Acetyl-l-carnitine has been proven to be a valuable weight loss aid, sports ergogenic, cognitive enhancement supplement – and it can also help reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms in some cases. (01)
Acetyl-l-carnitine can be synthesized within the body on its own accord by using l-carnitine, and vise verse.
In basic terms, acetyl-l-carnitine and l-carnitine work together to form one another. It’s almost like a seesaw effect. When one is regenerated, the other becomes a bi-product to then fuel the others regeneration.
The interesting thing about acetyl-l-carnitine (also known as ALCAR) is that it has the ability to pass the blood-brain barrier.
This means it’s able to get into the spinal cord, and straight into the brain in a very short time-frame. This is something that plain L-carnitine cannot do, hence the rise in popularity of acetyl-l-carnitine.
ALCAR has also been shown to help retain, and create more creatine phosphate stores while burning body-fat instead of muscle glycogen. Thus, helping both performance and also weight loss simultaneously. (02)
Acetyl-l-carnitine’s main role is to assist the body in creating more energy.
It does this by giving the mitochondria usable fatty acids.
Why is the mitochondria so important? Because it’s the ‘powerhouse‘ of energy production.
The mitochondria is known as ‘the powerhouse of energy production‘ for good reason – this is what provides us with energy throughout the whole body and mind – the more mitochondria we have, the more performance and energy we’ll see in return. (03)
What Is Acetyl-l-carnitine Good For?
PERFORMANCE: In short, acetyl-l-carnitine is able to take fatty acids and feed the mitochondria, allowing the body to hold onto energy stores such as glycogen for much longer – assisting in extended performance as fat is being used as the primary fuel source.
NOOTROPIC BENEFITS: Aside from enhanced sports performance that you receive from acetyl-l-carnitine, it also provides a powerful supply of ‘brain energy‘ to help create more focus and concentration. In a sense, it acts as a stimulant, but not the same as caffeine, it works on different levels which we’ll discuss throughout the article.
How Acetyl-l-carnitine Works In The Body
Quoting Wikipedia on; ‘how Acetyl-l-carnitine works in the body’:
“Acetylcarnitine is broken down in the blood by plasma esterases to carnitine which is used by the body to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria for breakdown.” (04)
For the body to produce energy via ATP, a process called the Kreb Cycle must take place.
“The Kreb Cycle is a series of chemical reactions used by all aerobic organisms to release stored energy of acetyl-CoA derived from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into adenosine triphosphate (ATP)”. (05)
Acetyl-CoA, when attached to carnitine then has the ability to create Coenzyme A.
Coenzyme A is an important foundational element that helps the ‘energy production cycle’ happen.
Basically, without Acetyl-l-carnitine the body wouldn’t be able to process the Kreb Cycle – the cycle and regeneration of energy production.
Acetyl-l-carnitine for Weight Loss
One of acetyl-l-carnitine’s main roles is to help the body shuttle fat to be used as energy, making it a popular (and viable) weight loss aid for the overweight.
So, if you’re looking to cut some extra weight, then, by adding acetyl-l-carnitine into your diet, while training, could be a viable option to help you achieve lower body fat percentages.
Not only that, acetyl-l-carnitine can also help your body use carbohydrates more efficiently depending on what exercise state you are in. For example: when you are working out for longer durations, acetyl-l-carnitine allows your body to use more fat for fuel, holding onto precious glucose for extended exercise duration.
On the other hand, when you kick it up a gear, acetyl-l-carnitine can balance the amount of fat and carbohydrates you use more efficiently. In short, acetyl-l-carnitine acts as a regulator of sorts, which makes your fat, or carbohydrate usage for energy become more intelligent in its disposal.
A quick summary…
Larger amounts of acetyl-l-carnitine will promote more carbohydrate usage while also using fat. However, it’s recommended to use moderate dosages (between 100-500mg per serving) which is shown to target fat stores to be used as fuel. (06)
Acetyl-l-carnitine for Energy and Performance
As acetyl-l-carnitine is known to support the mitochondria, supplying additional energy throughout the mind and body. With this information that’s been well documented, it’s safe to say that ALCAR can provide energy support during exercise.
Acetyl-l-carnitine is a popular pre, intra, and post workout supplement that helps the body, to not only conserve muscle glycogen and burn fat as fuel, but also increase the mitochondria’s ability to improve energy levels. (07)
In a study from the University of Nottingham Medical School, researchers gave one group 2 grams of L-carnitine with 80 grams of carbohydrates upon waking, and again four hours later for 24 weeks. (08)
The researches found that during low-intensity cycling, the participants burned 55% less muscle glycogen while increase fat burning again, by 55 %.
When the subjects switched to higher intensity workouts, they experienced lower levels of lactic acid build up, along with higher levels of creatine phosphate in their muscles – allowing for increased energy usage via ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
Acetyl-l-carnitine for Cognitive Enhancement
Acetyl-l-carnitine has been shown to help improve cognitive abilities, such as improved learning, faster reaction times, and the ability to hold more information. (09)
ALCAR facilitates fatty acid oxidation while enhancing acetylcholine synthesis, which can assist in mild impairments brought on by Alzheimer’s Disease patients. Dosages between 1.5-3.0 grams per day have been linked to these benefits. (10)
Acetyl-l-carnitine works to enhance never-growth-factor (NGF), which is thought to be the reasoning behind its cognitive benefits. (11)
Also, the additional mitochondria in this segment may also be supplying energy to parts of the brain responsible for learning and new memory formation.
For the majority of people using acetyl-l-carnitine, a dose of 500–2,000 mg per day is recommended. However, for more accurate dosages, see the recommendations below:
Physical Performance: 3-4 g has been shown to lower lactate threshold while also lowering heart rate when under strenuous activities, compared to those not using acetyl-l-carnitine. In short, this allows the body to endure strenuous activities for longer delaying the onset of fatigue. (12)
For age-related memory loss: 1500-2000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine has been used daily for 3 months. (13)
For age-related tiredness: 2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine has been used twice daily for 180 days. (14)
For age-related testosterone deficiency: 2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine plus 2 grams of propionyl-L-carnitine has been used daily for 6 months. (15)
For Alzheimer’s disease: 1500-3000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine has been taken by mouth daily in two or three divided doses for 3-12 months. (16)
For male infertility: 1 gram of acetyl-L-carnitine plus 2 grams of L-carnitine has been taken daily to treat male infertility. (17)
How To Take Acetyl-l-carnitine?
Ideally, Acetyl-l-carnitine should be taken with water before or even during, and after exercise – if performance is the required outcome.
For general health, where weight loss and cognitive improvements are required, then taking at any time throughout the day with water and food is sufficient.
However, some people may find acetyl-l-carnitine has as a stimulant like effect – in this case (for these individuals) it’s best taken in the morning to avoid late night restlessness.
Acetyl-l-carnitine Side Effects
There have been no serious side effects reported while using ALCAR. However, there have been some outcomes of nausea, possible vomiting, and dizziness from using large amounts of Acetyl-l-carnitine. (18)
The above mentioned side effects can be easily mitigated by taking the recommended, lower dosages of 100-500mg per day.
If you approach ALCAR supplementation with these guidelines, the side effects shouldn’t present themselves.
Acetyl-l-carnitine is a multi-use supplement for enhanced energy support, weight loss, and the prevention of cognitive decline to name a few.
I recommend to those who are looking for enhanced cognitive abilities, and an increase in sporting performance, that Acetyl-l-carnitine is a viable and well-researched option.
Stick with the safe recommended dosages of roughly 500day, and consume around exercise or first thing in the morning with breakfast. By doing this, the results should begin to follow.
(01) Nutritional Supplements and Metabolic Syndrome. (source)
(02) Chronic oral ingestion of l‐carnitine and carbohydrate increases muscle carnitine content and alters muscle fuel metabolism during exercise in humans. (source)
(03) Wikipedia – Mitochondrion. (source)
(04, 05) Wikipedia – Acetylcarnitine. (source)
(06) Training4Endurance – Acetyl-l-carnitine. (source)
(07) Chronic acetyl-L-carnitine alters brain energy metabolism and increases noradrenaline and serotonin content in healthy mice. (source)
(08) Chronic oral ingestion of l-carnitine and carbohydrate increases muscle carnitine content and alters muscle fuel metabolism during exercise in humans. (source)
(09) Acetyl-L-carnitine improves aged brain function. (source)
(10) Effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in Alzheimer’s disease patients unresponsive to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. (source)
(11) Stimulation of nerve growth factor receptors in PC12 by acetyl-L-carnitine. (source)
(12) l-Carnitine Supplementation in Recovery after Exercise. (source)
(13, 14, 15, 16, 17) WebMD Acetyl-l-carnitine dosages. (source)
(18) WebMD – Acetyl-l-carnitine risks. (source)