The debate has occurred on many fitness forums over Glutamine vs. BCAA. Which is better? Which one should you take if you are in the unenviable position of only being able to take one? Let’s look at the contenders and then measure them up as they go toe-to-toe in the fitness ring with the winner being the one best for your body.
Head to Head
Glutamine and Branched-chain amino acids are both amino acids. They are both needed in a wide range of processes that occur daily. Glutamine is the most abundant amino in the body that can be obtained from a variety of sources while BCAA’s are not found naturally and need to be ingested in supplement form.
That difference between the two makes some say that BCAA’s get the nod in the Glutamine vs. BCAA argument. The theory is that of you are getting plenty of protein from good sources and taking BCAA’s they body has all the material it needs to extract glutamine. On the flipside, if you don’t take BCAA’s how do you get them in your body?
This seems to be a very straightforward point. But then again, what if you aren’t getting enough protein or perhaps just enough? It can be hard to measure the amount of Glutamine in your system and as it does make up about 35% of your muscle tissue it is obviously invaluable to people in bodybuilding, fitness, or sports. Also, plenty of people seem to survive just fine without supplementing BCAA’s such as numerous bodybuilders of earlier eras.
Plus there are other considerations, specifically the non-workout related benefits from Glutamine. This can vary between people but many people who ingest 30 to 40 grams of Glutamine each day have reported a much heightened immune system, less depression, better sleep and smoother digestion.
Now while all of those aspects do not directly relate to lifting weights and muscle growth, they all indirectly do. Better sleep has to be mentioned first because getting restful, 8 hours of sack time means more time for the body to heal, grow and release testosterone. Better digestion is important to many of us who chug down protein shakes and other supplements that can cause a lot of gas and even diarrhea. Finally getting sick and/or depression can limit your body and mind which then gets you off the track of your goals of physical excellence.
As great as BCAA’s are, they have not been linked with all of those aspects.
The Bottom Line
When you measure them head-to-head it seems that in the battle of Glutamine vs. BCAA that glutamine is the winner because of the indirect benefits plus the direct ones. However, this cannot be stressed enough, not everyone will react the exact same to a supplement.
The best bet is to buy one first and run a 30 or 60 day trail. During that time, keep journals marking weight, emotional level, energy, workouts, etc. to fully document your progress. Then switch to the other and do the same thing. After your trial periods are over you can compare which one gave you the best result.
My personal guess is that Glutamine will win if you take regular 5 gram doses multiple times during the day (not to exceed 40 grams and less if you are under age 18).