We’re lovin’ it.
There are heaps of supplements on the market, and with different athletes swearing by different products, it can get quite confusing, and you could be taking things without really knowing what it is or why you’re taking it.
Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence is here to research the evidence behind supplementation and provide some clarity on which supplements actually work, and which ones might be right for you!
L-Glutamine the most abundant amino acid in the body and plays a role in muscle recovery, immune system and gut health.
A healthy person gets enough Glutamine from protein in their diet and stores it for when it's needed.
However, studies have shown that periods of intense exercise and heavy lifting, seen in athletes, are associated with a decrease in plasma glutamine concentrations which could result in a demand outweighing supply in the body. This is when supplementation might be required.
The suggested benefits of taking L-Glutamine supplements include:
1. Anti-inflammatory actions which support the immune system
2. Helps muscle recovery by increasing glycogen storage in muscle and preserving muscle mass by increasing the availability of nitrogen during muscle breakdown
3. Improves gut health by reducing the permeability of the intestinal lining and stopping bacteria leaking out and causing inflammation (i.e. cramps and bloating)
While individual studies have shown the benefit of this supplement in terms of body composition, weight loss, muscle mass and immune system, there are no conclusive benefits on the effects of L-Glutamine in an athlete.
The individual studies have small numbers and are largely limited to endurance athletes, when L-Glutamine is depleted during an exhausted state.
The benefits for the general population remain anecdotal, as many of us do not reach the state of glutamine depletion, even if we go to the gym every day. Just like blood sugar levels, our bodies are good at maintaining the levels of glutamine.
Nevertheless, many people rave about the benefits of taking this supplement, reporting reduced muscle soreness (DOMS), better recovery and reduced bloating. If you do want to see if it works for you, the evidence does not show any harm in taking this supplement.
Creatine is a substance produced naturally in the body to help generate ATP in cells which is used as energy. As a supplement, creatine has been widely investigated.
Creatine helps supply muscles with energy by increasing stores of phosphocreatine at the beginning of activity, recycling the stores of phosphocreatine after exercise, increasing glycogen storage in muscles and preventing lactic acid build up.
Its main benefits are seen in short blasts of anaerobic activity rather than long endurance exercise. Numerous clinical trials have shown a benefit when used in high-intensity interval training, with increases seen in strength and power of muscle contractions. Creatine use over several weeks has also been seen to help adapt to increased workloads, making progressive overload in weight training more effective.
It is important to note that some side effects of creatine have been reported as water retention, muscle stiffness and cramps. People with kidney disease must be cautious when taking creatine as it can build up to dangerous levels.
Creatine monohydrate is the most widely available form of creatine. There are some other more expensive forms such as creatine ethyl ester which have not shown any superior benefit so don’t waste your money on different versions.
So, which is better?
In terms of muscle mass preservation and reducing fatigue, the evidence favours creatine, which is our clear winner! If you only want the gut health benefits of Glutamine, then it would be more beneficial to focus on a varied nutrient-rich diet or try supplementing with a simple probiotic.
Further studies on the effects of L-Glutamine are needed but with larger sample sizes and conducted on regular gym-goers would be useful before we commit this supplement to our daily routines.
The most important underlying message is that the purpose of these supplements is to supplement, not substitute, a nutrient-rich diet.
I hope you feel more clued up about these two popular supplements!
Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence
You can follow Frankie on Instagram here @fjsfit