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What Does Glutamine Do for Your Muscles?

By Jennifer Nall, M.S., R.D., L.D.

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. It has several functions in physiological processes and is very important for health. One role of special interest is the relationship between glutamine and muscle mass. Usually, glutamine can be obtained in adequate amounts from diet and supplementation is not necessary. However, in some cases, glutamine supplementation may be beneficial.


Glutamine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid. In normal situations, glutamine can be synthesized in the body in adequate amounts and is not required in the diet. However, in cases of severe illness or injury, glutamine becomes an essential amino acid, so supplementation from the diet is necessary. Glutamine is synthesized in the body from glutamate and ammonia by the enzyme glutamine synthetase and stored in the musculature.

Glutamine and Muscle Mass

The amount of glutamine reserves that can be released when needed has been directly related to muscle mass. The greater the muscle mass, the greater the amount of glutamine reserve that is available for physiological processes. This becomes important in severe illness or injury because glutamine levels decline in the body during periods of stress. Individuals with larger muscle mass may have an increased ability to withstand or recover from illness, stress or injury. A deficiency of glutamine is related to muscle wasting. In muscle wasting diseases such as cancer and AIDS, dietary supplementation of glutamine can be beneficial. In addition, glutamine in high doses may be related to an increased production of growth hormone, which may increase muscle mass.

Dietary Sources of Glutamine

In addition to being synthesized in the body, glutamine can also be found in foods such as wheat, beans and protein isolates. Glutamine accounts for 6 to 9 percent of soy protein and milk proteins. Glutamine is also found in nutrition bars and drinks.

Oral Glutamine Dosages

The usual daily dosage for orally administered glutamine is related to body weight. Usually, the dosage is 0.5 to 0.57 glutamines per kilogram of body weight. However, dosages of oral glutamine can vary from 5 glutamines per day to 40 glutamines per day. Dosages higher than 40 glutamines per day may not be beneficial. Higher dosages of oral glutamine should only be used in situations when there is a small amount of dietary glutamine available and a high need. Glutamine should only be taken in high doses if indicated and should be supervised by a physician.

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