L-Glutamine vs. BCAA – Complete Comparison of Use Cases

If you’re into fitness, you’ve likely heard of L-Glutamine and BCAA. 

They’re often touted as the “must-have” supplements for building muscle and improving recovery. 

However, the truth may not be so simple. 

Here’s what you need to know about L-glutamine vs. BCAAs.

Is L-Glutamine the Same as BCAA?

No, L-glutamine and BCAAs are not the same thing. 

L-glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body can produce it on its own. In fact, it’s the most prevalent amino acid in our body and it is involved in numerous processes, including immune system function and gut health. 

However, during times of stress or intense physical activity, the body’s demand for this abundant amino acid increases, and in theory, supplementation may be necessary to meet these increased needs. 

BCAAs, on the other hand, are a group of three essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – known for their role in muscle protein synthesis. In fact, they’re often touted as the most important essential amino acids for muscle growth.

Apart from building muscles, they may also help to reduce muscle breakdown during intense exercise.

And, oh, these amino acids cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet or supplementation.

What’s the Difference Between L-Glutamine vs. BCAAs?

There are quite a few differences between the two, so here are a few:

The main difference lies in the fact that, as we’ve said, one of these is non-essential, and others are essential amino acids.

Now, when it comes to their in vivo involvements, we could probably spend a whole day talking about it, so let’s try and keep it as brief as possible.

L-Glutamine

Firstly, L-glutamine plays a crucial role in immune function, gut health, and it can even help with burns or injuries. [1]

It has been speculated that it could help with Crohn’s disease, but research suggests otherwise – at least for now. However, there have been some studies showcasing its ability to help manage the symptoms of IBS, so at least that’s something. [2]

BCAA

On the other hand, BCAAs are vital for muscle growth, alleviating fatigue, and for reducing muscle breakdown during exercise. BCAAs also help regulate protein synthesis and help speed up recovery.

In short, other than being amino acids, L-glutamine and BCAAs have pretty much nothing in common.

How Do the Benefits Compare Between L-Glutamine vs. BCAAs?

Here’s where it gets really interesting.

To understand why it “gets really interesting”, we first have to take a look at the list of proposed benefits for these two.

L-Glutamine proposed benefits:

  • Enhances muscle recovery and reduces soreness after intense training.
  • Supports immune function, particularly during periods of high stress or intense training.
  • Promotes gut health by maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining.

BCAAs proposed benefits:

  • Stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which aids in muscle growth.
  • Reduces muscle breakdown during exercise, preserving lean muscle mass.
  • Improves endurance and reduces mental fatigue during workouts.

Now, here’s the thing – most of these are true.

However, the ones that matter the most to bodybuilders or fitness enthusiasts – not really.

First up, there’s no evidence suggesting glutamine helps with muscle recovery or soreness. There also isn’t any evidence suggesting it could benefit you in any significant way, shape or form when it comes to athletic performance in any other way.

There’s some evidence suggesting it could help with vasodilation, but how much of an actual difference that makes to your performance is up for debate. [2]

And when it comes to BCAAs – while all of that’s essentially true – it also isn’t.

Judging by the scientific evidence we have, BCAAs on their own will have no impact whatsoever on your performance, muscle growth, or any other exercise-related metric. [3]

So, we guess you could say that in terms of benefits, these two are very similar in that they provide no actual benefits training-wise.

Overall Comparison

Here’s a quick snapshot of what each of these amino acids is best at to give you a well-rounded view of how they stack up and specific use cases.

L-Glutamine BCAA
Essential Amino Acid
Immune Function
Gut Health
Injury Recovery
Muscle Growth
Reducing Fatigue
Reducing Muscle Breakdown

Should L-Glutamine and BCAAs Be Taken Together?

You really shouldn’t take L-glutamine and BCAAs together. Combining L-Glutamine and BCAAs won’t provide a synergistic effect or any effect for that matter.

If you’d like to enhance your recovery or performance in a way these supplements promise to do, just supplement with high-quality whey protein isolate, and you should be golden.

You’ll get all the BCAAs you need from whey protein, and you can just forget about glutamine.

L-Glutamine vs. BCAA – Which Would Be More Beneficial to Take?

Let’s start off by saying that you probably shouldn’t take either of these because neither will prove to be beneficial on their own.

That said, if we were to pick between the two, BCAAs might be considered more advantageous for some. 

This is because BCAAs play a vital role in muscle protein synthesis and recovery, and as long as there are other EAAs in your system, these will do what they need to do.

There’s also a case to be made for L-glutamine if you’re struggling with IBS or other gut issues, but since we’re talking about sports and gym – this participation prize goes to BCAAs.

Do You Really Need to Take L-Glutamine or BCAAs?

You really don’t need to take either.

Foods like chicken, beef, eggs, dairy products, and even some plant-based options like tofu and quinoa can provide you with these amino acids.

Also, not only do many high-protein and other nutrient-rich foods contain high amounts of both L-Glutamine and BCAAs, but these things have been proven over and over again they don’t provide the value they claim they do, so it really doesn’t make sense to spend any money on either.

Conclusion

When it comes to L-Glutamine vs. BCAAs, there really isn’t a winner. Both lost as far as we’re concerned.

Sure, BCAAs are inherently more useful to a bodybuilder or an athlete, but only if they’re part of an entire complex of EAAs. Otherwise, they don’t work.

L-glutamine, on the other hand? Until there’s some new data saying it actually works – feel free to forget about it.

What to Read Next

Can I Take L-Glutamine Before Bed?
L-Glutamine Before Bed
Should You Take a BCAA Pre-Workout? Probably Not, Here’s Why
BCAA Pre-Workout
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Aesthetyk

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