The primary goal was to investigate the effects of l-carnitine on fuel efficiency, as an antioxidant, and for muscle recovery in Labrador retrievers. Dogs were split into two groups, with one group being supplemented with 250 mg/d of Carniking™ l-carnitine powder. Two experiments (Expt 1 and Expt 2) were performed over a 2-year period which included running programmes, activity monitoring, body composition scans and evaluation of recovery using biomarkers. Each experiment differed slightly in dog number and design: fifty-six v. forty dogs; one endurance and two sprint runs per week v. two endurance runs; and differing blood collection time points. All dogs were fed a low-carnitine diet in which a fixed amount was offered based on maintaining the minimum starting weight. Results from Expt 1 found that the carnitine dogs produced approximately 4000 more activity points per km compared with the control group during sprint (P = 0·052) and endurance runs (P = 0·0001). Male carnitine dogs produced half the creatine phosphokinase (CPK) following exercise compared with male control dogs (P = 0·05). Carnitine dogs had lower myoglobin at 6·69 ng/ml following intensive exercise compared with controls at 24·02 ng/ml (P = 0·0295). Total antioxidant capacity (TAC) and thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS) results were not considered significant. In Expt 2, body composition scans indicated that the carnitine group gained more total tissue mass while controls lost tissue mass (P = 0·0006) and also gained lean mass while the control group lost lean mass (P < 0·0001). Carnitine dogs had lower CPK secretion at 23·06 v. control at 28·37 mU/ml 24 h after post-run (P = 0·003). Myoglobin levels were lower in carnitine v. control dogs both 1 h post-run (P = 0·0157; 23·83 v. 37·91 ng/ml) and 24 h post-run (P = 0·0189; 6·25 v.13·5 ng/ml). TAC indicated more antioxidant activity in carnitine dogs at 0·16 mm v. control at 0·13 mm (P = 0·0496). TBARS were also significantly lower in carnitine dogs both pre-run (P = 0·0013; 15·36 v. 23·42 µm) and 1 h post-run (P = 0·056; 16·45 v. 20·65 µm). Supplementing l-carnitine in the form of Carniking™ had positive benefits in Labrador retrievers for activity intensity, body composition, muscle recovery and oxidative capacity.
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