Can Amino Acids Influence Exercise Performance in Athletes?

  • E. A. Newsholme
  • L. M. Castell


Tryptophan is the precursor for the important neurotransmitter, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). Tryptophan is unique among amino acids in that some of it binds to albumin in the blood: thus, blood contains both bound and free tryptophan. Free tryptophan is thought to compete with some other amino acids, particularly the branched chain amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine; BCAA) for entry into the brain across the blood-brain barrier (19). There is evidence that changes in the concentration of plasma free tryptophan may influence the level of 5-HT within the brain (see 14). An increase in the plasma concentration ratio of free tryptophan/BCAA could therefore lead to a marked increase in the rate of entry of tryptophan into the brain, and consequently to an increase in the concentration of 5-HT in some areas of the brain. This has been shown to be the case in the rat (6).


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Branch Chain Amino Acid Prolonged Exercise Exhaustive Exercise Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patient 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ardawi, M.S.M. and E.A. Newsholme. Glutamine metabolism in lymphocytes of the rat. Biochem. J., 212: 835–842 1983.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bailey, S.P., J.M. Davis and E.N. Ahlborn. Effects of increased brain serotonergic activity on endurance performance in the rat. Acta Physiol Scand., 145: 75 1992.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bailey, S.P., J.M. Davis and E.N. Ahlborn. Neuroendocrine and substrate responses to altered brain 5-HT activity during prolonged exercise to fatigue. J. Appl. Physiol., 74: 3006–3012 1992.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Blomstrand, E., S. Andersson. P. Hassmen,. B. Ekblom and E.A. Newsholme. Effect of branched-chain amino acid and carbohydrate supplementation on the exercise-induced change in plasma and muscle concentration of amino acids in human subjects. Acta Physiol. Scand., 153: 87–96 1995.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Blomstrand, E., F. Celsing and E.A. Newsholme. Changes in plasma concentrations of aromatic and branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise in man and their possible role in fatigue. Acta Physiol. Scand., 133: 115 1988.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Blomstrand, E., D. Perrett M. Parry-Billings and E.A. Newsholme. Effect of sustained exercise on plasma amino acid concentrations and on 5-hydroxytryptamine metabolism in six different brain regions in the rat. Acta Physiol. Scand., 136: 473–481 1989.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Blomstrand, E., P. Hassmen B. Ekblom and E.A. Newsholme. Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise; effects on preformance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol., 63: 83 1991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Blomstrand, E., P. Hassmem and E.A. Newsholme. Effects of branched-chain supplementation on mental performance. Acta Physiol. Scand., 143: 225 1991.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Castell, L.M., C.T Lui and E.A. Newsholme. Diurnal variation of plasma glutamine and arginine in normal and fasting subjects. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 54: 118A 1995.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cowen, P.J., M. Parry-Billings and E.A. Newsholme. Decreased plasma tryptophan levels in major depression. J. Affective Disorders, 16: 27–31 1989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Chauloff, F., J.L. Elghozi, Y. Guenzennec and D. Laude. Effects of conditioned running on plasma, liver and brain tryptophan and on brain 5-hydroxytryptamine metabolism of the rat. Br. J. Pharmacol., 86: 33 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Davis, J.M., S.P. Bailey, J.A. Woods, F.J. Galiano, M.T. Hamilton and W.P. Bartoli. Effects of carbohydrate feedings on plasma free tryptophan and branched-chain amino acids during prolonged cycling. Eur. J. Appl Physiol., 65: 513–519 1992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Edwards, R.H.T. In: Biochemical Basis of Fatigue, edited by H.G Knuttgen. pp. 3–28.Champaign, II: Human Kinetics, 1983, pp. 3–28.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Fernstrom, J.D. and R.J. Wurtman. Control of the brain serotinin levels by diet. Adv. Biochem. Psychopharm., 11: 133 1990.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gibson, H., N. Carroll, J.E. Clague and R.H.T. Edwards. Exercise performance and fatiguability in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. J. Neurol. Neurosurg.Psych., 56: 993–998 1993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hassmen, P., E. Blomstrand, B. Ekblom and E.A. Newsholme. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation during 30-Km competitive run: mood and cognitive performance. Nutrition, 10: 1–5 1994.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Newsholme, E.A. Application of knowledge of metabolic integration to the problem of metabolic limitations in middle distance and marathon running. Acta Physiol. Scand. Suppl. 128:(556) 93 1986.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Newsholme, E.A., B. Crabtree and M.S.M. Ardawi. Glutamine metabolism in lymphocytes: its biochemical, physiological and clinical importance. Q. J. Exp. Physiol., 70: 473–489, 1985.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pardridge, W. M. Kinetics of competitive inhibition of neutral amino acid transport across the blood-brain barrier. J. Neurochem., 28: 103 1977.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Parry-Billings, M., R. Budgett, Y. Koutedakis, E. Blomstrand, S. Brooks, C. Williams, P. Calder, S. Pilling, R. Baigrie and E.A. Newsholme. Plasma amino acid concentrations in the overtraining syndrome: possible effects on the immune system. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 24: 1353–1358 1992.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Petruzzello, S. J., D. M. Landers, J. Pie and J. Billie. Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplements on exercise-related mood and performance (Abstract). Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 24: (Suppl), S2 1992.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Salmon, P. Nutrition, cognitive performance, and mental fatigue. Nutrition, 10: 427–428 1994.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Sharpe, M. et al. A report — chronic fatigue syndrome: guidelines for research. J. Roy. Soc. Med., 84: 118–121 1991.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wilson, W. M. and R. J. Maughan. Evidence for a possible role of 5-hydroxytryptamine in the genesis of fatigue in man: administration of paroxetine, a 5-HT re-uptake inhibitor, reduces the capacity to perform prolonged exercise. Exp. Physiol., 77: 921 1992.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Yamamoto, T., L. M. Castell, J. Botella, A. Young, H. Powell, G.M. Hall and E.A. Newsholme. Alterations in the plasma concentrations of tryptophan and albumin may contribute to post-operative fatigue. Brain Res Bull. (In press).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. A. Newsholme
    • 1
  • L. M. Castell
    • 1
  1. 1.Cellular Nutrition Research Group Department of BiochemistryUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations