Ingestion of branched-chain amino acids and tryptophan during sustained exercise in man: failure to affect performance

J Physiol. 1995 Aug 1;486 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):789-94. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1995.sp020854.


1. An increased uptake of tryptophan in the brain may increase serotoninergic activity and recently has been suggested to be a cause of fatigue during prolonged exercise. The present study, therefore, investigates whether ingestion of tryptophan or the competing branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) affect performance. Ten endurance-trained male athletes were studied during cycle exercise at 70-75% maximal power output, while ingesting, ad random and double-blind, drinks that contained 6% sucrose (control) or 6% sucrose supplemented with (1) tryptophan (3 g l-1), (2) a low dose of BCAA (6 g l-1) or (3) a high dose of BCAA (18 g l-1). 2. These treatments greatly increased the plasma concentration of the respective amino acids. Using the kinetic parameters of transport of human brain capillaries, BCAA supplements were estimated to reduce brain tryptophan uptake at exhaustion by 8-12%, while tryptophan ingestion caused a 7- to 20-fold increase. Exercise time to exhaustion was not different between treatments (122 +/- 3 min). 3. The data suggest that manipulation of tryptophan supply to the brain either has no additional effect upon serotoninergic activity during prolonged exhaustive exercise or that manipulation of serotoninergic activity functionally does not contribute to mechanisms of fatigue.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / blood
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / pharmacology*
  • Ammonia / blood
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / drug effects
  • Tryptophan / blood
  • Tryptophan / pharmacokinetics
  • Tryptophan / pharmacology*


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Ammonia
  • Tryptophan