If you're a runner, triathlete, or anyone who works out regularly for long periods of time, there is no doubt you've started a workout only to feel fatigued, run down, or maybe even feeling the onset of a cold. A lot of factors can contribute to this, including sleep (or lack thereof), proper training, and nutrition. One key player in the realm of nutrition as it affects all athletes is an incredibly important amino acid called glutamine. I think now is a good time to mention this amazing amino as many of us who do regular endurance training get caught up in wolfing down the carbs after a long workout without giving much consideration to what's in the food we're eating.
Carbs are important - don't get me wrong. It's what's inside the carbs, protein or fat that really make a difference in how we'll feel before, during and after a workout. The quality of what we eat is far more important than simply eating for calories.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. Under normal circumstances, our body produces enough for us to live on without the need to supplement. It's when we "stress" our bodies with a 18-mile run, four-hour bike ride or six consecutive days of vigorous workouts that we really notice our body can't keep up with the nutrient levels it would normally supply. Nothing is worse than having the best workout ever followed by the most miserable, painstaking workout ever less than two days later. What's happened? Your body didn't recover enough to hit it really hard again.
Glutamine levels peak during exercise, then diminish when we're resting. It's during this rest period that we need to reload if we know we're going to workout again sometime soon. If help (in the form of glutamine-rich foods or supplements) doesn't come, we could experience fatigue, illness, decreased metabolism, or plain old misery when we start to workout again.
It's no surprise that a great many glutamine-rich foods are also excellent sources of protein, something our body needs to help repair the muscles we've broken down during exercise. A few of these foods include:
- Dairy Products
- chicken breast +whole grain pasta, tossed with one diced medium tomato sauteed in extra virgin olive oil sprinkled with sea salt.
- low fat milk, banana + cinnamon smoothie
- brown rice tossed with 1/2 c. black beans + 1/2 c. corn