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What Is Glutamine?
Glutamine is an amino acid that serves as a building block for proteins to help build and maintain your muscles, organs, and fight off harmful viruses and bacteria.
There is a group of 20 amino acids that make up protein in the human body with most of them synthesized by our bodies (called non-essential amino acids). 9 of them, however, are classified as essential amino acids, which are amino acids that are not produced by the body and need to be obtained through our diets.
Glutamine is special in that it is considered a conditionally essential amino acid because although it is made by the human body, there are times where it is needed in greater quantities, such as during a state of growth, stress, illness or injury.
Glutamine exists in two forms, L-glutamine and D-glutamine, with most studies focused on L-glutamine’s role in the body’s immune system and gut health.
Naturally produced by the body, found in a variety of foods, and also available in supplement form, L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and body fluids and is used to perform important healing and recovery functions.
In many cases, a person’s body produces enough L-glutamine to meet its needs. However, there are times where a deficiency exists or more L-glutamine is needed to boost immune activity because the body’s needs exceeds its production rate due to things such as extreme stress or physical trauma.
Consuming foods that are rich in L-glutamine or using L-glutamine supplements during those special circumstances can help prevent a reduction in recovery time as well as offer an extra boost to the body’s immune system.
The average diet is estimated to contain about 3-6 grams of glutamine a day. You can find good sources of glutamine in the following foods:
- Chicken and eggs
- Seafood such as sardines, crab, lobster, shrimp, and prawns
- Red cabbage
- Dairy such as milk and yogurt
- Nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and linseeds
- Legumes such as soya beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. Note that many vegetarian and vegan products like tofu, tempeh and soya milk use soya beans
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and parsley
When To Take Glutamine Supplements?
There are many glutamine supplements out there, marketed towards the fitness industry as a muscle recovery and increased power output aid. However, research and studies in this area have primarily shown the greatest benefit in the category of endurance recovery (such as 2 or more hours of running) with other categories not showing much difference between glutamine supplements and placebo.
If you have certain medical conditions, such as kidney or liver disease, cancer (or if you have a high risk of cancer), Reye’s syndrome, or are allergic to L-glutamine, you definitely should avoid taking any glutamine supplements.
Consult with your healthcare provider and provide them with as much information as you can about your medical history as well as your current medications and physical activity level so that you can make a more informed decision about whether or not taking glutamine supplements is appropriate for you.
Glutamine supplements is typically available in two forms – powder and tablets. Be sure to read the instructions on the label carefully as there are differences in how you take the supplements depending on the form they are in. Typically, you can take the powder with a meal or snack unless otherwise directed while glutamine tablets should be taken on an empty stomach about 1 hour before a meal or 2 hours after a meal unless otherwise directed.