Those who train hard, must pay attention to an adequate protein supply. So far so clear. However, not all amino acids have the same meaning for our body because they each take on different tasks. Accordingly, in the context of this article we want to look at the amino acid L-glutamine which plays a very special role for us strength athletes. But what functions does it perform and what are the specific benefits that justify supplementation?
What is glutamine?
L-Glutamine is a proteinogenic amino acid that is not one of the essential, but semi-essential amino acids. Although this means that our organism can make glutamine from other amino acids on its own, that does not mean that it is less important to us. On the contrary, how important it actually is, is already underlined by the fact that it makes up with a proportion of about 20 percent, the main constituent of the free amino acids in our blood plasma. The semi-essential nature of glutamine is responsible for the fact that this amino acid must be supplied through the diet, despite the body's own glutamine synthesis. This is especially the case with intensively training athletes since the body's own synthesis in such cases no longer complies with production. The formation itself occurs mostly in the skeletal muscle, glutamic acid as well as glutamate are needed.
What functions does glutamine fulfill in the body?
Why glutamine is so abundant in our blood becomes clear when we look at the functions of the amino acid. Because glutamine is irreplaceable in building muscle proteins needed to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. It serves, for example, as a substrate during the buildup of tension in the muscles. In addition, the amino acid is responsible for providing the muscles with nutrients and substrates such as creatine, water and carbohydrates. In addition, the amino acid not only indirectly, but also directly on the muscle structure by the oxidation of the BCAA counting amino acid L-leucine slows down. This in turn leads to a more efficient metabolism of leucine, which is a key initiator of muscle growth in protein synthesis. This effect was confirmed by researchers from the University of Illinois in 2006. No less important is the positive influence of the glutamine concentration on the nitrogen balance, which in turn is the basis for muscle building. Glutamine is also able to counteract catabolic processes of metabolism, as it mitigates the negative effects of the stress hormone cortisol, according to an International Journal of Sports Medicine.
Glutamine strengthens the immune system
In numerous studies it has already been observed that the body's own production decreases significantly, for example during illnesses. Subsequently, a decrease in the glutamine concentration in the blood plasma and in the muscles was also observed. Conversely, they came to the conclusion that a targeted intake of glutamine strengthens the immune system. This conclusion can be attributed, among other things, to the fact that our immune cells, macrophages and lymphocytes primarily use glutamine as a substrate. If the glutamine concentration in the organism sinks, the energy supply of our defense system is also reduced. In addition, the effect of the amino acid on a balanced ratio of acids and bases in our kidneys, which our poison filters can work much more effective and reliable.
Why is the amino acid so valuable to us strength athletes?
Since intensive strength training has a similarly negative effect on the glutamine concentration in our organism, it is obvious that this amino acid is particularly valuable for us strength athletes and athletes in general. How significant, as evidenced by a study by Oxford University, which was able to detect a decline in glutamine levels by up to 30 percent after intensive training. In addition, according to the researchers, it takes several days for the original glutamine concentration to be restored. Since we know how crucial the amino acid is in protein synthesis and thus muscle building, it is easy to conclude that a reduced glutamine level slows down muscle growth. In addition, the organism prefers to use the amino acid for the energy supply of the immune defense, as this is of course more important than the muscle growth.
Can there be a glutamine deficiency?
In the light of the importance of glutamine, we come seamlessly to the question of whether glutamine deficiency is possible and how it manifests itself. As a rule, a glutamine deficiency is very unlikely in the average person who is eating well-balanced diets and is not exposed to extraordinary stress. As already mentioned, heavy loads, such as those caused by sports, lead to a significant increase in demand. If this is not covered, the glutamine deficiency is not only manifested by a reduction in muscle build-up, but also by an increased susceptibility to infections. Especially for athletes, these are of course particularly annoying, since the associated compulsory breaks can destroy the work of weeks. A glutamine deficiency occurs due to the strong reduction of food intake especially often in the context of diets. However, there is no exact definition of glutamine deficiency, so you should pay particular attention to absorbing more than too little. This rule applies when you work out intensively, but especially when you train hard and go through a diet at the same time.
How and in what form can I take the amino acid?
The most common form in which the amino acid is available as a dietary supplement is in powder form. Alternatively, standardized capsules and pills, which facilitate the dosage significantly. Alternatively, you can of course also resort to particularly glutamine-rich foods. These include wheat, corn, lentils and dairy products. Casein protein itself is also very glutamine-rich. Regardless of which dosage form you choose, it is recommended that you take glutamine supplements immediately before bed, if possible, as this will promote regeneration and boost muscle growth overnight. In addition, on training days, the intake directly after training is highly recommended. Overall, studies have shown that, depending on the intensity of exercise, 20-30 grams per day are sufficient. While women tend to focus on the lower recommendation range, men are able to dose the amino acid within the range of the upper limit.
Are side effects to be expected when taking?
As with any dietary supplement, the question arises as to whether an overdose is possible and which side effects are to be expected in the event of an event. Fortunately, we can make it short, because you do not need to worry about side effects, as they can typically occur with drugs or stimulants. This is because your body is very efficient in utilizing nutrients. However, as with the consumption of proteins, it may occasionally lead to bloating and mild diarrhea. Only people who suffer from epilepsy should consult with a doctor before taking glutamine supplements as the amino acid may rarely increase the symptoms.