Effects of carbohydrate feedings on plasma free tryptophan and branched-chain amino acids during prolonged cycling

J. Mark Davis, Stephen P. Bailey, Jeffrey A. Woods, Floyd J. Galiano, Marc T. Hamilton, William P. Bartoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) has been suggested to be involved in central fatigue during prolonged exercise. Changes in the ratio of plasma free tryptophan (free Trp) to branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are associated with altered brain 5-HT synthesis. The purposes of this study were to describe systematically the effects of prolonged exercise on changes in plasma free Trp and BCAA and to examine the effects of carbohydrate (CHO) feedings on these same variables. Eight well-trained men [ {Mathematical expression}max = 57.8 (SE 4.1) ml kg-1 min-1] cycled for up to 255 min at a power output corresponding to VO2 at lactate threshold (approximately 68%VO2max) on three occasions separated by at least 1 week. Subjects drank 5 ml kg-1 body wt-1 of either a water placebo, or a liquid beverage containing a moderate (6% CHO) or high (12% CHO) concentration of carbohydrate beginning at min 14 of exercise and every 30 min thereafter. Exercise time to fatigue was shorter in subjects receiving placebo [190 (SE 4) min] as compared to 6% CHO [235 (SE 10) min] and 12% CHO [234 (SE 9) min] (P<0.05). Glucose and insulin decreased in the placebo group, and free Trp, free-Trp/BCAA, and free fatty acids increased approximately five- to sevenfold (P < 0.05). These changes were attenuated in a dose-related manner by the carbohydrate drinks. Plasma free Trp and plasma free fatty acids were highly correlated (r=0.86, P<0.001). Plasma BCAA did not change in the placebo group, but decreased slightly in those receiving 6% CHO and 12% CHO (P<0.05). No differences in heart rate, {Mathematical expression}, plasma volume and respiratory exchange ratio were found. The results indicate that free Trp and free Trp/BCAA increase progressively during prolonged cycling to fatigue. This response was attenuated by CHO feedings. Changes in plasma free fatty acids probably play a prominent role in these responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-519
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Amino acids
  • Carbohydrate feedings
  • Fatigue
  • Free fatty acids
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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