Glutamine supplementation in vitro and in vivo, in exercise and in immunodepression

Sports Med. 2003;33(5):323-45. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333050-00001.


In situations of stress, such as clinical trauma, starvation or prolonged, strenuous exercise, the concentration of glutamine in the blood is decreased, often substantially. In endurance athletes this decrease occurs concomitantly with relatively transient immunodepression. Glutamine is used as a fuel by some cells of the immune system. Provision of glutamine or a glutamine precursor, such as branched chain amino acids, has been seen to have a beneficial effect on gut function, on morbidity and mortality, and on some aspects of immune cell function in clinical studies. It has also been seen to decrease the self-reported incidence of illness in endurance athletes. So far, there is no firm evidence as to precisely which aspect of the immune system is affected by glutamine feeding during the transient immunodepression that occurs after prolonged, strenuous exercise. However, there is increasing evidence that neutrophils may be implicated. Other aspects of glutamine and glutamine supplementation are also addressed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Glutamine* / pharmacology
  • Glutamine* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Incidence
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects
  • Physical Endurance / immunology
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism


  • Glutamine