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Intense exercise can have an adverse effect on immune function during recovery. This could be due in part to depletion of glutamine because this amino acid plays an important role in normal immune function. Whey protein is naturally high in glutamine and therefore represents a possible method to enhance immune responses to exercise. Brazilian researchers tested a specific whey protein that was manufactured to be high in glutamine. Elite marathoners ingested 50 g of sugar or 50 g of sugar plus 700 mg hydrolyzed whey protein enriched with 175 mg of glutamine dipeptide 30 min before exercise. As expectd supplementation with the whey protein increased plasma glutamine levels compared to sugar supplementation. Whey supplementation also prevented the loss of membrane integrity of lyphocytes which are key immune cells in the blood. Whey supplementation also enhanced mitochondrial function in these lymphocytes. The findings provide a case for supplementing with glutamine, in this case with a hydrolyzed whey protein rich in glutamine peptides, to enhance immune responses to exercise. This could lead to faster recovery and better health.

Cury-Boaventura MF, Levada-Pires AC, Folador A, Gorj"o R, Alba-Loureiro TC, Hirabara SM, Peres FP, Silva PR, Curi R, Pithon-Curi TC. Effects of exercise on leukocyte death: prevention by hydrolyzed whey protein enriched with glutamine dipeptide. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Mar 5 [Epub ahead of print]