Effect of glutamine supplementation on changes in the immune system induced by repeated exercise

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Jun;30(6):856-62. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199806000-00013.


The ability of lymphocytes to proliferate and generate lymphokine activated killer (LAK) cell activity in vitro is dependent on glutamine. In relation to intense exercise the lymphocyte concentration, the proliferative response, the natural killer and LAK cell activity, and the plasma glutamine concentration decline. It has been hypothesized that in relation to physical activity a lack of glutamine may temporarily affect the function of the immune system.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of glutamine supplementation on exercise-induced immune changes.

Methods: In a randomized cross-over placebo-controlled study, eight healthy male subjects performed three bouts of ergometer bicycle exercise lasting 60, 45, and 30 min at 75% of their VO2max separated by 2 h of rest.

Results: The arterial plasma glutamine concentration declined from 508 +/- 35 (pre-exercise) to 402 +/- 38 microM (2 h after the last exercise bout) in the placebo trial and was maintained above pre-exercise levels in the glutamine supplementation trial. The numbers of circulating lymphocytes and the phytohemagglutinin-stimulated lymphocyte proliferative response declined 2 h after, respectively, during each bout of exercise, whereas the LAK cell activity declined 2 h after the third bout. Glutamine supplementation in vivo, given in the described doses at the specific times, did not influence these changes.

Conclusion: The present study does not appear to support the hypothesis that those aspects of postexercise immune changes studied are caused by decreased plasma glutamine concentrations.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Glutamine / administration & dosage
  • Glutamine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology*
  • Killer Cells, Lymphokine-Activated / physiology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / physiology


  • Glutamine