What is Glutamine?
Were you checking a supplement label or settling a debate on glutamine before you landed here? Either way, you’re about to learn a little about an oft talked about, but mysterious amino acid we commonly refer to as good ol’ L-glutamine.
Glutamine is an amino acid, and it’s the most abundant one in your body. Because it’s non-essential, the body can make it for normal everyday activities or you can obtain it from food. But, during heavy exercise or other stress, the body may eat through the reserves leaving you fighting off the effects of physical or mental stress responses.
So where does this most abundant amino acid hang out? Mostly in the muscles. The lungs store it, too. From there it is transported by the blood to areas that need it.
What does it do, exactly?
The Maintenance Benefits of L-Glutamine
- Is a component of protein.
- Helps repair wounds.
- Helps boost the immune system.
- Provides nitrogen and carbon to cells.
- Is used as a fuel by some cells.
- Creates other amino acids.
- Helps produce glucose.
- Keeps your big ol’ brain functioning normally (well, define normally? ;))
During times of heavy exercise or stress, the body can use more glutamine than is present. In severe cases like HIV/AIDs glutamine is prescribed to prevent muscle wasting which occurs as a result of the body consuming all L-glutamine and then munching on muscles for energy.
Glutamine Depletion During Training
The body views rigorous exercise as stress in the same way it views an illness as stress on the body. In turn, it uses more L-glutamine as its main fuel source to carry out numerous functions such as immune system processes, fueling cells, creating aminos and producing glucose.
You’d think athletes are super healthy, but because they exercise so much, they are more susceptible to illness as a result of depleted glutamine. Think about all glutamine does to keep the body a well-oiled machine? If it runs out, what happens to the maintenance man?
The immune system is dependent on L-glutamine as its primary fuel source, when it is not available, it seeks energy from the muscles. In other words, it feasts on your muscles for fuel. And they say self-preservation is the number one instinct…weird, huh?
In addition, during training or other situations of ‘stress’, the body releases cortisol.
Glutamine and Cortisol
While cortisol has been negatively covered by many sites, it is necessary for our survival, but we can undergo certain circumstances consistently that can turn cortisol from friend to foe.
Cortisol is released to prep the body for what it senses as danger. It releases glucose into the bloodstream and restricts nonessential bodily functions during danger.
It increases the availability of rebuilding nutrients in preparation for damage.
This process is all fine and dandy, unless your body goes through it often due to overtraining, stress, illness or disease. Continued exposure to cortisol release can lead to heart disease, obesity and brain malfunctions.
Glutamine assists in regulating cortisol and blocking its receptors. While having L-glutamine on hand, you possess control over cortisol, too. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, get sleep and try to handle situations of stress differently through meditation or ‘walking’ away from situations that are out of your control.
Glutamine can be found in foods such as beef, pork, chicken, eggs, cabbage, spinach and in dairy like milk, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and yogurt. It is also concentrated in high levels in whey protein and casein protein.
There is evidence glutamine promotes glycogen synthesis and protein synthesis within a couple hours of training. As a post-workout, consuming carbohydrates and whey protein or casein protein can promote muscle building and muscle preserving synthesis.
Get Glutamine and Get Protected
While diet, exercise and sleep are key factors to avoiding stress-induced cortisol, ensuring your body has enough immune-boosting glutamine is essential to preserving muscle mass and fighting stress. Check your intra-workout or post-workout panels for glutamine, L-glutamine or whey protein/casein protein to ensure you’re feeding your body the right stuff so it can fight stress and you can get results.