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If you check an athlete’s locker or gym back, you’ll probably find a number of shakes and supplements that are designed to help promote muscle growth. The vast majority of these contain a substance known as l-glutamine, a nonessential amino acid and the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream. It is vital for muscle growth, and that’s why so many athletes swear by it.
During times of metabolic stress, which can occur as a result of a calorie-deficient diet, illness, injury, or even intense exercise, your body demands glutamine as a fuel source. Your small intestines consume 40% to 50% of all of the glutamine in your blood, which is more than any other part of your body. This is where much of your immune system comes from, and the l-glutamine is responsible for the creation of immune cells, which divide rapidly under times of stress. What’s more, exercise is another metabolic stress that demands increased amounts of glutamine. In these cases, athletes and bodybuilders often do not have enough glutamine in their bodies to meet the demands of their exercise regimens, so they choose to take it exogenously.
This simple amino acid provides a variety of benefits for athletes and bodybuilders whether they are working intensely to build muscle or cutting calories and doing cardio to burn body fat. Some studies suggest that l-glutamine helps the muscles retain more nitrogen, which is imperative to prevent the loss of muscle protein. Because these athletes often push their bodies to the limits, the immune system and other processes throughout the body use more of the amino acid than normal, leaving less free glutamine for the muscles. When using an exogenous supplement, it is possible to increase the amounts of free glutamine in the body – even during times of incredibly high stress.
Although it makes sense that l-glutamine is necessary for building muscle, the truth is that it plays an even more important role in post-workout recovery. Its ability to retain nitrogen helps to reduce stiffness and soreness, and it also gives the anabolic processes in the body the building blocks it needs to generate new muscle tissue. Thus, glutamine not only improves the anabolic processes throughout the body (and works well with anabolic steroids), but it also helps to prevent some of the catabolic processes that have been shown to reduce the amount of the amino acid in the bloodstream by up to 50%. It also decreases the degradation of proteins, which helps the muscle cells become larger and stronger.
Simply put, glutamine is the most common unessential amino acid in the body, but it is also the most prevalent amino acid in the blood since various tissues like fat, muscles, and even your liver utilize it to stay healthy and strong. It plays an important role in the lives of athletes and bodybuilders because it promotes healthy muscle growth while keeping the rest of the body, including the immune system, healthy.