Glutamine (amino acid): characteristics and functions

Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid used by many bodybuilders for its bodybuilding benefits. However, and although many do not know it, it is important for our brain and nervous system. In this article you will find, in detail, the benefits and properties of glutamine.

    Glutamine: a non-essential amino acid

    Glutamine, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, is a non-essential amino acid. And what does that mean? I will first explain what amino acids are then the difference between essential and non-essential amino acids

    What are nonessential amino acids

    Amino acids are essential nutrients for our body, As they are the raw material of proteins. In nature, there are hundreds of them, but only 20 are part of proteins (protein amino acids). The difference is that some of them are synthesized by the body and others are not, so it is necessary to pass them through the diet. The former are called nonessential amino acids, while the latter are essential amino acids.

    • You can learn more about this subject in our article: “The 20 types of proteins and their functions in the body”

    Therefore, glutamine belongs to the first group and is found in large quantities in the blood and muscles. Even though it’s a non-essential amino acid, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important, because helps build strong muscles as well as maintain a healthy and productive brain.

    Glutamine in the brain

    Over the past few decades, glutamine has gained traction in the sports nutrition world for its muscle-building benefits. however, the brain also benefits enormously from this substance for different reasons.

    Glutamine is the key to increasing brain function as it is involved in increasing two very important neurotransmitters: glutamate and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), two chemicals used by neurons in the nervous system when they communicate with each other.

    The relationship between glutamine, glutamate and GABA

    From glutamate, the body forms glutamine, which in turn produces glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the nervous system. Glutamate deficiency is associated with fatigue or performance issues. Therefore, glutamine is involved in improving attention, learning, and increasing cognitive functions.

    But glutamine also increases the production of GABA and vice versa. GABA is the brain’s most important inhibitory neurotransmitter. Low levels of this neurotransmitter are associated with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, depression and schizophrenia.

    Implications of glutamine

    Thus, glutamine performs different functions in the human brain and is involved in mood swings, anxiety, irritability or insomnia. In addition, this substance increases short and long term memory and increases concentration; and glutamine deficiency is associated with:

    • Concentration problems
    • Decreased sexual appetite
    • mental fatigue
    • Increased craving for sugars and fats
    • Less feeling of alert

    Glutamine and its relationship to stress

    The body’s demand for glutamine increases during times of physical and mental stress by weakening the body. And at the same time, glutamine is an important energy supplier for the immune system and intestinal cellsor, which creates a vicious cycle. In these times of physical and mental stress, it is strongly recommended to take glutamine supplements, always after consulting your general practitioner.

    For those who are reluctant to take supplements, it is possible to get glutamine from food. But although we can find this substance in some foods, glutamine is usually destroyed after cooking. Hence, it is advisable to consume these raw products. Foods high in glutamine include spinach, parsley, milk, and nuts.

    Benefits of glutamine and muscle

    Glutamine is the most common amino acid found in muscle, so in skeletal muscle it makes up about 60% of its constituent amino acids. It is made up of 19% nitrogen, which makes glutamine a primary transporter of this chemical to cells.

    During intense training, glutamine levels drop dramatically, Causing decreased strength, endurance and recovery. In fact, it can take up to 6 days for the body to return to normal levels; this is why glutamine, especially in athletes, plays an important role in protein synthesis. Several studies have concluded that supplements can minimize this wear and tear and improve protein metabolism.

    Mainly, at the muscular level, glutamine offers the following advantages:

    • It is involved in protein synthesis and prevents muscle catabolism
    • Promotes muscle recovery
    • Stimulates growth hormone
    • Promotes glycogen recovery

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