A mixture of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) was supplied to subjects during two types of sustained intense exercise, a 30 km cross-country race and a full marathon, and the effect on plasma and muscle concentrations of aromatic and BCAAs was studied. When BCAAs (7.5-12 g) were taken during exercise, the plasma and muscle (vastus lateralis) concentration of these amino acids increased, while in the placebo groups the concentration of BCAAs decreased in the plasma and remained unchanged in the muscle. In the placebo group, both types of exercise caused a 20-40% increase in the muscle concentration of the aromatic amino acids, tyrosine and phenylalanine, and the plasma concentration of these amino acids was increased after the marathon. Since tyrosine and phenylalanine are neither taken up nor metabolized by skeletal muscle, the increases in their concentrations in muscle might indicate net protein degradation during exercise. However, when the subjects were supplied with BCAAs during exercise, the increases in tyrosine and phenylalanine concentrations in both muscle and plasma were prevented. These results suggest that an intake of BCAAs during exercise can prevent or decrease the net rate of protein degradation caused by heavy exercise.