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Effect of exercise on amino acid concentrations in skeletal muscle and plasma
J. Henriksson


Protein is not normally an important energy fuel for exercising muscle. In spite of this, there is a significant increase in the rate of amino acid catabolism during exercise. This is secondary to the exercise-induced increase in several metabolic processes, such as hepatic gluconeogenesis and the citric acid cycle, where amino acid carbon is utilized. The suppression of protein synthesis during an exercise bout leaves amino acids available for catabolism. There is some evidence that basal amino acid concentrations in plasma and muscle may be higher in trained than in untrained individuals. In the rat, the concentration of free amino acids is higher in slow-twitch than in fast-twitch muscles. With short-term exercise, the transamination of glutamate by alanine aminotransferase leads to increased levels of alanine in muscle and plasma, and an increased release of alanine from the muscle. At the same time, the muscle and plasma glutamate concentrations are markedly decreased. The plasma glutamine level is elevated with short-term exercise, but changes in muscle glutamine concentration are more variable. With prolonged exercise, there is a depletion of the plasma amino acid pool, which may be explained by an increased consumption in organs other than muscle. With the exception of alanine, we found, however, that the muscle levels of free amino acids are kept stable throughout a 3.5-h exercise period. There is a significant activation of branched-chain amino acid metabolism with prolonged exercise, and the current data indicate that this is more pronounced in endurance-trained subjects than in untrained controls.