Amino acid and protein metabolism during exercise and recovery

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1987 Oct;19(5 Suppl):S150-6.


The integrated use of several energy sources allows high muscular power outputs to be sustained. Muscle glycogen provides the major fuel source for muscular exercise, but other fuels can provide alternative energy sources which allow for muscle glycogen-sparing and an increased potential for prolonged high metabolic rates. Blood-borne glucose, derived from liver glycogenolysis and glyconeogenesis, as well as intra-muscular lipids and plasma free fatty acids derived from adipose tissue provide the main energy alternatives to muscle glycogen. Several amino acids, including the essential amino acid leucine, are also used directly as oxidizable fuels during exercise. Depending on the duration and intensity of exercise and other factors such as glycogen stores and energy intake, amino acids can provide from a few to approximately 10% of the total energy for sustained exercise. Additionally, many amino acids can be converted to glutamate (via glutamate dehydrogenase) and then to alanine (via glutamate-pyruvate transaminase). Alanine, along with lactate and pyruvate, are recognized as the major gluconeogenic precursors. Via this mechanism, several amino acids play crucial roles in providing the carbon sources for maintaining blood glucose homeostasis during exercise and glycogen restitution during recovery. And finally, during exercise and recovery, amino acids likely play important anaplerotic functions sustaining the whole metabolic apparatus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Glycogen / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Physical Exertion*


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Glycogen