L-tryptophan supplementation can decrease fatigue perception during an aerobic exercise with supramaximal intercalated anaerobic bouts in young healthy men

Int J Neurosci. 2010 May;120(5):319-27. doi: 10.3109/00207450903389404.


Physical exercise is often terminated not due to muscle fatigue but because of inadequate neural drive in the serotonergic system. Modifications in activity levels of the serotonergic system, induced by variations in the availability of L-tryptophan (a serotonin precursor) may alter neural drive. We examined the effect of L-tryptophan supplementation on physical performance by combining aerobic work with brief periods of supramaximal intensity that closely mimics the activity typical of team sports. Twenty healthy young sportsmen (mean age 21.2 +/- 0.7 years) performed a submaximal exercise on a cycle ergometer, with a workload corresponding to 50% of their respective VO(2) max for 10 min, followed by a maximal intensity exercise for 30 s. This sequence was repeated three times and, after the fourth series, each participant continued to exercise at the highest speed that he could sustain for 20 min. This protocol was performed twice: once with and finally without supplementation of L-tryptophan, in random order and double-blind. Peak power output, average anaerobic power output, and power output during the last 20 min of the trial were higher on the trials performed with L-tryptophan supplementation than on those performed with placebo. The distance covered during the last 20 min of the trial was 11,959 +/- 1,753 m on placebo and 12,526 +/- 1,617 m on L-tryptophan (p < .05). In conclusion, in some types of exercises, modification of the serotonergic system may improve the physical performance.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / blood
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise
  • Fatigue / blood
  • Fatigue / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / drug effects*
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Tryptophan / pharmacology*
  • Tryptophan / therapeutic use*
  • Young Adult


  • Amino Acids
  • Insulin
  • Tryptophan
  • Prolactin
  • Hydrocortisone