Previous studies have shown that sustained exercise in human subjects causes an increase in the plasma concentration ratio of free tryptophan: other large neutral amino acids [including the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)]. This should favour the transport of tryptophan into the brain and also the synthesis of 5-hydroxytryptamine, which is thought to contribute to fatigue during prolonged exercise. A mixture of the three BCAA was given to subjects during a 30-km cross-country race or a marathon (42.2 km) and the effects on mental and physical performances were measured. The mental performance, measured as the performance in the Stroop Colour and Word Test (CWT), was improved after, as compared to before the 30-km cross-country race when a BCAA supplement was given during the race, whereas the CWT scores were similar before and after in the placebo group. The running performance in the marathon was improved for the "slower" runners (3.05 h-3.30 h) when BCAA was taken during the race; however, there was no significant effect on the performance in the "faster" runners (less than 3.05 h). The results showed that both mental and physical performance was improved by an intake of BCAA during exercise. In addition, the effects of exercise on the plasma concentration of the aromatic amino acids were altered when a BCAA supplement was given during the marathon.