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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Glutamine for Sports & Fitness
Some athletes say that glutamine helps boost the immune system.
Glutamine is the most utilized amino acid in the body. Based on its biochemistry, glutamine is a good supplement for athletes. Glutamine is best taken consistently, on a daily basis, rather than just before or after a hard workout, to build up tissue levels.
Although glutamine is inexpensive and non-toxic, realize that you run the risk of upsetting the balance of the body's amino acids (as is the case with supplementing with only one of any of the amino acids.
The amino acid glutamine appears to play a role in several aspects of human physiology that might benefit athletes, including their muscle function and immune system.1 Intense exercise lowers blood levels of glutamine, which can remain persistently low with overtraining.2 Glutamine supplementation raises levels of growth hormone at an intake of 2 grams per day,3 an effect of interest to some athletes because of the role of growth hormone in stimulating muscle growth,4 and glutamine, given intravenously, was found to be more effective than other amino acids at helping replenish muscle glycogen after exercise.5 However, glutamine supplementation (30 mg per 2.2 pounds body weight) has not improved performance of short-term, high-intensity exercise such as weightlifting or sprint cycling by trained athletes,6, 7 and no studies on endurance performance or muscle growth have been conducted. Although the effects of glutamine supplementation on immune function after exercise have been inconsistent,8, 9 double-blind trials giving athletes glutamine (5 grams after intense, prolonged exercise, then again two hours later) reported 81% having no subsequent infection compared with 49% in the placebo group.10
Certain medicines interact with this supplement.
Though cancer cells use glutamine as a fuel source, studies in humans have not found that glutamine stimulates growth of cancers in people taking chemotherapy. In fact, animal studies show that glutamine may actually decrease tumor growth while increasing susceptibility of cancer cells to radiation and chemotherapy, though such effects have not yet been studied in humans.
Glutamine has successfully reduced chemotherapy-induced mouth sores. In one trial, people were given 4 grams of glutamine in an oral rinse, which was swished around the mouth and then swallowed twice per day. Thirteen of fourteen people in the study had fewer days with mouth sores as a result. These excellent results have been duplicated in some, but not all double-blind research. In another study, patients receiving high-dose paclitaxel and melphalan had significantly fewer episodes of oral ulcers and bleeding when they took 6 grams of glutamine four times daily along with the chemotherapy.
One double-blind trial suggested that 6 grams of glutamine taken three times per day can decrease diarrhea caused by chemotherapy. However, other studies using higher amounts or intravenous glutamine have not reported this effect.
Intravenous use of glutamine in people undergoing bone marrow transplants, a procedure sometimes used to allow very high amounts of chemotherapy to be used, has led to reduced hospital stays, leading to a savings of over $21,000 for each patient given glutamine.
In a double-blind study, supplementation with 18 grams of glutamine per day for 15 days, starting five days before the beginning of 5-FU therapy, significantly reduced the severity of drug-induced intestinal toxicity.
Glutamine has successfully reduced chemotherapy-induced mouth sores. In one trial, people were given 4 grams of glutamine in an oral rinse, which was swished around the mouth and then swallowed twice per day. Thirteen of fourteen people in the study had fewer days with mouth sores as a result. These excellent results have been duplicated in some, but not all, double-blind research. In another study, patients receiving high-dose paclitaxel and melphalan had significantly fewer episodes of oral ulcers and bleeding when they took 6 grams of glutamine four times daily along with the chemotherapy.
Glutamine is found in many foods high in protein, such as fish, meat, beans, and dairy products.
Last Review: 03-24-2015
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