By Matt Poe, MS

I am a huge believer in the use of glutamine and place my personal beliefs in three functions of this supplement: it is a immuno amino, it is one of the first amino acids that the body calls for after muscle breakdown, and it has building contributions for the lining of the stomach.

Let’s see what the research is saying……

1. What is the ergogenic aid, and is it legal according to WADA?

The ergogenic aid reviewed is glutamine.

According to the 2010 prohibited list published by WADA, glutamine is not on the list; thus glutamine is a legal supplement.(1)

2. Physiologically how does glutamine effect the body?

Glutamine (2,5-diamino-5-oxo-pentanoic acid, Gln)is the most abundant amino acid found in skeletal muscle and plasma, and it comprises over 60% of the total free amino acid pool. (9,14) It has an effect on a number of physiologic processes.  It provides nitrogen for the synthesis of DNA and RNA nucleotides, is an energy source for intestine and immune system function, and helps to maintain acid-base balance in the kidneys. Glutamine levels have a direct effect on the proliferation of T and B-lymphocytes in the body, and is critical in healthy gut metabolism as it is the primary fuel source for mucosal protein synthesis. (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, 10,11,12)

Glutamine supplementation has shown some clinical benefits in critically ill patients and those following surgery in their respective recovery processes as blood glutamine levels drop drastically; however, more controlled research is needed to confirm these benefits. (2,4,5,13)

3. What is the theoretical purpose(s) for athletes to use glutamine?

The purported effects of glutamine are increase in lean mass, faster recovery from exercise, decrease exercise induced immune-suppression, and prevention of overtraining. (6,14)

4. Does research support the theoretical purpose(s) for glutamine?- i.e.: DOES IT WORK?

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support glutamine supplementation increases lean body mass or muscular performance. (6,12) Also, no effect has been observed with glutamine supplementation and recovery from high intensity exercise. (4,7,8,13,15) The hypothesis that glutamine promotes muscle growth is undoubtedly attractive. A clear link between hard exercise, compromised immune function and susceptibility to infection has not been established. (17)

5. What are the possible health risks (if any) that can occur from using glutamine?

There seems to be no health risks associated with glutamine supplementation as glutamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body. (9) Although glutamine supplementation seems relatively well tolerated, its negative impact on lipid metabolism calls into serious question the appropriateness of glutamine as a dietary supplement. (16)

Experts normally have the position of glutamine having a lack of adverse effects from being used as a supplement.

Upper level intake lacks data to support any risk factors for excessive use of glutamine. As result, no observed adverse effect levels or lowest observed adverse effect levels can be established to recommend an acceptable daily intake of glutamine. (9)

Lastly, the importance of educating individuals about the FDA’s role in regulating dietary supplements is also a point of concern one might consider when taking any form of glutamine or other supplements for that matter. (18)

Seems like HEART is really what it takes to be the best. So, make your own decision.

I remember winning one of the biggest events ever NOT TAKING any supplementation! I also remember winning several events TAKING supplements!

Something to think about….diet.



  1. The 2010 Prohibited List. World Anti-Doping Agency.
  2. Beduschi G.  Current popular ergogenic aids used in sports: acritical review. Nutr Diet. 2003: 60; 104-118.
  3. Coster J, McCauley R, AND Hall J.   Glutamine: metabolism and application in nutrition support. Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr. 2004:13; 25-31.
  4. Hargreaves M and Snow R. Amino acids and endurance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Ex Metab. 2001:11; 133-145.
  5. Castell LM.  Glutamine supplementation, in vitro and in vivo, in exercise and in immunodepression. Sports Med. 2003:33; 323-345.
  6. Phillips GC. Glutamine: the nonessential amino acid for performance enhancement. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2007:6; 265-268.
  7. Nieman DC. Immunonutrition support for athletes. Nutr Rev. 2008:66; 310-320.
  8. Wilkinson SB, Kim PL, Armstrong D, and Phillips SM. Addition of glutamine to essential amino acids and carbohydrate does not enhance anabolism in young human males following exercise. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006:31; 518-529.
  9. Shao A and Hathcock JN. Risk assessment for the amino acids taurine, L-glutamine, and L-arginine. Reg Tox Pharm. 2008:50; 376-399.
  10. Sawaki K, Takaoka I, Sakuraba K, and Suzuki Y. Effects of distance running and subsequent intake of glutamine rich peptide on biomedical parameters of male Japanese athletes. Nutr Res. 2004:24; 59-71.
  11. Carvalho-Peixoto J, Alves RC, and Cameron LC. Glutamine and carbohydrate supplements reduce ammonemia increase during endurance field exercise.Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007:32; 1186-1190.
  12. Kreider RB, Wilborn CD, Taylor L, Campbell B, et al. ISSN exercise and sport nutrition review: research and recommendations. J Int Soc Sport Nutr. 2010; 7: 1-44.
  13. Nosaka K. Muscle damage and amino acid supplementation: does it aid recovery from muscle damage. Int Sport Med J. 2007:8; 54-67.
  14. Kersick CM, Rassmussen CJ, Lancaster SL, et al. The effects of protein and amino acid supplementation on performance and training adaptations during ten weeks of resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2006:20; 643-653.
  15. Marwood S and Bowtell J. No effect of glutamine supplementation and hyperoxia on oxidative metabolism and performance during high-intensity exercise. J Sport Sci. 2008:26; 1081-1090.
  16. Phillips G. Glutamine: The Nonessential Amino Acid for Performance Enhancement. Current Sports Medicine Reports. August 2007;6(4):265-268.
  17. Maughan R, King D, Lea T. Dietary supplements. Journal of Sports Sciences . January 2004;22(1):95-113.

Dodge T and, Kaufman A. What Makes Consumers Think Dietary Supplements Are Safe and Effective? The Role of Disclaimers and FDA Approval