Effect of L-tryptophan supplementation on exercise performance

Int J Sports Med. 1988 Oct;9(5):301-5. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1025027.


The performance of strenuous physical exercise is associated with discomfort and pain, the tolerance for that being modulated by the activity of the endogenous opioid systems. As 5-hydroxy-tryptamine (5-HT) affects nociception through its effects on the enkephalin-endorphin system, we have analyzed the effects of a moderate supplementation with L-tryptophan, the immediate precursor of 5-HT, on endurance and sensation of effort. Twelve healthy sportsmen were subjected to a work load corresponding to 80% of their maximal oxygen uptake on two separate trials, after receiving a placebo and after receiving the same amount of L-tryptophan. The subjects ran on a treadmill until exhaustion. Total exercise time, perceived exertion rate, maximum heart rate, peak oxygen consumption, pulse recovery rate, and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption were determined during the two trials. The total exercise time was 49.4% greater after receiving L-tryptophan than after receiving the placebo. A lower rate of perceived exertion was exhibited by the group while on tryptophan although the differences from the control group were not statistically significant. No differences were observed in the other parameters between the two trials. The longer exercise time als well at the total work load performed could be due to an increased pain tolerance as a result of L-tryptophan ingestion.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise*
  • Fatigue
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nociceptors / drug effects*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Exertion
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Tryptophan / pharmacology*


  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan