Carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in most cells of the body, particularly in the brain and neural tissues, muscles, and heart. Carnitine has many important roles in the body and is important for energy metabolism. It is widely available in animal products and dairy but you get very little from a plant based diet. This is why most vegetarian athletes I know supplement with carnitine. However, carnitine is commonly taken as a nutritional supplement due to numerous potential health benefits. When ingested in pill form carnitine is not able to cross the blood-brain barrier as well as its activated form Acetyl-L-Carnitine(ALC). So for neurological health and physical performance you are better off using ALC.
WHAT DOES IT DO
ALC shuttles fatty acids into the mitochondria for energy production. Without ALC, fatty acids cannot easily enter the mitochondria. So basically it acts as an energy reservoir and promotes proper energy production in the body. In addition to producing energy, ALC removes toxic accumulations of fatty acids from mitochondria to keep them healthy and functioning at their best. ALC has been proven in many clinical studies to have many health benefits but for this overview I want to look at what it can do for performance enhancement.
BENEFITS OF ALC SUPPLEMENTATION
Studies show that ALC stabilizes cell membranes, protect synapses, and protect neurons from oxidative stress. Therefore, it is possible that supplementing with ALC can slow the aging process.
-Helps in burning fat for fuel
-Improves cognitive performance
-Increased ATP levels=better energy production
-Reduced physical and mental fatigue
-Improved exercise performance
-Possesses good antioxidant activity
-Increased blood flow to the heart, brain, and working muscles
-Improved recovery following exercise
-Reduced muscle damage and soreness
-Protects against exercise induced oxidative stress
ALC is generally well tolerated by healthy adults. Negative side effects show up only when using ALC in high doses daily. Using 3,000mg a day or more can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting. When used with proper dosing ALC is considered very safe for daily use.
I have seen big differences in dose recommendations for ALC. In treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, there has been good evidence of benefit at 1,500-3,000mg or more daily. Vegetarians benefit from as little as 150-300mg daily since they don't get enough carnitine in there diet. From a performance standpoint 500-1,000mg daily seems to be the norm.
My personal experience is if you want to add ALC supplementation for a nice balance of performance, energy, and general health-300mg a day is the sweet spot. If you eat a quality diet, I see no need for high doses. At 300mg a day you will feel benefit and it is safe for long term use. Like every supplement I recommend, I like to use ALC 5 days on and 2 days off. At this dose and with days off to not build a tolerance it makes it cost effective as well.