Who wins in the battle for recovery? BCAAs vs Glutamine! Glutamine is one of 20 amino acids that influence health and wellness in the human body. Glutamine is categorized as non-essential because the body can create it from other nutrients. However, it’s often referred to as conditionally essential because it is quickly used up in supporting immunity, digestive health, and fitness goals. BCAAs are made up of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The body cannot create these amino acids and must get them from food or supplements. Like glutamine, BCAAs also have a unique responsibility for our health, but is one necessarily better than the other? Crunched for time? Here’s what’s covered:
Athletic PerformanceEveryone wants to be able to perform better during a workout and nothing brings that to a halt faster than when you get tired. Glutamine has been shown to reduce intra-workout fatigue in endurance athletes or those who have long workouts or training periods. (1) BCAAs have also been shown to prevent intra-workout fatigue, but they also take this benefit one step further. Researchers found that BCAAs support workout performance while protecting against the oxidative stress on muscle mass. Due to the anti-catabolic nature of BCAAs, they protect muscle from breakdown while they support performance. (2)
Sports RecoveryPost-workout, glutamine can help you bounce back faster. Some studies suggest that glutamine is able to decrease muscle soreness, which is one of the main reasons for limited performance. It may also be able to support the healing and recovery of muscle tissue. (3) As the building blocks of muscle tissue, BCAAs also promote recovery. Studies show that BCAAs, with an emphasis on leucine, boost protein synthesis, one of the key factors in muscle recovery. What’s more, studies have found that BCAAs can decrease muscle soreness after an intense workout. Again, BCAAs can repair while they protect. (4)
Muscle BuildingThe majority of glutamine – over 60 percent – are found in muscle tissue, cementing its role as an important muscle builder. Glutamine has been shown to support growth hormone production and protein synthesis, two essential processes for supporting muscle mass. Glutamine also spares your muscle glycogen, ensuring fat and glucose are used as fuel sources. (5) As mentioned above, BCAAs are the brick and mortar foundation of muscle tissue. Want to use BCAAs for bodybuilding? Leucine has been shown to kickstart protein synthesis while isoleucine and valine play a protective role, keeping muscle protein from being used as a fuel source. The result? More muscle. (6)
Immune SystemThe immune system isn’t something we typically associate with fitness, but our immunity takes a hit after an intense workout. The harder the workout, the bigger the hit. As our immune system scrambles to recover, we become vulnerable to illness. Glutamine has been shown to promote muscle healing post-workout, but more importantly, it can help the immune system to recover. Studies show that glutamine supplementation can lower risks of infection while decreasing the immunosuppression that takes place during heavy-load lifting. (7) BCAAs can also improve immunity and cell function. Studies show that BCAA supplementation can reduce the damage to muscle tissue and the immune system done during an intense lifting session. (8)
Combining BCAAs with GlutamineAlthough BCAAs are essential, it’s glutamine that gets rapidly used up in a number of day-to-day bodily processes such as digestion, muscle recovery, and immune support. Without a doubt, I would recommend supplementing with glutamine each day; one five-gram serving is fine for a normal person. If you’re particularly active, I’d say double the serving. With that said, combining glutamine with BCAAs is a smart choice for the athlete, fitness enthusiast, or an overly active person. BCAAs and glutamine can complement one another to increase fitness results, boost your immune response, and support your post-workout recovery. Since glutamine is such a cost-effective supplement, I’d highly recommend using it with BCAAs.