Glycine is one of the most underrated amino acids in the world. Sort of like the beef liver of amino acids.
These 7 glycine benefits will shock you, especially if you’ve never heard of it. And most people aren’t getting enough of it.`
Let’s dig in.
What is Glycine?
Glycine is a non-essential amino acid that the body is able to make in small amounts. Don’t get scared off by the term amino acid, I’m not getting into complex science here. Amino acids are simply the building blocks of protein.
There are twenty different types of amino acids the body relies on to build and maintain tissues like muscle and bone. Eleven of the twenty are considered non-essential because technically, to stay alive, you don’t need to get them from food.
But merely staying alive compared to thriving are two different matters all together. You don’t want to just have a pulse, right? This is a distinction modern medicine so often ignores. If you want to be just average, then skip this post all together.
But you’re not mediocre, or you wouldn’t be here.You want to excel. If so, this post is for you.
Where is Glycine Found?
In humans and animals glycine is concentrated in collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Gelatin is also a good source of glycine. That’s because gelatin is a food derived from hydrolysing collagen. This essentially means breaking down the protein into individual amino acids. Gelatin is often used in food and food products as a gelling agent.
You may be surprised to learn that the chocolate pudding or cherry jello you grew up with is actually a product of hides, bones, connective tissues and other animal parts. While many kids would turn their noses up at this fact, the gelatin is by far the healthiest ingredient in the package.
Long before the commercial food industry made these sugar laden wiggly desserts, gelatin was consumed mostly in soups, broths and stocks made with bones. Have you ever made homemade soup with bones and noticed a thick layer of gel form as the soup cools? Bingo – that is gelatin, one of the best sources of glycine you can eat.
This is also why glycine is highly concentrated in collagen tissues — it is the glue that keeps many of your internal structures together.
You Aren’t Getting Enough Glycine
Our grandparents and generations before them likely got enough glycine eating ‘nose to tail’. Decades ago, the entire animal was eaten, not just the tender, lean cuts of muscle meat that are popular today (boneless skinless chicken breasts anyone???). Think about it, when was the last time you saw cow tongue or pig trotters on a restaurant menu or even at the grocery store for that matter? Exactly.
People look at me like I’m a lunatic when I eat chicken bones after finishing the meat (maybe I am a lunatic?).
True, your body can make glycine but not in amounts high enough to meet the demands of optimal health . Between what we make (approximately 3 g) and what a normal diet provides (between 1.5-3 g), research shows that we are short about 10 g of the glycine we need to maximize our body’s collagen production (*).
Because of the gap between what we need for optimal health, experts argue that glycine should be considered “semi-essential” (*). And eating muscle meat, like most of us are used to, isn’t going to do it. Take a look at how a typical serving of muscle meat (3 oz) compares to a typical serving of collagen (10g):
3 oz flank steak, cooked = 1.42 g
3 oz ribeye, cooked = 0.976 g
3 oz 80/20 beef, cooked = 1.56 g
3 oz pork chop, cooked = 0.91 g
3 oz sockeye salmon, cooked = 1.08 g
3 oz beef liver, cooked = 1.38 g
10 g collagen hydrolysate = 2.5 g
Collagen has double the glycine as compared to muscle meat (*,*). Additionally, when you consume substantial amounts of methionine from muscle meat, a sulfur containing amino acid, you need to eat more glycine to balance it out (*,*).
Daily intake varies slightly based on the cuts of meat you’re eating. But on the carnivore diet, 2 lbs of meat should provide roughly 10-16 g of glycine per day. Some experts estimate we need 10-60 g per day, on the lower end when health is good and on the higher end in poor health or if muscle meat intake is high because of the methionine (*).
I’ll get into the specific glycine benefits and best sources below, but glycine plays an essential role in physical and mental health. It’s common to think of building muscle when it comes to protein but glycine does so much more. From keeping your digestion running smoothly to reducing joint pain and protecting each and everyone of your cells, glycine is truly an ancient super nutrient that has taken a backseat in recent years
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7 Glycine Benefits That Will Supercharge Your Health
#1 Aids in building and maintaining muscle.
So let’s get this one out of the way first. Glycine is the second most abundant amino acid in the body. It helps to build and maintain your muscle and other structural tissues in the body. When you exercise you break down muscle tissue, damaging the tissue a bit.
Following exercise, your body starts the process of repairing that muscle and building new tissue so the muscle becomes stronger and better able to handle the exercise the next time around. Glycine plays an essential role in this process (*).
Given this information, it’s probably no surprise that glycine also plays a role in preventing age related muscle loss known as sarcopenia. Studies investigating muscle loss in animals have demonstrated the therapeutic potential of glycine, to reduce inflammation, stop muscle loss and to make muscles more responsive to exercise and other activities that normally build muscle in younger individuals but tend to be less effective in the elderly. Researchers concluded that eating glycine rich gelatin regularly might be a simple and effective strategy to prevent, slow or stop age related muscle loss (*).
In humans, one study found that compared to placebo, collagen supplementation (one of the best sources of glycine, remember?) in combination with resistance training resulted in a significantly higher increase in lean body mass (muscle, bone and other tissues), muscle strength and fat loss in men with sarcopenia than exercise and placebo alone (*).
#2 Heals a Leaky Gut
Your digestive tract is a long hollow tube made of smooth muscle. While this muscle does contract and relax like the muscles in your arms and legs it is different in that you can’t consciously control it – it moves on its own.
Your digestive system sees a lot of action and as a result is highly susceptible to damage. Pesticides, herbicides, environmental pollutants, chemicals in drinking water, you name it – can all damage the cells that line the digestive tract. When the cells are damaged they loosen up and let undigested food particles and other digestive remnants into your circulatory system to excite your immune system and cause all sorts of problems. This is known as leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability.
Glycine, along with other amino acids helps repair the lining of the digestive tract to keep food and other particles from getting out before they are supposed to. This helps food become fully digested and efficiently absorbed and metabolized while waste products remain contained and eventually eliminated.
How does it work? Glycine and other amino acids act as fuel for the cells that line the digestive tract and act as precursors to essential substances like the antioxidant glutathione. Because of this it is considered essential for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining (*).
#3 Glycine Keeps the Brain Calm & Helps sleep
Glycine is not only an amino acid but it also functions as a neurotransmitter, essentially a gatekeeper of nerve impulses that regulate behavior. It both stimulates and inhibits the brain and central nervous system. It participates in the regulation of memory, sleep, appetite and mood, among other things (*,*,*).
Glycine also helps produce serotonin, another neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the mind and body, in turn stabilizing mood and improving sleep (*). For this reason, high doses of glycine have been used successfully in the treatment of psychotic disorders (*).
Given it’s positive effects on the nervous system and mood, it’s not surprising glycine helps with sleep too. Studies show that glycine reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and also promotes the quality of sleep (*,*). One study found that taking 3g of glycine before bed improved sleep quality, reduced daytime sleepiness and improved memory in healthy subjects (*).
#4 Glycine Protects Joints
Glycine is one of the main amino acids found in cartilage, the tissue that makes up our joints (knees, elbows, hips, etc.) (*). If you aren’t getting enough glycine, your body will have a hard time producing or maintaining the cartilage.
#5 Prevents Inflammation
Glycine acts as a potent anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is an immune response initiated by the body during times of illness or injury as a protective mechanism. Acute inflammation will kick in for example, if you break a bone, causing the area to heat up to prevent infection, swell to stabilize the bone and provide cushioning. Clotting factors in the blood will even increase to prevent excessive blood loss.
In an emergency this can be good but when inflammation is turned on chronically it can actually wreak havoc. Enter glycine. Glycine suppresses activation of inflammatory cells including macrophages and suppresses free radical and cytokine production that can further damage cells (*).
Glycine also helps prevent inflammation by being an essential ingredient for methylation. Methyl-what??? I hear you! But I’ll keep this short and sweet. Methylation is where a molecule known as a methyl group is added to another substance (like DNA or another protein) so that the other substance can do its job (*). So, methylation is like the first domino in a line of dominos that keeps the body’s systems running.
Nearly every physiologic function you can think of requires methylation but some really important ones that help keep inflammation under control include running the body’s detox and immune systems.
#6 Glycine Protects Cells from Damage
Cells are damaged constantly through oxidative stress. Exposures including UV rays from the sun, environmental pollutants, alcohol, cigarette smoke, eating junk food, etc. all contribute to oxidative stress. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage by actually neutralizing the threat (*). Sure, you’ve heard of vitamin C and other nutrients functioning as antioxidants, but there are many more less commonly known antioxidants including glycine.
Glycine is somewhat unique in that it both protects cells against free radicals and also reduces production of free radicals (*,*). Glycine has demonstrated this protective activity in many disease states including cancer, arthritis, liver fibrosis, organ transplant, drug induced kidney and liver damage, hemorrhagic shock, and gastric ulcers (*).
Finally, glycine supports production of the body’s master antioxidant glutathione (*). Therefore in absence of glycine the body down regulates manufacturing glutathione.
#7 Protects against signs of aging and skin health
Because of glycine’s role in the production of glutathione it also has the potential to protect against signs of aging. Damaged cells contribute to the visual signs of aging like wrinkles as well as the internal signs of aging like decreased functioning of tissues and organs. Adequate glycine helps the body continuously make more glutathione to prevent cellular damage.
A study of elderly adults found that supplemental glycine restored suboptimal glutathione production (*).
In addition to its antioxidant properties. Glycine is also an essential component of human collagen. And collagen is the spongy substance under your skin that keeps joints gliding pain free and skin plump. Studies show that elevated levels of glycine boost collagen production to make sure your body has what it needs to look and feel vibrant (*).
How To Get More Glycine: These are the best sources
Because glycine is an amino acid it is found in most protein rich foods like meat, poultry, fish and eggs. But, as I’ve alluded to earlier, muscle meat is not the best source. Collagen and gelatin are the best sources. Sure, you can buy supplements but you can also get a significant amount of glycine by making a bone broth.
Additionally, bones, tendons, and ligaments are good sources of glycine. I also consume suet regularly to get some more collagenous tissue.
If you’re looking to revitalize your health, you need to get some of these glycine benefits.
It’s abundant in my favorite way of eating, the carnivore diet.
For my loyal readers, I also put together a 14 day guide to getting started with the carnivore diet that answers all the most common questions. Sign up below to get started.
I look forward to seeing your transformation.