Is Acetyl-L-Carnitine a number one supplement for higher energy? Even way better than creatine? I encountered this supplement first as a nootropic for higher mental performance but was amazed to find it also has very nice benefits for exercise performance.
What is Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (also knowns as ALCAR) is a common over-the-counter “vitamin like compound” that helps mitochondria to function better. It helps mitochondria to transport fatty acids from the intermembranous space in mitochondria to the mitochondrial matrix during the breakdown of fats to generate metabolic energy. This generally leads to improved levels of energy metabolism (more ATP, the natural energy currency of body) which might have positive reflections to nearly every aspect of life. Nowadays it’s already pretty clear that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in the development of nearly all age-related diseases.
ALCAR vs. Carnitine
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an acetylated (addition of acetyl group -COCH3) form of L-Carnitine. Both of these forms exist in the body in equilibrium and can be freely converted in both ways. Carnitine can be biosynthesized by the body combining natural amino acids lysine and methionine. It can be found in nearly all cells of the body. Name carnitine is derived from latin word carnus which means “at the meats” which makes sense as the compound was first isolated from meat. All the different forms of carnitine, like L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine are classified under the general name of carnitine and that’s the name you can find most info under (check my sources if you want to learn more). Acetyl-L-Carnitine can more easily cross the blood-brain barrier than other regular carnitine forms so it’s used more as a nootropic supplement.
Best natural source of Acetyl-L-Carnitine is good quality red meat.
Benefits of Acetyl-L-Carnitine
Profound effects to mitochondrial function make this compound useful to enhance many aspects of life. People use ALCAR as a nootropic (to increase IQ and performance), anti-aging agent (increases a quality of life in elderly), booster to help get more energy, possible protecting agent against alcohol damage, to reduce fatigue, to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and to increase the general sense of well-being.
Many tout this supplement as beneficial to fat burning but the effects seem to be generated mainly by the increased activity people do while being under the effect of ALCAR. It’s mainly known as a good energy booster for a gym and aerobic exercise.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is linked to increased cognition. There’s a significant amount of studies where positive improvements in human cognitive functions were seen, although they are focused on elderly and not much on healthy young people. There is positive demonstrated effect to the symptoms of ADHD in young children.
If you can believe this study (there is some question about its objectivity): Acetyl-L-Carnitine seemed to make rats super-learners, they did find the underwater platform significantly faster than the control group and the scores did improve over time, in contrast, to control group who remained pretty much the same. Interesting indeed. ALCAR fed rats were faster even on the first try and continued improving.
ALCAR and alcohol: it has been noticed to lessen cravings for alcohol and even repair already done alcohol damage. In this study ALCAR did reduce craving for alcohol and the time to first drink. In a rat study using very low dose of 2 ng/ml of ALCAR it appeared to limit significantly oxidative damage, neuronal loss and restore synaptic neurotransmission in the brain.
There is actually a high amount of experience about this, and it’s also my personal experience. I did experience short nearly complete lack of want to consume alcohol after starting take Acetyl-L-Carnitine. So if you’re going to drink, it might not hurt to take some ALCAR before it. Or at least try best natural strategies to combat hangovers.
Are these effects unrealizable to healthy young people? To tell the truth, who knows… It’s assumed that the brighter you are naturally the less benefit you will see (already optimal functioning of mitochondria) from these kinds of supplements ( a general trend in studies). But if you are having some problems with mental functioning or energy it would be presumably that the potential benefits would be huge.
The most common positive effects of supplementation are:
– Alertness, increased energy (both physical and mental) and clarity
– Improved cognition in long-term especially, improved ability to retain and assimilate information, improved memory
– Stimulating & mood boosting effects
– Increased endurance in weightlifting, good workout supplement
– Some people mention antidepressant type effects
Some mentioned negative effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine:
– Feeling slightly stimulated on it and a slight increase in occasional anxiety
– Some people even compare the feeling to being on amphetamines (both the positive and negative)
– Taking too high doses did lead someone to experience muscle twitches and “crashes” coming down from the dose
Here’s a thread about how people generally respond to Acetyl-L-Carnitine.
Personal experience of Acetyl-L-Carnitine:
Sipping my first 500 mg dose of Acetyl-L-Carnitine with morning coffee I noticed instant perking up of my brain. This effect was clearly distinct from the usual effect of coffee for me. After that some sort of calmness. Nothing special like with strong Lion’s Mane, after that it was more fluent and easier to write for several hours. Nothing remarkable, but a recognizable improvement in finding words in writing and speaking. When working I usually get tired pretty fast and need a break, but now could go on for several hours.
Aerobic exercise effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine:
Started my first test after 2 days of consuming Acetyl-L-Carnitine by biking 3 km trip to the gym. I thought that my fitness levels would be off since being sedentary for the last two days, but damn was I wrong. I just couldn’t be tired down. Not even once, I experienced a moment where I’m fatigued or getting tired. Also no getting out of breath or heavy panting that would before be sure after that kind of sprinting with the bike. During biking, I’m like “wtf is this unreal substance if only after two days of use I feel nearly like a superhuman…” Anyone not using this would be at a significant disadvantage against someone who is using it.
Gym experiences of Acetyl-L-Carnitine:
I love going to gym (have gone since 16 years old). It’s just that sometimes (pretty often actually if my diet isn’t top-notch) I get pretty “trashed” even after a couple of hard sets might get exhaustion and uneasiness.
Now after doing Acetyl-L-Carnitine for two days nothing but pure presence. Hard sets didn’t have any negative effects on the functioning of my brain or my state of being. It was like I was separate from my body and brain, nothing bothered me. I was able to push myself 2-3 times harder than normally especially in isolating movements. An overall sense of feel good and blissful state after sets. Unreal improvement in endurance and ability to keep your brain aware.
Conclusions: social anxiety might (for one’s part) be a state of energy deficit in the brain? It gets lessened after improving mitochondrial metabolism?
Other effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine:
– More frequent morning erections.
– Easier to look people in the eyes and be involved in social interaction.
Disadvantages of Acetyl-L-Carnitine:
– Need to be tested more but ALCAR might cause neck tension? You have more mind energy and endurance than your body can handle so it’s easy to get neck tension or tension headaches for working too long. So be sure to keep breaks and move you body during the day, even though you would still have “mind energy” to continue.
– Not sure if this is related but in one occasion (just after starting to take it) it increased body temperature, getting pretty hot while staying inside, especially after I did not do much exercise lately.
I have tried to share my experiences as truthfully and objective as possible. Not hinting that my experiences are in any way typical. Everyone has a different kind of brain, body and energy systems.
How to consume Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
Is it best to take Acetyl-L-Carnitine on empty stomach or with food?
Answer: You should take ALCAR on an empty stomach because it’s transported partly with passive diffusion and partly with active transport. Active transport has ceiling ability and food might hinder the transport to some extent because the transporter might get preoccupied with something else. Unfortunately, there’s not studies to verify this so it’s only common sense knowledge. Other forms of Carnitine are best to taken with foods that promote insulin release, like in the after workout protein shake or heavy carb-rich meal after working out.
Although ALCAR is better at getting into the muscle and brain cells than other forms of carnitine it might be wise to consume it before a large meal. If you want to maximize the sport performance benefits of Acetyl-L-Carnitine you want to consume insulin raising foods a while after ingesting ALCAR (30 minutes or so). This is believed to help carnitine to get in a muscles.
How many times per day should I take Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
Answer: 2-3 times per day. And that’s because after the administration circulating ALCAR and carnitine levels return to baseline within 12 hours. So to keep at least something in your blood you would need to take it at least two times per day (source). But it also suggested avoiding taking AlCAR at night because it may have a stimulating effect.
It’s known that small amounts of Acetyl-L-Carnitine absorb better from food (54-87%) than from supplements (14-18%) (source). Absorption is also increased if your body is deficient in this substance. So I would advise against taking massive doses frequently (you will be only feeding the gut bugs with the excess which they might not like).
It’s better to focus on smaller doses (500 mg) on a larger timeframe. If taking on an empty stomach gives you weird jittery feelings it might be better to take it with food. There is some evidence that ALCAR might be synergistic with caffeine so taking it with coffee should be fine (source).
I could not find any comments in papers about empty stomach vs with food but did find that l-carnitine is absorbed in the intestine partially by passive diffusion and some active transporter.
So if you take it on an empty stomach it might work better. Remember we make our own carnitine and you already have some of it. You don’t have to flood your body with it.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine productsWhile there is many form of Alcar available, I suggest investing only to unflavored powdered form of Alcar (if you want best value for money).
I been using Primaforce Alcar which is probably cheapest high quality bulk Alcar you can find. Many bodybuilding forums seemed to praise this as a best Alcar product and after 4 months of using it, I have nothing bad to say about it (no weird metal after taste like in some other alcar products). One jar of Primaforce Alcar contains 250 grams of 100% pure Acetyl-L-Carnitine (500 servings of recommended dosage 500mg).
Some things to consider and to keep things in perspective. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s not good to continue eating bad vitamin deficient diet and then “cheat the system” with compounds like Acetyl-L-Carnitine. Excess processed sugar is bad for your brain, even though Acetyl-L-Carnitine improves its functions. But after you have put your diet and vitamin supplement region to a good level, compounds like Acetyl-L-Carnitine can work like miracle for some people.
Also, I am against “self-medication” with ALCAR. Let’s say someone has a basic thyroid problem and then he would just delay getting to the diagnosis with ALCAR supplements. It’s insane to try to fix energy problems with supplements before getting basic checkups done at the doctor’s office. After your doctor has not found anything wrong, it’s time to add this kind of energy supplements to your diet.