Protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery from exercise. However, it’s not protein that your body needs as much as the amino acids that make up protein.

Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of protein and are what protein is broken down into after digestion. For example, when you eat chicken, your body breaks the protein down into its constituent amino acids and then reconfigures according to your needs.

There are 20 amino acids, some of which are deemed essential which means you need to obtain them from your diet, and others that are deemed conditionally essential which means they are equally important but your body can make them providing it has an abundant supply of the essentials.

As well as being protein building blocks, amino acids play specific roles in many of the reactions that happen within your body.

Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that amino acid supplementation can help improve recovery from intense exercise and boost your performance. Two very popular amino acid supplements are glutamine and BCAAs. Many people take one or the other of these supplements but some people take both. The question is, does using both offer any benefits?


Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. Over 60% of muscle tissue is made from glutamine. After intense exercise, glutamine levels significantly drop which has an adverse effect on strength, energy and muscle damage markers. It can take as long as six days for glutamine (and therefore strength) levels to return to normal which helps explain why many people train each muscle group once a week.

Increasing glutamine levels through supplementation has been shown to preserve muscle mass, reduce muscle soreness, speed up recovery, increase human growth hormone secretion, and also aid in fat burning. All of these factors help to speed up the recovery process.

Because glutamine is calorie-free, it’s an ideal supplement if you are dieting to get lean and the fact that it can help preserve muscle mass during a diet is very useful.

In short, glutamine supplementation may help you train harder, recover faster, build more muscle during a bulk or keep more muscle during a cut. It’s also considered a very safe supplement as glutamine is a naturally occurring compound; you are literally made of the stuff!


Beyond BCAAs

The Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are leucine, isoleucine and valine and they have a branch-like structure – hence their name. These three amino acids make up a little over 30% of muscle tissue and are heavily catabolised (broken down) during exercise. The BCAAs also act as nitrogen carriers which means they help ferry nitrogen, which is essential for growth and repair, into your muscles.

BCAAs are free form amino acids which means they have been separated from protein and act independently. Another of their roles is in the production of insulin which helps drive nutrients into muscle cells. This supercharges the recovery process and the faster and more completely you recover between workouts, the better your next workout will be.

Intense exercise causes muscle breakdown and the presence of an abundance of BCAAs can stop this from becoming excessive. This muscle-sparing effect is one of the reasons that BCAAs are common ingredient in pre-workout supplements. They can also, despite being very low in calories, be used by your muscles for energy which is why BCAA products are popular during fat loss diets.

BCAA supplementation helps ensure you get enough of what are very essential compounds for exercise and recovery. The benefits and use of BCAAs is well-documented making them one of the most widely used supplements around. Add in that Beyond BCAAs also contain naturally occurring electrolytes to help keep you hydrated, and you can see why they are so effective.

Using both together

Glutamine and BCAAs are all amino acids but they come from different nutritional groups. Where glutamine is classed as conditionally essential, the BCAAs are essential. Glutamine and BCAAs share some common functions but they seem to work through different mechanisms which means that you may experience additional benefits from using both together rather than choosing one or the other.

Used before, during, and after intense exercise, users report faster recovery between sets, more energy during workouts, and also less muscle soreness after hard training. Glutamine and Beyond BCAAs can also be consumed in place of meals and snacks to preserve muscle during a diet or before bed to enhance recovery during sleep.

As the effectiveness of this stack become more apparent, supplements combining these two ingredients are becoming increasingly popular. However, you can get good results by simply using glutamine and BCAAs at the same time.  

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