Carnitine and aerobic exercise: the reasons it is beneficial for runners

Running, walking, and cycling are considered aerobic exercise, meaning they rely on endurance and cellular energy metabolism through sufficient oxygen supply and consumption. The body’s major muscles engage in a rhythmic pattern over an extended duration, resulting in heightened oxygen consumption by the body. To meet the increased demand, the latter raises both the breathing and heart rates.
Muscle metabolism plays a pivotal role in this type of activity; supplementing with carnitine is recommended as a means of supporting it.
Carnitine is an amino acid derivative and a naturally occurring cell component. It can be found in skeletal muscle, the heart, and kidneys, and is synthesized within the body by the liver and the kidneys themselves. It is also supplied nutritionally, primarily through animal products, particularly red meat. Furthermore, it is now a common ingredient in numerous supplements aimed at athletes.

Why supplement with carnitine?

The benefits of carnitine supplementation in physical exercise, specifically in endurance sports, running, and intense aerobic training in general, lie in the fact that as an ergogenic aid, it effectively combats tiredness, muscle mass reduction, as well as physical and mental fatigue.
Using it is valuable in improving endurance and thus performance, facilitating muscle recovery in activities such as running, for example. Moreover, carnitine mitigates the oxidative stress incurred as a result of strenuous physical exercise.

Energy metabolism: the purpose of carnitine

An increase in carnitine concentration in the muscle can support the delivery and use of fatty acids, which are primarily destined for muscle tissue cells. By enabling the transportation of long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria, membrane-bound organelles within cells, this substance enables the production of energy essential for cellular processes and muscle metabolism.
This energy is stored and released via a molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It is not by chance that the human body stores carnitine where it is most needed, namely within skeletal muscle and the myocardium (the heart muscles).
Furthermore, carnitine can aid in the detoxification of mitochondria from waste deriving from the oxidation process.
It also seems to have the capability to reduce lactic acid buildup and lessen muscle tissue damage resulting from a reduction in oxygen supply.

Carnitine, arginine, magnesium, and potassium

However, it is imperative to remember that proper nutritional supplementation must be complete, especially in the context of endurance sports and muscle recovery. Indeed, besides carnitine, there are other fundamental micronutrients that can be found alongside it in commercial supplements aimed at athletes that engage in aerobic endurance training.
Arginine, along with magnesium and potassium, plays a crucial role in enhancing muscle tissue performance and energy metabolism.
Arginine is an essential amino acid in the production of proteins such as collagen, and contributes to the detoxification of nitrogen waste originating in protein metabolism, as well as serving as a powerful antioxidant and immunomodulator.
It plays a key role in the recovery phase, as it elevates blood flow to the muscles. Conversely, magnesium and potassium, which are involved in various enzymatic reactions that form the basis of energy systems, contribute to optimal muscle and nervous system function, including cardiac function.

Supplements are not enough...

It is however important to underscore that when considering nutrient supplementation, including substances like carnitine, arginine, magnesium, and potassium, despite the indisputable evidence of their positive impact on athletic performance, particularly in muscle recovery in endurance sports, running and cycling specifically, the actual effect need always be considered on an individual basis.
Of course, athletic performance, after all, is a combination of several factors, of which nutrition is only one.
Supplementation alone, while important, does not suffice for an immediate and quantifiable improvement. It is therefore fundamental for individuals to give due consideration to their training styles, as well as particular psychological factors, and to embrace a healthy lifestyle and habits overall.
On the other hand, magnesium and potassium are essential elements in multiple enzymatic reactions that form the basis of energy systems, thereby promoting optimal muscle and nervous system function, including cardiac function.