During intense interval training, HIIT, or prolonged exercise such as a marathon – an athlete’s body reacts by an increase in oxidated stress, OS, in the body cells. OS causes a major disruption of body cells that lead to weakened muscles, reduced immune system and reduced human growth hormone. Normally, OS can accelerate aging and lead to chronic inflammation and major diseases; it normally occurs from unhealthy lifestyle and diet such as excess sugar, processed food, excess fat, stress, pollution, radiation, smoking, etc.
An explanation of OS is necessary. Simply explained OS is an imbalance between free radicals (oxygen molecules) with an uneven number of electrons) and antioxidant molecules that fight the OS. The beneficial antioxidants that fight the OS are glutathione (number one supplement) and L-glutamine (amino acid), polyphenol vegetables and fruits, many spices, and even includes red wine, cocoa, dark chocolate, and flaxseed. The antioxidants supply the missing electrons to the free radicals thus fighting and reducing the OS.
In most workouts the supplement glutathione in the body and L-glutamine (manufactured in the body as a nonessential amino acid) and the above foods bring the OS under control and the body recovers to normal.
Like human growth hormone, glutathione levels decrease with age. And glutathione levels are a good indication of longevity. A glutathione supplement is not easily absorbed so it is not practical to take before a stiff workout. The other not simple alternative is cysteine, glycine and glutamate amino acid foods from which glutathione is manufactured. Therefore, L-glutamine in powder form is the more practical antioxidant following an intense or prolonged workout. About 5 grams of L-glutamine is recommended to fight the oxidated stress—thus improving the immune system, increasing human growth hormone and repairing damaged cells. Note 150 grams (about 4.5 ounces) of beef gives 1.8 grams of glutamine. But the more you ingest as a supplement means less produced by the body. L-glutamine is a nonessential amino acid meaning that the body produces it from other amino acids. Note also L-glutamine decreases after an intense workout by up to 50%, and it takes a few days to replenish.
I was unable to find a reliable research source for the increase of human growth hormone from a single L-glutamine dose. But one reference in 2018 claimed 76% increase from a 2- gram L-glutamine dose. Several other sources claiming much higher percentage such as 400% were suspicious or “sketchy” references. After a marathon it is not unusual to catch a cold due to lowered immune system. Ed Whitlock also mentioned this to me a few years ago. As a matter of interest, I read of a research study that showed 5 gram after a marathon would prevent this from happening. Also, a few years ago I witnessed at the finish of a Nova Scotia half marathon In Toronto the extreme wear and tear on the faces of my friends: they appeared to have aged about 5 or more years in a couple of hours; all due to oxidative stress, OS. Also the attached photo of Ed Whitlock near the end of a world record Scotia Bank marathon shows similar wear and tear. OS is always at work doing its harm to the body, mind and skin (in my case liver spots), but all due to dealing with one or more of the following: excess effort, inappropriate diet, excess sugar, toxins, radiation, pollution, etc.
In summary I recommend a single dose about 5- gram glutamine dose or a shake after an intense or prolonged workout with many of the above 3 major glutathione precursor amino acids (cysteine, glutamate and glycine) pertinent ingredients such as whey powder, cocoa, soy milk, banana, orange, leafy greens, fruit previously frozen, pumpkin seeds and 2-5 grams of l-glutamine.
One final thought: during this epidemic, athletes doing an intense workout or prolonged workout might consider a few grams of L-glutamine after the workout to help preserve a healthy immune system at this critical time. Also by taking the L-glutamine supplement and eating glutathione foods like whey powder, meat, milk, nuts and soya for example, to assist a high intensity or long endurance workouts you will also be increasing your longevity and reducing all forms of disease.
The photo is from a Globe and Mail article a few years ago comparing the drastic difference in my lifestyle and training with Ed Whitlocks.