Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Acute L-Carnitine Tartrate Supplementation Boosts VO2-Max, Fat Oxidation & Endurance in Elite Wrestlers

The VO2-max boosting effects of l-carnitine tartrate can be beneficial for almost every athlete.
After being the hype supplement in the 1990s, carnitine eventually sank into obscurity; and while the revelation that l-carnitine tartrate may increase the androgen receptor density is the main reason it can still be found in various T-boosters and pre-workout supplements, people appear to have forgotten that the original idea of carnitine supplementation was to increase the effectivity of the carnitine shuttle and thus to increase the oxidation of fatty acids.

As a recent study from the Shahid Chamran University in Iran shows, this could be a mistake. After all, Mostafa Dehghani and his colleagues were able to show that "supplementation of L-carnitine improved effectively the performance by increasing in [sic!] lipid metabolism" (Dehgani. 2015).
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But how did the researchers come to this conclusion and are the results relevant for you and me? Well, the first good news is that we are talking about a randomized controlled clinical human study, in which the subjects were not training noobs, but elite wrestlers.

The twenty healthy elite male wrestlers with a mean age of 22.05 ± 2.6 years, mean weight of 77.10 ± 11.65 kg, mean height of 1.79 ± 0.06 m, and mean body mass index of 23.79 ± 2.45 kg/m2 who participated in this single-blind clinical trial were randomly divided into two groups including test and placebo.
  • The test group received 3 g of L-carnitine tartrate in 200 ml water and 6 drops of lemon juice.
  • The placebo group consumed only 200 ml water and 6 drops of lemon juice.
Both, the active and placebo treatments were administered 90 minutes before performing the so-called Conconi Test for anaerobic and aerobic threshold, a test of lactate threshold using only heart rate (learn more). Blood samples were collected from brachial veins 90 minutes before the activity, immediately after the activity, and 30 minutes after rest and their serum lipids were measured. The results were analyzed using SPSS-16.
Figure 1: The carnitine supplement led to significant increases in VO2 max (fatty acid oxidation) and the maximal distance the subjects were able to cover in the Concoi test (Dehgani. 2015).
Speaking of results: As the previously quoted conclusion already gave away, 3g of l-carnitine tartrate lead to significant improvements in distance run performance. An effect that was probably at least partly mediated by a significant elevations of the the lipid metabolism and VO2 max.
Immediately after the workout there were transient changes in blood lipids that are surprising, but probably not (health-)relevant (Dehgani. 2015).
Overall, the study at hand does therefore appear to confirm the usefulness of l-carnitine tartrate supplementation in athletes. In that, it's very important that the subjects were highly trained wrestlers and not regular couch potatoes, because the former exhibit training-related improvements in the efficacy of the carnitine shuttle, anyway.

What remains to be seen, though, is whether the effects will still be visible after weeks of supplementation. You, as a SuppVersity reader, should know that acute supplement studies can be deceiving. Therefore, it would be great if we had a 6-week study that compared the performance increases in response to standardized training regimens with and without carnitine supplementation | Comment on Facebook!
  • Dehghani, Mostafa, et al. "Effects of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate Acute Consumption on Lipid Metabolism, Maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max), and distance run Following Aerobic Exhaustive Exercise on Treadmill in Elite Athletes wrestling." The AYER 2 (2015): 189-105.