Branched-chain amino acid supplementation during trekking at high altitude. The effects on loss of body mass, body composition, and muscle power.

Author

Schena F, Guerrini F, Tregnaghi P, Kayser B.

Date

1992

Journal

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol

Abstract

To investigate the influence of a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation on chronic hypoxia-related loss of body mass and muscle loss, 16 subjects [age 35.8 (SD 5.6) years] participating in a 21-day trek at a mean altitude of 3,255 (SD 458) m, were divided in two age-, sex- and fitness-matched groups and took either a dietary supplementation of BCAA (5.76, 2.88 and 2.88 g per day of leucine, isoleucine and valine, respectively) or a placebo (PLAC) in a controlled double-blind manner. Daily energy intake at altitude decreased by 4% in both groups compared with sea level. After altitude exposure both groups showed a significant loss of body mass, 1.7% and 2.8% for BCAA and PLAC, respectively. Fat mass had decreased significantly by 11.7% for BCAA and 10.3% for PLAC, whereas BCAA showed a significantly increased lean mass of 1.5%, as opposed to no change in PLAC. Arm muscle cross-sectional area tended to increase in BCAA, whereas there was a significant decrease of 6.8% in PLAC (P < 0.05 between groups). The same tendency, although not significant, was observed for the thigh muscle cross-sectional area. On the whole it seemed that PLAC had been catabolizing whereas BCAA had been synthesizing muscle tissue. Single jump height from a squatted position showed a similar tendency to increase in both groups. Lower limb maximal power decreased less in BCAA than in PLAC (2.4% vs 7.8%, P < 0.05). We concluded that BCAA supplementation may prevent muscle loss during chronic hypobaric hypoxia.