Glutamine: The nonessential amino acid for performance enhancement


Glutamine is a popular dietary supplement consumed for purported ergogenic benefits of increased strength, quicker recovery, decreased frequency of respiratory infections, and prevention of overtraining. From a biochemical standpoint, glutamine does play a physiologic role in each of these areas, but it remains only one of a host of factors involved. This review examines the effects of glutamine on exercise and demonstrates a lack of evidence for definitive positive ergogenic benefits as a result of glutamine supplementation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References and Recommended Reading

  1. 1.

    Phillips GC: Medicolegal issues and ergogenic aids: trade, tragedy, and public safety, the example of ephedra and the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. Curr Sports Med Rep 2004, 3:224–228.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Petibois C, Carzola G, Poortmans J, Deleris G: Biochemical aspects of overtaining in endurance sports. Sports Med 2002, 32:867–878.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Glutamine. Available at Accessed May 18, 2007.

  4. 4.

    Froiland K, Koszewski W, Hingst J, Kopecky L: Nutritional supplement use among college athletes and their sources of information. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2004, 14:104–120.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Rutten EP, Engelen MP, Schols AM, Deutz NE: Skeletal muscle glutamate metabolism in health and disease: state of the art. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2005, 8:41–51.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Antonio J, Sanders MS, Kalman D, et al.: The effects of high-dose glutamine ingestion on weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res 2002, 16:157–160.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Smith DJ, Norris SR: Changes in glutamine and glutamate concentrations for tracking training tolerance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000, 32:684–689.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Nieman DC, Bishop NC: Nutritional strategies to counter stress to the immune system in athletes, with special reference to football. J Sports Sci 2006, 24:763–772.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Lehmann M, Huonker M, Dimeo F, et al.: Serum amino acid concentrations in nine athletes before and after the 1993 Colmar ultra triathlon. Int J Sports Med 1995, 16:155–159.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Hiscock N, Mackinnon LT: A comparison of plasma glutamine concentration in athletes from different sports. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998, 30:1693–1696.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Kargotich S, Keast D, Goodman C, et al.: Monitoring 6 weeks of progressive endurance training with plasma glutamine. Int J Sports Med 2007, 28:211–216.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Kargotich S, Goodman C, Dawson B, et al.: Plasma glutamine responses to high-intensity exercise before and after endurance training. Res Sports Med 2005, 13:287–300.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Vierck JL, Icenoggle DL, Bucci L, Dodson MV: The effects of ergogenic compounds on myogenic satellite cells. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003, 35:769–776.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Candow DG, Chilibeck PD, Burke DG, et al.: Effect of glutamine supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults. Eur J Appl Physiol 2001, 86:142–149.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Falk DJ, Heelan KA, Thyfault JP, Koch AJ: Effects of effervescent creatine, ribose, and glutamine supplementation on muscular strength, muscular endurance, and body composition. J Strength Cond Res 2003, 17:810–816.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Ohtani M, Maruyama K, Sugita M, Kobayashi K: Amino acid supplementation affects hematological and biochemical parameters in elite rugby players. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2001, 65:1970–1976.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Marwood S, Bowtell JL: Effects of glutamine and hyperoxia on pulmonary oxygen uptake and muscle deoxygenation kinetics. Eur J Appl Physiol 2007, 99:149–161.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Haub MD, Potteiger JA, Nau KL, et al.: Acute L-glutamine ingestion does not improve maximal effort exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1998, 38:240–244.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Kargotich S, Rowbottom DG, Keast D, et al.: Plasma glutamine changes after high-intensity exercise in elite male swimmers. Res Sports Med 2005, 13:7–21.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Ohtani M, Sugita M, Maruyama K: Amino acid mixture improves training efficiency in athletes. J Nutr 2006, 136:538S–543S.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Wilkinson SB, Kim PL, Armstrong D, Phillips SM: Addition of glutamine to essential amino acids and carbohydrate does not enhance anabolism in young human males following exercise. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2006, 31:518–529.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Nieman DC: Immune response to heavy exertion. J Appl Physiol 1997, 82:1385–1394.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Krzywkowski K, Peterson EW, Ostrowski K, et al.: Effect of glutamine and protein supplementation on exercise-induced decreases in salivary IgA. J Appl Physiol 2001, 91:832–838.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Castell LM, Newsholme EA: The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition 1997, 13:738–742.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Castell LM, Poortmans JR, Leclercq R, et al.: Some aspects of the acute phase response after a marathon race, and the effects of glutamine supplementation. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1997, 75:47–53.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Rhode T, MacLean DA, Hartkopp A, Pedersen BK: The immune system and serum glutamine during a triathlon. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1996, 74:428–434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Moreira A, Kekkonen RA, Delgado L, et al.: Nutritional modulation of exercise-induced immunodepression in athletes: a system atic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr 2006 [Epub ahead of print, Nov. 29, 2006].

  28. 28.

    Mackinnon LT, Hooper SL: Plasma glutamine and upper respiratory tract infection during intensified training in swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996, 28:285–290.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to George C. Phillips MD.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Phillips, G.C. Glutamine: The nonessential amino acid for performance enhancement. Curr Sports Med Rep 6, 265–268 (2007).

Download citation