Glutamine: Good For Your GUT and HIT

Glutamine: Good For Your GUT and HIT

You know what glutes are but do you know what glutamine is? Glutamine is a substance in your body and in food. But you may want to take extra if you do high-intensity training (HIT) or have gut problems. Here’s why…

Glutamine or L-glutamine (the two are basically the same) has become a hot-selling supplement in recent years. Glutamine isn’t going to knock off the reigning champ of supplements, probiotics, which is a multi-billion-dollar a year industry. In comparison, sales of glutamine are a drop in the bucket, raking in an estimated $142 million worldwide, according to

Nonetheless, glutamine has become quite popular with two completely different subsets of people: high-intensity exercisers and those with digestive disorders such as the umbrella condition, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

If you’ve heard of glutamine but aren’t exactly sure what it does, read on…

What Is Glutamine?

It’s an amino acid. In nature, there are roughly 500 amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. But out of the tens of thousands of different proteins in the human body, there are only 20 amino acids that form all bodily proteins. Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid (AA) in the human body. A free amino acid, otherwise known as free-form, is an individual AA that’s pre-digested, not bound to a protein, and ready to be used by your body.

What Does Glutamine Do?

For starters, it transports nitrogen into your muscles. Why is that important? Because without nitrogen, it wouldn’t matter how much you could bench press or squat. Nitrogen is critical for making the proteins that form your muscles as well as your genetic code (DNA) and all the structural proteins in your skin, hair, nails and blood.

Glutamine also plays a role in the functioning of the immune system. For instance, it helps lymphocytes proliferate. Lymphocytes are your immune system’s white blood cell components, including natural killer cells, T cells, and B cells.

High-intensity exercisers and endurance athletes burn up glutamine like a race car burns up high-octane fuel. This is why glutamine supplements have become increasingly popular with athletes.

Glutamine: The Connection Between Gut Health And Exercise

The interesting thing about glutamine is that it solves the dual-ended problem of high-intensity training and gut health. Now, we don’t often think of athletes as having weak digestive systems. And few people think about the consequences of hard-core exercise and gut health.

But intense training can actually harm the intestinal permeability of the gut. That’s because virtually all tissue in the body contains glutamine, including the intestinal wall. Prolonged and intense weight-lifting or marathon running takes glutamine out of the muscle tissue and into the bloodstream.

In order to prevent excessive muscle-tissue damage, and encourage the repair of muscle tissue, taking a glutamine supplement might be a good idea. This is especially true if you are vegan or vegetarian, because the foods highest in glutamine tend to be animal-protein heavy. (Nuts, seeds and butters made from both of these foods are decent vegan-friendly sources.)

Glutamine For Gut Health

If you have IBS, leaky gut or other digestive order, taking extra glutamine may help. That’s because it is a major substrate utilized by the cells of the intestines. In other words, it’s essentially food for the cells that form the mucosal barrier of the intestines that keep food and toxins from leaking into your bloodstream (enterocytes).

The theory then goes that if you take supplemental L-glutamine, you’ll make your gut less permeable. The more permeable your intestines are, the leakier your gut is.

Glutamine prevents intestinal permeability by tightening the protein junctions in the mucosal barrier of the intestines. In addition, the amino acid lowers inflammatory signals in the body and prevents cells from prematurely dying.

Besides intense exercise and digestive disorders, low glutamine levels can be caused by trauma such as injuries or infections.

Glutamine Supplementation

The industry standard for a serving of a glutamine supplement (most often, it comes in powdered form) is five grams mixed in 8 oz of water or other beverage. But like any supplement, not all glutamine is created equal. So do your due diligence before purchasing a glutamine product.

If you’re not a fan of supplements and not vegan but do want to cut down on your mean intake, you can drink bone broth, which is one of the best natural foods with glutamine.

Do you take glutamine? We’d love to know if it works for you. Leave a comment...

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