Often athletes who train with high intensity supplement their workouts with a variety of nutritional supplements, such as protein, creatine, zinc monomethionine aspartate (zma), B-hydroxy-B-methybutyrate (hmb), etc. Despite all these supplements, which are very popular among serious athletes and “weekend warriors” alike, few realize that one major supplement should be embodied in every serious athlete’s program: glutamine. However, before listing the purported claims of distributing companies of this product it is important to actually understand what kind of supplement glutamine is and what scientific research has discovered about it.
Glutamine is the most abundant type of amino acid in plasma and skeletal muscle, thereby contributing to the overall mass and size of muscle cells. Glutamine also acts as the primary building blocks for protein1. Furthermore, glutamine also aids in the retention of nitrogen, which ultimately prevents the breakdown of muscle tissues and helps maintain muscle mass during physiological stress. The human body goes through a constant fluctuation between anabolism and catabolism, and consequently, a constant cycle of protein synthesis and protein breakdown3. When the body is in a state of catabolism, nitrogen and glutamine are stripped from the muscles to be utilized for a variety of other critical functions, such as in the immune system. These functions take precedence over the fabrication of muscles. Thus, if there is an insufficient amount of glutamine and an overwhelming amount of physical trauma is placed upon the body, a greater concentration of glutamine will be taken from the muscles, thus leading to a constant state of catabolism2. However, while supplementing with glutamine an athlete is assuring that there is a sufficient amount of glucose concentration, allowing free glutamine to be employed by other tissues and cells and thus the release of glutamine from the muscle tissues is reduced significantly1. This means that the body can utilize the glutamine embodied in muscles to synthesize proteins and build muscle mass.
However, despite all the beneficial aspects related to this amino acid, there are certain people who should avoid this type of supplement. These individuals include those who have kidney problems, cirrhosis of the liver, Reye’s syndrome, pregnant, or women who are breast-feeding. Additionally, individuals on medication or with any other type of medical condition should consult with their doctor before administering this or any other type of supplement2.
Aside from the scientific research, distributing companies of this product purport that serious athletes concerned with nitrogen retention, cellular growth, and the overall maintenance of hard-earned muscle, may benefit from supplementing with glutamine. In likes to the research, the companies claim that not only does it increase protein synthesis, increases nitrogen retention, and decreases muscle breakdown, but it also decreases the recovery time needed after a workout and enhances immune functions as well2.
The companies that distribute glutamine, such as Muscletech, EAS, and Optimum Nutrition, have developed several variations which allow for individuals to administer the supplement in a variety of ways. CytoVol HP is a glutamine supplement distributed by EAS, which is in a powder form with an orange tasting flavor. Similarly, Optimum Nutrition markets a powder form of glutamine called After Max, which can be bought with either a vanilla or chocolate flavor. Aside from powders, some companies opted to deliver their supplement in a capsule form. Companies such as TwinLab and ISS Research currently sell glutamine supplements that can be taken in either 500mg or 1000mg doses.
The majority of these companies recommend taking 1 scoop of their product, if it is in powder form,