There has been much debate surrounding glutamine in the weight training world. It was touted as a recovery booster/fat mobilizer/muscle sparing/ all that and a bag o’ chips for many moons, and turns out that the research doesn’t support that position. (Gleeson M, Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sport trainingJ Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):2045S-2049S among others.)
Where glutamine may have limited benefit from a sports performance/physique enhancement perspective, it may be much more useful for gut health.
First of all, what is glutamine? Glutamine is an amino acid. It is considered conditionally essential (meaning there may be times when the body cannot produce enough, and it must be ingested through the diet.) The gut tissue has been found to absorb up to 65-76% of ingested glutamine. Also, glutamine is used for fuel by the cells in your body that fight disease and infection. When plasma glutamine levels are lowered, this can contribute to suppresion of the immune system. In short, glutamine helps reduce inflammation, improve immunity, promote repair, and assist in production of other important factors in the gut.
I have to note that in looking through the scientific research, I have found studies that support these statements, and other studies where no significant difference has been shown. As always, this is a case of buyer beware-educate yourself, discuss it with your doctor or healthcare practioner, and make an informed decision. It will not hurt you, but it may not help either. There has been quite a bit of supporting evidence that it is beneficial for gut health.
Some of you may be thinking-“But glutamine is an amino acid found in gliadin-and a reaction to gliadin is what is examined when gluten intolerance is being tested.” Dr. Stephen Wangen in his book “Healthier Without Wheat” clarifies “Do not be confused by the fact that gliadins contain glutamine. This does not mean that glutamine is a problem for people who are gluten intolerant, nor does it mean that glutamine should be avoided. In fact the opposite is true…”
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Note: Glutamine can be found in two forms, and this is particulary important to note if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. There is L-glutamine, which is the free form amino acid, and glutamine peptides. Glutamine peptides are often sourced from wheat, and can cause a reaction in those with sensitivity. Avoid glutamine peptides, and if you choose to supplement look for L-glutamine.
Dr. Wangen states that due to the fact that the small intestine uses glutamine as a primary energy source, providing extra L-glutamine can assist in speeding the healing of the digestive tract. He recommends a dose of 3 grams (3,000 mg) split into 3 doses throughout the day.
Shari Lieberman also discussed L-glutamine supplementation in her book “The Gluten Connection.” She recommended 500 mg-3 grams of L-glutamine.
There also have been studies of non-celiac endurance athletes which have shown protective immune system qualities when the training load is high.
So what does this mean to the celiac or gluten intolerant athlete?
It means that supplementing with L-glutamine may be a worthwhile expense. If you are training hard, your immune system and gut can use all the help it can get with recovery. It can help with antioxidant control of free radicals produced in exercise. By maximizing your gut health, you are maximizing absorption and therefore fuel.
Erin provides easy to understand, and easy to implement, information about living a healthy life without gluten. Her goal is to provide education and resources to enable people to make positive changes in their health and lifestyle.
Please visit: http://www.glutenfreefitness.com/Free_Gluten.html to obtain her free guideline for setting up a healthy gluten free nutrition plan.
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