When you’re browsing the aisles of your local vitamin store or natural pharmacy, you’ve probably walked past the amino acids section, taken a look at all those substances ending in “-ine” and wondered, “should I be using these?”
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein—they’re used in every cell of the body to create the proteins your body needs to function. Because of the fundamental role they play in your body’s function, it’s worth taking a look this class of supplements.
Two of the most popularly discussed amino acids are creatine* and glutamine. Enough has been said about creatine to fuel a CrossFit convention, so let’s take a closer look at glutamine, a relative newcomer to the scene.
What does glutamine do within the body?
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in your body. Produced mostly by muscle tissue, it’s used to fuel a number of your body’s most high-energy functions.
As an example, immune cells gobble up glutamine as fuel. So when immune function is stimulated—like when your body is trying to fight off infection or repair damage—an increased amount of glutamine leaves your muscle tissue and enters the bloodstream. But when your muscles are fatigued, your body can’t make it as well.
If your daily activities weaken your muscles—whether that means you’re a high-def bodybuilder in training or a desk-jockey sitting all day, every day—you can see how the resulting drop in glutamine could contribute to decreased wellness.
Why do people use glutamine?
Overall, because of the role it plays in fueling many of your body’s functions, increased glutamine levels are thought to allow more of your body’s processes to run as scheduled, even in times of injury, overwork, or stress.
Bodybuilders use it in as part of their regimen to help increase muscle size. Others use it for a variety of reasons, including:
• Immune function support
• Increased energy
• Quicker recovery from wounds
• Improved gut-barrier function
Can supplements help?
There is little clinical evidence for these claims, and some studies show results that range from inconclusive to flat-out failure. But based on what we do know about the function of this amino acid in the body, it’s easy to see why glutamine proponents are such dedicated believers.
The fact that trials haven’t proven efficacy across the board doesn’t mean that people don’t get results—a glance at bodybuilding and fitness forums around the web can find a lot of people reaping benefits from this supplement.
As an amino acid that naturally occurs in the body, glutamine is considered fairly low risk. Glutamine is sometimes contraindicated for people with diagnosed cancer, decreased kidney function, or certain other conditions.**
Try it for yourself
You can choose from pills, chews, or powders, so you can either pop your glutamine or build it into your morning smoothie.
There are natural sources of glutamine as well. As an amino acid produced in muscle tissue, it can be found in poultry, beef, pork, and other high-protein meats. You can also get dietary glutamine from dairy products, as well as from raw vegetables like spinach, parsley, and cabbage. Heat destroys the integrity of glutamine, so the uncooked, unprocessed options might be your best bet.
So if you tend to go hard on your body, a raw green smoothie and a little rest could be all that you need.
*Though creatine is often grouped with amino acids, it isn’t actually one of them—it’s an organic acid made from other aminos.
**If you’re under a doctor’s care, consult them before taking any supplement. And if you plan to use a dietary supplement in place of drugs or in combination with any drug, tell your health care provider or pharmacist first.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.