Glutamine is one of the 20 amino acids that are encoded by the standard genetic code. It is not recognised as an essential amino acid but instead is widely regarded as ?semi-essential? because it is required by every single muscle in the body. It is one of the most important building blocks in the formation of proteins that maintain cellular health and tissue repair. It is therefore seen as conditionally essential in certain conditions like intensive athletic training and gastrointestinal disorders. Glutamine is the most abundant naturally occurring, non-essential amino acid and is one of the few amino acids that can directly cross the blood-brain barrier. In the human body it is found circulating in the blood, as well as being stored in skeletal muscle.
Glutamine plays a key role in a number of biochemical functions:
- Protein synthesis (just like all other amino acids)
- Regulation of acid-base balance in the kidney by producing ammonium
- A source of cellular energy, next to glucose
- Nitrogen donation for many anabolic processes, including the synthesis of purines
- A source of carbon donation, refilling the citric acid cycle
- Non-toxic transporter of ammonia in the blood circulation
Glutamine is best known for its ability to repair and help the growth of muscle, which is why glutamine in supplement form has become incredibly popular with athletes and bodybuilders. It can prevent the breakdown of muscle that often occurs with strenuous exercise and helps to keep the muscle in great health in order for it grow. As it increases the ability to secrete the human growth hormone, it can metabolise body fat and support new muscle growth.
It is also known to be useful in the treatment of injuries, trauma, burns and treatment-related side effects of cancer. Not only that, but glutamine has also been associated with healing wounds in post-operative patients and aiding recovery time after surgery.