The Benefits of Glutamine for Athletes

26 June, 2020
Glutamine can have many benefits for athletes, including helping to reduce the risk of respiratory infections. Read on to find out more about this supplement.
 

Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, and for some time, people have speculated that one of the benefits of glutamine could be that it might help improve recovery times for athletes.

In this article, we’ll look at the potential uses of glutamine and the scientific evidence to support them. However, in general, it seems that the benefits may well be overestimated.

Glutamine doesn’t improve recovery

A review published in 2019 analyzed existing studies linking glutamine supplements and muscle recovery. Although glutamine appears to improve glycogen synthesis after exercise, there’s no evidence that it directly improves performance or reduces the risk of injury.

Yes, there are some studies that claim that glutamine can improve muscle recovery. However, this is mainly because of reduced inflammation, and the results aren’t conclusive enough.

Are there any benefits of glutamine for athletes?

Although it doesn’t seem to directly improve performance, it’s effect could still be positive in a more indirect way. This is because glutamine can improve the functioning of the immune system and intestinal permeability.

In fact, glutamine is actually used routinely in clinical practice after operations. Experts say that it can reduce the number of respiratory infections suffered by athletes every year.

This means fewer sick days and more training, so obviously, this can have a positive effect on performance.

A man lifting dumbbells in the gym.
 

Is glutamine anti-catabolic?

This amino acid has also been linked to an ability to reduce muscle catabolism when on a low-calorie diet. Unfortunately, there are no clinical trials to support this claim and we don’t recommend this substance for this purpose.

However, there are some supplements that can do this. In particular, HMB can positively modulate body composition, even within a calorie deficit, and it also can have positive effects on aerobic and anaerobic performance.

Benefits of glutamine: should I take this supplement?

Normally, this supplement is only taken regularly in clinical settings. For athletes, it would only really be beneficial for immunosuppressed individuals or for people with a tendency to contract respiratory infections. It could also be beneficial for people with abnormal intestinal permeability.

However, because of its ability to increase glycogen synthesis, there could be some benefits of glutamine for athletes. Although the trials are lacking to conclusively link it to reduced muscle injury, maximizing the filling of glycogen stores will be a good thing for many athletes.

In any case, most recovery supplements contain high doses of glutamine. Therefore, if you take these supplements, you’re probably already getting plenty of glutamine. Getting plenty of protein and carbohydrates after exercise should be enough to help your body recover.

Benefits of glutamine: conclusion

Glutamine has been linked to certain potential effects that sadly have not been verified by scientific studies. However, fortunately, there are other substances on the market that are capable of satisfying these needs.

 
Someone tipping glutamine pills into their hand.

However, this amino acid has important medical uses thanks to its ability to modulate immune function, inflammation, and intestinal permeability. Patients normally take it after operations.

But we don’t recommend that athletes use this sort of supplement except in very specific cases. Since most recovery supplements already contain glutamine, there’s no need to worry about increasing your dose.

Remember, good sports performance lies in the correct nutrition and proper training. Whenever you have doubts about a supplement, it’s best to go and see a professional who can point you in the right direction.

 
  • Coqueiro AY., Rogero MM., Tirapegui J., Glutamine as an anti-fatigue amino acid in sports nutrition. Nutrients, 2019.
  • Nava RC., Zuhl MN., Moriarty TA., Amorim FT., Bourbeau KC., et al., The effect of acute glutamine supplementation on markers of inflammation and fatigue during consecutive days of simulated wildland firefighting. J Occup Environ Med, 2019. 61 (2): 33-42.
  • Cruzat V., Macedo Rogero M., Noel Keane K., Curi R., Newsholme P., Glutamine: metabolism and immune function, supplementation and clinical translation. Nutrients, 2018.