You’re sore. Not just today, but every day. It’s inevitable. Being sore is a by-product of your training. So what should you do? How do you relieve your muscle soreness, so you can continue training? You need to optimize your post-workout muscle recovery. Faster post-workout muscle recovery means more training, better workouts, and improved results. L-Glutamine plays a vital role in helping your muscles rebuild and repair themselves, to prevent muscle soreness and aid in faster muscle recovery. Chronic muscle soreness can become debilitating, cause exhaustion, and severe discomfort. The last thing you need is to delay training because you can't air squat. So let's talk about why L-Glutamine is the best supplement for muscle recovery and soreness.
What is L-Glutamine And What Does It Do?
L-Glutamine is the most abundant and naturally occurring conditionally essential amino acid in the human body. It makes up approximately 60% of the amino acid pool in your muscle tissue. Nearly 90% of glutamine is produced in the skeletal muscles and it is one of the very few amino acids that can cross the blood-brain barrier, giving it the ability to freely enter the brain. It is vital in the process of nitrogen transport between tissues, in acid-base regulation, gluconeogenesis, and as a precursor of nucleotide bases and the antioxidant glutathione (1)
How Does L-Glutamine Work?
The specific mechanism of action and role of L-Glutamine is in utilizing nitrogen atoms. Glutamine helps direct the body where and when to place nitrogen atoms in order to rebuild and repair muscle tissue. In order to build muscle mass and strength, you need to maintain a positive nitrogen balance. L-glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that in certain situations, synthesis (production in the body) can be limited.
During intense training periods, your body will actually use and deplete all of its glutamine, which inhibits its function and decreases strength, stamina, and lengthens the recovery period. By supplementing L-Glutamine, you’re therefore ensuring your body has an adequate supply of glutamine stores to maintain a positive protein balance to reduce muscle soreness and protect yourself from workout induced muscle mass breakdown.
Glutamine Helps Reduce Muscle Soreness
Exercise-induced muscle soreness is created by micro-tears in the muscle fiber and can cause extreme physical discomfort, tenderness, and even debilitating pain. So bad that you can even develop what's called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. The faster you can recover, the better quality workouts you’ll have, which translates into improved athletic performance.
The reason why L-Glutamine is the best supplement for muscle recovery is that L-Glutamine helps reduce muscle mass breakdown and improve protein metabolism, which helps reduce post-workout muscle soreness. Studies have shown that the anti-catabolism (protection against break down) effects of glutamine have a direct effect on reducing soreness ratings associated with resistance training, due to improving muscle tissue repair. (2)
In a randomized, double-blind controlled study conducted by the School of Health and Human Performance, at Dalhousie University, 16 healthy participants were either administered a placebo or 0.3 grams of L-Glutamine per kg of body weight every day for a 72-hour period after eccentric exercise involving knee extensions. It was concluded that L-Glutamine supplementation resulted in faster recovery of peak torque and diminished muscle soreness with lower soreness ratings post-exercise after a three-day period.
RELATED ARTICLE How To Relieve Muscle Soreness and Optimize Recovery
Glutamine Helps Boost Immune System Function
Glutamine is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Often overlooked, endurance athletes and powerlifters alike can experience an increased susceptibility to infection, due to weakened immune systems while training. Glutamine is used by white blood cells to produce cytokines, (small proteins released by white blood cells). With an increased amount of cytokines, you invariably increase your body’s susceptibility to illness and protect your immune system.
In a randomized controlled trial published by the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 24 athletes were administered 10 g of Glutamine per day for six weeks, to determine whether Glutamine supplementation alters immune function in athletes during heavy resistance training.
The results found that T-cell ratings (White blood cells that help mediate immune health) were extremely different between the groups, indicating a positive correlation that glutamine supplementation may be able to restore immune function and reduce the immunosuppressive effects of heavy-resistance training in athletes [R]
Glutamine Helps Increase Lean Muscle Mass
Another reason why L-Glutamine is the best supplement for muscle recovery, is that L-Glutamine promotes a positive nitrogen balance, which is also required for the process of protein synthesis (The process of generating amino acids into new proteins). L-Glutamine also reduces muscle mass breakdown or catabolism, helping with muscle tissue repair, leading to an increase in muscle mass.
The specific mechanism of action has not been discovered, yet there has been evidence suggesting that there is a relationship between Glutamine, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and protein metabolism. Since glutamine controls nitrogen balance, and BCAAs are the major nitrogen source of the body, glutamine essentially acts as the trigger for muscle tissue development. It also has an inhibitory effect on the breakdown of body proteins and decreases BCAA catabolism, expressing a direct effect on BCAA metabolism (4) (5)
Glutamine Helps Hydration
An often-overlooked aspect of muscle recovery and reducing muscle soreness is hydration. If you are dehydrated following a workout, the process of protein synthesis will be hindered and subsequently delay the recovery process (6)
In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, ten male subjects were administered 0.3g of L-Glutamine or a placebo to examine the effects of L-Glutamine ingestion on hydration during endurance exercise. The results found that time to exhaustion was significantly reduced and performance levels were significantly improved with higher concentrations of L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine uptake by the skeletal muscles resulted in greater sodium uptake. The enhanced sodium uptake by skeletal muscle may have contributed to a reduction in fatigue by maintaining strength and efficiency of muscle contractility (7)
Therefore, a great benefit of L-Glutamine is in its ability to help sodium uptake for better hydration during training, making it a great supplement for faster muscle recovery.
Benefits Of L-Glutamine On Athletic Performance
Since prolonged periods of exercise and high-intensity training is associated with decreased intramuscular concentrations of Glutamine, it’s important that you supplement, to replenish your stores of L-glutamine, considering its essential role in
- Faster Recovery
- Reduced Muscle Soreness
- Decreased Muscle Mass Breakdown
- Increased Muscle Building
- Decreased DOMS
- Better Immune System
How Much L-Glutamine Should You Take?
The research indicating the effective dose of L-Glutamine supplementation varies widely from study to study. The most effective dose to help with faster recovery and reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness is a conventional dose of 5-10g per day.
The Best Supplement For Recovery: Takeaway
L-Glutamine levels deplete during high-intensity training. Without supplementing and replenishing your body with the right nutrients for active muscle recovery, you can experience chronic muscle soreness, fatigue, muscle loss, and experience a decline in your athletic performance. Not to mention, a loss of motivation because of debilitating discomfort. Supplementing with L-Glutamine is proven to be the best supplement for recovery since it prevents muscle mass breakdown for less muscle soreness and faster recovery.
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Boelens, P., Nijveldt, R., Houdijk, A., Meijer, S. and Leeuwen, P. (2018). Glutamine Alimentation in Catabolic State. [online] Jn.nutrition.org. Available at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/9/2569S.full [Accessed 16 Jan. 2018].[Journal of Nutrition]
Legault Z, Bagnall N, Kimmerly DS. The Influence of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Muscle Strength Recovery and Soreness Following Unilateral Knee Extension Eccentric Exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015;25(5):417-26.
Song QH, Xu RM, Zhang QH, et al. Glutamine supplementation and immune function during heavy load training. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2015;53(5):372-6.
Holecek M. Relation between glutamine, branched-chain amino acids, and protein metabolism. Nutrition. 2002;18(2):130-3.
Cleary, Michelle A et al. “Dehydration and Symptoms of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness in Hyperthermic Males.” Journal of Athletic Training 40.4 (2005): 288–297. Print.
Hoffman, J., Ratamess, N., Kang, J., Rashti, S., Kelly, N., Gonzalez, A., Stec, M., Anderson, S., Bailey, B., Yamamoto, L., Hom, L., Kupchak, B., Faigenbaum, A. and Maresh, C. (2018). Examination of the efficacy of acute L-alanyl-L-glutamine ingestion during hydration stress in endurance exercise.
Norton LE, Layman DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr. 2006;136(2):533S-537S.
Gleeson, Michael. “Dosing and Efficacy of Glutamine Supplementation in Human Exercise and Sport Training1,2.” The Journal of Nutrition, 1 Oct. 2008, jn.nutrition.org/content/138/10/2045S.full#ref-1. [Glutamine Supplementation on Sports Performance Overview]