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Fuel The Fighter: Glutamine Supplements

The article was published in the Dec issue of FIGHT! magazine, and is reprinted with permission.

It can be difficult for an athlete to navigate through the shelves of supplements that all promise to make you stronger, faster and healthier. Finding safe and effective supplements is a real challenge especially since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the majority of products out there. Recently glutamine supplements have gained attention as both professional and amateur athletes search for ways to improve performance. So what exactly is glutamine and is it worth it to shell out the extra cash for this supplement?

What is glutamine?

Glutamine is an amino acid, which is a building block of proteins. In fact it's the most abundant amino acid in the human body, accounting for more than half of the amino acids available in muscles.

Where does glutamine come from?

Our bodies have the ability to make glutamine, and we can also consume it from protein sources in meat and some vegetables like raw beets and cabbage. As a supplement, it's often sold as a powder.

What does glutamine do?

Glutamine oversees a variety of processes in the body that relate to general health and exercise. It encourages the creation of new proteins and discourages the breakdown of proteins-something that would benefit anyone trying to pack on muscle. It also promotes the formation of glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate fuel that's found in muscles. Glutamine itself has the ability to be transformed into carbohydrate fuel, which helps delay exercise induced fatigue. Glutamine also helps our immune systems to stay in peak shape by supporting cells that fight off infection.

How much glutamine is safe to take?

Scientific research has shown that up to 14 grams of glutamine per day has been safe for healthy adults to consume in supplemental form. Generally, most people take 5 grams (g) per day, which is the same as 5,000 milligrams (mg). Taking higher doses may be safe, but there is no evidence to evaluate the safety for long- term use of high dose glutamine supplements.


PR Cole, MS, RD Candidate
Columbia University

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