Can Glutamine Slow Muscle Breakdown

Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid that has become a popular supplement for weight lifters and bodybuilders. It has been touted as a supplement that causes a net gain of muscle protein and thus muscle mass. From the discussion of proteins, you will recall that body proteins are broken down and rebuilt on a daily basis. This is called protein turnover and it reflects the dynamic efforts of our cells to adapt to metabolic conditions that change minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day.

In muscle tissue, protein turnover reflects demands placed on muscle itself. In response to a weight-lifting session there will be an increase in the breakdown of muscle proteins as well as production (synthesis) of muscle proteins. Together these seemingly counteractive processes drive muscle repair and adaptation and can endure for several hours to a day or more. When protein production exceeds breakdown, there will be a net growth of muscle tissue as seen in weight training. It is a matter of simple algebra.

Glutamine is often purported to limit these breakdowns, which results in greater net gains of muscle protein. Interestingly, there are several review articles related to glutamine and muscle protein turnover and the potential application to athletes. However, the review articles outnumber the research efforts actually testing glutamine and showing it to be effective. Therefore, at this time, there is limited information with regard to the efficacy of glutamine supplementation to enhance muscle development associated with resistance training.

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