Effects of branched-chain amino acids supplementation on physiological and psychological performance during an offshore sailing race

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Nov;104(5):787-94. doi: 10.1007/s00421-008-0832-5. Epub 2008 Aug 13.


The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of protein diets, rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAA) on perceived exertion, mental and physical performance during an offshore sailing race that lasted 32 h. Twelve sailors were randomly allocated into one of two groups [Control (CON) and BCAA: n = 6/group]. The BCAA group consumed a standard diet of 11.2 MJ day(-1) (58% carbohydrate, 30% fat, 12% Protein) along with a high-protein supplement of 1.7 MJ day(-1) (40% carbohydrate, 35% protein, 25% fat) and 1.7 MJ day(-1) composed of 50% valine, 35% leucine, and 15% isoleucine. CON was given a standard diet of 14.5 MJ day(-1) (58% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 12% protein). During the race, heart rate was monitored. Subjects self-evaluated their feeling of fatigue every 3 h, and 12 samples of saliva from each subject were collected to perform cortisol assays. Before and after the race a vertical jump and a handgrip test were performed, and mental performance was evaluated with a standardized battery of tests. A significant increase in the feeling of fatigue was noted on the second day (D2) of race in both groups; the increase was higher in CON (P < 0.05). For both groups, salivary cortisol concentration followed a nycthemeral rhythm, with an alteration during the race as evidenced by high midnight cortisol levels between D1 and D2, and significantly decreased cortisol levels observed on D2 (P < 0.05). There was no change in physical performance at the end of the race in both groups. As a significant decrease (P < 0.05) in short-term memory performance was observed only in the CON group. These data indicate that an offshore sailing race enhances the feeling of fatigue, and decreases short-term memory performance. These detrimental consequences are reduced by a high-protein diet with BCAA.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Fatigue / prevention & control
  • Hand Strength
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Isoleucine / administration & dosage
  • Leucine / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Valine / administration & dosage


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Drug Combinations
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Valine
  • Hydrocortisone