By: Alex Liska
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine is one of the 11 non-essential amino acids. Non-essential means that the body can produce it on its own (unlike "essential" amino acids). Under normal conditions (meaning we are eating a substantial, nutritious diet consisting of enough proteins, veggies and healthy fats) our bodies should be able to produce MORE THAN ENOUGH glutamine for muscle tissue repair/post-workout recovery.
Approximately 60% of our glutamine is found in skeletal muscle tissue and the rest is found in the liver, lungs, stomach tissues and brain.
What is the role that Glutamine plays in the body?
Glutamine is responsible for repair of muscle tissues as well as increasing the hydration state of muscle cells. Once muscle cells become dehydrated they enter a catabolic (breakdown) state. This is also why it is important to ALWAYS STAY HYDRATED; but on the topic of glutamine, this is why it's important to be eating a sound nutritious diet that encourages the body to produce enough of this amino-acid to help with the hydration of muscle cells.
Glutamine is also a nitrogen donor, meaning that it moves nitrogen around to the areas of the body where it is most needed. Positive Nitrogen Balance is necessary in order to gain muscle mass.
What causes Glutamine Depletion?
During times of stress, glutamine stores are depleted and must be replenished through proper nutrition and in some cases supplementation is said to come in handy.
Stress is a major cause of glutamine depletion. The common cold can certainly cause enough stress that your body's glutamine reserves may start to run low!!!
Strenuous exercise is another factor that will disrupt your immune function to a point where glutamine may begin to run low in your body. All it takes is five minutes of exercise for catabolic hormones (muscle breakdown hormones) to be released and glutamine levels will rise to keep up with this process. By the end of a hard workout it is quite common for your body's glutamine levels to be completely depleted and in need of repair. Therefore the harder you train, the higher the rates of depletion.
Should I consider Glutamine Supplementation or is My Diet Enough?
This has got to be the most frequently asked question when it comes to Glutamine!!! I have been asked this question by numerous people, time and time again.
There are two answers to this question, there is MY PERSONAL OPINION and there is WHAT SUITS YOU BEST.
Simply put, the typical North American Diet provides anywhere from 3.5- 7grams of Glutamine daily, which can be found in animal and plant proteins.
Ask yourself this "Am I eating adequate amounts of animal or plant-based proteins (one or the other, or both)?"
If you answered NO, then you might as well start eating more protein if you would like to help your body produce more glutamine!! Have you ever heard the saying "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for Life" ??? I firmly believe that the same concept applies when you give your body supplements instead of feeding it the right nutrition so that it can manufacture its own non-essential amino-acids! After all NON-ESSENTIAL does not mean that they are not necessary, it simply means that if we are eating right OUR BODY CAN PRODUCE THESE AMINO ACIDS ON ITS OWN!
I have heard from people in the Fitness Industry who have taken Glutamine (and also people who are sponsored by companies that make glutamine) that it is a GREAT supplement and "IT WORKS" ... If that is the case, if you have taken Glutamine and "it worked" for you then continue taking it!
I have taken Glutamine in the past (I used the whole container, serving by serving, day by day as recommended on the instructions, and I also cross-referenced different forums, asked fellow personal trainers/fitness experts about how to take it properly) and it did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for me!!!!
I like to rely on adequate amounts of sleep (6-8hours a night and if that is not possilbe, I will take power-naps during the day), adequate amounts of protein from lean meats, eggs, fish, egg-whites, plain 0% yogurt, cheeses (fat-free or reduced fat) and skim milk. I rest 2 days out of the week and train the other 5 days. On my rest days I eat clean (I eat clean 85-90% of the time regardless) and I will eat more green veggies to keep my metabolism up!
My Own Personal Experience With Glutamine (A Short Story)...
A few years back when I used to work 9-5 Monday-Friday, I followed a diet that was low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates and consisted of 5-6 servings of 20-30grams of extra-lean protein a day. This diet was also low in sodium. It was the most commonly recommended diet by "fitness experts" for getting lean so I trusted that with this diet, a well-known Glutamine supplement, enough water, and rest I would get ripped in 10-12 weeks and would have enough energy for my workouts! I was doing cardio in the morning and weights in the afternoon. I would take one day off each week, usually a week-end day. I was afraid to cheat on my diet because I very badly wanted to get lean and ripped! This was back in 2008. I followed the diet, ate my 5-6 meals each day, TRIED to rest at night (this was hard because work was stressful and I was always in a hurry, I lived on my own and had tons of bills to pay, my diet/supplements just added to my list of expenses). I religiously took my Glutamine supplement post-workouts and before bed and sometimes even in the morning. I was only taking it twice a day but after 3 weeks of not seeing any results and feeling completely drained and lacking energy I upped my serving of glutamine to 3-4 times a day!!! LOL...
Anyhow I finished off the container and at this point I was not noticing ANY IMPROVEMENTS in my recovery post-workouts, NO INCREASE in energy and NO RESULTS from my training and dieting.
I continued to diet and train hard but stopped spending any extra money on Glutamine.
Well....................that was back in 2008.... I have since then written a new diet for myself. Yes, this time I did my own diet, because I figured I know my body better than anyone else does. I have CUT OUT ALL CARBS except for unsweetened cocoa powder (which has NO sugar, just 2 grams of fiber per serving), the occasional 1/2-3/4cup of berries (on the weekend and i won't have any more than 1/2-3/4Cup as a serving size), plain 0% yogurt and green veggies. SOMETIMES I will have a few (5-6) baby carrots in my stir-fry but that is it! I eat moderate amounts of lean proteins and dietary fats! Moderation is key when it comes to fat, I won't eat too much of it but if I do, I will focus on essential fats/dietary fats and STAY AWAY from trans-fats/unhealthy man-made fats!!!
Instead of training 2 times a day 6 days a week, I would rather focus on a strict but easy-to-stick-to diet and train once a day 5 days a week! The extra rest day MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE!!!!! More than Glutamine supplementation could EVER do for me... I drink PLENTY of water before, during and after my workouts and I focus on keeping my stress levels LOW... taking a few deep breaths and zoning out for a minute or so helps me regain focus throughout the day and not being under pressure to train twice a day helps me focus better on my workout! I am more energized and I enjoy it WAY more...
I like the quote "Educate! Don't Medicate" when it comes to supplements. I have learned that balance (nutrition, training, rest) is the key, not taking extra supplements to make up for poor nutrition, over-training and lack of sleep/rest!
I hope this article helps!!! I have checked the poll on here (on the left hand panel) and I noticed that "Financial" stress is the main source of stress!!! Well, supplements can be VERY COSTLY so focus on a sound nutritious diet: No-Name Tuna, Low-fat Mayo, Plain 0% yogurt, Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Canned Chicken-Breast, Frozen Fish, Canned Salmon, Frozen Spinach, Olive Oil, Organ Meats, Onions, Garlic....ETC... CAN ALL BE FOUND FOR CHEAP OR ON SALE AT MAJOR GROCERY STORES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA!!! The Key here is to shop for bargains, buy NO-NAME vs. BRAND-NAME products and make a list of what you need so that you can briefly consult grocery store flyers to see where everything is on sale before you head out for your grocery shopping trip!
Not spending money on un-necessary supplements can help give your pocket/wallets a break!!! After all we could all use a little financial break every now and then! ;)
Have a Great Week!
-Alex L. :)