutamine is the major energy source for many critical intestine cells.
Taking care of those cells not only helps ensure better digestion and absorption of nutrients, but safeguards the enormous contribution the gut makes to the immune system. You can’t minimize the importance of this.
So there you have Glutamine 101: the basics of why you need this amazing supplement. Start using it now you’ll thank me for it later.
HOW TO USE GLUTAMINE
• What kind of glutamine should I take?
Take either or both the free-form amino acid (L-glutamine) or the more stable peptide-bonded form found in some protein supplements and meal replacement powders.
How much should I take?
• Suggested amounts range from 5 to 40 g per day. For significant effects, 8-10 g per day is the minimum suggested dose; theoretically, even 5 g per day may be effective in small athletes. When using the free-form amino, start with 4 or 5 g (a slightly rounded teaspoon) two or three times a day. Depending on your size, how hard you’re training or cutting calories, and how much glutamine you’re getting in other supplements, adjust the dose upward over a period of a week or two.
When should I take it?
• You can take glutamine every day, after waking, before training, after training, before going to bed and between meals, preferably on a empty stomach, since glutamine is sensitive to stomach (and other) acids, as well as to heat. There’s no need to cut back or cycle in glutamine.
How should I ingest it?
• Each dose should be 5-10 g. Simply put it on your tongue and swallow with a swish of water or low-acid juice. If you prefer, you can add it to a protein drink, provided the drink is low in fat and will pass through the stomach quickly enough to limit exposure to stomach acid. Some glutamine supplements come in capsules, and you should follow the same direction for that form, as well.
Is glutamic acid the same thing as glutamine?
• No, Don’t mistake glutamic acid or glutamate for L-glutamine. They’re not the same substances and will definitely not produce the same effects. Read labels and accept only products that clearly identify glutamine as the free-form or peptide-bonded version.