Objective: To evaluate the effect of L-carnitine supplementation on improving endurance exercise in normobaric/normoxic and hypobaric/hypoxic environments.
Methods: Six-week-endurance-trained male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 24) were randomly divided into 2 groups: control and experimental; the latter group was supplemented with L-carnitine, administered orally in a dose of 100 mg x kg(-1) body weight. The animals were supplemented for 25 days under ambient normobaric/normoxic conditions and thereafter were exposed to 72 hours of hypobaric hypoxia equivalent to 6100 m. The supplementation was continued during the exposure. "Run to exhaustion" was recorded on day 1 (R1) (presupplementation) and on days 7 (R2), 14 (R3), 21 (R4), and 28 (R5, which followed the last 72 hours of hypoxic exposure) of supplementation. Food intake, body weight, and the biochemical measures of plasma glucose, total cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol were recorded.
Results: There was a significant improvement in endurance exercise, as indicated by an increase in run to exhaustion following L-carnitine supplementation under normobaric normoxia (36%-39%) and hypobaric hypoxia (50%). L-carnitine supplementation had no effect on plasma glucose levels either at sea level or after hypoxic exposure. Total cholesterol was decreased in normoxic and HDL cholesterol was increased in normoxic and hypoxic conditions, indicating a beneficial effect of exercise.
Conclusion: L-carnitine supplementation improved exercise endurance in rats exposed to normobaric normoxic and hypobaric hypoxic conditions. Such supplementation would be beneficial in delaying the onset of fatigue during prolonged exercise in both conditions, indicating its potentially beneficial use at high altitude.