Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Supplements: Should you take glutamine?

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Supplements are one of the most difficult nutrition-related issues to contend with. Some people may benefit from certain supplements but oftentimes people are at best wasting their money and at worst potentially causing themselves harm by taking supplements. I was recently inspired to look into some common supplements and thought that I’d share what I found with you.

You may be wondering what glutamine is. It’s the most abundant amino acid (protein is made-up of amino acids) in the human body. We actually make most of the glutamine in our bodies and obtain more glutamine from high protein foods such as legumes, meat, eggs, milk, and tofu. Why, then, do some people believe that supplementation is necessary? Some studies have indicated that blood levels of glutamine are lowered in athletes participating in exhaustive exercise. I’d like to pause here to point out that exhaustive exercise is intense endurance exercise like running a marathon or participating in a triathalon. Exhaustive exercise is not playing a game of soccer, volley-ball, or lifting a few weights. When you think of exhaustive exercise you should think of not physically being able to continue after completing the activity. Okay, back to it… Some people believe that taking a glutamine supplement will reduce post-exercise soreness and boost the immune system. However, to-date there is no conclusive research to support this theory (1). There is no maximum level set for glutamine consumption (although 14 g/d in supplemental form has been proposed) and your risk of reaching toxicity is low. There are risks if you are taking anti-convulsant medication or lactulose (2) and, as with many supplements, you run the risk of contamination or incomplete disclosure of ingredients on the label. If you’re just a recreational athlete, and probably even if you’re a professional endurance athlete, you’d be better off spending your money on something that provides you with other nutrients as well such as actual food.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

6 thoughts on “Supplements: Should you take glutamine?

  1. What about glutamine as a a sleep aid? I have had a few clients who have asked about, or said they were trying, glutamine for that purpose.

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  2. Pingback: Supplements: Should you take glucosamine? | bite my words

  3. I recently bought some glutamine to try (200 servings for $40, not too shabby). This is the only place I’ve seen anything negative about it, although I don’t take that to mean it must be good. What would you say to all the bodybuilders who swear by it? Sorry about commenting on such an old article.

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    • Thanks for commenting Jacob. Unless there has been additional research supporting the use of glutamine, I stand by my original statement that it’s a waste of money. Unfortunately, most supplements are useless at best and harmful at worst and make it onto the market with little research. Many supplements are also not tested for purity. It’s a shady industry. I plan to do a little more digging into glutamine for an upcoming blog post so I may have more to say next week :)

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  4. Well, I feel that glutamine helps with muscle recovery after intense workouts. Of course it may be placebo, but who knows =)

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