You feel great all day after a hard workout, but you wake up the next day so sore you can barely walk -- and you thought exercise was good for you. Actually, it is, and that soreness means that you worked hard enough to get results. What you need now is to create the right internal environment for muscle recovery. L-glutamine plays a major role in helping your muscles repair themselves after stress, explains New York University Langone Medical Center, but supplements are not for everyone -- check with your physician first.
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Glutamine is an amino acid. You get glutamine in your diet when you eat protein, and your body makes it as well. It removes waste products like ammonia from the bloodstream, and participates in the proper function of your brain, digestive system and immune system, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Your body stores glutamine for when it's needed, but people who regularly stress their bodies with heavy or prolonged exercise may deplete their glutamine stores. The body can't produce it fast enough to meet the demand, so a supplement may be required. L-glutamine is the form of glutamine found in over-the-counter supplements.
When you stress your muscles, you cause muscle damage. As the body repairs that damage, it also makes the muscle stronger and a little bit larger to guard against future stress. Small amounts of muscle damage are good because they lead to gains. The problem is that your body may require several days of rest to repair that damage, meaning you can only work out once or twice per week, and that kind of frequency won't allow you to progress. Many athletes turn to supplements like L-glutamine to hasten the recovery process, according to NYU Langone Medical Center.
PubChem notes that one of the main roles L-glutamine plays in muscle recovery is moving nitrogen atoms from wherever they are to where they are needed. To build muscle, you need to maintain a positive nitrogen balance. After a heavy workout, rushing nitrogen to your damaged muscles stimulates tissue repair. If glutamine is lacking in the body, the damaged tissue may stay damaged because it doesn't have the materials to rebuild. For endurance athletes, L-glutamine helps boost the immune system after an extended event like a marathon.
Glutamine is the most common amino acid and it's likely you have plenty of it between your body's natural production and your protein intake, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Power lifters and heavy-training endurance athletes may require a supplement, but a complete protein shake is better than a dedicated L-glutamine mix. With a regular protein shake, you cosume a variety of amino acids instead of just one. Some protein shakes may have extra L-glutamine added, but it's not really necessary for most people. All of the amino acids are important, and focusing on just one may cause you to miss out on others.