If you’re stuck in the supplement section wondering if this dietary addition is right for you, here’s what you need to know about glutamine before you buy.
Glutamine is one of many amino acids--basically, the building blocks of protein--that your body uses for almost every single process that keeps you up and running each and every day. Some of these processes can even affect your waist size, like protein synthesis (which is key to building lean, calorie-torching muscle) and metabolic regulation. Good news: Your body constantly produces a large amount of this essential amino acid thanks to your skeletal muscle--so do you need to take any more of it?
Since your body produces the amino acid naturally, it’s widely considered safe, and studies have been done testing the healthy upper limits of supplementation. There has been very little indication of adverse side effects from taking glutamine, according to a 2004 survey that looked at four different studies done on people supplementing with the amino acid. One of the studies was even conducted on newborns to make sure the supplement was safe for them--it was.
If you’re looking for a leg up on whittling your waist, consider this amino acid an easy aid with your health practitioner’s OK. Women who took glutamine dropped pounds and slimmed their waists without dieting more than women who took a supplement with the same amount of protein but no glutamine in a small Italian study. Even better: After four weeks, both groups reverted to their old diets and when there was no trace of the lingering glutamine, they were switched to the other supplement. Both groups showed the slimming effects only when taking glutamine--and this was without changing their diet any other way and without changing their workout habits. “It was a significant reduction of body weight,” Alessandro Laviano, M.D., lead author of the study, revealed.
There’s a more subtle benefit to taking glutamine for weight loss that, while not as impressive-sounding, could tip the scales in your favor. There’s overwhelming evidence that there’s a connection between your gut’s bacterial composition and obesity, and this amino acid might just help you achieve a better balance for slimming down. Overweight and obese women who added glutamine to their diets for 14 days showed a marked change in the composition of their gut bacteria in a 2015 Nutrition journal study. At the end of the 14 days, they had changes in their ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes (the two major types of gut bugs) which is a good biomarker for obesity. This result is consistent with other weight-loss programs.
But researchers aren’t the only ones seeing results. Food-addiction expert Julia Ross, M.A., author of The Diet Cure, says her “clinic has already seen thousands of people use the supplement with great success--even during the holidays” when less than ideal food choices are the status quo.
You can buy glutamine supplements in both powder and capsule form. With many brands, the powder is more cost-efficient, but this depends on the dose you’re taking as well as the frequency. Anecdotal evidence has suggested as little as 20 grams per day is effective for weight loss (spaced out as around 5,000 mg four times daily), and as much as 50 to 60 grams per day is safe, but check with your health practitioner to find out what’s safe for you.
The powder is frequently sold unflavored, although more and more brands are making versions in flavors like Berry Citrus and Lime Sherbet. Some people report that not all of the powder dissolves completely in water, but it’s added successfully to smoothies without affecting flavor. The taste of the unflavored powder is reported to be neutral to slightly sweet.
Different brands and forms of the supplement come in different doses, so be sure to check the label to see how many grams or milligrams it has per serving and how many servings come in each container before making your decision with your doctor.
Although more drug stores are carrying supplements, your best bet is to go to a health food or supplement store. You can also order a very wide variety of the powders online, like the ones we’ve listed below.
Very little research has been done on taking doses of the supplement at a larger concentration than 0.3g/kg in a single dose (this works out to about 20 grams for an average 150-pound woman), and most studies have been done on patients who are ill, since glutamine plays a role in maintaining muscle mass and rebuilding cell tissue. A daily intake of 50 to 60 grams per day has shown no harmful side effects, but it’s important to note that this supplement was given to hospital patients for a short amount of time, not healthy people looking to use the amino acid long-term for weight loss. The author of the survey done in 2004 still has reservations about the safety of taking the supplement at high doses because of proven toxicity of very high-protein diets, therefore, we caution you to stick to a lower dose if you choose to use the amino acid.
It’s worth noting that in a 2015 study, a single dose of glutamine administered to participants was associated with an increased meal size. The study was small and the effects of the amino acid were not looked at long-term, but this finding does counter anecdotal evidence that the supplement can cut hunger and cravings.
Make sure you talk to your doctor before you start taking glutamine as a dietary supplement. This is especially important if you have any type of chronic illness, disease, or history of cancer; some recent cancer treatments include “starving” the cancer cells of glutamine.