An Introduction to Glutamine Supplements
Glutamine (“l-glutamine”) is an amino acid. It’s also probably one of my most favorite supplement of all times, and one I take pretty regularly.
No, L-glutamine is not sexy.
You won’t find it commanding full-page ads in your favorite health & fitness or body building magazines. And nobody talks about it much.
Nevertheless, it is an useful supplement that anyone – the dieter, the fitness fanatic and body builder, the chronically ill, cancer patients, and those recovering from surgery can benefit from. No, it’s not a miracle worker, but taken regularly, it offers a range of potential benefits.
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein, and they are classified as “essential” (meaning the body cannot synthesize them itself and must obtain them from the diet), or “non-essential” (meaning the body can make them from various raw materials). Glutamine is considered “conditionally non-essential” meaning normally the body can make enough to meet its own needs. However, in times of stress or trauma the body can run low on l-glutamine, and needs to obtain extra from an outside source. Glutamine is also the most abundant amino in the human body, and is involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid. Its functions are many and its role is critical.
Glutamine for BodyBuilding
Glutamine is commonly marketed to body builders because it has been shown to enhance muscle recovery, display anti-catabolic behavior, increase protein synthesis, and muscle hydration — all important stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Contrary to popular belief however, glutamine does not seem to improve muscular performance.
In fact, there are plenty of clinical studies that indicate glutamine has no positive effect on muscular performance whatsoever even at the appropriate high dosage. (See J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):157-60, Sports Med. 2003;33(5):323-45).
However, that doesn’t mean this supplement isn’t valuable for bodybuilders; it does work indirectly to make you stronger.
It does so by improving glucose regulation, immune function, protein synthesis and promoting a positive nitrogen balance (see Can J Appl Physiol. 1999 Feb;24(1):1-14, JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1990 Jul-Aug;14(4 Suppl):40S-44S).
Therefore, it is still a vitally important supplement that should be used by every training athlete.
Glutamine For Sugar Cravings and Blood Sugar Control
However, lately I’ve become convinced that glutamine shows great promise for dieters, diabetics, and anyone trying to lose weight or battle the fluctuating blood sugar levels that lead to carbohydrate cravings.
In my experience, glutamine is an amazing “craving killer.”
Although glutamine’s “diet” usage is not new, it is not commonly used to reduce craving for sweets. But that doesn`t mean that its carb-suppressing qualities have not been recognized previously.
Glutamine and the Atkins Diet
Those of you familiar with the Atkins’ diet know Dr Atkins recommends supplementing with glutamine during his diet’s initial period of extreme carbohydrate restriction to protect lean muscle mass. L-glutamine can also be metabolized into glucose for fuel if necessary—again, making it a critical supplement for low carb dieters as well.
However, new studies are examining the link between glutamine and glucose management in both the gut (where glutamine plays a huge role) and the kidneys and other tissues (see Kidney Int. 1999 Mar;55(3):778-92, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2001 Jul;4(4):267-71, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2005 Jul;8(4):445-9, Braz J Med Biol Res. 2003 Feb;36(2):153-63. Epub 2003 Jan 29).
My own experience with glutamine (which does not constitute real evidence, of course) appears to bear out its glucose regulating effects. I’ve found that glutamine supplementation has been amazingly effective at absolutely eliminating late night cravings for carbohydrate based junk foods.
My normal solution for cravings such as these has been to take 300 mg of alpha lipoic acid prior to my meals. Lately however, even this had proved to be ineffective.
Glutamine, on the other hand, worked absolute miracles for me! (I am taking approximately 30 grams of glutamine per day in two divided doses. I found it took about a week to realize the effects, but once I did… wow!).
As such, l-glutamine is one of my top recommended supplements as a craving killer! (I also really like alpha lipoic acid for sugar cravings and blood sugar control).
Glutamine for Weight Loss
I am unaware of any clinical studies that conform this supplement’s weight loss effects. However, because it helps with cravings, it may also help a little with weight loss – not because of any miraculous fat burning effect, but because of simple mathematics.
That’s right, if you eliminate cravings, you’ll eat less junk.
And, if you eat less shitty, sugar-rich foods, and more nutritionally dense ones instead, it’s possible using this supplement can help you obtain a caloric deficit and lose weight (I say “possible” because even if you cut back on how much you eat but are still consuming more calories than you need, you will not! Weight loss is all about creating a caloric deficit).
Safety and Toxicity
This supplement has been studied at relatively high doses and is determined to be safe and non-toxic. Since it’s often used with vulnerable people – critically ill patients and patients undergoing major surgery – I can say with confidence that this is a safe supplement.
Other Glutamine Benefits GH Booster
This amino acid may function as a natural GH-booster as well.
A recent study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that oral supplementation with as little as 2 grams (about half a teaspoon) of glutamine significantly elevated circulating growth hormone levels!
Other benefits of glutamine supplementation include…
- Promotes gastrointestinal health.
- Speeds the healing of wounds, and is of great use as a “surgical recovery” supplement.
- Boosts the immune system (in dosages of 20-40 grams daily).
- Protects the liver from damaging effects of chemotherapy.
- Curbs the desire to consume alcohol.
- Is a building block of several important neurotransmitters supplementation may contribute to enhanced brain function.
Because glutamine offers so many substantiated benefits, retailers throw it into all sorts of supplements; bodybuilding supplements, weight loss products and blood sugar moderators, as well as general health products.
99 times out of a 100, these products contain a mere sprinkling of ingredient – not enough to provide any perceptible benefit. Remember, glutamine needs to be consumed in a multi-gram dosage to provide any benefit.
Any product that contains less than that is usuing glutamine for label dressing – to make the label appear more impressive than it is. It does not contain a helpful dose. You need to buy glutamine in bulk and take in high doses (over 5 grams) to obtain any effect.
Supplementing and Dosage
L-glutamine is a tasteless, odorless white powder. It can be mixed with water, juice, or diet pop, as long as it is consumed immediately; glutamine will not stay in suspension very well, and will quickly accumulate at the bottom of a glass.
The key to consuming it therefore, is to stir rapidly, and guzzle it all back at once.
Because glutamine is used by the gut, you need to take a hefty dose of it if you expect to see any results. That means about 5 grams (about a teaspoon) per serving. I usually take about 10-15 grams per day myself, but have taken up to 60 grams per day with no adverse effects (during my cancer surgery post recovery period. Normally, you don’t need to take anywhere near this potent a dose).
To get the greatest benefits from L-glutamine, I recommend taking anywhere from 5-15 grams (1-3 teaspoons) twice daily. It should be taken on an empty stomach before bed and immediately upon rising for greatest effect, although you can take it pretty much anytime, and even mix it iinto your protein shake if you prefer.
Bodybuilders (especially those on “cutting phases”) and those on the severe carbohydrate restriction period of the Atkins diet may wish to double this, and add two more divided doses.
If you’re looking to use glutamine as a sugar craving killer, give it a week before you expect to see any results. Start with a higher dose (15 grams twice daily) and taper it back once you begin to feel the effects.
You can buy glutamine just about anywhere online, but I recommend iHerb.com; their service is quick and professional (I know… I buy my stuff from them!).
Don’t buy capsules though—you’ll need to take too many for that to be cost effective or practical (you really need to take a minimum of 5 grams per serving to see any results). Buying 1,000 grams worth of glutamine is your most cost effective option – at 20-30 grams per day, that will last you slightly over a month. At the 10 grams per day dose, this will last you almost 3 months!
Click here to buy 300 grams of glutamine at iHerb.com (enough for 1 month at the 10 g/day dosage).
Click here to buy 1,000 grams of glutamine at iHerb.com (enough for 3 month at the 10 g/day dosage or 1 month at the 30 g/day dosage).
Glutamine Supplement Review: The Bottom Line
And it works.
Any way you want to slice it, glutamine is a winner. Two thumbs up, highly recommended!