The Power Of Glutamine

Entering the 21st century we find research producing new and exciting discoveries in the fitness, health, nutrition and supplement fields.

As strength-trainers who pay close attention to their bodies it is of up most importance that we make sure those bodies are finely-tuned machines. While proper nutrition serves to shed unsightly body fat and build up our physiques we also need to look to supplements to add to our arsenal of equipment as we forge onward to achieve our personal goals.

With each day that passes we¹re constantly bombarded (through television, magazines, radio, and the internet) with a greater variety of consumable supplements.

If you¹re an avid strength-trainer there¹s a good chance you¹ve purchased a protein supplement of some kind. And a lot of you are probably familiar with the amino acid called Glutamine. This item has gained a reputation of sorts, and has become the choice of body-builders, weight-lifters, athletes…and even celebrities.

The benefits of Glutamine cover a number of functions. In many fitness circles it is touted as being THE versatile supplement. Because of these athletes, weight-lifters, strength-trainers and body-builders that are serious about improving their health and body should consider placing this supplement near the top of their list. As new research sheds more light, and as more studies are published, Glutamine is becoming the vogue article.

Glutamine is a component of the building blocks for proteins and nucleotides (these are the structural units of RNA and DNA). It regulates the ammonia levels in tissues and contains anti-depressive properties. Later, I will touch upon some of the other functions of Glutamine.

Of all the amino acids Glutamine is the most abundant in our body. It is stored mainly in the muscles but can be found as well in the lungs, liver, brain and blood (plasma). It comprises approximately 50-60% of the free amino acids in muscle(1). This accounts for most of the body¹s Glutamine reserves.

It has taken over 20 years to establish that exercise causes muscle tissue to release large quantities of the amino acid Glutamine(1,2). Intense exercise has been found to deplete Glutamine levels by as much as 34-50% (3). During heightened exercise periods, fasting or trauma (surgery) Glutamine, along with other amino acids, are released from the muscle–Glutamine more than any of the others (1,2). As a result, body tissue gives up more than is supplied by our natural diet as well as more than the body can synthesize (4).

Glutamine from food makes up roughly 4-8% of food protein and can be found in milk, meat and some nuts. Because of low blood levels your muscles release Glutamine into the blood stream. Here Glutamine is transferred to other tissues to be used as fuel. Unfortunately the end result of the process leaves the individual with their intracellular stores depleted. Studies show that that after such a session glutamine levels in the muscles will have been depleted within 4-6 hours and it can take more than 24 hours to recover to pre-exercise levels. As one can see, if an individual were to train in an intensely day in and day out their Glutamine stores wouldn’t have the opportunity to replenish themselves and could lead an individual to falling into a catabolic state. This can be described as overtraining.

Overtraining is a state incurred as a result of increased training volumes and intensities combined with a failure to balance the two variables out with adequate recovery periods. Furthermore the outcome of the increased training intensity and volume coupled with low Glutamine stores wreak havoc on the individual¹s immune system. Not only do the muscles use Glutamine as a means to preserve muscle but the immune system uses large amounts as well(5). This is one reason why scientists have been become aware of weakened immune systems in athletes. With low levels, both the muscle and the immune system receive inadequate supplies, and this is what leads to a loss of muscle, strength and a weakened immune system(6,7). Therein lies the problem.

On the brighter side evidence seems to indicate that Glutamine can possibly favor recovery in these ways:

  1. Glutamine spares myosin heavy chain proteins (they determine a muscle¹s contractile properties and capabilities).
  2. Glutamine promotes glycogen formation (8).
  3. Glutamine protects the immune system (9,10).
  4. Glutamine promotes protein synthesis (11).
  5. Glutamine appears to be anti-catabolic (13).
  6. Glutamine elevates growth hormone levels (12).

Glutamine has now been labeled an essential amino acid for the serious strength-trainer, weight-lifter and athlete, though it can still be rated as a non-essential amino acid for other individuals. Common daily dosages range from 2-20 grams, divided up and taken at certain times throughout the day. Even though these are generally accepted recommendations don’t let this prevent you from experimenting with higher dosages (be aware at higher dosages that the body may respond differently). Effective times to ingest Glutamine would be preferably after rising from a night¹s sleep, before an exercise session, after a workout and just before bedtime. Cycling Glutamine is not necessary as the body can only produce so much depending on how hard you exercise. Instead it is advisable to keep supplementing your diet with Glutamine to ensure your Glutamine stores are always topped off. Glutamine can be purchased in a powdered as well as a pill form.

As we continue to learn more about the human body and how it reacts to certain compounds we will continue to see new and exciting discoveries which will pave the way for individuals to live longer, build stronger bodies and improve their quality of life. Glutamine is one of the most important amino acids in the body because of its versatility. Therefore it should be not be overlooked as a supplement.

What Glutamine Is Not

  • Glutamine is not Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamine is not Glutamate
  • Glutamine is not Monosodium Glutamate
  • Glutamine is not Gluten
  • Glutamine is not Glutathione

Glutamic Acid is closely related to Glutamine (see Glutamate). Glutamate is an amino acid similar to Glutamine but lacks the extra nitrogen group. Monosodium Glutamate, is also known as MSG. Gluten is a mixture of proteins not readily soluble in water, which occurs in wheat and most other cereal products. Glutathione, a compound composed of glutamate, cysteine and glycine, acts as an antioxidant in the body and prevents tissue damage.

Written by Maki Riddington

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – The Power Of Glutamine discussion thread.


1. Roth E, et al. Glutamine: Anabolic effector? J Parent Ent Nutr

2. Felig P, Wahren J. Amino acid metabolism in exercising man. J Clin Invest 1971;50:2703.

3. Roth, E et al. ” Metabolic Disorders in Severe Abdominal Sepsis,
Glutamine Deficiency in Skeletal Muscle.” Clin Nutr 1 (1982):25-41.

4. Miller, A. L. 1999. Therapeutic considerations of l-glutamine: a
review of the literature. Alternative Medicine Review 4:239-248;
Antonio, J, et al. 1999. Glutamine: a potentially useful supplement for athletes. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 24: 1-14.

5. Griffiths M, Keast D. The effect of glutamine on murine splenic
leucocyte responses to T- and B- cell mitogens. Cell Biology

6. Newsholme EA. Psychoimmunology and cellular nutrition: an
alternative hypothesis. Biol Psychiat 1990;27:1-3.

7. Parry-Billings M, et al. A communicational link between skeletal
muscle, brain, and cells of the immune system. Int J Sports Med
1990;11:Suppl, 1-7.

8. Varnier, M, et al. 1995. Stimulatory effect of glutamine on glycogen accumulation in human skeletal muscle. American Journal of Phsiology 269; E309-E315.

9. Tuttle, D. 1997. Glutamine: athletic benefits times three. Let’s
Live, September, 71-73.

10. Effect of glutamine supplementation on exercise-induced changes in lymphocyte function. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2001

11. Dorup I, Clausen T. Effects of potassium deficiency on growth and protein synthesis in skeletal muscle and the heart. Brit J Nutr

12. Welbourne,T. 1995. Increased plasma bicarbonate and growth hormone after an oral glutamine load. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61: 1058-1061.

13. MacLennan PA, Smith K, Weryk B, Watt PW Rennie MJ. Inhibition of protien breakdown by glutamine in perfused rat skeletal muscle. FEBS Lett. 1988 Sep 12;237 (1-2) :133-6.

Powerlifting Westside Style

Before I get started here is a little information about the Westside Barbell Club. In their 20′ x 40′ gym they have 53 Elite level lifters with 24 members squatting over 800 pounds, 40 members benching over 500 pounds and 6 members deadlifting over 800 pounds!

Now to get started the Westside methods are unusual to most. They put Strength, Power, and Hypertrophy phases all together into one routine. The reason these phases are together is because to be strong you need to have power and strength at the same time. The old routines could not provide that because they split up the different phases for different time frames. When training with the different phases split up you would lose the qualities you had just gained from the training before.

You might be thinking, “How do they put all those phases into one routine?” Well they do this by training for strength/speed on one day and power on a different day during the week. The hypertrophy is caused by the assistance exercises on each of the days.

So what does a 1 week routine look like?

Well, you train 4 times a week with 2 days being devoted to the bench press and 2 days devoted to the squat/deadlift. The reason the squat and deadlift are trained on the same day is because they are similar movements which use the same primary muscles.

On one day you will do speed work and on the other day you will do what is known as a Max Effort movement.

For the speed bench press day you will be using 60% of your one rep max for 8 sets of 3 reps. These reps are done as fast as possible while keeping your form perfect and using a close grip. Rest periods should be between 40-60 seconds.

For the squat speed day you will be using 50% of your max squat for 10 sets of 2 reps. The week after that you increase your speed squats to 55% of your one rep max and on the third week you will use 60% of your one rep max. On week four you would go back to 50% of your 1-RM and continue to wave your weights like that. Rest periods should be between 40-60 seconds between each speed set. After your speed squats do deadlifts for 6 singles of 60% of your max deadlift with a 20 second rest period.

For the speed bench and speed squat days after your 8 sets you will also do a single rep of about 75% of your max just to test your speed. All of the squats on speed day will be done off of boxes. I will explain this further in this article.

On the ME or Max Effort days you will be doing a movement that works the muscles in either your squat, deadlift, or bench to the max. An example of this would be doing front squats on your ME squat day or close grip incline press on your ME bench day. Almost all of your ME bench exercises should be done with a close grip.

On your squat/deadlift days you will always work your abs, obliques, an exercise for your weak point and reverse hypers. On your bench press days you will do a pressing movement followed by an extension and heavy lat work and some light shoulder work.

An example one week routine would be:

Sunday – ME squat/deadlift

  • ME exercise – Close stance bent over good morning – work up to a single or triple
  • Assistance – Glute – Ham raise – 5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Abs – Standing abs – 4 sets of 8-12
  • Obliques – Dumbbell side bends – 3 sets of 4-8 reps
  • Reverse hypers – 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Tuesday – Speed bench

  • Speed Bench – 8 sets of 3 reps at 60% of your one rep max
  • Pressing movement – Closegrip 3 board press – 3 sets of 5
  • Extension – Elbows out extensions – 3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Lat work – T-bar rows – 4 sets of 5-8 reps
  • Shoulder work – A few light sets of side laterals and front raises

Thursday – Speed squat

  • Speed squat – 10 sets of 2 reps at 50% of your one rep max
  • Speed deadlift – 6 singles of 60% of one rep max
  • Assistance – Zercher squats – 5 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Abs – Decline sit-ups with 5 second pause at bottom 1 – 4 sets of 82 reps
  • Obliques – Dumbbell side bends – 3 sets of 4-8 reps
  • Reverse hypers – 3 sets of 6-8 reps

Friday – ME BenchME Exercise

  • Closegrip Incline press – work up to max single
  • Extension – Skull crushers – 3 sets of 6-10
  • Lat work – T-bar rows – 4 sets of 5-8
  • Light shoulder work
  • Pressing movement – floor press – 3 sets of 5

How can you get away with all the volume?

The main reason you can do this much is because none of the assistance exercises are to failure. The only exercise that is done until failure is your ME movement. When you first start training with this program you might want to drop a few sets on the assistance exercises. You can gradually add them as you get used to the volume.

What is the proper form for bench pressing?

Benching is actually a very technical lift. To start off you need to pull your shoulder blades together to put most of the pressure on your trap area. Now plant your feet firmly to the ground and push a bit. By this point your body should be very tight and stable. Now unrack the weight and position the bar above your sternum area with your arms still fully extended. You will want to lower the bar straight down and up to create the smallest ROM as possible. During the press keep your elbows near your sides and hold your shoulder blades together. The bar should end up staying over your sternum for the whole rep. Do NOT breath out during the rep, hold your breath from the beginning of the rep to the end.

What is the proper form for squatting without a box?

First position yourself under the bar and put the weight on your rear delts. Take a wide grip and then take in a large breath while pushing your abs out and arch your back to take the weight off of the pins. Now you should be standing with your back arched and abs pushed out. Now take a wide stance with your toes pointed straight forward. Take one last breath while pushing your abs out and descend back into the squat while pushing your feet out sideways. To descend into the squat first stick your ass back and lean forward keeping the bar over your feet for the whole rep, this will keep the bar in the center of gravity. Your shins should stay perpendicular to the floor for the rep and the bar should stay above the middle of your feet.

What is the proper form for box squatting?

Box squats are very similar to squats except at the bottom of the squat you sit back onto the box and release your hip flexors. You MUST keep the rest of your body tight. To release the hip flexors just stop pushing your feet out sideways. You only release them for a split second then explode back to the top of the squat.


Some notes about the system

On ME day you are training with the conjugated method. With this method you must rotate the ME exercise at most every 3rd week. The reason for this is because you will not get stronger after 3 weeks at or above 90% of your max, you will suffer either mental or physical burnout after about 3 weeks and your strength will actually go down.

On ME day for squat/deadlift 60% of the ME exercises should be different kinds of good mornings, 25% squatting movements and 15% deadlifts. The reason being for all of the good mornings is because they build up the posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, upper back, abs, obliques) like no other exercise.

On speed day the reason you are using between 50% and 60% of you max is because that is how you can generate the most force. Think of it this way, can you generate more force throwing a ping pong ball/baseball/or a 90pound weight? Well, the ping pong ball is too light to get much force while the 90 pound weight is to heavy but the baseball is able to be thrown fast and it has more weight then the ping pong ball. Use the equation F=M x A to figure that out.

The reason short rest periods are used on speed day are:

  • You can hit fast twitch fibers hard
  • Short rest periods release more growth hormone
  • You get better on your first rep
  • You get into good shape for a competition

The Most Important Muscles of Each lift:

For Bench pressing the very most important muscle are the triceps. That is why all the triceps work is done. The next most important muscle would be the lats and shoulders.

For squatting and deadlifting the most important muscle are the hamstrings followed by the lower and upper back, the glutes, the abdominals and obliques and the hips.

Here are some exercises you can use to add variety to your workouts:

Squat and deadlift assistance: Dimel deadlifts, glute-ham raise, pull-thru’s, stiff legged deadlifts, zercher squats, seated good mornings, bent over good mornings, arch back good mornings, front squats, high bar squats, rack pulls, pulls off a block, sumo deadlift, conventional deadlift, one handed deadlifts, safety bar squats, suspended good mornings, hyperextensions, kneeling squats.

Pressing movements: closegrip bench, 2 board press, 3 board press, 4 board press, 5 board press, presses off pins, floor press, half benches, JM press, Paul dicks press, dumbbell press, reverse grip bench, cambered bar press, extra wide grip bench, incline press, decline press, military press.

Extensions: skull crushers, elbows out incline extensions, pushdowns.

Lat work: T-bar rows, barbell rows, dumbbell rows, chins, pulldowns, cable rows, supported chest rows.

Ab exercises: Decline sit-ups, standing abs, leg raises, Russian twists, spread eagle sit-ups.

Written by Adam Mackinnon

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Powerlifting Westside Style discussion thread.