What is L-Carnitine?
L-Carnitine is an amino acid derivative that the body can synthesize from lysine and methionine. It plays an important role in metabolism and supports energy production. Carnitine occurs as two stereoisomers, D-Carnitine and L-Carnitine. While these isomers are made up of the same compounds, they differ in how they orient those parts. D-Carnitine is toxic, but L-Carnitine has several beneficial properties.
Muscle tissues contain the vast majority of L-Carnitine (98%). Most food sources of L-Carnitine are animal-based. Red meat contains the highest amount of L-Carnitine. Four ounces of ground beef contains 87-99mg of L-Carnitine, and steak nets 56-162mg per a four-ounce serving. Codfish and chicken contain some L-Carnitine but in minimal amounts. A four-ounce serving of codfish contains 4-7mg, and the same serving of chicken breast contains 3-5mg of L-Carnitine.
Dairy products contain some carnitine, but it’s notably less than meat sources. One cup of whole milk provides 8mg of carnitine, and two ounces of cheddar cheese has a meager two ounces. While the body can synthesize L-Carnitine, vegans tend to have lower levels compared to individuals that consume omnivorous diets.
What are the Types of Carnitine?
L-Carnitine is the base biologically active form of carnitine. However, several other forms and derivatives exist:
D-Carnitine. D-carnitine interferes with the production, absorption, and activity of L-Carnitine.
L-Carnitine L-Tartrate. The L-Tartrate form is a common ingredient in preworkout supplements. The body absorbs it rapidly, and it may reduce muscle soreness while expediting exercise recovery.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR). As the name suggests, ALCAR is an acylated form of carnitine. It is particularly beneficial for cognitive health and function.
Propionyl-L-Carnitine. The propionyl form supports heart health, improves blood flow, and may enhance nitric oxide production.
L-Carnitine and Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)
L-Carnitine and ALA
work through similar mechanisms. Taken together, they enhance each other’s antioxidant properties and improve mitochondrial functioning.
Potential L-Carnitine Benefits
L-Carnitine’s main function in the body is to enhance mitochondrial function and subsequent energy production. Cells use L-Carnitine to deliver fatty acids to the mitochondria, which then burn the fatty acids for energy. L-Carnitine also improves mitochondrial efficacy, which supports overall health and healthy aging.
L-Carnitine supports healthy brain function by increasing the duration of antioxidant enzyme activity, such as Superoxide Dismutase. L-Carnitine may also enhance focus and attention.
L-Carnitine supports heart health by reducing inflammation. It also helps regulate blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and critical nerves for proper heart functioning.
L-Carnitine’s effects require a buildup period to experience changes in exercise performance, but it can help enhance fitness in several ways. L-Carnitine may:
- Increase oxygen levels for the muscles
- Enhance the production of red blood cells
- Improve recovery after exercise
- Reduce soreness after a workout
- Reduce muscle fatigue during exercise by boosting nitric oxide
Potential L-Carnitine Side Effects
Most individuals don’t experience side effects while taking L-Carnitine at the recommended dosages. Some might experience mild nausea or upset stomach.
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