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Does Supplemental Glutamine Increase Muscle Recovery?

Reader Question

How much glutamine should I take? This is usually the first question I get without any questions regarding if it works or not. First let’s take a look at how it’s made in the muscle:

The branch chain amino acids (valine, isoleucine and leucine) use the enzyme a-ketoglutarate and BCAA transminase to produce —–> glutamate, which then uses ATP, glutamine synthetase and ADP + P1 to produce —->glutamine.

From this reaction, you can see why consuming the branch amino acids post-workout is so important in the form of a grass-fed whey protein shake and an animal protein rich meal within 2 hours. BCAA’s and glutamine work synergistically to build and repair. This process not only occurs in the skeletal muscle, but in the lungs, brain and adipose tissue. The glutamine that is formed in the muscle is then sent to other tissues including the intestine, kidneys and liver.

Does Glutamine Work for Athletes?

Personally and professionally, I cannot vouch for supplemental glutamine increasing recovery. One study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology gave young athletes glutamine and another placebo while doing heavy squats and bench presses found no significant effect on muscle performance, body composition or muscle protein degradation in young healthy adults.

Supplementing with glutamine may not work in cases of strength training related muscle recovery, but it does in cases of extreme trauma when the body cannot produce enough to reach the demand for repair. For example, you are recovering from back surgery after a piano was dropped on you.

In athletes, the production of glutamine meets the quantity required by the muscles post-workout with nutrition, and the rest is sent elsewhere knocking on doors to other tissues. Therefore supplementing with glutamine is probably a complete waste for physical activity, not to mention possibly deletarious due to such a large isolated influx. In our practice, it has been invaluable for cancer patients going through chemotherapy to heal their intestinal tract and prevent mouth sources. But for athletes, save your money on glutamine and use it to buy more pastured eggs, grass-fed whey and grass-fed beef.

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