L-Glutamine is a crucial amino acid, that is deemed only ‘conditionally essential’ because the body can produce it.
However, as it is the most abundant and versatile in the body, under times of particular need, L-glutamine supplementation can become extremely essential, especially during weight loss, muscle building or preservation, high amounts of physical exertion, gut healing (like IBS, etc…), high stress, poor diet or other scenarios of illness, infection, wounds or trauma.
You can obtain glutamine from your diet, and the average consumption is said to be around 3-6g per day. However, studies have shown that people respond well to high supplementary doses in the situations mentioned above. Some studies have shown that 0.3-0.6g per kg of bodyweight can be taken to aid healing and support*.
So, let’s explore some of the benefits of supplementing in high doses of L-glutamine:
1. Muscle Mass Preservation
When we try to lose weight, naturally we focus on lowering our calorie intake and increasing physical training.
However, because our muscles are over 60% glutamine, when we start to ‘damage’ them more with exercise, we require more for repair.
And, although, as we have mentioned, our bodies can produce glutamine, if our needs exceed our ability to produce, our body will start experience deficit symptoms.
This can include loss of muscle mass, which is often why people who go along fad diets and extreme weight loss plans lose a lot of muscle or end up sick and exhausted. This process is so detrimental, and can set you up for huge metabolic problems long term.
It is a much more time consuming process to build muscle than it is to lose fat, so going through this carefully, to preserve or build muscle, is absolutely vital. So, supplementing with glutamine daily will assist and support your body during this process, and help to preserve and build muscle during weight loss and exercise routines.
2. Gut Cell Requirements
The cells of our gastrointestinal tract use a large amount of glutamine for energy and repair.
If there is glutamine lacking, then the body will struggle to maintain that crucial barrier of the intestinal cell wall.
This can then lead to situations of leaky gut, or toxins and proteins entering the body’s blood and causing illness and an overactive immune response.
The intestines play, what is considered, the largest role of the immune system, so protecting its integrity is vital.
3. Immune Function
Following on from above, as mentioned, glutamine plays a crucial role in the repair and sustaining of the gut and immune function.
Immune cells rely on glutamine to aid - lymphocyte proliferation, cytokine production, macrophage phagocytic and secretory activities, and neutrophil bacterial killing roles.
This means that, when glutamine is lacking, or when there is stress, injury, infection, or higher demand elsewhere, your immune system may suffer. Or, muscle may be broken down to release glutamine stores.
4. Stress and Mood
Glutamine is converted to chemical brain messengers known as Glutamate and GABA.
Glutamate is an excitatory messenger, which means that it helps to activate other brain cells and neurons. Sometimes, low glutamate can be attributed to depressive behaviours or inability to focus or learn, where the brain cells are not active enough.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory messenger, which means that it works to relax the brain, reducing and acting as a natural antagonist to the excitatory responses.
This helps people to feel less stressed, aid sleep and feelings of relaxation, slows you down and gives your brain a break. This relationship and balance is crucial, as with over-excitation, people can experience seizures, brain cell damage, migraines, etc… But, with under-excitation, people can feel depressed or struggle with learning and mental stamina.
So, when it comes to glutamine supplementation, it gives the support to what is needed – either, allowing the body the substrate to convert to more glutamate, or to more GABA.
Glutamine is a crucial amino acid in the body, and due to high demand, in times of stress, poor diet, illness or infection, trauma or injury, weight loss and muscle building, as well as other digestive or immune related problems, it may be important to supplement to support your body’s needs and prevent muscle breakdown, gut damage, mood issues or depressed immunity.