Carnitine was first found in animal meats in the early 1900s. Over the course of the 19th century it was researched more and more where it was found that L Carnitine existed across all animal and plant tissues. In the 1980s, L Carnitine was known as a popular supplement with numerous books being written all about it. It continues to be widely used today, but its benefits are not as well known as they should be.
So, what are the benefits of L Carnitine? The main benefits of L Carnitine supplements are weight loss, energy production and healthy brain function. Numerous studies have shown L Carnitine to be effective in weight loss, whereas another form of Carnitine, ALCAR is thought to be effective in promoting brain function.
Read on to learn more about Carnitine, its different forms and how consuming supplements can benefit the body.
What Does L Carnitine Do? What is it?
L Carnitine is a combination of 2 amino acids; Lysine and Methionine. Together they create a single compound. This compound is mostly stored in the muscles (around 95%), whilst the remainder is stored in the liver and blood.
As a supplement, L Carnitine is known for two primary benefits; fat loss and brain function. It works by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria cells. These cells act as engines, burning fats to create usable energy.
But, there are different forms of Carnitine. Be sure to take the correct supplement to receive your desired results.
What’s the Difference Between L Carnitine and ALCAR?
We don’t want this to turn into a chemistry lesson, but it is important to distinguish between the two main forms of Carnitine, namely L Carnitine and Acetyl-L Carnitine (abbreviated as ALCAR).
The different chemistry of carnitine means it has a different effect on the body and operates differently. In terms of function, these 2 mains forms can be distinguished:
- L Carnitine – known to be good for fat loss and exercise performance.
- ALCAR – known to be beneficial for brain and cognitive health.
Quite simply, ALCAR means that there is an acetyl group. This is where 2 carbons, 3 hydrogens and 1 oxygen have been thrown together onto Carnitine. Think of it as a Lego structure, you have 2 red bricks, 3 yellow bricks and 1 green added onto a central piece. It is this difference which changes the function of ALCAR.
Top L Carnitine Benefits
Most of the early research of Carnitine was done on energy production and fat loss with L Carnitine. There is a general consensus that it has a good effect on this. A good way to illustrate how L-carnitine works is to think of a power plant.
In your body, you have mitochondria in almost all of your cells. The mitochondria are the furnaces using fuel for energy but to produce energy you need fuel. L Carnitine is the vehicle which delivers fuel to the powerhouse.
More specifically, L Carnitine brings fatty acids to the mitochondria so that the mitochondria can use them for energy production. As such, it can be useful to consume this supplement quite early on in your fat loss journey.
For this same reason, it has been used to good effect for exercise performance. Particularly endurance exercise which is heavily reliant on fat as fuel for the muscular work performed. By getting fats to the mitochondria more effectively, the energy production is more efficient as a result.
We’ve already discovered that using L Carnitine is great in the early stages for fat loss and exercise performance. But in the long term, there are other great benefits for your brain health and support.
Our daily lives are more than ever characterised by stress, inflammation and toxins, which means the cells of our body can be damaged and poorly-functioning. Thus, we need to support our bodies. In the context of Carnitine, we provide support for our brains!
We know that L Carnitine is good for energy supply, and we know that brain tissue and performance can suffer from lack of energy resources. However, L Carnitine struggles to get into the brain unless it is in the form of Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR).
The brain has, in effect, a filter which means only certain substances in the blood can get through to the brain cells. This is a built-in protective system for the brain to prevent just anything getting in. ALCAR is able to pass this filter and exert a positive influence on the brain. In fact, ALCAR has several lines of decent research supporting its use for neurological health, whether that be with dementia, Alzheimer’s or cognitive decline in ageing.
Acetyl-L Carnitine has several influences in the brain which mean it is protective. As mentioned previously, energy supply is important for brain tissue and ALCAR is a great form of carnitine since it is actually able to get to the brain to supply energy.
ALCAR also has other ‘neuroprotective’ effects not just through energy supply. It is an antioxidant which helps to prevent free radicals (and toxins) from causing damage to brain cells. It also fortifies the mitochondria’s defences.
Neurotransmitters are like the brain’s accelerator and brake pedals. They send messages between the cells of the brain where they either speed up, slow down, or modulate activity of the brain. This can affect your focus, alertness and wakefulness.
Of the 7 major neurotransmitters, Acetylcholine was the first to be discovered and is the one which we will briefly look at here. Since Acetyl-L Carnitine is made up of an ‘acetyl’ group attached to carnitine, it is able to provide acetyl groups to make the acetyl-part of Acetylcholine. This is important for improving alertness, memory and focus.
Acetylcholine irregularities have been linked with Alzheimer’s, showing the importance of this neurotransmitter for brain function .
When to Take L Carnitine
It is best to take a direct concentrated form of Carnitine. Many supplements contain it but they also contain numerous other ingredients and so this can lessen the effectiveness.
In scientific literature, the doses vary from 0.5g to 4g. From whatever dose you start at, it would be a good idea to titrate up. For example, start at a moderate dose (e.g 1g per day) and build up depending on how you respond to it.
In terms of when to use it, it is probably most optimal to take earlier in the day and before exercise. This way, you get the benefits at the right time. For example:
- 1-2 caps in the morning
- 1-2 caps pre-training or at lunch
L Carnitine at Human Performance Hub
At Human Performance Hub, we offer three Carnitine specific supplements to help support weight loss and healthy brain function:
Carnitine Complex – a combination of L Carnitine and ALCAR
Acetyl-L Carnitine – purely ALCAR