Scientific research to sports supplement in time to boost training

PA 70/12

When new evidence published last year in the Journal of Physiology revealed the dramatic benefits of taking L-carnitine and carbohydrate in combination with exercise, researchers at The University of Nottingham did not stop there.

They created a supplement for elite athletes, a nimble spin-out company to arrange manufacture and marketing, and began talking to UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport, and leading coaches and sports nutritionists to make it available to start contributing to athletes’ training and performance.

New research showed this particular combination of L-carnitine and carbohydrate alters muscle fuel use, improves exercise performance and recovery time, and reduces lactic-acid build-up. The result — NutraMET Sport — is now available for serious athletes to use and could change sports nutrition.

A science-based business

This University of Nottingham spin-out business is entirely science-based. All claims are underpinned by proper, peer-reviewed evidence from Nottingham’s world-leading Metabolic Physiology Research Group. The technology required to increase muscle carnitine is subject to a University patent. This contrasts starkly with other parts of the sports nutrition industry that are notorious for marketing false and misleading claims about nutritional products.

L-carnitine is critical to energy metabolism. For over 10 years, researchers at Nottingham have investigated and progressively explained carnitine function in muscle. It shuttles long-chain fatty acids into cells’ mitochondria where they are broken down for energy generation; and it maintains muscle carbohydrate oxidation during intense exercise.

Studies performed in Nottingham and elsewhere showed human muscle does not respond to dietary L-carnitine supplements alone — the vast majority is excreted without providing benefit. The team at Nottingham found a way to get L-carnitine into muscle as a dietary supplement and demonstrated how this positively impacts upon muscle metabolism and performance during exercise.

They monitored its effects over time during exercise and training and reported that it provides measurable performance benefits across sports involving moderate to high intensity exercise. Muscle total carnitine (TC) increased by 21 per cent after six months supplementation. It was unchanged in the control group.

Taking the supplement for 24 weeks reduced muscle glycogen use during low intensity exercise and lowered muscle lactate accumulation dramatically during more intense exercise. Collectively these effects resulted in a 10 per cent improvement in work output during a 30-minute validated time trial.

For moderate intensity exercise, athletes consuming the NutraMET SPORT formula showed 55 per cent less muscle glycogen utilisation than those fed with carbohydrate alone. During high intensity exercise NutraMET SPORT lowered muscle lactic acid accumulation by 44 per cent compared to the control group.

A supplement for athletes

Professor Paul Greenhaff , Professor of Muscle Metabolism at Nottingham, lead author of the research published in the Journal of Physiology (589.4 (2011) pp 963-973) , and co-owner with the University of NutraMET , said: “This was the first study in healthy humans showing that muscle L-carnitine content can be influenced by dietary means, and that L-carnitine plays a dual role in skeletal muscle fuel metabolism during exercise that is dependent on exercise intensity.”

“When we realised the significance of these results we started to formulate a powdered version of the supplement that could be incorporated easily into athletes’ diets and training regimes.”

George Clouston, Managing Director of NutraMET Ltd, said: “We created a company which outsources production to excellent manufacturing facilities, so we’ve been able to get the product very quickly to market. The supplement we produce is now being used by some top athletes.”

NutraMET Sport is supplied as a ready-to-mix powder in cartons of 14 individual serving sachets. That’s equivalent to one week’s supply. This format ensures athletes obtain the correct serving size.

“Our sachets are easy to carry about and also provide the highest level of tamper evidence,” Mr Clouston said. “Each individual manufactured batch of NutraMET Sport is tested for contaminants and will not be supplied to any athletes until certified by an independent laboratory.”

The team is concentrating now on speaking to top UK coaches and nutritionists so that they’re aware of this new approach to boosting muscle carnitine. It wants the benefits shown across individual and team sports, as well as many different disciplines, to help UK athletes improve their performance.