Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (building block of protein) in the body. The body can make enough glutamine for its regular needs, but extreme stress (the kind you would experience after very heavy exercise or an injury), your body may need more glutamine than it can make. Most glutamine is stored in muscles followed by the lungs, where much of the glutamine is made.
Glutamine is important for removing excess ammonia (a common waste product in the body). It also helps your immune system function and appears to be needed for normal brain function and digestion.
Glutamine also aids in wound healing and recovery from illness. When the body is stressed (from injuries, infections, burns, trauma, or surgical procedures), it releases the hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. High levels of cortisol can lower your body’s stores of glutamine.
Athletes who train for endurance events (like marathons) may reduce the amount of glutamine in their bodies. It’s common for them to catch a cold after an athletic event. Some experts think that may be because of the role glutamine plays in the immune system. Glutamine can be a crucial supplement for strength athletes as well. It will aid in the recovery of damaged muscle tissue from hypertrophy training as well as strength training.
Supplemental glutamine is often given to malnourished cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments and sometimes used in patients undergoing bone marrow transplants. Certain medical conditions, including injuries, surgery, infections, and prolonged stress, can lower glutamine levels, however. In these cases, taking a glutamine supplement may be helpful.
You can usually get enough glutamine without taking a supplement, because your body makes it and you get some in your diet. Dietary sources of glutamine include plant and animal proteins such as beef, pork and poultry, milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, raw spinach, raw parsley, and cabbage.
Glutamine, usually in the form of L-glutamine, is available by itself or as part of a protein supplement. These come in powder, capsule, tablet, or liquid form. Typical doses range from 500 mg to 5,000 mg daily depending on the circumstance. Take glutamine with cold or room temperature foods or liquids. It should not be added to hot beverages because heat destroys glutamine. Glutamine supplements should also be kept in a dry location.