L-carnitine is an amino acid compound used as a supplement to improve mitochondrial health and act as a bioenergetic. In plain English, that means it improves energy levels by boosting the action of the mitochondria -- the energy powerhouse in your cells.
L-carnitine has a range of sub-compounds that can have a variety of different effects. The supplement may help improve cognition and aid in recovery. It also acts as a nitric-oxide-boosting ingredient that may improve your workouts.
Carnitine acts as an antioxidant, making it a possible treatment for a variety of different health problems. Antioxidants help eliminate free radicals, which damage cells and can alter DNA. Experts theorize that since antioxidants neutralize free radicals, L-carnitine may reduce or prevent health problems.
How it works
L-carnitine works by making it easier for the body, specifically the mitochondria in your cells, to produce more energy. This leads to improved endurance, which in turn may yield better performance at the gym and increased overall activity.
This amino acid does have a relatively low bioavailability, however, with just about 15% staying intact. The remaining useable form will pass through your digestive system. Despite its low absorption rate, L-carnitine and its sub-compounds still provide several benefits.
In the body, L-carnitine is converted into a variety of related compounds. Each has different benefits. While you could supplement with a broad-range L-carnitine supplement, read about the specific benefits provided by sub-compounds, like acetyl L-carnitine, propionyl L-carnitine, and L-carnitine L-tartrate.
Acetyl L-carnitine, or ALCAR, acts as a neurotransmitter and can help with problems related to aging, especially brain cognition. The energy-boosting effect of ALCAR also promotes endurance and increases alertness, though the effect is not as strong as caffeine.
ALCAR is recommended for offsetting the effects of chronic fatigue, metabolic disorders, and dementia.
Endurance athletes considering l-carnitine supplementation should skip right to ALCAR. The fatigue-fighting effects (which are discussed in depth on our acetyl l-carnitine page) are well worth their price, especially when considering the focus boost that comes along with it.
Propionyl-L-carnitine, or PLCAR, is estimated to have a somewhat higher bioavailability than standard L-carnitine, but no studies quantify how much. It also has fewer side effects than other L-carnitine sub-compounds.
Propionyl-L-carnitine increases energy production in the muscle by converting fatty acids to acylcarnitines, which are burned as energy, resulting in weight loss. This process allows you to retain lean muscle mass since the body only burns fat, not muscle. You should note, however, that studies on weight loss using propionyl-L-carnitine has only been studied on mice, not humans.
L-carnitine L-tartrate, or LCLT, is a great supplement for recovery following a workout. Supplemental LCLT acts as an antioxidant, lowering free radical production, and can reduce soreness after exercise. In one small study, researchers demonstrated that using 2g of LCLT daily reduced muscle disruption following exercise up to 45% faster compared to a placebo group.
To help build endurance and get the most out of your workout, glycine propionyl-L-carnitine (GPLC) is extremely beneficial. It helps promote nitric oxide in your body, which in turn acts as a vasodilator. In plain language, it increases blood flow and oxygen supplied to your muscles.
Standard L-carnitine is the most widely available and least expensive of all the carnitine compounds. Each are available in liquid, powder, and capsules. Liquid forms provide faster uptake and more of the compound can be absorbed. However, liquid, as well as powders, can have a bitter aftertaste, making the pill form more appealing to some.
The recommended dosage range for supplements in the L-carnitine family are as follows:
|L-Carnitine Compound||Recommended Dosage (mg p/d)||Recommended Dosage (g p/d)|
|Standard||1,000mg to 3,000mg||1g to 3g|
| ALCAR ||630mg to 2,500mg||.63g to 2.5g|
|PLCAR||500mg to 2,000mg||.5g to 2.g|
| LCLT ||1,000mg to 4,000mg||1g to 4g|
| GPLC ||1,000mg to 4,000mg||1g to 4g|
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a typical dose for standard L-carnitine is between 1g to 3g per day.
Who should take it
It's hard to imagine a group that this supplement would put at a disadvantage. By helping you stay active or improving your performance, it's an excellent supplement for anyone interested in healthy living. It's especially beneficial if you suffer from chronic fatigue or age-related neurological problems.
In 2011, researchers from Maryland's Institute of Chronic Illnesses concluded that L-carnitine therapy, administered at 50mg/kg of bodyweight per day for three months, demonstrated significant improvement in clinical measurements of autism spectrum disorder severity. More studies are needed to confirm these results and move towards autism treatment methods using this amino acid.
Although its supplementation is popular for weight loss, standard l-carnitine is not shown to burn fat — even when combined with aerobic activity. Due to the lack of fat burning effects, we consider this a third-tier supplement for most individuals, and typically recommend one of the sub-compounds, such as acetyl-l-carnitine. In 2005, Swiss exercise physiology experts demonstrated that the compound does not improve recovery from fatigue-inducing workouts.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, L-carnitine is safe for use in combating fatigue and improving exercise performance, "but may not help much."
Potential side effects
Taking too much L-carnitine, about 5g, can cause digestive upset, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, though these symptoms cease once you lower your dosage (start by cutting it in half), or stop taking it completely. Another good idea is to switch to a sub-compound such as ALCAR, which requires you to take less, and may yield fewer problems.
Other side effects include rash, body odor, and increased appetite, though these are rare.
As with any medication or supplement, talk to your doctor before changing or adding to your fitness regimen. If you have any of the following disorders, delay any type of carnitine supplementation until you consult with a physician:
By helping you stay active and improving your performance, L-carnitine is an excellent supplement for anyone interested in healthy living.
- Peripheral vascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease from alcoholism (cirrhosis)
- Kidney disease
- History of seizures
Red meat is the best way of supplementing L-carnitine through diet. It contains 95mg of the amino acid per 100g of beef. That means to get the lowest effective dosage of L-carnitine, at 500mg, you would need to eat more than 526g, or 18.56 oz., of steak every day. If the cost of a 20oz. daily rib eye habit doesn't dissuade you, the possible damage to your arteries and inevitable weight gain should.
We suggest the following brands for liquid and powder L-carnitine formulations:
- NOW Foods has an excellent powdered or capsule L-carnitine supplement in a variety of sizes.
- Dymatize offers a sugar- and calorie-free liquid L-carnitine that is very affordable. Where to buy
- Goo MJ, et. al.; Archives of Pharmacal Research; "Protective effects of acetyl-L-carnitine on neurodegenerative changes in chronic cerebral ischemia models and learning-memory impairment in aged rats;" January 2012
- Mingorance C, et. al.; PLoS One; "Propionyl-L-carnitine corrects metabolic and cardiovascular alterations in diet-induced obese mice and improves liver respiratory chain activity;" March 2012
- Volek JS, et. al.; American Journal of Physiology; "L-Carnitine L-tartrate supplementation favorably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress;" February 2002
- University of Maryland Medical Center; "Carnitine (L-carnitine);" Reviewed March 2011
- Villani RG, et. al.; International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism; "L-Carnitine supplementation combined with aerobic training does not promote weight loss in moderately obese women;" June 2000
- Stuessi, C, et. al.; European Journal of Applied Physiology; "L -Carnitine and the recovery from exhaustive endurance exercise: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial;" December 2005
- Geier DA, et. al.; Medical Science Monitor; "A prospective double-blind, randomized clinical trial of levocarnitine to treat autism spectrum disorders;" June 2011
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Feb 12, 2015 Blog Post:
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SAN MegaTron is a stimulant-free pre workout supplement that has exciting doses of both nitric oxide boosters AND focus enhancers. And what a name!
Jan 30, 2015 Blog Post:
PES ERGONINE – It’s About Time Someone Made This!
Athletix Ergonine has been touted as a once-daily muscle builder that covers all of your bases for less than a dollar per day. Does it add up? (YES!)
Apr 12, 2014 Blog Post:
Cellucor C4 Ripped – The Fat Burning Pre Workout?!
Cellucor C4 Ripped is the new C4 variation that includes more fat burning ingredients and no creatine for a killer cardio or weight loss workout!
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L-Carnitine Deals & Price Alerts
The following deals are still active:
- May 22, 2018: Dymatize Liquid L-Carnitine 16 Oz. (only Berry, Blue Raspberry, Lemonade, Orange) dropped by 10.7% to $7.99 at Bodybuilding.com
- May 22, 2018: MRM Liquid Acetyl L-Carnitine 16 Oz. dropped by 9.1% to $13.44 at Jet.com
- May 22, 2018: MRM L-Carnitine 1000 17 Oz. (only Tropical Berry) dropped by 6.9% to $9.66 at Jet.com
- May 22, 2018: Betancourt L-Carnitine L-Tartrate 60 Capsules dropped by 17.2% to $8.23 at Jet.com
- May 22, 2018: Betancourt L-Carnitine 16 Oz. (only Fruit Punch) dropped by 15.8% to $10.10 at Jet.com
- May 22, 2018: Labrada L-Carnitine 16 Oz. dropped by 8.7% to $14.62 at Muscle and Strength
- May 22, 2018: NutraBio L-Carnitine 150 Vcaps dropped by 16.6% to $19.99 at GNC
- May 21, 2018: Myprotein Acetyl L Carnitine 250 Grams dropped by 30.0% to $17.49 at MyProtein
- May 21, 2018: Myprotein Acetyl L Carnitine 500 Grams dropped by 30.0% to $27.99 at MyProtein
- May 21, 2018: Myprotein Acetyl L Carnitine 1000 Grams dropped by 20.0% to $55.99 at MyProtein
- May 21, 2018: MuscleTech Platinum 100% Carnitine 60 Capsules dropped by 50.0% to $10.99 at Bodybuilding.com
- May 21, 2018: NLA for Her Carnitine 60 Capsules dropped by 20.0% to $15.15 at Bodybuilding.com
- May 21, 2018: RSP L-Carnitine 60 Capsules dropped by 48.2% to $10.97 at Bodybuilding.com
- May 21, 2018: RSP L-Carnitine 120 Capsules dropped by 41.1% to $17.97 at Bodybuilding.com
- May 21, 2018: Muscle Pharm Carnitine Core 60 Capsules dropped by 13.4% to $12.99 at Muscle and Strength
- May 21, 2018: Nutrex Liquid Carnitine 3000 16 Oz. (only Cherry Lime) dropped by 11.8% to $25.00 at Muscle and Strength
- May 21, 2018: Nutrex Liquid Carnitine 3000 16 Oz. (only Berry Blast, Green Apple) dropped by 21.1% to $25.00 at Muscle and Strength
- May 19, 2018: NutraKey Acetyl L-Carnitine 250 Grams dropped by 10.1% to $17.59 at DPS Nutrition
- May 18, 2018: Optimum Nutrition L-Carnitine 500 60 Tablets dropped by 24.8% to $27.00 at Muscle and Strength
- May 17, 2018: SAN Alcar 100 Tablets dropped by 11.0% to $15.99 at AllStarHealth
- May 17, 2018: Muscleology Carnitine Complete 25 Servings dropped by 84.5% to $118.39 at Amazon.com
- May 16, 2018: Ultimate Nutrition L-Carnitine 30 1000mg Tablets dropped by 34.9% to $8.00 at AllStarHealth
- May 15, 2018: Pro Supps L-Carnitine 1500 16 Oz. (only Green Apple) dropped by 10.0% to $8.30 at Jet.com
- May 15, 2018: Twinlab L-Carnitine Fuel 16 Oz. dropped by 11.3% to $12.41 at Muscle and Strength
- May 14, 2018: iSatori L-Carnitine LS3 31 Servings (only Gummy Bear) dropped by 19.8% to $15.19 at Bodybuilding.com
- May 14, 2018: NOW L-Carnitine 60 Vcaps dropped by 7.8% to $12.90 at IllPumpYouUp.com
- May 08, 2018: NutraKey L-Carnitine 3000 31 Servings (only Watermelon) dropped by 10.2% to $17.95 at IllPumpYouUp.com
- May 04, 2018: Muscle and Strength 100% Pure L-Carnitine 180 Tablets dropped by 24.2% to $15.99 at Muscle and Strength
- May 04, 2018: SAN Alcar 87.5 Grams dropped by 17.5% to $18.50 at Muscle and Strength
- May 04, 2018: Olympian Labs L-Carnitine 60 Vcaps dropped by 25.0% to $10.20 at AllStarHealth
- May 03, 2018: Gaspari Nutrition Carnipure 80 Servings (only Pineapple) dropped by 11.0% to $21.35 at i-Supplements.com
- May 02, 2018: Nature's Way L-Carnitine 60 Vcaps dropped by 8.8% to $12.19 at AllStarHealth
- May 02, 2018: Iron-Tek Liquid Carnitine 1000 16 Oz. dropped by 12.0% to $12.29 at NetNutri.com
- May 01, 2018: Kaged Muscle L-Carnitine 250 Vcaps dropped by 16.6% to $6.89 at eSupplements
- Apr 28, 2018: Top Secret Nutrition Fireball L-Carnitine Igniter 16 Oz. (only Cherry) dropped by 23.4% to $17.99 at DPS Nutrition
- Apr 23, 2018: AllMax Nutrition Liquid L-Carnitine 16 Oz. (only Wildberry Blast) dropped by 15.9% to $29.97 at Muscle and Strength
- Apr 23, 2018: AllMax Nutrition Liquid L-Carnitine 16 Oz. (only Blue Raspberry, Vanilla) dropped by 23.1% to $29.97 at Muscle and Strength
- Apr 20, 2018: Top Secret Nutrition Fireball L-Carnitine Igniter 16 Oz. (only Apple) dropped by 10.0% to $17.99 at DPS Nutrition
- Apr 18, 2018: NutraKey L-Carnitine 1500 31 Servings (only Orange Delight) dropped by 21.4% to $21.99 at Muscle and Strength
- Apr 18, 2018: NutraKey L-Carnitine 1500 31 Servings (only Blue Raspberry Ice, Grape Crush, Lemon Drop, Sour Gummy Worms) dropped by 29.0% to $21.99 at Muscle and Strength
- Apr 17, 2018: NutraBio Acetyl L-Carnitine 150 Grams dropped by 10.0% to $17.99 at Suppz.com
- Apr 17, 2018: NutraBio Acetyl L-Carnitine 150 Vcaps (only 1000mg) dropped by 20.7% to $14.99 at Suppz.com
- Apr 16, 2018: GAT L-Carnitine 16 Oz. (only Green Apple) dropped by 10.6% to $8.49 at AllStarHealth
- Apr 16, 2018: NOW L-Carnitine 60 Capsules dropped by 8.0% to $6.89 at AllStarHealth
- Apr 11, 2018: iSatori L-Carnitine LS3 31 Servings (only Pink Lemonade) dropped by 26.9% to $10.95 at IllPumpYouUp.com
- Apr 09, 2018: Muscle Pharm Carnitine Core 16 Oz. dropped by 35.9% to $6.40 at AllStarHealth
- Apr 02, 2018: Blue Star Nutraceuticals Carnitine LCLT 120 Capsules dropped by 10.9% to $48.99 at Amazon.com
- Mar 22, 2018: NOW L-Carnitine 180 Vcaps dropped by 8.1% to $26.99 at DPS Nutrition
- Mar 14, 2018: Twinlab Acetyl-L-Carnitine 120 Capsules dropped by 32.5% to $25.99 at AllStarHealth
- Feb 28, 2018: Twinlab L-Carnitine 90 Capsules dropped by 9.6% to $17.70 at AllStarHealth
- Feb 23, 2018: Giant Sports L-Carnitine L-Tartrate 120 Grams dropped by 26.5% to $12.99 at Amazon.com
- Feb 16, 2018: Jarrow Formulas Acetyl L-Carnitine 60 Capsules (only 500 mg) dropped by 10.3% to $11.37 at iHerb.com
- Feb 13, 2018: Twinlab Acetyl-L-Carnitine 30 Capsules dropped by 8.2% to $17.60 at Bodybuilding.com
- Feb 11, 2018: Jarrow Formulas L-Carnitine 180 500mg Capsules dropped by 8.7% to $31.95 at AllStarHealth
- Feb 01, 2018: Source Naturals Acetyl L-Carnitine 60 Tablets (only 500 mg) dropped by 26.7% to $9.99 at AllStarHealth
- Jan 04, 2018: MRM L-Carnitine 500 60 Tablets dropped by 25.7% to $9.65 at AllStarHealth
- Oct 26, 2017: NOW L-Carnitine 16 Oz. (only Tropical Punch) dropped by 8.2% to $11.39 at AllStarHealth
- Oct 26, 2017: NOW L-Carnitine 30 Vcaps dropped by 8.0% to $6.89 at AllStarHealth
- Oct 02, 2017: Life Extension Optimized Carnitine 60 Vcaps dropped by 8.1% to $19.99 at AllStarHealth
- Oct 01, 2017: iSatori L-Carnitine LS3 31 Servings (only Mixed Berry) dropped by 18.8% to $10.00 at AllStarHealth
- Sep 29, 2017: Twinlab Mega L-Carnitine 90 Tablets dropped by 10.7% to $26.89 at AllStarHealth
- Jun 20, 2017: Source Naturals Acetyl L-Carnitine 120 Tablets (only 250 mg) dropped by 28.7% to $11.99 at AllStarHealth
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L-Carnitine Reviews & YouTube Videos
Feb 18, 2018: SPICY L-Carnitine | Ronnie Coleman Supplement Review
Jul 05, 2017: Nutrakey L-Carnitine 1500 Review & Tasting Panel
Jun 27, 2017: Giant Sports Giant Keto Review - BHB Supplements WORK!
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L-Carnitine Topics in the PricePlow Forum
- Mar 06, 2018: Serious Nutrition Solutions ALCAR FAQ
- Feb 18, 2018: SPICY L-Carnitine | Ronnie Coleman Supplement Review