Résumé : An increase in myofibrillar protein accretion can occur in the very early post-exercise period and can be potentiated by dietary protein intakes. The positive effect of nutrition on net muscle protein balance is credited to essential amino acids (EAAs), and particularly to the branched-chain amino acid leucine. Thus, leucine plays a key role in feeding-induced muscle protein synthesis by its unique ability to activate signalling pathways modulating translational initiation (Dreyer et al., 2008). Furthermore, strength exercise induces important disturbances in protein turnover, especially in novice athletes, and unaccustomed physical exercise, particularly repeated eccentric muscle contractions, induces muscle soreness and alterations in muscle cellular structure. Still, muscle strength gains induced by resistance training are mainly attributed to neural adaptations in the initial part of training, and subsequently to changes in the force capacity of muscle fibres due to hypertrophy (Duchateau et al., 2006; Sale, 1988). Since acute post-exercise muscle protein accretion does not inform on chronic muscle adaptations, the main purpose of this work is to test the effectiveness of an EAA supplementation on muscle hypertrophy and strength gains in response to resistance training, and on repair-oriented remodelling of disrupted muscle fibres in the early recovery period of an unaccustomed exercise. The first investigations aim at evaluating the effects of an EAA supplementation on muscle mass, architecture, and strength in the early stages of a heavy-load training programme, and at establishing if the enrichment of the supplement with leucine induces greater improvements in these muscle functional adaptations. In a second part, central and peripheral adaptations are examined following training to compare whether EAA supplementation modifies the relative contribution of neural and muscular factors to the increase in muscle torque, and promotes adaptations in muscle mechanical and contractile properties. The purpose of the third investigation is to study the potential effects of an EAA supplementation on the reduction in the efflux of indirect markers of muscle damage and the delayed onset muscle soreness in the week following a heavy-load eccentric training session.In the first and in the second investigation, young males trained for 12 weeks. They were divided into a placebo (PLA) group (n = 14), an EAA group (n = 15) and a leucine (LEU) group (n = 14). At baseline, daily food intakes and nitrogenous balance were assessed with a food questionnaire over 7 days and two 24h urine collections. The effect of training on muscle mass was assessed by anthropometric techniques. Muscle thickness and pennation angle were recorded by ultrasonography of the medial gastrocnemius (MG). Maximal strength during squat and bench press exercises was tested on an isokinetic ergometer. The torque produced by the plantar flexors and the surface electromyogram (EMG) from the soleus (Sol) and MG were recorded during maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVC). Central activation was tested by the superimposed electrical stimulation method during MVC and by computing the ratio between voluntary average EMG and compound muscle action potential (M wave) induced by electrical stimulation (average EMG/M-wave). Contractile properties of the plantar flexor muscles were investigated by recording the mechanical responses to single and paired maximal stimuli. In the third investigation, young males performed a bench press exercise in eccentric condition. They were subdivided into a PLA group (n=11) and an EAA group (n=12). The effect of the training session was assessed by analysing two indirect markers of muscle damage, namely creatine kinase (CK) and myoglobin (Mb). Plasma concentrations were measured before, immediately after, and on post-workout days 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7. Muscle soreness was evaluated by a visual analogic scale (VAS) at the same time points as the markers of muscle damage.Resistance training resulted in significant increases in muscle mass and strength in all PLA, EAA and LEU groups with no statistical differences between groups. A positive linear regression was found between nitrogen balance and the increase in muscle mass in the PLA group only. When strength was normalised to skeletal muscle mass, negative linear regressions were observed between the normalised initial strength and the increase in muscle strength in both EAA and LEU groups. EAA and LEU ingestion induced changes in MG muscle architecture in response to training. After training, plantar flexor torque recorded during MVC was increased in PLA, EAA and LEU groups. Central activation level was enhanced with no effect of EAA supplementation. Twitch torque evoked by single and paired supramaximal stimuli, maximal rate of torque development to single stimulus and rate of torque relaxation to single and paired stimulus were significantly improved in the LEU group in response to training. The eccentric training session induced a significant increase in muscle soreness in both PLA and EAA groups. Plasma CK release increased significantly at D+3 and D+4 and Mb efflux rose at D+3 in PLA group only. No statistical differences were observed between groups for the two indirect markers of muscle damage. Gaussian distribution was found to be the best fit model for plasma Mb and CK concentration curves. F-test showed that individual curves were statistically distinguishable when comparing the best-fit values of the three parameters (area, SD and mean) between PLA and EAA group data sets (P < 0.01).In summary, the data indicates that EAA supplementation results in similar muscle mass and strength adaptations in response to resistance training with no additional effect by the enrichment of the supplement with LEU. However, the nutritional interventions appear to be more effective in subject having a lower initial nitrogen balance and/or a lower initial strength, potentially by promoting changes in muscle architecture. EAA ingestion does not potentiate neural adaptations, but leucine-enriched EAA supplementation may induce earlier peripheral adaptations, resulting in enhanced torque production and transmission. Finally, EAA supplementation could have minor effects on the overall plasmatic release of indirect markers of muscle damage during the recovery period without any impact on delayed onset muscle soreness.