Glutamine

| Originally Published: May 20, 2005
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Alice,

In various places, Glutamine is sold. My questions are:

What are the side effects, if there are any, of using this product?

What happens while you are taking it?

What happens when you decide to stop taking it?

Thanks in advance,
Orestes

Dear Orestes,

Glutamine or L-Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid found primarily in muscle tissue. Over 61 percent of skeletal muscle tissue is glutamine. It's responsible for carrying nitrogen into the muscle cell for muscle growth. Glutamine is released from the muscle cell under prolonged exercise, causing water to be discharged, dehydration, and muscle breakdown. Glutamine also plays a role in brain function, immunity, and GI (gastrointestinal) health.

Research on glutamine supplementation is scarce and conflicting. Some have found that supplementation does indeed decrease muscle breakdown under very high levels of stress to the muscle, whereas others show no improvements to muscle growth, performance, or recovery time. The one area that seems promising for glutamine supplementation is reduced incidence of infection after exhaustive exercise, boosting the immune system.

During intense training, glutamine levels are greatly depleted in muscle, decreasing strength, stamina, and recovery. It takes up to six days for glutamine levels to return to normal. Glutamine could also increase the body's ability to secrete Human Growth Hormone, which helps metabolize body fat and support new muscle growth. People may choose to take glutamine supplements to help with muscle growth, increase glycogen storage, decrease muscle breakdown, promote speedier recovery time after workouts, increase immunity, and/or enhance mental clarity and memory. People who are "cutting-down" — burning fat without losing muscle — may supplement for this purported purpose. The desired potential effects of glutamine cease once supplementation is discontinued.

Given the lack of conclusive research and your reasons for supplementing with glutamine, you will need to determine if it's worth the cost. In addition, dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so there's no guarantee of these products' effectiveness or safety. However, if you're considering using glutamine, the recommended dose of the powdered form is between 10 - 15 grams per day, contingent upon your eating plan and exercise intensity. It is also suggested that the dose be split during the day (i.e., if you are taking 10 grams, take 5 grams in the morning and 5 grams in the evening).

Because glutamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body, when supplemented in moderation, it produces no adverse side effects. If an individual takes more than the recommended dose, however, s/he may experience stomach upset. Those with Type I or Type II diabetes need to seriously consider not supplementing with glutamine. Excess amounts of glutamine in the blood may be used to produce glucose instead of passing harmlessly out of the body. As a precaution, anyone considering starting a regimen that includes glutamine supplementation needs to consult a medical provider, nutritionist, or other qualified health care professional first.

Alice