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Supplements

  • What Is Pea Protein and Why You Should Be Using It

    If you’re a non-vegan athlete, and have come across pea protein powder for the first time, chances are high that you probably just bypassed it completely. However, after learning a bit about the basics of pea protein powder, we’re sure you will want to give it a second look.

    The fact is that pea protein can be extremely beneficial for you, regardless of if you are vegan or not. You do eat vegetables don’t you? In that same way pea protein should be considered a useful tool in your arsenal towards a healthier life.

    What Is Pea Protein?

    The name should be self-explanatory, but in particular, it is obtained from yellow peas (Pisum sativum), which are sustainable enough to ensure continuous supply in the event that demand rises significantly. The peas are ground into a fine powder, and subsequently refined to remove the fibre and starches to leave behind a high purity protein powder.

    Not surprisingly, pea protein is the number one vegan based protein powder on the market, and coupled with its many benefits is likely to remain here for a long time.

    Wondering what these notable benefits include? Let’s check them out now.

    Pea Protein Powder Is Complete

    The major flaw with vegan based protein sources is the fact that they lack one or more of the essential amino acids, and are accordingly classified as incomplete protein sources. Pea protein does possess all the 9 essential amino acids[i], although its overall methionine content is a little low.

    However, since we are confident you won’t be relying on pea protein as your sole source of nourishment, you can easily deal with this by consuming brown rice, or various meats if you are so inclined to get sufficient amounts of this amino acid.

    Pea Protein Possesses Low Allergenicity

    You’ve probably seen (or even yourself) people that are allergic to animal based proteins, or have insensitivities to some aspect of the product. This is very common with the dairy based proteins casein and whey that are notorious for causing gastric distress, bloating and even anaphylactic reactions in severe cases.

    This isn’t limited to just dairy based proteins, but also egg, beef and even insect protein. These allergies are very rare when dealing with vegan proteins.

    For one, pea protein is easily digestible, reducing bloating and distress from difficult digestion. By removing much of the fibre as well, digestibility goes up a notch. The removal of a common anti-nutrient in phytic acid, also helps the protein powder boast a high absorbability.

    Pea protein powder is referred to as low FODMAP[ii], and suitable for people with symptoms of IBS.

    Pea Protein Is Rich In Iron

    One of the biggest nutritional challenges vegetarians and vegans encounter is to ensure that they meet their daily recommended intake of dietary iron. Given, iron deficiency is fairly common even in non-vegetarians, which makes it important for you to actively seek out foods that are excellent sources of this mineral.

    Pea protein powder is a great source of iron[iii], with an average scoop of the powder supplying anywhere between 25 to 40% of the daily recommended intake. Of course, this will be the non-heme variety which is not preferred, but nevertheless still a necessary source.

    Pea Protein May Help Support Weight Loss

    When trying to lose weight, at the end of the day all that matters is the number of calories you ingest against the amount you expend. While this sounds like simple mathematics, there are many hormonal and biochemical mechanisms that come into play which complicate things much more.

    Amongst these is hunger. Feeling hungry all the time can easily make you ingest hundreds or thousands of calories more than you were planning to. As such, any food or supplement that can help to suppress your appetite is a major plus. Pea protein is much more slowly absorbed than whey protein, helping to keep your appetite under control for a longer period of time.

    For instance, whey protein causes a spike in insulin levels in as little as 20 minutes after ingestion, while pea protein peaked after three hours, and to a lesser degree than whey[iv].

    What this means is that you are more likely to consume fewer calories using pe protein than when compared to dairy based proteins, more specifically whey.

    Pea Protein May Support Muscle Gain And Impair Muscle Breakdown

    While whey protein remains one of the best protein powders you can choose for its muscle building properties, its rapid absorption and clearance from body doesn’t make it the best suited for preventing catabolism (muscle breakdown).

    Slower acting proteins, such as casein and pea are much better suited for this as they slowly liberate amino acids over the period of many hours. This does not take away from the amazing muscle building potential[v] of the protein either (which is comparable to whey), as the ability to slowly release amino acids for several hours is a great recipe for muscle building.

    In Summary

    Interest in pea protein powder is rapidly increasing, as testament to the fact that over the past decade hundreds of new manufacturers of the product have popped up. Pea protein is an excellent choice whether you are on a full plant-based diet or not, thanks to its unique amino acid release pattern and overall nutritional profile.

    Just be sure to choose a high-quality powder that offers more than 20 g of protein per serve.

     

    [i] Tömösközi S, Lásztity R, Haraszi R, Baticz O. Isolation and study of the functional properties of pea proteins. Nahrung. 2001;45(6):399-401. doi:10.1002/1521-3803(20011001)45:6<399::AID-FOOD399>3.0.CO;2-0

    [ii] Iacovou M, Tan V, Muir JG, Gibson PR. The Low FODMAP Diet and Its Application in East and Southeast Asia. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2015;21(4):459-470. doi:10.5056/jnm15111

    [iii] Perfecto A, Rodriguez-Ramiro I, Rodriguez-Celma J, Sharp P, Balk J, Fairweather-Tait S. Pea Ferritin Stability under Gastric pH Conditions Determines the Mechanism of Iron Uptake in Caco-2 Cells [published correction appears in J Nutr. 2019 Mar 1;149(3):542]. J Nutr. 2018;148(8):1229-1235. doi:10.1093/jn/nxy096

    [iv] Overduin J, Guérin-Deremaux L, Wils D, Lambers TT. NUTRALYS(®) pea protein: characterization of in vitro gastric digestion and in vivo gastrointestinal peptide responses relevant to satiety. Food Nutr Res. 2015;59:25622. Published 2015 Apr 13. doi:10.3402/fnr.v59.25622

    [v] Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(1):3. Published 2015 Jan 21. doi:10.1186/s12970-014-0064-5

  • Casein: 4 Ways It Gets You Ahead of the Competition

    So you’re trying to pack on some serious mass are you? That’s great to hear! Chances are you arrived here because you wanted help choosing the best protein out there to support your goals, so where’s the whey?

    Just hold on a sec- while whey is undoubtedly an awesome muscle builder, what if we told you there was another, lesser known protein powder, the bigger brother if you will, of whey, which lies in the shadow of his younger celebrity sibling?

    Introducing casein, a protein that you WILL want to get to know, and make use of pronto. Now onto a little bit about this mysterious chap, shall we?

    What Is Casein?

    Like whey, casein is also a milk derived protein. In fact, 80% of the protein content of milk is actually casein, while whey accounts for the other 20%. The curd of milk is the starting point of casein, which is washed several times to concentrate the casein, and then subsequently dehydrated (dried) to leave an approximately 96% pure protein.

    Casein is a complete protein, like other animal based proteins, and is available in three forms:

    • Micellar Casein- the slowest digesting variety of casein you can buy, it is considered the most nutritious form if you are looking for the best bang for your money. Best when consumed before bed when speed of digestion is not a pressing matter
    • Caseinates- produced by treating casein with an alkaline solution, this type is classified as the second slowest digesting variety. Texture can vary depending on type of caseinate present, for instance, as calcium caseinate is not as smooth as sodium caseinate.
    • Casein hydrolysate- hydrolysis of casein protein results in a somewhat pre-digested variety, which can be said to possess advantages specific to both whey and casein itself. For instance, this type of casein releases amino acids rapidly into the blood stream, but also slowly continuously yields more for several hours to come. This type of casein is best for addition to your post-workout shake.

    What Makes Casein So Special?

    If you haven’t spotted the trend with casein as yet, most of what sets it apart from whey is not mimicking what whey can do, but instead what it can’t. By this, we mean its unique speed of absorption. Casein specialized as a slow digesting protein, while whey is rapidly absorbed. This brings with it specific advantages for you as an athlete. These include:

    Reduces Muscle Breakdown

    Catabolism is the enemy of anyone looking for true muscle nirvana. Being a breakdown process, catabolism often causes breakdown of muscle tissue to help meet energy needs of the body and/or amino acid requirements.

    This is bad, as your goal is about saving aminos; losing it only sets you back. Casein is uniquely poised to avoid this because it “tricks” your body into thinking that you are being continuously fed over the course of several hours.

    Reduced muscle breakdown is especially  important if you plan on dieting, since low calorie diets are notoriously known to cause muscle loss in addition to fat. If left unchecked, this can be very bad for your metabolic machine.

    One study done compared whey and casein hydrolysates in their ability to help preserve muscle mass[i] on a hypocaloric diet combined with resistance training. The results? Group casein preserved more muscle, and also had greater increases in strength.

    Excellent Muscle Builder

    Let’s be real- the main reason you even started using a protein supplement is for the muscle gains, right? All of casein’s equally impressive benefits aside, without it being an impressive muscle builder, it would never get the nod it so deserves. And building muscle it does. Very well.

    If you recall, muscle growth does not occur in the actual gym, or only in the short “anabolic window” following your workout, but throughout the day, and during sleep.

    If that were not the case, you could bet that athletes everywhere would eat a truckload post-workout and not anytime else. But it has been said over and over again when it comes to muscle gain; timing is everything.

    Casein is the king of time, acting over the course of many hours, compared to whey’s acute spike and crash. This means that casein supports better nitrogen retention and anabolism over the course of the day[ii], and does not require you to down a shake every 60 minutes to stabilize blood amino acid levels.

    Increases Fat Loss

    Higher protein content diets have generally been associated with superior weight loss, due in part to the greater thermic effect of protein compared to other macronutrients. But when it comes to casein, the presence of copious amounts of calcium[iii] also plays a large role in its ability to enhance weight loss.

    A study even found that over the course of a 24 hour period, people that combine high levels of calcium with moderate protein intake utilize more calories from fat, and also have higher levels of faecal fat excretion that people who consume lower amounts of calcium.

    Casein brings the best of both worlds to you; high protein and very good calcium levels.

    Supports Colon Health

    While you may not be enthusiastically reading about this benefit, it is very important to your longevity in any sport discipline. As it turns out, a large part of your body’s innate immune system resides in your digestive tract, especially the intestines.

    The colon is technically the large intestine, and given that you do not have a sensitivity/ allergy to dairy, casein can help support the microbiota of this organ system better than many other protein sources.

    The health of your immune system is also tied into how your body regulates its testosterone-cortisol balance, as the very same probiotic bacteria can play a supporting role in helping prevent nervous gut and the spike in stress hormones that occur.

    In Summary

    For too long, casein has been in the shadow of whey. Yes, it does not elicit the same acute spike in amino acids like whey does, meaning that is not better than whey at the post workout interval.

    But who ever said anything about better? Used in conjunction with whey, and at times of the day when speed is not important, casein is just as good as whey, and essential for you moving on up in muscleville.

    Take a serving before bed, and as a part of a mid-morning snack to have amino acids at your beckon for many hours throughout the day, and gains on the fly.

    [i] Demling RH, DeSanti L. Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Ann Nutr Metab. 2000;44(1):21–29. doi:10.1159/000012817

    [ii] Stark M, Lukaszuk J, Prawitz A, Salacinski A. Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):54. Published 2012 Dec 14. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-54

    [iii] Zhu, W., Cai, D., Wang, Y. et al. Calcium plus vitamin D3 supplementation facilitated Fat loss in overweight and obese college students with very-low calcium consumption: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J 12, 8 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-12-8

  • 6 Ways BCAA Blends Help You Make Gains Like a Boss

    Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, no debate about that. Without a sufficient supply of these critical nutrients, you will be hard-pressed to gain any respectable amount of muscle mass. And while there are 20 known amino acids, in the pursuit of muscle, three of them stand tall; valine, leucine and isoleucine.

    Consuming these three critical amino acids at the right time and in the right proportions, otherwise known as a BCAA blend, can make a significant difference on your muscle gain bottom line. If you’ve never truly taken the time to appreciate these miraculous amino acids for what they are, then you’re in luck, as this article will knock your pants off and have you running to get your hands on some of this muscle gold (be sure to put back on your pants first! )

    Benefits of A BCAA Blend

    Branched-chain amino acids are considered essential, since the body does not synthesize its own, and while you are likely to find varying amounts in food, if there’s one thing that needs emphasizing, it is the fact that if muscle is your primary goal, nutrient timing is everything. Solid food does not score well in terms of timing.

    Here are some of the most notable benefits BCAA supplementation has on offer for you:

    BCAAs Can Help Reduce Fatigue Experienced During Exercise

    One frequently underused nutrition interval that can contribute significantly to the quality of your work out is during the actual work out. Referred to as the intra-workout interval, a well-timed shot of BCAAs and rapidly digesting carbohydrate can help keep performance up throughout the duration of your session.

    One study compared people given a BCAA drink against those that weren’t, and found an average 15% less[i] fatigue in the group not given placebo. Another study also revealed that subjects given BCAAs during their workout helped actually contribute to an average 17% longer time before exhaustion was reached[ii].

    Helps Prevent Muscle Loss

    Muscle loss is inevitable during exercise, but if the balance between muscle loss (catabolism) and muscle building (anabolism) is not favourable, then you will show no net change in terms of lean muscle gain. BCAA supplements taken at least prior to your work out can reduce muscle loss as characterized by ammonia levels subsequent to your work out.

    Higher ammonia levels correlate with increased muscle breakdown, but can be significantly blunted in the presence of high serum branched-chain amino acid levels.

    Supports Muscle Hypertrophy

    Hyper trophy is the name of the game in the gym. Increases in muscle and strength are the most tangible indicators of progress, and ones which most athletes seek. BCAA supplements can help with accrual of lean muscle mass by virtue of them helping to activate enzymes involved in protein synthesis pathways[iii].

    These effects are most prominent following your workout, so it is a good idea to consume a serving of BCAAs immediately following your workout, and another protein rich meal/drink about 30 minutes later.

    In order to take maximum advantage of this anabolic effect, it has been found that an ideal ratio of 2:1:1 of leucine to isoleucine to valine be maintained.

    Mitigates Muscle Soreness

    There is a large degree of overlap between the muscle soreness that occurs 24 to 48 hours after your workout and muscle loss, since in effect they share the same genesis. If you are like the millions of other sane humans on this planet, you don’t want to be in pain longer than you have to be. This can be achieved thanks to using BCAA supplements.

    They have been shown to help decrease protein breakdown and subsequent levels of creatine kinase, a strong indicator of the extent to which muscle damage has occurred[iv]. And to be quite clear, branched-chain amino acids will not in any way suppress muscle gain by inhibiting this muscle breakdown.

    Timing your BCAAs before your work out can help to limit the extent of damage incurred, and at the post workout window, kick start rapid rebuilding for an effective one-two punch.

    Promotes Mental And Psychological Drive

    It is a little-known fact that the neurotransmitter serotonin actually doesn’t contribute to a successful work out. The amino acid tryptophan, which is subsequently converted into serotonin, can make you feel more fatigued and reduce your motivation in the gym[v].

    An effective way to overcome this? Use BCAAs. This is because the branched-chain amino acids compete with tryptophan for uptake into the brain, effectively limiting the rise in serotonin one can experience. In the gym, dopamine reigns supreme, so be sure to take advantage of this little-known fact if your mental game fees a little under the weather.

    This effect is marked, but not definitively conclusive, as research into the topic is a work in progress.

    Enhances Post Workout Nutrient Uptake

    The uptake of amino acids and other nutrients into muscle cells following your work out is dictated to a large extent by the hormone insulin. While the carbohydrate and whey protein shake can do the job quite nicely, consuming some BCAAs prior to this can kick start the process earlier, since during your workout a large amount of glucose might actually be produced from the conversion of these branched-chain amino acids.

    While this benefit is great, you may also need to keep this in mind if you are on a low-carb diet and still can’t seem to get insulin under control for weight loss purposes.

    In Summary

    You really can’t beat the utility of BCAA blended supplements, especially thanks to their speed of action and the fact that they can support a wide range of athletic disciplines. Try to shoot for daily intake of about 15g, from a combination of supplements and whole foods.

    Be sure to take advantage of the branched chain amino acids, especially around the peri-workout window to truly enhance the returns you get from the blood, sweat and tears you invest in your body.

    [i] Blomstrand E, Hassmén P, Ek S, Ekblom B, Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on perceived exertion during exercise. Acta Physiol Scand. 1997 Jan;159(1):41-9. PubMed PMID: 9124069.

    [ii] Gualano AB, Bozza T, Lopes De Campos P, Roschel H, Dos Santos Costa A, Luiz Marquezi M, Benatti F, Herbert Lancha Junior A. Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2011

    Mar;51(1):82-8. PubMed PMID: 21297567

    [iii] Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.1.269S. Review. PubMed PMID: 16365096.

    [iv] Coombes JS, McNaughton LR. Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2000 Sep;40(3):240-6. PubMed PMID: 11125767.

    [v] Choi S, Disilvio B, Fernstrom MH, Fernstrom JD. Oral branched-chain amino acid supplements that reduce brain serotonin during exercise in rats also lower brain catecholamines. Amino Acids. 2013 Nov;45(5):1133-42. doi:

    10.1007/s00726-013-1566-1. Epub 2013 Aug 1. PubMed PMID: 23904096.

  • Fish oil and Omega-3: The Inflammation Killer

    Fish oil is one of the very few supplements that can make a claim to being the true Jack of all trades. Regardless of how old you are, and whether you’re physically active or not, there is something that fish oil can help you with.

    In fact, given that you do not possess any peculiar allergies, fish oil can quickly be considered an essential supplement for daily consumption, even if only for the maintenance of general health.

    Need more convincing that fish oil and Omega-3s are right for you? Then you’re in luck, as we’re about to explore the most noteworthy benefits of fish oil consumption.

    Where Do We Get Fish Oil From?

    Even though the answer to this question may seem like a no-brainer, there is a little involved in where we get fish oil from. Fish oil isn’t obtained from any random species of fish, but rather cold water fish that possess significantly more fatty tissue.

    These fish contain the Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentoic acid, otherwise known as EPA, and docosahexoenoic acid, better known as DHA. Many of the health benefits obtained from consumption of fish oil is directly attributed to these two Omega-3 fatty acids.

    For optimal health, the body requires a balance between the consumption of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are abundantly found in a variety of foods we consume, whereas Omega-3s are considerably rarer.

    Many of the benefits of Omega-3s came to light based on observations of Inuit and Mediterranean societies that routinely consume large amounts of fish, and correspondingly high fat, but yet have a very low risk of cardiovascular mortality.

    This led to one of the first observed benefits of fish oil consumption.

    Supports Healthy Cholesterol Levels

    It may sound odd to find out that fat-based substances can actually help improve your cholesterol profile, but a lot depends on the type of that fat. Polyunsaturated fats, to which Omega-3 fatty acids belong, are the best for supporting healthy blood cholesterol profiles, actively improving HDL levels, otherwise known as the good cholesterol, while also improving (reducing) LDL and triglycerides values.

    Enhances Post Workout Recovery

    A degree of muscle soreness following your workout is inevitable and helps signify that your workout was successful, but should not impair your normal functioning in the days afterwards, or result in such discomfort that you are forced to resort to painkillers.

    Fish oil supplementation can actually help accelerate the process of recovery, and lessen soreness felt. Omega-3s have a stabilizing effect on cell membranes, which quickly help to reduce oxidative damage borne by the cells. The resulting reduction in inflammation[i] allows a rapid return of mobility and full function, which means that you are afforded the opportunity to work out again, sooner.

    You can see how this is likely to contribute to your progress as there is less downtime spent in discomfort.

    Supports Fatty Acid Utilization

    One of the primary goal of athletes all across the world is to gain muscle mass while keeping body fat levels low. Given, this isn’t very easy, as the two goals lay on opposite sides of the calorie spectrum. However, you can take solace in the fact that fish oil supplementation can help you use up a little bit more stored body fat[ii].

    The use of fish oil increases the rate of fatty acid oxidation, to a degree greater than if you had not used it. Of course, a healthy diet and exercise plan is still mandatory as fish oil alone will not bring about drastic body recomposition.

    Improves High Intensity Performance

    Performing at a high intensity requires the use of premium grade fuel, which happens to be glucose. During exercise, glucose is primarily obtained from the breakdown of stored muscle or liver glycogen, but those stores are finite and tend to be used up rapidly at the beginning of your work out.

    Fish oil supplementation can help your body hold on to some this precious commodity, by first using up some fatty acids and promoting a more sustained release of glucose. This could mean the difference between getting winded and out of energy early in your work out, or finally completing what you set out to do.

    Supports Joint Health

    As a hard training athlete, bearing heavy loads takes a toll on your joints sooner or later. If you are lucky, this may be only minimal, but there are many others who suffer from debilitating pain that impairs normal activity and their ability to work out.

    Unfortunately, joints don’t often heal themselves just like that. Rest helps, but effective supplementation is often a necessity. The omega 3 contained in fish oil can reduce inflammation and even indirectly suppress the activation[iii] of immune cells that mediate the sensation of pain and tenderness.

    This can be bad a bad thing if you are immunocompromised, but for the purpose of this discussion we will assume the benefit outweighs any possible risk.

    Supports A Positive Mood

    The mind is arguably one of the most important weapons you have when it comes to progression in the gym. Far too many people stagnate for years on end (in the gym and elsewhere) simply because the mind has not conceived how far they need to go.

    Depressive illness is a beast that can kill motivation amongst even the best of us, causing a cycle of apathy and lethargy. This is, of course, is going to affect your workouts since you won’t be interested in the least about doing so.

    Fish oil supplementation has shown positive signs thus far in helping to manage depressive illness[iv], though it works best in conjunction with prescribed medication.

    In Summary

    Straight off the bat it is safe to assume that you need to be increasing the amount of omega-3 fats you consume. As an athlete, you get more than enough omega-6 fats, but being pro-inflammatory in nature, you need to balance that with the anti-inflammatory omega-3.

    Try to shoot for 3g daily, and up to 6g depending on how much omega-6 you consume. Don’t miss out on all fish oil has to offer you!

    [i] Ochi E, Tsuchiya Y, Yanagimoto K. Effect of eicosapentaenoic acids-rich fish oil supplementation on motor nerve function after eccentric contractions. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:23. Published 2017 Jul 12. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0176-9

    [ii] Peoples GE, McLennan PL, Howe PR, Groeller H. Fish oil reduces heart rate and oxygen consumption during exercise. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;52(6):540-7. doi: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e3181911913. PubMed PMID: 19034030.

    [iii] Fenton JI, Hord NG, Ghosh S, Gurzell EA. Immunomodulation by dietary long chain omega-3 fatty acids and the potential for adverse health outcomes. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013;89(6):379–390. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2013.09.011

    [iv] Grosso G, Galvano F, Marventano S, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and depression: scientific evidence and biological mechanisms. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014;2014:313570. doi:10.1155/2014/313570

  • 7 Ways Glutamine Can Make You A Better Athlete

    Many people are surprised to discover that glutamine is the most abundant amino acid present in the human body. More than 70% of amino acid content found in muscle cells comprises of glutamine, and it is in fact present in virtually every single animal-based food you consume.

    Under normal circumstances, the body is able to produce enough of the glutamate required to maintain vital processes, making this amino acid semi-essential at best. However, athletes are not considered normal members of the population by any stretch of the imagination, so it should come as no surprise that increased levels of physical activity mandates more of this amino acid.

    The importance of glutamine is amplified even more if you attempt to work out while you are sick[i], as illness puts a massive requirement on this amino acid.

    However, how does glutamine lend itself to your performance goals? By the end of this article you will see why supplemental glutamine is important to you as a hard training athlete.

    Supports Proper Nutrient Uptake

    In order for muscles to directly benefit from the many nutrients you supply, absorption of these must be on point. For most people, this is taken for granted as they just assume that whatever they consume is automatically shuttled to muscle.

    However, in reality this is far from the case, as a not-insignificant proportion of adults suffer from digestive disorders of one form or the other. One of the most noteworthy is leaky gut syndrome, which can lead to a cycle of impaired absorption, otherwise known as malabsorption.

    Supplementation of glutamine can help reduce the impact of leaky gut syndrome on your nutritional status, since glutamine forms an integral part of the structural cell wall linings along the digestive tract. Greater structural integrity means reduced permeability[ii] that would allow nutrients to leak out of the digestive tract.

    Helps Preserve Muscle Mass In Sedentary Individuals

    Starting an exercise program if you’ve never been part of one before induces acute metabolic changes that include severe muscle loss. Indeed, after a brief adaptation period the status quo is changed, but initially you can lose much more than you are gaining.

    This is in large part due to glutamine catabolism to help fuel the intensity of the work that you are now getting accustomed to. This effect is even more significant in obese people that are also on a calorie restricted diet. This is another reason why muscle loss is to be carefully monitored on a calorie restricted diet.

    Promotes Recovery After Endurance Activity

    Bodybuilders and strength athletes aren’t known for performing endurance type activities very often, but if you are a marathon runner or a triathlete, then you’re very likely to experience extreme muscle breakdown during, and especially the weeks to months after the activity. Yes, you read that correctly. Accelerated rate of muscle loss may continue unabated for an extended period of time after the activity, which is also why such athletes are more prone to injuries than others.

    Supplementation of glutamine before, during, and especially after such activities can mitigate the degree of muscle loss experienced.

    The recovery enhancing abilities of glutamine aren’t specific for endurance athletes alone, however, as anyone partaking in physical activity can stand to benefit from this.

    Supports Muscle Protein Synthesis

    It is important to state that glutamine itself does not have a major role on muscle protein synthesis, but at the same time, any acute stressor that reduces the net amount of glutamine in the body will impair the same.

    Studies have shown that consuming glutamine post workout can support optimal protein synthesis, so that cells of the immune system which would have become stimulated; especially those found in the intestines, do not leech necessary glutamine from muscle cells for recovery.

    You do not require a gargantuan amount of glutamine at this time – 3 to 5 g of glutamine added to your post workout shake is normally more than enough to support protein synthesis.

    Stimulates Growth Hormone Synthesis

    While glutamine itself is not considered a very potent anabolic amino acid, it does have a very exciting benefit by virtue of enhancing the amount of circulating growth hormone[iii]. To take advantage of this benefit, glutamine needs to be taken on an empty stomach.

    This makes before bed ideal. A 2 g serving taken at this time can support muscle growth and the usage of fat for fuel while you sleep, since this also coincides with the period of time at which growth hormone levels are the highest.

    Supports Cell Volumization

    Volumization is a poorly understood principle by athletes, but one that has significant implications. To put it simply, it refers to the level of muscle hydration, and is achieved by ensuring adequate fluid and electrolyte balance during your workout.

    You may have heard that even very mild dehydration can impair athletic performance to an exponential degree, but what you may not have heard is that a little bit of supplemental glutamine can help to suppress the effect of mild dehydration on the body[iv], especially when using in conjunction with a beverage containing glucose and other electrolytes.

    This makes such a combination a smart intra-workout beverage, one that will help keep performance up so you can complete what you set out to do.

    Supplemental Napalm

    By itself, glutamine may seem insignificant. However, its potential benefits are amplified many times over when combined with other well-timed nutrients/supplements. For instance, a combination of glutamine and BCAAs increase mTOR signalling that has a net effect of enhancing protein synthesis.

    Combined with creatine, it can also help enhance its ability to increase strength and muscle size fast, since creatine requires a high degree of muscle cell hydration to work best. Glutamine help support this state, leading to more rapid increases in the gym than you would experience from using creatine alone.

    In Summary

    Even though glutamine is technically semi essential, you can see how it can rise to the status of being essential in athletes. Yes, it will not lead to significant steroid like gains, but when you’ve been training for a number of years every little bit counts.

    Also, of note is the fact that athletes who train less frequently may experience greater benefits from glutamine supplementation since the degree of muscle damage is greater per training interval. You don’t need to go bonkers with glutamine supplementation; if you decide to take 5 g three times daily that would be more than sufficient to top up muscle stores and ensure that all other cells which require it are well taken care of.

    [i] Demling RH. Nutrition, anabolism, and the wound healing process: an overview. Eplasty. 2009;9:e9.

    [ii] Rao R, Samak G. Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions. J Epithel Biol Pharmacol. 2012;5(Suppl 1-M7):47–54. doi:10.2174/1875044301205010047

    [iii] Welbourne TC. Increased plasma bicarbonate and growth hormone after an oral glutamine load. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 May;61(5):1058-61. PubMed PMID: 7733028.

    [iv] Coqueiro AY, Rogero MM, Tirapegui J. Glutamine as an Anti-Fatigue Amino Acid in Sports Nutrition. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):863. Published 2019 Apr 17. doi:10.3390/nu11040863

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