Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise

J Nutr. 2004 Jun;134(6 Suppl):1583S-1587S. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.6.1583S.


Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids that can be oxidized in skeletal muscle. It is known that BCAA oxidation is promoted by exercise. The mechanism responsible for this phenomenon is attributed to activation of the branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase (BCKDH) complex, which catalyzes the second-step reaction of the BCAA catabolic pathway and is the rate-limiting enzyme in the pathway. This enzyme complex is regulated by a phosphorylation-dephosphorylation cycle. The BCKDH kinase is responsible for inactivation of the complex by phosphorylation, and the activity of the kinase is inversely correlated with the activity state of the BCKDH complex, which suggests that the kinase is the primary regulator of the complex. We found recently that administration of ligands for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (PPARalpha) in rats caused activation of the hepatic BCKDH complex in association with a decrease in the kinase activity, which suggests that promotion of fatty acid oxidation upregulates the BCAA catabolism. Long-chain fatty acids are ligands for PPARalpha, and the fatty acid oxidation is promoted by several physiological conditions including exercise. These findings suggest that fatty acids may be one of the regulators of BCAA catabolism and that the BCAA requirement is increased by exercise. Furthermore, BCAA supplementation before and after exercise has beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis; this suggests the possibility that BCAAs are a useful supplement in relation to exercise and sports.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / adverse effects
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Sports


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain