The effects of L-carnitine on the pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) complex and carnitine palmitoyl transferase (CPT) were studied in muscle of 16 long-distance runners (LDR). These subjects received placebo or L-carnitine (2 g orally) during a 4-week period of training. Athletes receiving L-carnitine showed a dramatic increase (P < 0.001) in the PDH complex activities. By contrast, the levels of CPT, both 1 and 2, were unchanged. No significant changes were observed after placebo administration. We previously reported [Huertas R. et al., Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 188 (1992) 102-107] that L-carnitine induces an increase in the activities of complexes I, III and IV of the respiratory chain in muscle of LDR. Taken together, our data suggest that the improvement in (maximal oxygen consumption) VO2max observed in LDR after L-carnitine administration is based on these biochemical findings.