Monday, September 17, 2007

The Importance of Glutamine Supplementation

I have been using the products EFS and Ultragen from 1st Endurance. Ultragen has been great, but the first few times I used EFS, it gave me what I would call "rot gut". The last few times have been great so maybe my stomach has adapted. Anyway, in my interest of their products, I subscribed to their newsletter which I found to be very informative and reinforced many of the things I have learned from Hammer's website.

In 1st Endurance's latest newsletter, they discuss the importance of Amino Acids. Also called Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA's, these are very important to the body during and after exercise. Of particular importance is Glutamine.

Glutamine is especially important because it fuels our immune system and can be significantly depleted during prolonged intense exercise. Most of the time, the three Spin Doctor Cyclewerks group rides each week could all be classified as prolonged intense exercise. Keeping adequate glutamine levels in the body is especially important to preventing Over Training Syndrome (OTS) and upper respiratory trace infections (URTI / sinus infections).

Over the past 2 years, I have experienced both OTS and URTI's, but especially the URTI's. It didn't seem to matter when I started my training, but just about 3 months after starting serious training, I would get a sinus infection. I think part of this was due to inadequate glutamine supplementation. I also have had OTS at times which were more related to the addition of stress outside of cycling, but I believe glutamine supplementation would have been beneficial in order to prevent my issues with OTS.

So, what should you do? The recommendations from the article are:

1. Supplement with 5 – 10 grams of glutamine during a pre-exercise meal approximately 1-2 hours before a long exhaustive training session (e.g. greater than 3 hours).
2. Supplement with 0.5 - 1.0 gram/hour during training (included in a carbohydrate, electrolyte drink).
3. Supplement with approximately 5 grams of glutamine immediately post-exercise (included in a recovery drink).

Seems like a lot of glutamine, right? Well, I like to keep things simple. Supplementing with glutamine immediately post-exercise using a recovery drink is going to give you your best opportunity to supplement with glutamine. This supplementation will help prevent the greatest threat to your training and improvement: getting sick or OTS. Another point the article makes is to supplement with a full complement of BCAA's in order to keep a balance of BCAA's in the body. Both Recoverite from Hammer and Ultragen from 1st Endurance are good products for immediate post-exercise recovery as they provide adequate amounts of glutamine while many other recovery products provide glutamine in lower amounts.

The article also spends time discussing the benefits of BCAA supplementation during exercise to increase performance. While I agree with their conclusions, I think this is not nearly as important as supplementing during recovery and the article admits that the research is not as clear in this area.

Here is a link to the article:

Comments are welcome.

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