Glutamine is an amino acid considered as a conditional amino acid, because it can be normally produced by the body, but it can need a supplementation in particular conditions, for example physical stress or diseases.
What is glutamine?
Glutamine is a common amino acid normally produced by the body, and it is the most present in the organism. It is not an essential amino acid, but it can be necessary to integrate their intake with foods or supplements in some conditions, as intensive exercise or intestinal problems. Glutamine is synthesized especially into the muscular tissue, but also in the liver, brain, lungs, adipose tissue. It is produced from other amino acids, as branch-chained amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, or from arginine, proline and ornithine. It is the amide of glutamic acid, which can be transformed in glutamate. In particular during the catabolism of amino acids, a group of enzymes, called transaminase, starts the process of transamination, transferring the amino group to an alpha-ketoacid, which can be for example alpha-ketoglutarate. From this union derives glutamate, and the other molecules obtained are used for the production of ketogenic bodies. Then glutamate can be processed in the liver by the enzyme glutamate dehydrogenase, which triggers the deamination, removing the amine group from the molecule. So glutamate is again converted into alpha-ketoglutarate, obtaining also a molecule of ammonia, which enters into urea cycle. In this process, ammonia is converted in urea, then excreted from the body with urines. The enzyme glutamine synthetase promotes the union of glutamate and ammonia, to form a molecule of glutamine. Another enzyme, glutaminase, converts glutamine in glutamic acid, which is the precursor of the neurotransmitter GABA, very important for the nervous system. Glutamine is produced especially in the muscles and then it is transported through the blood to the tissues and organs.
Glutamine is very important for the body, so it can be assumed through alimentation or supplements. It can be particularly integrated by athletes who submit muscles to sever and intense stress. In fact in this case glutamine helps to build up proteins into muscular tissues and prevents their degradation. Glutamine is also useful to increase muscles volume, because it stimulates the entry of liquids into the cells. It also provides a lot of energy to the body, because it can be used to obtain glucose, nitrogen and carbon. Athletes know that an intense exercise can lead to the accumulation of ammonia and urea in the muscles; glutamine helps to prevent this aspect and remove the excess of these substances from the body.
It is also known that during intense exercise, the body may experience the reduction of immune defenses. Glutamine is used by immune cells to obtain energy, so it is very important for the proper functioning of immune system, helping to prevent infections especially in bodybuilders.
Glutamine can be useful also in case of altered acid-base balance in the blood or kidneys, for the fact that it releases ammonia, which is a natural acceptor of hydrogen ions, and so it is excreted as ammonium ion, removing the excess of protons from the blood.
This amino acid can be also used by students, because it can pass easily through the blood-brain barrier, and, once arrived into the brain, it is converted by neuronal cells in the neurotransmitter GABA.
Glutamine and foods
Glutamine is found mostly in high-protein foods, as
- Dairy products
- Soy protein
Glutamine is very important for the body, because it has many essential functions:
- It stimulates protein synthesis
- It enhances immune system
- It can produce ammonia, regulating pH and acid-base balance in the blood and kidney
- It is the precursor of neurotransmitter GABA
- It provides energy producing nitrogen, carbon and glucose
- It can be used for purines synthesis
- It transports ammonia into blood vessels in a nontoxic way
- It stimulates the entry of water into the muscles, increasing their volume
Glutamine sports supplements
Glutamine is used in the gut and immune system to maintain optimal performance. 60% of free-form amino acids floating in skeletal muscles is L-Glutamine. After an intense training session, glutamine levels in the body are almost halved. L-Glutamine plays a very important role in protein metabolism, thus is an important nutrient for bodybuilders. Glutamine can help reduce the amount of muscle deterioration that occurs as other tissues that need glutamine will not rob the glutamine stored in the muscle cells.
Glutamine side effects
Glutamine is a substance normally found in the body, so supplements of this amino acids don’t have many side effects. However it is advisable to avoid them during pregnancy and breast-feeding, in case of liver failure, seizure, and monosodium glutamate sensitivity, a disturb known as “Chinese restaurant syndrome”.