Glutathione as you may know, is a molecule that your body makes inside every single cell. And some cells have a whole lot more than others.
Within 10 minutes of doing aerobic activity, the amount of glutathione in your muscle cells (the cells that you’re exercising) goes down by about 40%.
There are 4 primary things that glutathione does within the cell that are critical for cellular functioning, cellular vitality & health:
- It’s the primary anti oxidant inside of every cell you make and you make it yourself.
- It’s the primary anti inflammatory of every single cell in your body
- It’s the primary detoxifier of the cells in your body.
- It directly supports the production of ATP which are the energy packets that every cell uses for all of its functioning.
Aerobic vs Anaerobic Athletic Activity
If you’re a long distance runner, a marathon runner or a triathlete, most of what you’re doing is aerobic activity. There will be small bursts of anaerobic activity but by and large these are endurance based activities.
There’s also anaerobic exercise – that means without oxygen. Anaerobic is typically very short bursts of activity – less than 2 minutes. For example a weight lifter would be involved in anaerobic activity while they are lifting the weights. A short sprinter would also be involved in anaerobic activity if the sprint is less than 2 minutes in length.
During anaerobic activity – even if you’re doing long distance running, part of what happens is you build up lactic acid. And that’s a little different than the free radicals that are produced during normal aerobic activity.
If you’ve done a lot of endurance activities, you’re probably aware that lactic acid builds up in the muscles and can cause a lot of pain, and it also has to be flushed from the body. Glutathione does not play a direct role with the lactic acid, its role is in helping diminish the inflammation within the cell that occurred from the production of lactic acid.
So in the aerobic metabolic pathway, glutathione plays a huge role in recovery and endurance. In the anaerobic part because its such a short burst, the glutathione will clean up the mess afterwards, but it’s not as critical as during endurance activity.
The Role of ATP During Athletic Performance
During the actual muscle work, whether you’re running, lifting weights or whatever you’re doing, the job of the cell is to produce ATP and glutathione in that part of the process will be critical to maintain the ATP production.
If you’re involved in exercise, you have many mitochondria making lots of ATP and if you don’t have adequate glutathione inside those cells, the mitochondria will slow down its ATP production so that it doesn’t kill itself. So if your glutathione levels are lower, you will find that your endurance is also lower.
During the process of athletic activity, you increase the amount of free radicals within your cells dramatically. When you increase free radicals, you will also increase inflammation within the cell. Not a whole lot of toxins necessarily that are being dealt with at the time of aerobic activity, certainly not more than what the cells might have had to begin with but ATP production is a big issue. Because the more you’re working that cell the more the demand for the ATP, the more ATP that is made, the more the glutathione needs to be there to clean up the reactive oxygen species that are spun out as we make ATP.
How Does Glutathione Help The Recovery Phase Of Exercise?
After exercise part of what has to happen aside from decreasing inflammation and cleaning up the environment, but you also will have some muscle cell remodelling and strengthening that involves protein, and the linking of the amino acids together to make the different proteins in your cells is also very much a part of the general function of glutathione.
In the recovery phase, the cells are now at rest or certainly not being pushed as hard as during the exercise phase. This is the point where the cell is then trying to recover itself and make sure that it has optimal vitality.
If you look at the function of glutathione within the cell, it will do a clean up. It will clean up the reactive oxygen species and there’s other antioxidants that will help it. The other ones that you make yourself like catalase and superoxide dismutase and coenzyme Q10 and then the ones that you might consume in your diet, either because you ate food that was rich in antioxidants or you used a supplement that was rich in additional antioxidants.
Hydration of course is critical, because you’re trying to flush from your body the toxins that are being metabolised out of your cells. And any kind of acids that have built up from the athletic activity.
What we hear again and again from trained athletes who start raising their glutathione levels is:
- “My stamina is better, my strength is better and my recovery was massively shortened.”
- “I didn’t have the stiffness, the soreness, the inability to go do it again the next day that I normally would experience.”
Highly trained athletes are really tuned into their bodies, as they do a lot of things to support the health of their muscles. So for them to have that kind of experience, it makes the rest of us wonder what’s going on. And it comes right back to decreasing inflammation within the cells – post exercise. That’s where glutathione fits in very nicely.