Is Glutamine a Good Pre Workout Choice?

Is Glutamine a Good Pre Workout Choice?

When you want to take your training to the next level, ramp up your results or want to smash the lid off your PRs you know you need a good pre workout.

But look at all the different types of pre workout supplements available and it can be overwhelming knowing you’re making the right choice of product.

That’s where we come in.

And today’s article is all about the much-researched supplement glutamine.

Is it a good pre workout choice? And is it something you should be looking for on the ingredients list when you’re looking for a premium product?

Let’s take a look…

What is Glutamine?

2,5-diamino-5-oxo-pentanoic acid, or simply glutamine is an amino acid found in large amounts in your blood and skeletal muscle.

As a building block of protein, this compound is classed as a conditionally essential amino. That means your body can manufacture it under normal circumstances. The primary sites of production are muscle, the lungs and fat tissue.

However, during times of excess stress or illness, the need for glutamine production exceeds your ability to produce it meaning you run the risk of depleted levels in the blood [1].

But in a healthy body you can make enough glutamine. You also find it in food so it doesn’t take much to get all that you need. Supplementation isn’t usually needed.

Foods such as meat, milk and other animal products provide a rich source of the compound. Beans, cabbage and nuts are also good sources as well.

The role of glutamine

Glutamine is thought to be a competence factor of protein biosynthesis. It therefore helps to transport nitrogen around your body so it can regulate various anabolic processes such as muscle growth [2].

It plays an important role in regulating your blood acid base. This means that it is an important regulator of the body’s pH, being responsible for making sure your blood doesn’t get too acidic.

It has also been claimed that glutamine boosts immune health too. This is because white blood cells such as lymphocytes, leukocytes and macrophages have been found to use it as fuel rather than glucose or other substrates.

You use more glutamine during intense exercise

When you are active you use up your stored glutamine quicker – the more intense the activity, the faster your deplete your stores.

Some exercises such as maximal strength training have seen a reduction in blood levels by as much as 20% [3].

So if intense exercise depletes glutamine, but sufficient stores are needed to stimulate muscle growth, then the theory is sort of there: take some in a pre workout and you’ll build more muscle?!

But does the science actually back up this hypothesis or is it a claim based on limited evidence?

Let’s find out…

5ml spoon of glutamine powder on a white background

Is Glutamine an Effective Pre Workout?

If you actively research pre workout supplements you’ll no doubt have come across glutamine. But is it a wise choice for your stack? Or is it one to avoid?

Most research benefits are seen in injured or ill people

The first point worth noting here is that most of the research showing benefits to glutamine uses injured or ill participants – particularly those with immune deficiencies, cancer or burns. And as we’ve already pointed out, during times of either physical or psychological stress, production exceeds your ability to produce it and therefore more is needed.

But that’s relevant for you is it?

So for the purpose of this section we’re just going to look at the data from studies using healthy participants. And all of a sudden it doesn’t seem like such an effective supplement.

Glutamine doesn’t boost muscle recovery

It was thought for a long time that supplementing the amino acid would lead to better recovery because it helped to offset muscle damage. This is because we know that intense exercise depletes stored glutamine so it’s an easy link to make.

The problem is that the science just doesn’t back this up. Most of the clinical trials suggest that not much of it even gets to muscle cells – instead most is absorbed in the intestinal tract before it gets to your muscles.

And whilst rat studies showed that this amino acid might enhance muscle protein stimulus (which is important for muscle growth and recovery), human trials do not.

One paper for example found that when a group of professional football players were given 100 mg of glutamine per kilogram of body weight, creatinine levels (a biomarker of muscle damage) remained unchanged – even after 5 days of chronic use of the pre workout supplement.

It doesn’t reduce fat mass

When coupled with a resistance training program in healthy and trained athletes, the use of a high dose of the supplement(900 mg per kilogram of body weight) failed to enhance muscle performance when compared to a standard placebo supplement [4].

This included no significant change to body composition, maximal strength or muscle mass over a 6-week period.

It might help your immune system if you’re into endurance sports

If you’re a regular gym goer or you’re someone that throws a few weights around each day you’re not going to benefit from this supplement.

But if your exercise of choice is more related to endurance then glutamine may help with gut health and risk of upper-respiratory tract illness.

But we’re talking those who are hitting the gym for 20-30 hours per week here, not just the odd run or two [5].

Athletic, muscular man in sunglasses with six pack abs

Key point: Glutamine doesn’t seem to be an effective pre workout supplement choice in healthy, trained individuals.


Glutamine is an amino acid found abundantly in your muscles and blood. During times of stress, injury or illness your glutamine levels might fall lower than normal, therefore making supplementation potentially important.

There is no evidence though that adding it to your pre workout stack will boost performance, enhance muscle recovery or help improve body composition.

We suggest that you focus your attention on nutrients that are more beneficial and leave this supplement to one side. It is not an effective pre workout ingredient.

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  1. Lacey, JM et al. Is glutamine a conditionally essential amino acid? Nutr Rev. 1990; 48(8): 297-309
  2. Young, VR et al. Glutamine: the emperor or his clothes? J Nutr. 2001; 131: 2449S-2459
  3. Miles, MP et al. Blood leukocyte and glutamine fluctuations after eccentric exercise. Int J Sports Med.  1999; 20(5): 322-327
  4. Candow, DG et al. Effect of glutamine supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2001; 86(2): 142-9
  5. Gleeson, M. Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sport training. J Nutr. 2008; 138: 2045S-2049S

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