What is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is an amino acid (a building block for proteins) that is naturally produced in the body.
It is synthesized in the body from the amino acids lysine and methionine.
L-carnitine helps the body produce energy. It is important for heart and brain function, muscle movement, and many other body processes.
L-carnitine supplements are used to increase L-carnitine levels in people whose natural level of L-carnitine is too low because they have a genetic disorder, are taking certain drugs (valproic acid for seizures), or because they are undergoing a medical procedure (hemodialysis for kidney disease) that uses up the body’s L-carnitine. It is also used as a replacement supplement in strict vegetarians, dieters, and low-weight or premature infants. Regardless of what your bodybuilding and fitness goals are, losing fat or gaining muscle, your chances of success will increase greatly if you have l-carnitine in your supplement arsenal.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that l-carnitine can have on your goals and your health.
1. Fat Loss
If you are looking to get lean, then this is the amino acid you need. L-carnitine transfers long-chain fatty acids, such as triglycerides into mitochondria, where they may be oxidized to produce energy. Carnitine has also been shown to reduce fatigue and serve as an appetite suppressant as well. Therefore, l-carnitine would be a major asset to have in your arsenal when you are dieting. It not only will help keep your body from storing fat, but it will increase your aerobic capacity to help you burn more calories.
2. Muscle Mass
L-carnitine is also a great weapon for hardgainers looking to pack on muscle. Supplementing with l-carnitine can help you increase your strength and heavier weights mean bigger muscles in the long run.
3. Bone Mass
Aging bone loss is a major concern of many senior citizens and post-menopausal women. Of course this can lead to increased chances of fractures, osteoporosis, and arthritis among other bone diseases. Fortunately, by taking l-carnitine, you can slow down the bone loss process and improve bone micro structural properties by decreasing bone turnover.
4. Heart Conditions
Carnitine is primarily used for heart-related conditions. Several clinical trials show that L-carnitine can be used along with conventional treatment for angina to reduce the needs for medicine and improve the ability of those with angina to exercise without chest pain or discomfort. Some studies have determined that taking l-carnitine after a heart attack decreases the chances of suffering another one later. Carnitine has actually been given to help treat people with heart disease.
5. Kidney Treatment
Your kidneys produce carnitine so naturally when people have been diagnosed or may have kidney disease, carnitine is recommended to help make up for the deficiency of carnitine that your kidneys aren’t producing.
6. Male Infertility
For those men that have been trying to have children and have low sperm counts, carnitine has been suggested and shown to help improve both sperm count and quality sperm.
7. Women Who Breast Feed
New mothers who choose to breast feed normally do so in part because of the number of calories it burns, but one side effect is it lowers your body’s amount of carnitine. Even though you are sufficient in it while you are pregnant, taking extra carnitine can help prevent your body from being deficient. Combining both the breast feeding and the carnitine means that new moms will lose that baby weight faster.
8. Type II Diabetes
People that have Type II diabetes can also benefit from carnitine supplementation. Taking L-carnitine helps diabetics by increasing glucose oxidation, glucose storage, as well as glucose uptake.
9. Immune System
L-carnitine serves as an antioxidant that can help prevent damage done to your healthy cells by free radicals. This can help you out when you have a cold or are dealing with various seasonal allergies and training.
10. Brain Function
Seniors that can use something to help improve brain function has more than just gingko biloba to take. L-carnitine helps protect the brain from both age related and stress related damage to the brain which helps it function longer and better.
11. Antidote To Valproic Acid Poisoning
Although it may not be a bodybuilding issue, there are thousands of documented cases of valproic acid ingested every year. Despite not being able to serve as a total antidote on its own, taking l-carnitine is considered to help you if for some reason you do suffer from this dangerous poisoning.
What Is Valproic Acid?
Valproic acid (VPA) is a chemical compound that has found clinical use as an anticonvulsant and mood-stabilizing drug, primarily in the treatment of epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and, less commonly, major depression. It is also used to treat migraine headaches and schizophrenia. It is marketed under the brand names Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakene, Depacon, Depakine and Stavzor.
12. Athletic Performance
A potential benefit of carnitine is to improve performance in endurance sports, such as running, because carnitine plays a major role in deriving energy from fat and carbohydrates, according to the Linus Pauling Center. Most of the carnitine in your body is located in skeletal muscle, which is the muscle that moves your body during exercise. However, high-dose supplementation with carnitine does not appear to improve performance or delay fatigue in healthy athletes.
How Much Do I Take And How Can I Take It?
Generally, taking a range of two to four grams of l-carnitine a day is good for general health and to help you reach your fitness goals. L-carnitine does come in capsules, tablets, and liquid form. If you would rather try to take it through your food, there are many food sources that contain carnitine. Red meats and dairy products are your best choices for carnitine, but other great foods include nuts, seeds, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, garlic, mustard greens, okra, parsley, kale, apricots, bananas, bee pollen, brewer’s yeast, buckwheat, corn, oatmeal, rice bran, rye, and whole wheat.
The Study You Didn’t Hear About ///
The Cleveland Clinic study isn’t the only major carnitine study to come out recently. A brand new meta-analysis study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings analyzed 13 different studies on the effects of carnitine and cardiovascular disease. The researchers reported that carnitine is actually helpful for fighting against cardiovascular disease, not contributing to it. You read that right.
More specifically, they found that supplementing with carnitine reduced all-cause mortality by almost 30 percent, reduced heart arrhythmias by 65 percent, and reduced symptoms of angina by 40 percent. Additionally, they noted research showing that carnitine helps to prevent atherosclerosis, not lead to it.
It’s easy enough to explain how the Cleveland Clinic study got such big headlines. Once one prominent paper decided to run with the latest dose of doom and gloom, dozens of others seemingly had no choice. I’d be happy if the more positive study got the same level treatment, but I’m not holding my breath.
Moving Forward with Carnitine ///
If you’re taking carnitine now, feel safe to continue taking it for better endurance during workouts, greater muscle growth and strength gains, and improved fat loss. Based on the study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, it may also offer a host of other health benefits that include enhanced cardiovascular health.
Because L-carnitine requires insulin to be taken up into the muscle, I suggest that you take about 2-3 grams of either L-carnitine or L-carnitine L-tartrate (Carnipure), either with high carb meals or a protein shake. Good times for this are in the morning with your first meal, and with your pre- and post-workout meals.
Reference to above study:
DiNicolantonio, J. J., et al. L-Carnitine in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. In press, 2013.
Read more about l-carnitine improving heart conditions after a Heart Attack here.