Supplemental carnitine and exercise

Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Aug;72(2 Suppl):618S-23S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/72.2.618S.


Carnitine is an endogenous compound with well-established roles in intermediary metabolism. An obligate for optimal mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation, it is a critical source of energy and also protects the cell from acyl-CoA accretion through the generation of acylcarnitines. Carnitine homeostasis is affected by exercise in a well-defined manner because of the interaction of the carnitine-acylcarnitine pool with key metabolic pathways. Carnitine supplementation has been hypothesized to improve exercise performance in healthy humans through various mechanisms, including enhanced muscle fatty acid oxidation, altered glucose homeostasis, enhanced acylcarnitine production, modification of training responses, and altered muscle fatigue resistance. Available experimental clinical studies designed to assess the effect of carnitine on exercise metabolism or performance in healthy humans do not permit definitive conclusions to be drawn. In the aggregate, however, these studies suggest that carnitine supplementation does not improve maximal oxygen uptake or metabolic status during exercise in healthy humans. Carnitine administration for </=1 mo in humans increases plasma carnitine concentrations but does not increase muscle carnitine content. Additional clinical trials integrating physiologic, biochemical, and pharmacologic assessments are needed to definitively clarify any effects of carnitine on exercise performance in healthy persons.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carnitine / administration & dosage
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives
  • Carnitine / biosynthesis
  • Carnitine / metabolism*
  • Carnitine / physiology
  • Carnitine / urine
  • Coenzyme A / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements / standards*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology


  • Fatty Acids
  • acylcarnitine
  • Carnitine
  • Coenzyme A