You may have heard about l-carnitine if you are in the health and fitness industry, which is where it is most widely used and talked about for its performance enhancing effects and fat burning qualities. But let’s take a look at the science behind the hype to see if this really is a supplement worth its salt and if it actually works!
In this post we will take a much closer look at what are l-carnintine benefits and side effects to see if it’s a supplement that may be suitable for you and your own specific needs.
So, what exactly is L-Carnitine?
This ‘vitamin type’, non essential amino acid is related to the B-vitamin family and is used in the body for transporting dietary fat into the mitrochondria. These are organelles that act a bit like a digestive system by taking nutrients from the blood, breaking them down and creating energy.
L-carnitine is produced in the liver and kidneys by the other amino acids methionine and lysine, and is then stored in the muscles, heart, brain and sperm.
Food sources of L-Carnitine
This amino acid is mostly found in animal products – especially red meat (56-162mg per serving); but is also found at much lower levels in sources such as poultry, fish, seafood (3-7mg) and dairy products (3-8mg).
What About Vegan Diets?
L-Carnitine can be found in plant sources such as tempeh, avocados and peanuts, but unfortunately not at very high levels. However, the good news is that this doesn’t seem to make a difference as l-carnitine deficiency is rare, even in strict vegans.
This is because the body can produce its own l-carnitine in the liver and kidneys from the other amino acids methionine and lysine. All of which are abundant in plant foods such as nuts, seeds, lentils, wholegrains, tempeh, quinoa, seitan, black beans and soya milk, of which vegans eat a LOT. Therefore, deficiency is usually only found in those who have kidney and liver function problems, both of which can prevent you from producing your own adequate supply.
The Science Behind L-Carnitine
Commonly used in the fitness industry for its ability to stimulate the release of growth hormone and help reduce body fat, l-carnitine transports fatty acids into cells where they can be oxidised and used for fuel. This cellular reaction happens both when you are at rest, and during exercise itself. It is however, most effective whilst you are engaging in very intense exercise.
Without this amino acid it is very hard for fats to be burned as fuel, which is ultimately what most exercisers and body builders are trying to achieve.
1. FAT BURNING
A study from the University of Nottingham confirmed that when the athletes in their trial consumed 2g of l-cartinine along with 80g of high G.I. carbohydrate, both as soon as they wake up before breakfast, then again 4 hours later for a period of 24 weeks, they burned 55% less glycogen from muscles whilst at the same time increasing ability to burn fat by 55%.
This means l-carnitine is a supplement that could actually help the body to burn fat more efficiently, and as it also has the ability to help your body burn less glycogen it means you will have more stamina to train for longer; hence the reason why you will burn more fat and build more muscle.
3. LESS FATIGUE
L- carnitine can play a role in keeping aiding you to train harder and for longer periods, which will ultimately lead to better results and higher fitness levels. This study on a group of professional soccer players found that supplementation with this particular amino acid helped them to play for longer and lowered their time to exhaustion.
This suggests that l-carnitine could be a potentially good supplement to try if you are an endurance athlete, or long distance cycling, swimming or running.
2. WEIGHT LOSS
Another 9 studies which were conducted in randomised trials on a group of mostly obese and older patients, found that l-carnitine supplementation resulted in a weight loss of an extra 1.33kg and a decrease of BMI (body mass index) of 0.07 kg compared to the placebo group. Other studies have not had the same results, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag as to whether you should seriously consider l-carnitine as a weight loss supplement.
What is interesting though, is the fact that the trials that seem more effective seem to be on the already obese and older groups, making it more likely to be effective if you fall into these ranges.
4. LESS SORENESS AND FASTER RECOVERY PERIOD
L-carnitine has been shown to significantly reduce damage done to the muscles during exercise when taken at doses of 1-2 grams per day. It also decreases the muscle soreness you can feel for days after a hard workout which can ultimately lead to you missing sessions or not putting your all in when you need to due to pain.
Another great way to help alleviate muscle soreness and fatigue and fasten up recovery time is to eat a much more whole food plant derived diet, as this will lower chronic inflammation in the body and fasten up recovery time. One thing I have noticed more than anything since eating this way myself is much less muscle soreness, aches and pains after exercise.
L-carnitine will also give you that extra edge during your training sessions by increasing blood flow and delivering more nutrients to the muscles when you need it most.
5. MORE TESTOSTERONE
Another great (for males) side effect of l-carnitine is higher testosterone levels, which in turn can boost muscle growth and strength. It’s all due to the fact that it increases androgen receptors and boosts your hormonal response to exercise.
Don’t worry, you can still take this supplement if you’re a woman without worrying about turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the effects will be subtle and the muscles will be more toned rather than bulky. And if you’re a woman who would like to get bigger and more muscly then that’s awesome as l- carnitine can help you achieve this, alongside other amino acid supplements and a high protein diet.
6. ANTI AGING
Yes, you heard me right! L-carnitine boosts brain cells and helps to keep your brain young. Its powerful antioxidant effects can help to slow down the aging process, keeping the brain and heart youthful and firing on all cylinders, thus lowering your risk of age related degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
And this slowing down of the aging process does not just mean on the inside, but the outside too. Enhance these effects will a diet filled with other anti aging antioxidants for best results.
Dosage, when and how to take L-Carnitine
Depending on your weight, size and fitness regime you should take between 500 and 3,000 mg per day (that’s equivalent to 0.5-3 grams). The best time to take this supplement is with a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein. This also applies to some of the other forms available, such as propionyl-l-carnitine and l-carnintine l- tartrate.
On the other hand, the form of l-carnitine called acetyl-l-carnitine is more readily absorbed by the muscles, brain and intestines when taken alone without food. This type of l-carnitine works well when taken along with other healthy fat burners such as green tea, healthy green superfoods, or these other awesome metabolism boosting foods.
Best form of L-Carnitine to take
Acetyl-l-carnitine (the most common type used in the fitness industry) is more readily absorbed by the muscles, brain and intestines. This type is able to cross the blood-brain barrier for the synthesis of acetylcholine (one of the brains primary neurotransmitters) and should be taken alone without food.
It is also good for the support of the cardiovascular and nervous system, memory and brain power. This form of carnitine also helps you to burn fat for fuel just like regular l-carnitine, but is actually primarily used for its other effects.
Straight up L-Carnitine
This form (which is another popular form in the fitness world) supports weight loss and boosts the body’s ability to burn fat for fuel by mobilising fat from storage to be burnt as energy. This form should be taken with a high protein, high carbohydrate meal or high protein shake, preferably after a workout.
It’s worth noting that there are other primarily brain boosting forms of carnitine, such as Propionyl-l-carnitine and l-carnitine l-tartrate, and these should also be taken alongside food.
Can I take both forms?
The short answer to this is yes, you can take both for extra fat burning power, but as explained previously they should be taken at different times. You don’t necessarily need to take both though, you could just go with the acetyl-l-carnitine which will give you the best of both worlds.
Take this first thing before breakfast along with your green tea, coffee or any of these other metabolism boosting drinks to boost brain power and cognitive function for the day; plus reap the fat burning and anti aging benefits as well.
Just to be clear, acetyl-l-carnitine is sometimes marketed as N-Acetyl Carnitine (abreviation NAC) which are both exactly the same thing, just with different names.
Possible Side Effects
If the dosage is correct for you and kept within the recommendations, then there are very few side effects to l-carnitine supplementation, making this a mostly safe and popular supplement. Be sure to take your time to buy from trusted l-carnitine brands ONLY, so you are absolutely sure what you are getting, and look for highly recommended products with good customer reviews.
Side effects, when they do occur, include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea, but this only usually happens when taken at too high a dosage. More serious side effects can include elevated heart rate, high blood pressure and fever, in which case the supplements should be stopped immediately and medical advice sought.
Thank you for reading this article from zestforever. Please remember that supplements are not intended to treat or cure medical diseases and you should always consult your doctor before using them for this purpose. Comments are welcomed below, and I will to get back to you as soon as I can.