Supplementation of L-carnitine in athletes: does it make sense?

Nutrition. 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):709-15. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.003.


Studies in athletes have shown that carnitine supplementation may foster exercise performance. As reported in the majority of studies, an increase in maximal oxygen consumption and a lowering of the respiratory quotient indicate that dietary carnitine has the potential to stimulate lipid metabolism. Treatment with L-carnitine also has been shown to induce a significant postexercise decrease in plasma lactate, which is formed and used continuously under fully aerobic conditions. Data from preliminary studies have indicated that L-carnitine supplementation can attenuate the deleterious effects of hypoxic training and speed up recovery from exercise stress. Recent data have indicated that L-carnitine plays a decisive role in the prevention of cellular damage and favorably affects recovery from exercise stress. Uptake of L-carnitine by blood cells may induce at least three mechanisms: 1) stimulation of hematopoiesis, 2) a dose-dependent inhibition of collagen-induced platelet aggregation, and 3) the prevention of programmed cell death in immune cells. As recently shown, carnitine has direct effects in regulation of gene expression (i.e., carnitine-acyltransferases) and may also exert effects via modulating intracellular fatty acid concentration. Thus there is evidence for a beneficial effect of L-carnitine supplementation in training, competition, and recovery from strenuous exercise and in regenerative athletics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carnitine / administration & dosage*
  • Coenzyme A / metabolism
  • Collagen / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Hematopoiesis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Platelet Aggregation / drug effects
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Weight Loss


  • Lactic Acid
  • Collagen
  • Carnitine
  • Coenzyme A