We examined the effect of glycogen availability and branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation on branched-chain oxoacid dehydrogenase (BCOAD) activity during exercise. Six subjects cycled at approximately 75% of their maximal oxygen uptake to exhaustion on three occasions under different preexercise conditions: 1) low muscle glycogen (LOW), 2) low muscle glycogen plus BCAA supplementation (LOW+BCAA), and 3) high muscle glycogen (CON). The LOW trial was performed first, followed by the other two conditions in random order, and biopsies for all trials were obtained at rest, after 15 min of exercise (15 min), and at the point of exhaustion during the LOW trial (49 min). BCOAD activity was not different among the three conditions at rest; however, at 15 min BCOAD activity was higher (P < or = 0.05) for the LOW (31 +/- 5%) and LOW+BCAA (43 +/- 11%) conditions compared with CON (12 +/- 1%). BCOAD activity at 49 min was not different from respective values at 15 min for any condition. These data indicate that BCOAD is rapidly activated during submaximal exercise under conditions associated with low carbohydrate availability. However, there was no relationship between BCOAD activity and glycogen concentration or net glycogenolysis, which suggests that factors other than glycogen availability are important for BCOAD regulation during exercise in humans.