Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 4, 2021

Welcome to the battle of the supplements — glutamine vs. creatine.

Creatine and glutamine are the most commonly used amino acids, especially popular in bodybuilding, to help preserve muscles and increase protein metabolism.

Today, I am getting to the bottom of both of these supplements. I've spent hours researching everything you should know about them — from what they are, to their benefits, to most importantly, can you combine them.

What Is Glutamine?

arm view of a woman showing a scooper field with powder

Glutamine or L-glutamine is one of the twenty amino acids we need to function correctly. It’s also one of the protein building blocks.

Proteins function to:

  • Build muscles
  • Help the immune system
  • Transport substances to the blood

As you can see, glutamine is crucial for being healthy.

What’s more, L-glutamine is the most plentiful amino acid in the blood and is classified as conditionally essential, which means that the body can stop producing glutamine in case of illness or stress.

It can be found in food such as meat and eggs and supplements such as protein powder.

If we can get L-glutamine from food, why do we need to take glutamine supplementation?

Because there are times when our bodies need more glutamine than we can produce, such as in times of injuries or illnesses, so glutamine is used as a recovery supplement.

What is Creatine?

pre-workout supplements in a brown background

Creatine is a chemical that the body makes from amino acids in the kidneys, pancreas, and liver. It’s stored in the skeletal muscle tissue and saved for later use.

It is also found in food, such as red meat.

“Creatine monohydrate, the most extensively studied form of creatine, is considered the most effective supplement for athletes looking to increase lean body mass and as well as enhance muscular strength, power, and endurance.” - Dr. Melina Jampolis, Physician Nutrition Specialist 

Creatine gives energy to the muscles, such as when resistance training or weight lifting. However, this energy only lasts for a couple of seconds of intense exercise.

This is why athletes use creatine supplementation. Studies have shown that creatine supplements help muscles grow and provide more muscle strength. (1)

If you avoid meat, you should consider taking vegan creatine supplements.

2 Differences Between Creatine and Glutamine

man scooping a protein powder from container

I’ve established that both creatine and glutamine are organic compounds that our bodies make. Both of them are stored in muscles.

But there are major differences between these two. Let’s look at them in detail.

1. How They are Synthesized in the Body

The first difference is that creatine is synthesized in the liver and kidneys from amino acids, but glutamine is one of the 20 amino acids that the human body makes.

2. How They Work

Another main difference between these supplements is that creatine's function is more metabolism-oriented, and it helps build muscle.

On the other hand, glutamine is one of the compounds that go directly into muscle protein synthesis.

While a regular person can get all the creatine they need from the body itself, people recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery may need additional creatine supplements.

Also, creatine is one of the best supplements for a workout because it helps build muscle mass.

On the other hand, we need to get glutamine from dietary sources because it’s a conditionally essential amino acid.

Some athletes prefer glutamine because it’s directly involved in protein synthesis. Others like creatine because it supports the process which leads to protein synthesis.

To sum up: glutamine directly builds muscle, while creatine supports the work needed to build muscles.

Glutamine Benefits

old man showing off his biceps
  • Muscle Gain - A study found that young adults who do high-intensity training and who used glutamine had six times more muscle mass than those who didn’t (2).
  • Quicker muscle recovery - Glutamine increases glycogen storage and helps preserve muscle mass because it increases nitrogen availability during muscle breakdown.
  • Better gut health - It helps keep the intestinal lining healthy by ensuring our body absorbs all nutrients it needs.
  • Stronger immune system - Glutamine fuels lymphocytes, i.e., white blood cells, which fight infection and disease.

Creatine Benefits

shirtless man using kettlebells while doing push ups

Here are the specific benefits of creatine:

Energy Production  - Creatine monohydrate supplements increase the stores of phosphocreatine in muscles. Phosphocreatine helps create ATP — the molecule you use for all basic life functions.

When you exercise, ATP breaks down and produces energy. The issue is that you use ATP faster than you can make it. This is where creatine supplements come in. They help athletes increase phosphocreatine and thus have more ATP.

Muscle Function - Apart from increasing the energy levels, creatine does other great things for muscles:

  • It helps grow muscle mass
  • Boosts proteins that help make new muscle fibers
  • Increases muscle water content
  • Decreases myostatin — a molecule that hinders muscle growth

High-Intensity Exercise Performance

I’ve talked about how creatine helps in ATP production. This also means it allows athletes and bodybuilders to have better high-intensity exercise.

Overall, creatine can improve:

  • Strength
  • Muscles endurance
  • Muscle recovery
  • Brain performance

Other creatine benefits:

  • It lowers blood sugar levels
  • It makes the immune system stronger
  • It enhances growth hormone production

Can They Be Combined?

black man thinking while raising up his drink

Yes, creatine and glutamine can be combined.

Benefits

Combining creatine and glutamine may work as a great sports or post-workout nutrition drink.

By combining these two exercise supplements, you’ll have less muscle soreness, more strength and restore your energy stores faster when you exercise.

In general, this is an excellent supplementation to nutrition, and your body composition will be better and healthier.

Potential Side Effects

Personally, I haven’t experienced any side effects from combining these two supplement products, nor have I found any studies that mention side effects.

To be on the safe side, choose ones from the same company, and don’t mix brands. Of course, if you notice any side effects from protein intake, visit your doctor straight away.

Glutamine Vs Creatine: Which Do We Recommend?

If you want to know which amino acid is better for you, it depends on your exercise goals.

If you’re a bodybuilder, you’ll need a lot of strength, so use creatine. If your goal is fast recovery after working out, then choose glutamine.

Or combine them for maximum effective results.

Do you have experience using these two supplements? Let me know your results with them in the comments below.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14636102/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11822473

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