Given its pivotal role in fatty acid oxidation and energy metabolism, l-carnitine has been investigated as ergogenic aid for enhancing exercise capacity in the healthy athletic population. Early research indicates its beneficial effects on acute physical performance, such as increased maximum oxygen consumption and higher power output. Later studies point to the positive impact of dietary supplementation with l-carnitine on the recovery process after exercise. It is demonstrated that l-carnitine alleviates muscle injury and reduces markers of cellular damage and free radical formation accompanied by attenuation of muscle soreness. The supplementation-based increase in serum and muscle l-carnitine contents is suggested to enhance blood flow and oxygen supply to the muscle tissue via improved endothelial function thereby reducing hypoxia-induced cellular and biochemical disruptions. Studies in older adults further showed that l-carnitine intake can lead to increased muscle mass accompanied by a decrease in body weight and reduced physical and mental fatigue. Based on current animal studies, a role of l-carnitine in the prevention of age-associated muscle protein degradation and regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis is suggested.
Keywords: ">l-carnitine; aging; exercise recovery; muscle metabolism; physical performance.