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Glutathione and Whey Protein in Sports Nutrition

The Importance of Glutathione in Sports Physiology

Research Publications on Glutathione and Sports Nutrition

Articles on Glutathione and Whey Protein for Athletes

The Importance of Glutathione in Sports Physiology

Glutathione and Exercise

GSH is an important antioxidant that protects the cell against reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced during aerobic exercise.

How eeffective this protection is depends on both, the levels of glutathione (GSH) in muscle tissue and the ratio of GSH to GSSG under oxidative stress. When there is an excessive production of hydroperoxide or when GSH content is deprived in the cell, the GSH/GSSG ratio decreased markedly.

During acute and chronic exercise, the skeletal muscle and heart increases its utilization of GSH, and to cope with this deficiency, GSH flows from the liver into the plasma .

Deficiencies of glutathione caused by physiological, pharmacological, and nutritional variations can play havoc with these regulatory mechanisms. Hence, supplementation of GSH is advisable in physically active individuals. (1)

Recent clinical studies have shown that either antioxidant supplementation or a diversified and well-balanced diet that allows for sufficient intake of antioxidants allows overloaded triathletes to avoid adaptation failure in the antioxidant system. (6)

Exercise and the Immune System

To replicate in sufficient numbers the T-cells need Glutathione (GSH).

During a workout, or while bodybuilding, training or competing athletically, the immune system is often overwhelmed. It cannot get rid of free radicals fast enough to prevent fatigue, muscle pains, soreness, muscle damage, stress, etc.

In one clinical study it says: After prolonged intense exercise the number of lymphocytes in the blood is reduced, and the function of natural killer cells is suppressed; furthermore secretory immunity is impaired.

During this time of immunodepression, often referred to as "the open window," athletes may be more susceptible to micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, etc.) bypassing the first line of defense. This is of interest to top athletes who perform frequent severe exercise.

The body manufactures glutathione to feed the immune system. People who are physically active require increased GSH. A study of the Canadian cycling team showed that the average athlete had a blood GSH level depressed by as much as 40%.

Interestingly, by elevating their GSH levels, these athletes reported improved performance by 1-3%. A 1% performance enhancement does not seem like much; however, at the Olympic level, it is the difference between finishing first and placing sixth.(3)

High performance athletes find that that optimal GSH levels gives them greater strength, and endurance, decreased recovery time from injuries, less muscle pain, less fatigue and a ‘fitter’ feeling. (4). By increasing GSH serum levels, enhanced performance may result (5).

Glutathione (GSH) delays the muscular fatigue induced by oxyradicals during the aerobic phase of strenuous muscular contraction. To accomplish an increase in Glutathione levels a precursor, or building block, is required.

Un-denatured whey protein helps optimize the glutathione level in your cells. It enables - if Glutathione is available in sufficient quantities - your T-cells to fight off infections before you even notice them. It eliminates free radicals before they become a problem. It optimizes your immune system and the antioxidant defense mechanism of your body.

In performance tests with undenatured whey protein, athletes reported an increase of 13%. (2)


  1. Glutathione and Exercise
    Review by Christian Leeuwenburgh and Li Li Ji
  2. The Effect of Supplementation with a Cysteine Donor on Muscular Performance
    Lands LC , Grey VL , Smountas AA [McGill University Health Centre – Montreal General Hospital, Montreal Canada.]
    Double-blind study: Oxidative stress contributes to muscular fatigue. Glutathione (GHS) is the major intracellular antioxidant, whose biosynthesis is dependent upon cysteine availability. We hypothesized that supplementation with a whey-based cysteine donor designed to augment intracellular GSH would enhance performance. Our results support the use of a well-tolerated whey-based cysteine donor to augment muscular performance. We speculate that supplementation may have even more benefit in situations of ongoing oxidative stress, such as chronic obstructive lung disease and cystic fibrosis.
  3. Glutathione, A Protein Vital to Life
    Dr. David L. Phillips, Chiropractic Health Care
  4. Journal of Applied Physiology 87: 1381-1385, 1999
  5. Does Glutathione Enhance Exercise Performance? [A Case Study]
    William D. Misner, Ph.D.
  6. Antioxidant supplementation preserves antioxidant response in physical training and low antioxidant intake
    Palazzetti S, Rousseau AS, Richard MJ, Favier A, Margaritis I. [Br J Nutr. 2004 Jan;91(1):91-100.]

The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength
Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davidson KS, Candow DG, Farthing J, Smith-Palmer [1: Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2001 Sep;11(3):349-64]

Physical exercise intensity can be related to plasma glutathione levels.
Gambelunghe C, Rossi R, Micheletti A, Mariucci G, Rufini S. [J Physiol Biochem 2001 Mar;57(2):9-14]

Oxidants, antioxidant nutrients and the athlete
Packer L.

Antioxidants and physical performance
Clarkson PM.
[Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1995 Jan;35(1-2):131-41]

Mitochondria changes in human muscle after prolonged exercise, endurance training and selenium supplementation
Zamora AJ, Tessier F, Marconnet P, Margaritis I, Marini JF. [Eur J Appl Physiol 1995;71(6):505-11]

Studies showing that reductions in blood glutamine concentration following intense exercise may contribute to immune suppression in overtrained athletes

Articles on Glutathione and Whey Protein for Athletes

Glutathione, A Protein Vital to Life
Dr. David L. Phillips, Chiropractic Health Care

Glutathione: Nature's Most Potent Ergogenic Aid
By Paul Cribb B.H.Sci.HMS., Exercise Physiologist, in AST Sports Science

Unlocking the Secrets to Health & Fitness: Whey protein
Protein is the building block of life. Essential to a balanced diet and strong muscles, both serious athletes and serious life extensionists use protein to enhance their health and performance.
LE Magazine October 1998

Ready Get Set GO - Get the best out of exercise while avoiding the hazards
LE Magazine February 2000 - By Will Brink

Exercise Enhancement and Risk Avoidance

Whey Protein Power
LE Magazine March 1998 - By Will Brink

The Whey It Is
Will Brink

Interview: A Conversation with Will Brink
LE Magazine May 1999
Brink is a recognized, well published expert Whey Protein. He maintains frequent contact with numerous scientists and medical doctors who research whey protein, and has become personally involved in conducting primary research on whey protein and athletes.

Does Glutathione Enhance Exercise Performance? [A Case Study]
William D. Misner Ph.D.

Vitamins, Minerals and Co-Factors: A Guide to Clinical Supplementation for Athletes
Dr. Deborah Baker



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