An Undeserved Reputation
For the last couple of years I’ve completely dismissed glutamine as a supplement, mainly because certain internet gurus take pleasure in demonising or worshipping certain supplements. Glutamine was one of the persecuted ones, and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Since I reintroduced it I’ve had better workouts, recovered more easily and slept better.
So here’s some pretty cool info that changed my mind on the supplement:
1- Cellular hydration:
Glutamine plays a crucial role in cellular hydration and leucine uptake: Glutamine-depleted cells shrink, which is catabolic and associated with cell-volume dependent mTOR downregulation.
“Our results indicate that diverse control signals converge on the mTOR-S6K1 signaling pathway. In the presence of adequate energy resources, the pathway senses the amino acid availability as inward transport of effective amino acids (as BCAA and especially leucine), but its activation occurs only in the presence of an extracellular amino acid complement, with glutamine as obligatory component, and does not tolerate decrements of cell water volume incapable of maintaining adequate intracellular physicochemical conditions.”
Bill Willis points out in his article on cellular hydration:
“• Glutamine is needed for leucine to gain access into the cell to turn on protein synthesis.
• Glutamine induced cell volumization is necessary to turn on mTOR and protein synthesis.
• Cells need to be preloaded with glutamine. “
Bill’s article is worth a read, and gives some interesting insights on the uses of EAA, beta alanine etc.
2- Low plasma glutamine levels are a predictor of exercise stress and overtraining:
While it may or may not follow that taking in more glutamine will delay the onset of overtraining and exercise-induced stress, we do know that plasma levels are acutely depleted during overtraining (muscle glutamine levels appear to be less predictable).
3 – Glutamine positively affects plasma growth hormone and IGF-1, improving memory in elderly subjects.
Small oral doses have this effect . IGF-1 and growth hormone are also essential for muscle building and fat loss.
4 – Glutamine and GABA: Anxiolytic (Anti-anxiety) effects
Glutamine is a precursor for GABA synthesis, and therefore ‘may provide a useful adjunct for treating disorders (e.g., anxiety, seizures) when enhanced GABAergic transmission is desired.’
5 – Glutamine Enhances Muscle Glycogen Synthesis
Glutamine increases whole body glycogen storage , . See the recommendations below for how to exploit this.
6 – Glutamine (and BCAA) can help reduce DOMs and recover glutamine concentration
Glutamine and BCAA during a workout have separately been shown in trials to reduce a) soreness, b) muscle damage and c) decrease in performance during workouts. 
7 – Gastric Health:
This article discusses glutamine’s anti-catabolic role during sickness, intestinal repair and anti-ulcer properties. This makes it a good choice for those doing relatively long fasts to protect the stomach wall in healthy individuals. Despite theoretical indications of glutamine’s ability to treat Crohn’s (Inflammatory Bowel) Disease, research showed no significant improvement in sufferers. So it’s not magic… but it’s close.
Putting it all together – Recommendations:
I’m a supplement minimalist, and while you could make several additions to the following concoctions to make them more effective, I feel the cost wouldn’t justify the benefit. Anyway, this article was supposed to be about glutamine, so here’s how to use it in the contexts we’ve discussed:
For improved sleep and recovery:
– 15 grams Glutamine
– BCAA  (I use 20g MP Exceed, one of my favourite supplements) which has electrolytes, beta alanine and citruline malate, all of which improve this cell volume situation as well as buffering fatigue.
– Maltodextrin – Between 20-100g depending on training volume, goals, bodyweight etc.
– 3 litres of water sipped throughout your session. Intracellular hydration is separate to getting a ‘pump’ (extracellular hydration), so don’t fret if you’re not pumped. Insulin also helps the process, hence the maltodextrin.
Maintaining Stomach Health During Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)
Take 20g glutamine before starting the fast.
– Don’t use Glutamine peptides, it is just hydrolysed wheat protein, which is high in gluten and may cause stomach upset. It’s also more expensive.
– Also, about the affiliate links: Here’s how it happens: we personally use and love certain products, so we decide to endorse them and spread the word. Not the other way round. We’re painfully aware of crooks in the supplement industry selling all sorts of snake oil, and so we base our recommendations on research and experience only. So if this article has convinced you about glutamine and want to help support us, please buy through the links in this article.