Branched-chain amino acid supplementation during 30-km competitive run: mood and cognitive performance

Nutrition. 1994 Sep-Oct;10(5):405-10.


It has been suggested that an elevated concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) in specific areas of the brain may contribute to the development of central/mental fatigue during and after sustained exercise. Supplementation with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) should prevent the exercise-induced increase in the plasma concentration ratio of free tryptophan to other large neutral amino acids (including BCAAs) and thereby prevent an elevation in the level of 5-HT in the brain. In this study, subjects were given either a mixture of BCAAs in a carbohydrate solution or a placebo drink that contained only carbohydrates during a 30-km cross-country race. Several tasks to measure cognitive performance were performed before and after the race. When subjects were supplied with BCAAs, their performance in the different parts of the color-word test (words, colors and color words) was improved by an average of 3-7% (p < 0.05) after exercise, whereas there was no difference in performance before and after exercise in the subjects who were given the placebo. Furthermore, the experimental group, supplied with BCAAs, maintained their performance in the shape-rotation and figure-identification tasks, whereas an impairment in performance in these tests by 25% (p < 0.05) and 15% (p < 0.05), respectively, was found in the subjects who received the placebo. Thus, BCAA supplementation seemed to have an effect on the more complex tasks, whereas no effect could be detected on the less demanding tasks. However, an intake of BCAAs during exercise modified only slightly the exercise-induced changes in mood.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / administration & dosage*
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Placebos
  • Running*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Tryptophan / blood


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Blood Glucose
  • Placebos
  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan