Glutamine and Sports

13 July 2018

Glutamine and Sports

Glutamine and Sports

Glutamine is the free amino acid most commonly found in plasma and muscle tissue, which means that it is very important for muscles!

GLUTAMINE is a non-essential amino acid that plays a role in a variety of functions, such as:

  • Cellular proliferation and development;
  • Brain function;
  • Regulation of acid-base equilibrium;
  • Transport of ammonia between tissues;
  • Carbon donation for gluconeogenesis;
  • Anti-oxidative system;
  • Intestinal and immune health, since these cells use glutamine as their preferred source of “fuel”, and synthesis of nucleic acids, nucleotides, and proteins, as well as a cardioprotective action.


For those who practice sports, Glutamine plays a keyrole in performance and recovery, having as main highlights:

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The most relevant tissue, at a quantitative level, for synthesis, storage and release of glutamine, is the skeletal muscle. Several factors can influence its concentration in muscles. For example, the type of muscle fibre predominant in this tissue is relevant, since type 1 or oxidative fibres can store approximately three times more glutamine than type 2 or glycolytic fibres, due to the higher activity of glutamine synthetase and increased availability of ATP for glutamine synthesis.

Intense, long-duration exercise leads to an intake of a large amount of glutamine, lowering its plasma concentration. Glutamine muscle reserves are therefore depleted, and its replenishment is slow. The lower availability of this amino acid has several implications for athletic performance, namely a lower resistance to cell damage, as it influences the expression of heat shock proteins (HSPs) that contribute to the maintenance of cellular homoeostasis in the presence of stressors, such as prolonged exercise. Lower levels of glutamine lead to loss of muscle mass, because glutamine prevents muscle catabolism. This deficit also has negative implications at the immune system level, leaving the person more susceptible to viruses or other infections.

L-glutamine supplementation increases the plasma concentration of this amino acid, restores the amount used during exercise, and leads to increased muscle glycogen. This results in an optimised post-workout recovery, even after exhausting training sessions, enhanced immune system defences, prevention of infections that might impair performance, improved cellular resistance to damage, and promotes muscle metabolism.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to compensate for and increase glutamine availability in cells.

By Carla Santos, Pharmacist