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L-glutamine is an amino acid present in all forms of life. Glutamine is in constant demand by cells and structures throughout the body such as those in muscle, intestinal and immune tissue. Glutamine is found in protein foods, and limited amounts can be produced by the body under normal circumstances. In certain conditions, like serious burns, infections and possibly strenuous exercise like weightlifting, the need for glutamine can exceed the body's supply. Thus glutamine is considered a “conditionally essential” amino acid. By supplying extra glutamine to the body, glutamine supplements support many critical functions.
The benefits of glutamine are many. Glutamine is the preferred energy source for immune cells such as lymphocytes and therefore glutamine supplements directly support immune system function. The immune system operates intimately with the digestive system and glutamine plays a major role here as well; glutamine both fuels and repairs intestinal cells. Glutamine is also used to synthesize bicarbonate ions that help regulate body pH. The liver uses glutamine to make important detoxification enzymes.
Glutamine may be best known, though, for being a staple supplement among weight trainers and bodybuilders. Glutamine plays a primary role in maintenance of muscle tissue and may help prevent muscle catabolism (muscle breakdown) while promoting anabolic (muscle building) activity. For this reason, glutamine is of particular interest to athletes and strength trainers, as it supports muscle growth while reducing the impact of training on the immune system.
Most people supplement with gram quantities of glutamine (5g is typical) which makes glutamine powder by far the most practical way to go. Glutamine powder is tasteless-slightly sweet and approximately the texture of powdered sugar. It's very easy to mix into a shake or small glass of water. Glutamine capsules and tablets are also available. Use as directed. L-glutamine should not be taken with hot food or drink, as heat causes it to break down. Be sure not to confuse glutamine with other substances that have similar names, such as gluten, glucosamine, glutathione or glutamic acid. L-glutamine is available in capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid form, or as part of a protein supplement.
Pregnant/nursing women, children, those with liver disease, kidney disease, or Reye’s syndrome should not take glutamine supplements except under physician supervision.