Improve Your Mitochondria Part 3: On L-carnitine

Improve Your Mitochondria Part 3: On L-carnitine

We all wish we could have more energy right? Americans are working more all the time and sleeping less every day. This excess stress creates havoc in both our minds and inside our exhausted bodies as well.

Americans spend increasing amounts of money each year to attempt to increase their already bottomed out energy levels. We purchase energy drinks, prescription drugs, gallons of coffee, energy supplements, caffeine pills, and even nicotine products to keep us awake and our minds alert. What if I told you that it is possible to increase natural energy levels by making sure that your mitochondria function optimally and that they have the resources to produce adequate amounts of energy.

There are supplements that facilitate proper energy production inside the mitochondria. These supplements include L-carnitine, D-ribose, NADH, and creatine. Today’s blog post is so intensive that it will only cover the importance of supplementation in mitochondrial health. All of the other supplements that increase energy production will be mentioned in part four of the Improve Your Mitochondria series.

L-carnitine

L-carnitine is a derivative of the amino acid, Lysine. L-carnitine can be synthesized in the body from the amino acids lysine and methionine. L-carnitine can also be obtained through the diet as well. 1 Some critically ill patients, people that take certain medications (valporic acid,) 2 and people born with carnitine synthesis disorders might need to supplement L-carnitine on a daily basis. 3 The reason is because they are vulnerable to an L-carnitine deficiency. L-carnitine also has an important relation to COQ-10, because both are primarily concentrated in heart muscle and both are also found in large numbers in skeletal muscle. 4 L-carnitine also plays an important role for energy production within the mitochondria. Carnitine conjugates fatty acids for transport into the mitochondria so that the fatty acids can then be metabolized for energy. 5

Long chain fatty acids have to  become esters of L-carnitine first before they can be used by the mitochondria. This conversion occurs so that the acids can enter the mitochondrial matrix and provide source material for the production of energy. L-carnitine serves in a number of different ways in increasing the capacity of the mitochondria by helping in the generation of ATP. Carnitine also works synergistically with coenzyme A to metabolize fatty acids and transport them within the individual cells. 6

Different Forms of L-carnitine

There are six recognized forms of carnitine currently, and each form serves its own unique purpose. The six forms of carnitine are:

Standard L-carnitine and Its Chelations

L- carnitine

This is the standard L-carnitine. Carnitine supplementation is used in the body to increase energy production, 7 boost heart health, 8 and also to increase fat metabolism in humans. 9 L-carnitine should be used in people who are sensitive to acetyl L-carnitine, which the supplement can over stimulate some people and cause racing thoughts. The daily recommended dose of L-carnitine for most people is 2,000 mg. I wouldn’t take more than 4,000 mg daily if possible, because the excess L-carnitine might cause a fishy body odor and skin sensitivities at this large of a dose.

When you should take the supplement: To help facilitate weight loss L-carnitine should be taken on an empty stomach, for everyone else L-carnitine should be taken with your largest meal.

Recommended Brands:

L-carnitine L-tartrate

L-carnitine L-tartrate is a chelation of carnitine and tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is a natural acid found in grapes. 10 Tartaric acid is supposed to help with the stability and absorption of the L-carnitine in the body. This form of L-carnitine has been discovered in one study to decrease the recovery time for athletes after workouts. 11 The daily recommended dose of L-carnitine L-tartrate for most people is 2,000 mg. I wouldn’t take more than 4,000 mg daily if possible, because the excess L-carnitine L-tartrate might cause a fishy body odor and skin sensitivities at this large of a dose.

When you should take the supplement: To help facilitate weight loss L-carninte L-tartrate should be taken on an empty stomach, For everyone else L-carnitine L-tartrate should be taken with your largest meal.

Recommended Brand:

L-carnitine fumarate

L-carnitine fumarate is a chelation of carnitine and fumaric acid. Fumuric acid  is an acid found in some mosses and mushrooms. 12 Fumeric acid is also supposed to help with the stability and absorption of the carnitine. Fumerate can help activate the NrF2 antioxidant response pathway, the primary cellular defense against cytotoxic effects of oxidative stress. 13 L-carnitine chelated with fumarate might provide some mitochondrial defense, compared to the other forms of carnitine that may perform no known defense. The daily recommended dose of L-carnitine fumarate for most people is 2,000 mg. I would not take more than 4,000 mg daily if possible, because the excess L-carnitine fumarate may create a fishy body odor and skin sensitivities at this large of a dose.

When you should take the supplement: To help facilitate weight loss L-carnitine fumarate should be taken on an empty stomach, for everyone else L-carnitine fumarate should be taken with your largest meal.

Recommended Brands:

Specialized L-carnitine Chelations

Acetyl L-carnitine

L-carnitine often doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier very well on its own. Scientists discovered that by acetylating carnitine, carnitine was able to cross the blood brain barrier more effectively. Acetyl L-carnitine makes the transport of fatty acids to the brain easier by allowing the acids to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and nourish the brain. In addition, the acetyl part of the chelation helps create more acetylcholine in the brain by donating an acetyl group. Acetyl L-carnitine has been shown in studies to improve memory and brain function, especially in people who are suffering from type 2 diabetes. 14 It has been theorized that this increase of brain function occurs because acetyl L-carnitine nourishes the brain with essential fatty acids for optimal functioning. 15 One of the only drawbacks that I know with acetyl L-carnitine supplementation in that for some people it can stimulate the brain so much that they develop racing thoughts. If that happens switch to a standard L-carnitine chelation and receive some of the benefits of supplementing with carnitine. The daily recommended dose of acetyl L-carnitine for most people is 2,000 mg. I wouldn’t take more than 4,000 mg daily if possible, because the excess acetyl L-carnitine might cause a fishy body odor and skin sensitivities at this large of a dose.

When you should take the supplement: It should be taken on an empty stomach.

Recommended Brands:

Acetyl L-carntine arginate

This special chelated form of acetyl L-carnitine is acetyl L-carnitine bounded with the amino acid L-arginine. It is believed that the extra argine in which the carnitine is bounded to crosses the blood brain barrier and may increase blood flow in the brain. 16 17 Acetyl L-carnitine arginate is also a excellent form of carnitine for body builders. This is because the extra arginine increases nitric oxide production in the body and acts as a vasodilator. Increased arginine supplementation has been theorized to increase blood flow to the muscles as well. The daily recommended dose of acetyl L-carnitine arginate for most people is 2,000 mg. I wouldn’t take more than 4,000 mg daily if possible, because the excess acetyl L-carnitine arginate might cause a fishy body odor and skin sensitivities at this large of a dose.

When you should take the supplement: It should be taken on an empty stomach.

Recommended Brand:

Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine

Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine is the main recommended form of carnitine for patients with arterial blood flow problems and heart disease. Propionyl is also an extra donator to the coenzyme A cycle. Since L-carnitine works synergistically with coenzyme A, taking a glycine propionyl-L-carnitine supplement is a great way to increase natural coenzyme A production in the body. 18 Proplonyl L-carnitine has been shown in studies to increase nitrate/nitrite production in the body as well. 19 Extra nitrate/nitrites in the body have been known to theoretically increase nitric oxide production. This is why glycine propionyl-L-carnitine promotes proper arterial blood flow because the extra nitric oxide production is a potent vasodilator. This is also the preferred form of L-carnitine for patients with poor blood flow in their extremities, patients that suffer from intermittent claudication, 20 and also most athletes as well. The daily recommended dose of glycine propionyl-L-carnitine for most people is 2,000 mg. I would not take more than 4,000 mg daily if possible, because the excess glycine propionyl-L-carnitine might cause a fishy body odor and skin sensitivities at this large of a dose.

When you should take the supplement: It should be taken with your largest meal.

Recommended Brand:
  • Jarrow Formulas glycine propionyl-L-carnitine

L-carnitine Supplementation Side Effects

L-carnitine is safe for most people to supplement with daily and has very few known side effects. In some people, carnitine can cause upset stomach and indigestion, which can be relieved when the carnitine supplement is taken with a meal instead of on an empty stomach. L-carnitine supplementation may also rarely cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. L-carnitine can cause a patient to develop a fishy body odor if taken in quantities greater than 4,000 mg daily. There are also extremely rare systemic allergic reactions caused by carnitine supplementation in some people. 21

L-carnitine should be used in caution with people who have an under active thyroid or people who have a history of seizures. Carnitine can make the symptoms of hypothyroid worse and may increase the frequency of seizures in people with seizure disorders. 22 23

10 Comments
  1. Actually ALCAR (opposite to carnitine) decrease fat utilization. Moreover ALCAR is present in little amount in brain and every dosage supplementation increase its brain concentration at over-physiologic level (it is investigated for depression treatment but it can cause mania and psychosis).

    About tartaric acid, it affect androgens metabolism, blocking its degradation and increasing its level. This can be a good thing for who is trying to loose fat and increase insulin sensitivity, or to generally increase his androgens level for other purposes, but it also mean an increased risk of prostate cancer and probably other inflammation related diseases (as androgens are linked to this type of diseases).

  2. Acetyl-L-Carnitine with the largest meal? Can you explain the reason and sources of that recommendation? All other sources I known so far recommend to take Acetyl-L-Carnitine on empty stomach, as when the its taken with other amino-acids, they will compete for absorption into the brain. Please clarify this.

    • Yeah, this is incorrect compared to my book, it was a mistype, I have correct it. Standard l-carnitine you want to take with meals contain fat to facilitate fat digestion. Acetyl L-carnitine you want to take on an empty stomach, for the cognitive benefits.

  3. Great series of posts. Extremely interesting and thorough.
    What would be the best dosing schedule for a stack of ALCAR + GPLC + R-LA + Ubiquinol? Thanks

  4. Great series of posts. Extremely interesting and thorough.
    What would be the best dosing schedule for a stack of ALCAR + GPLC + R-LA + Ubiquinol? Thanks

    • Take the ALCAR, GPLC, RLA, and Ubiquinol in the morning during breakfast. Make sure your breakfast has an ample fat source for maximum absorption. You wouldn’t want to take them in the late afternoon or evening because the extra energy might disrupt sleeping patterns. I would also add some PQQ in there for maximum mitochondrial gains.

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