by John Stone, CPT
By now, most people are familiar with some of the body’s most important anti-oxidants, such as Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and Vitamin E (gamma and alpha-tocopherol). There is however, an essential antioxidant that not only quenches free radicals in the body due to oxidation, but also helps those vitamins recharge their antioxidant status. That antioxidant is known as Glutathione. In this article, we will discuss the importance of this compound, what makes it so important, how it is made in the body, and how you can help boost levels of this master antioxidant.
Glutathione is not technically an “essential” amino acid because it can be created in the body, using L-Cysteine, L-Glutamic Acid, and L-Glycine. But without adequate amounts of all three of these amino acids, and in times of extreme physical stress, such as a high intensity long duration workout, Glutathione levels can become depleted, leading to a host of problems that can negatively impact health.
The majority of Glutathione synthesis occurs in the liver in humans. It possesses a unique ability to help recharge Vitamin C and Vitamin E, effectively recycling their antioxidant status. Once an antioxidant is exposed to free radicals, it donates an electron which makes it oxidized. So instead of the cells in your body taking a hit, antioxidants spare the injury. But once an antioxidant has done its job, it is rendered useless until it is recycled. This is where Glutathione comes in. Glutathione also regulates the nitric oxide system which is responsible for the “pump” from hypertrophic exercise. It is also used in prostaglandin formation, which effects inflammation, helps aid protein synthesis following muscle damage, and it also assists in DNA synthesis and immune system activities.
So you’re probably beginning to wonder then, how much Glutathione should we take in order to achieve the optimal results? The problem with Glutathione however, is that it is destroyed by hydrochloric acid. A more precise way to put it would be that Glutathione breaks down into its parent amino acids Glutamic acid, Acetyl Cysteine and Glycine. Once these aminos are freed up, they follow the same metabolic path that any amino acid will, and get used for a dozen other things besides Glutathione production. There are however, ways to increase Glutathione levels. First of all, N-Acetyl Cysteine is the rate-limiting amino acid in the synthesis of Glutathione. This means that the body tends to have enough amino acids to make glutathione EXCEPT for N-Acetyl Cysteine, also known as NAC. So supplementing with NAC will help raise Glutathione levels. It will also impart protective effects in the body that go beyond Glutathione support. In fact, hospitals around the world use NAC to help treat overdose of Acetaminophen, otherwise known as Tylenol. Another way to increase Glutathione production is to use the herb Milk Thistle. Milk Thistle contains Silymarin and Silibin, two important compounds that increase antioxidant levels and facilitate the liver’s job of detoxification. One of the ways Milk Thistle aids the liver is to increase Glutathione production.
Glutathione is known as the master anti-oxidant for very good reason. By supplementing with NAC and Milk Thistle, you are effectively enhancing your body’s own reserves of Glutathione, which will in turn assist your body, most notably your liver, in doing its job to protect the body from damage.
John Stone is a certified personal trainer by the American Fitness and Aerobics Association with an extensive knowledge of health supplements, diet and nutrition, as well as hormone replacement and ergogenic aids. He is the author of the blog Metabolic Alchemy, and a regular contributor on several popular discussion forums. You can contact John Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.metabolicalchemy.com to read more information on tips and tricks to enhance your metabolism and outsmart your genetic code.