Branched-chain amino acids and central fatigue

J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):274S-6S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.1.274S.


An account of the tryptophan (Trp)-5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)-central fatigue theory is provided and an explanation of how oral administration of BCAAs can decrease fatigue on the basis of this theory is given. The rate-limiting step in the synthesis of 5-HT is the transport of Trp across the blood-brain barrier. This transport is influenced by the fraction of Trp available for transport into the brain and the concentration of the other large neutral amino acids, including the BCAAs, which are transported via the same carrier system. During endurance exercise, there is an uptake of Trp by the brain, suggesting that this may increase the synthesis and release of 5-HT in the brain. Oral intake of BCAAs may reduce this uptake and also brain 5-HT synthesis and release, thereby delaying fatigue. Other hypotheses for the effect of BCAAs on central fatigue are included.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / therapeutic use*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Fatigue / drug therapy*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Humans
  • Serotonin / biosynthesis*
  • Tryptophan / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan