Welcome to the SUPP SERIES which will be a number of ongoing posts to the BeElite blog that will outline the basics on common nutritional supplements. Feel free to comment below with suggestions for future nutritional supplement overviews! I now give you: GLUTAMINE

With thousands of supplements out there it is hard to distinguish which ones actually do what they say they do. Using scientific methods, along with anecdotal experience you can start to get some clues as to which supplements are bogus. In this post I will go over the amino acid glutamine and its potential immunological benefits.

Whenever I have a question about a supplement, I usually head to Examine.com to get the low down. They are a team of PhD’s, RD’s and the like, who analyze dietary supplements from a variety of angles. All their information is science-based and they are a great source for athletes and professionals. As a preface to this article, a supplement is just that, a supplement. You cannot out supplement a bad diet, therefore before you consider supplementation, review your diet to see if any improvements can be made there first. (We can help you with that)

Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid that is found in high amounts in certain meats and eggs. More recently glutamine has been looked at as a sport supplement. Glutamine has been shown to enhance intestinal and immune health, being that it serves as the preferred fuel source for immune and gut cells, lymphocytes and macrophages in particular. (1) These cells serve as a defense to any foreign bodies such as bacteria. Some claim that Glutamine can enhance muscle building, but there have been no conclusive studies on this in normal populations who are not Glutamine deficient. In populations who may be Glutamine deficient it may be shown to increase muscle mass. 

General Population

When it comes to the healthy general population, glutamine supplementation is likely not necessary. This is due to the fact that the glutamine found in foods, particularly proteins, in sufficient amounts to provide for the body’s needs. That being said, it is important to intake a well-balanced diet in order meet these needs.

Endurance Athletes

Glutamine is of particular importance to endurance athletes because of the high rate of upper respiratory tract infections in this population. A 1996 study be Castell et al examine athletes who had consumed glutamine vs a placebo immediately after a marathon or ultra marathon race. During the 7-day follow-up period the glutamine group had a greater percentage of individuals who reported no infections. (2) If you are an endurance athlete that is experiencing repeated infections, glutamine may be a supplement you want to look into. 

Strength Athletes

The research is not as conclusive for strength athletes in terms of increased muscle mass or strength gains. A 2002 study by Antonio et al (3) took a group of 6 resistance trained men, and administered them a drink containing either glutamine, glycine or placebo prior to a high-intensity exercise bout. They found no difference in the average number of repetitions between groups, suggesting that glutamine had no effect. If you are a strength athlete training under high volume, who often experiences colds or infections, you may want to look into glutamine supplementation.

Glutamine may provide athletes with the extra immune boost they need to stay healthy. When speaking of elite athletes in particular this may be the edge that they need to win. Like any supplement, glutamine is not a magic pill, its just another tool in the toolbox.

Of course always consult with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements!



  1. http://examine.com/supplements/Glutamine/
  2. Antonio, Jose, and Chris Street. “Glutamine: A Potentially Useful Supplement for Athletes.” Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology Can. J. Appl. Physiol. 24.1 (1999): 1-14. Web.
  3. Antonio, Jose, Michael S. Sanders, Douglas Kalman, Derek Woodgate, and Chris Street. “The Effects of High-Dose Glutamine Ingestion on Weightlifting Performance.” J Strength Cond Res The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 16.1 (2002): 157. Web.



Supp Series: Glutamine

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