Glutamine vs BCAAs: Which one is better for recovery?

Key Takeaways

Glutamine vs. BCAAs: Recovery Benefits

  • Glutamine: Supports muscle preservation, enhances growth hormone levels, and aids in recovery, especially after long endurance workouts. Recommended dosage: 5-10 grams post-workout.
  • BCAAs: Directly fuel muscle protein synthesis, reduce workout-induced soreness, and support muscle recovery, particularly after high-intensity workouts. Optimal intake: 4-20 grams throughout the day.

When it comes to evaluating the best workout supplement, you really just need to decide what you need more. Is it soreness and muscle fatigue that is slowing your progress, or do you need to pack on more muscle protein? Glutamine vs. BCAAs comes down to this question. 

Glutamine vs. BCAAs is a matter of how your workout and fitness goals are progressing. Some of us get slowed down by the inevitable soreness that comes after an intense workout. Others may feel fine after a good workout but feel they are not gaining the strength and endurance they hoped for. This will lead you to decide which is best: glutamine vs. BCAAs 

Ultimately, both glutamine and BCAAs will help you build muscle and help with recovery from working out. The question of which is better for recovery, glutamine vs. BCAAs, is a matter of what kind of workout you are doing.  

You will need to get an understanding of glutamine. What are BCAAs, exactly? How do these supplements work in the body, and how do they impact your workouts and fitness goals? This guide will give you the information to evaluate glutamine vs. BCAAs for your athletic goals.  

What is Glutamine?

Glutamine is an amino acid and is one of the building blocks of proteins. In our bodies, proteins form muscles, transport essential substances in the blood, and help the immune system. As an amino acid, glutamine is essential to maintaining your health. 

Many amino acids exist in two forms. Glutamine is one of these amino acids. It exists as L-glutamine and D-glutamine. Though these molecules look identical, the two forms of glutamine function differently because they have a different molecular arrangement. 

The form that is found in foods and supplements is L-glutamine, although it is often listed as glutamate. L-glutamine is essential for building proteins. It is one of the most abundant amino acids in our bodies. 

Yet, there are times when our bodies require more L-glutamine that we can produce which means we need to get it from our diet or another source such as a supplement. Injuries and illnesses can require more L-glutamine than we normally need. It is this biochemical function that has led to the development of glutamine as a sports supplement. 

What are BCAAs?

Branched-chain amino acids consist of three of the essential amino acids our bodies cannot make on their own and must be obtained from a food source. These essential amino acids are molecules that have a chain of elements attached. The chemical function of these chains is complex. What we need to understand is that these three amino acids are essential for building muscle. This is how they get the name. The three branched-chain amino acids are: 

  • Leucine
  • Considered the most important of the three, leucine helps maintain energy levels by stabilizing glucose in the bloodstream. Leucine is important for building muscle because it assists in the biochemical production of muscle tissue. It can also help with recovery because leucine boosts our ability to heal muscles. This reduces soreness. Leucine can lead to a 25% increase in muscle tissue. 

  • Isoleucine
  • Our bodies cannot produce isoleucine and we must get it from some outside source. Obviously, nutritional sources are the main way we obtain isoleucine, but protein supplements can also provide this essential amino acid. Isoleucine functions in a way that is similar to leucine except leucine performs its metabolic work through fats only. Isoleucine can metabolize through fats and carbohydrates. 

  • Valine
  • Similar to leucine and isoleucine, valine helps build muscle by bringing more glucose to the muscles as they are stressed and worked. On its own, valine does not build muscle. But taken with leucine and isoleucine, it helps facilitate greater muscle development. Valine also assists with brain function, and it can help you sleep. A bonus for the insomniacs. 

    These three branched-chain amino acids are the dynamic trio of muscle growth and development. Together, these three amino acids build muscle, speed recovery from workouts, and reduce the soreness from workouts.  

    What is Glutamine Good For?

    Most people take glutamine supplements for muscle gain. Because of the role glutamine plays as a building block of muscle protein synthesis, it naturally lends itself as a great supplement for building lean and strong muscles. 

    Research shows that people who take glutamine supplements versus control groups who take a placebo show substantially improved muscle mass over six weeks. While both groups showed increased muscles simply from the natural process of working out, those who took the glutamine supplements demonstrated vastly more muscle than the control group. 

    Another effect of glutamine for building muscle and as a workout supplement is that it helps reduce soreness and muscle fatigue. This overall effect leads to increased endurance. Longer and more effective workouts with decreased muscle soreness and fatigue make for more muscle mass from your workouts. 

    Glutamine helps best with recovery when your workouts tend to be longer. The benefits of glutamine appear to be primarily for endurance even if it does help build lean muscle. 

    What are BCAAs good for?

    BCAA supplements primarily increase muscle mass. The immediate availability of BCAAs for muscle protein synthesis tends to make BCAAs one of the better supplements for building lean muscle. 

    What is more, BCAAs activate metabolic enzymes that work to build muscle. The combined effect of actively available amino acids that form the building blocks of muscle protein and active enzymes means BCAAs work directly toward building muscle mass. 

    Studies reveal that BCAA supplements that contain higher levels of leucine and isoleucine appear to be most effective for building muscle. Again, one of the signal features of BCAAs is that they are active amino acids that go directly into building muscle. 

    BCAAs impact on recovery has more to do with the intensity of the workout over the length of the workout. BCAAs feed your metabolism the elements of muscle tissue. This means recovery from shorter, more intense workouts will likely benefit most from BCAAs. 

    Like glutamine, BCAAs can also reduce muscle soreness. They do this through a specific metabolic mechanism. BCAAs lower blood levels of the enzymes creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase, both of which are by-products of muscle damage—the kind of damage that comes from intense workouts. BCAAs can lower the levels of the chemicals that signal muscle soreness. Again, this facilitates longer and more intense workouts and more muscle mass. 

    Differences between Glutamine and BCAAs

    Besides the obvious chemical differences between glutamine and BCAAs, the real differences come down to your specific workout needs. 

    Glutamine primarily preserves muscle and prevents it from entering into the state that begins tearing muscle down. As you work out or otherwise exert your muscles, your body uses up stores of glutamine which sustains and preserves muscle. By adding more glutamine in the form of a supplement, you are allowing your muscles to work harder and longer to build more muscle. Glutamine also helps your body release a growth hormone that sustains the anabolic phase state that is productive for building muscle. 

    Bodybuilders seem to benefit well from glutamine since it sustains the kinds of workouts needed to build large muscle mass. 

    BCAAs, by contrast, work in a more sweeping way. Rather than sustaining the workout and the prolonged anabolic phase of building muscle, BCAAs provide your body with a steady flow of basic building blocks for muscle protein synthesis. Specifically, Leucine and isoleucine encourage muscle development, while valine helps to replenish glucose stores which sustains energy and endurance. 

    Athletes who are looking for powerful lean muscle and better overall body composition will prefer BCAAs. While you will build serious muscle with BCAAs, the overall effects are more toward full body composition rather than intense muscle mass.   

    An added benefit of BCAAs is that they often help reduce and limit abdominal fat. The combined effect of ideal body composition and reduced visceral fat makes BCAAs ideal for certain types of athletes. 

    How Much Glutamine to Take?

    Consuming five to 10 grams of glutamine is recommended post-workout. If consuming 10 grams, take it in two five-gram doses. You can also add the glutamine to your protein shakes to optimize muscle size and strength. 

    Keep in mind what has come to be called the two-hour protein rule: Consuming an additional 2- grams of protein two hours after your workout further optimizes muscle strength and size.

    How many BCAAs to take?

    Researchers have studied doses of glutamine that range from five grams to 45 grams for a day and found no signs of ill effects. Other studies have demonstrated that there are no safety concerns for up to 14 grams per day. 

    If you are taking glutamine as an exercise supplement, it is recommended that you begin with a dose of 5 grams per day. While no serious side effects have been noted with taking glutamine supplements, there is the possibility that too much glutamine can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb other amino acids. This would end up being counter-productive for a training program. 

    Take between 4-20 g per day (that’s at least three BCAA capsules). The exact dosage and ratio of leucine: isoleucine: valine is still a matter of debate in the literature, but most studies supplemented within a range of 4-20 g BCAAs per day, usually split into multiple doses.

    Again, the two-hour protein rule is something to consider with BCAAs. 

    When to Take Glutamine 

    Take glutamine about 30 minutes after working out.  

    When to take BCAAs

    Use anytime—before, during, and after workouts. BCAAs can be taken before, during, and after workouts to rapidly increase amino acid levels in the bloodstream, promote protein synthesis, and prevent muscle protein breakdown. They may also be taken between meals if you feel your diet is not providing adequate levels of BCAAs in the form of complete protein from meat, dairy, fish, eggs, etc. 

    Many athletes and trainers take BCAA supplements 15-60 minutes after exercise. This time frame is referred to as the anabolic window. This is believed to be the optimum time to get the most out of the nutrients you take to increase the benefits of your workout. 

    NF Sports Product Showcase 

    For the most advanced and effective glutamine supplements, use Glutamine Recovery from NF Sports. Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body. These acids are the building blocks of protein and have proven to help aid in muscle recovery. Since Glutamine provides fuel to many different cells in the body, it is the perfect recovery product for all types of exercise. 

    If you decide BCAAs are the right way for you, Natural Amino from NF Sports is the best available. The key amino acid amongst the BCAAs is leucine, it is primarily responsible for this signaling process. Natural Amino contains four grams of leucine per serving in a 4:1:1 ratio which is double the typical leucine ratio for BCAAs (typically 2:1:1).

    Natural Amino also features a Recovery & Soreness Reduction blend featuring CherryPure™, a Tart Cherry extract that is supported by research to help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.

    NFS’s Natural Amino is free of artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.


    Both glutamine and BCAAs are scientifically proven to provide real results. Glutamine can help pack on the muscle while sustaining high-intensity workouts. BCAAs will feed your muscles the basic building blocks for muscle protein synthesis. 

    Since both glutamine and BCAAs help build strong lean muscle, and both can, each in their own way, help reduce soreness and fatigue, the real question comes down to your workout goals. Glutamine tends to rely on sustaining your workout for longer and more intense programs. BCAAs will make more of the workout you are doing. 

    The question is not really which is better, glutamine or BCAAs, it is more a question of your individual needs. Glutamine operates as sustenance for your muscles. Glutamine feeds your muscles while you work out and makes it possible to do the intense training that gets results. BCAAs provide basic ingredients of muscle-making. The available amino acids that are BCAAs simply offer the basics for muscle protein synthesis. 

    Health and Safety Notice for Our Readers

    At NF Sports, we're dedicated to supporting your fitness journey with high-quality, natural supplements made in an FDA-registered facility. Our content and product recommendations are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice.

    Consult Your Doctor: Before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have health concerns or conditions, consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it's safe and right for you.

    FDA Disclaimer: Our products are designed to support your wellness journey but have not been evaluated by the FDA to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


    Should I choose glutamine or BCAAs for muscle recovery?

    The choice depends on your specific training goals and the nature of your workouts. Glutamine is excellent for endurance and preserving muscle mass, while BCAAs are ideal for building muscle and reducing recovery time after intense sessions.

    Can glutamine and BCAAs be taken together?

    Yes, combining glutamine and BCAAs can provide comprehensive benefits for muscle recovery and growth. This approach can offer the protective effects of glutamine with the muscle-building benefits of BCAAs.

    How soon after my workout should I take glutamine or BCAAs?

    For glutamine, it's best to consume it about 30 minutes post-workout. BCAAs can be taken before, during, and after workouts to maintain amino acid levels and support recovery.

    Are there any side effects to taking glutamine or BCAAs?

    Both supplements are generally safe when taken within recommended dosages. Overconsumption of glutamine may interfere with natural amino acid absorption, and excess BCAAs could impact blood sugar levels. Always start with lower doses to assess tolerance.

    Which supplement is better for reducing muscle soreness?

    BCAAs may have a slight edge in reducing muscle soreness due to their ability to decrease the levels of enzymes linked to muscle damage. However, glutamine also aids in recovery and can help with soreness indirectly by preserving muscle mass and supporting overall recovery.


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