Brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) has been suggested to be involved in central fatigue during prolonged exercise. Changes in the ration 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 [VO2max = 57.8 (SE 4.1) ml kg-1 min-1] cycled for up to 255 min at a 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. Exercising 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 2, plasma volume and respiratory exchange ration 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.
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 65(6):513-519.