L-carnitine’s benefits to your muscle, metabolism and longevity

Around 1.9 billion adults in the world are overweight, while 650 million are obese, according to the report of the World Health Organization in 2021. Being overweight or obese is the leading cause of many fatal diseases in different parts of the body. But fret not, as there are scientifically-backed ways to prevent or remove your excess weight, just like taking L-carnitine. 

Basically, L-carnitine refers to a natural, versatile and potent supplement that offers a wide range of health benefits, primarily in muscle, metabolism, health and longevity.

What is L-carnitine?

Let’s first identify its root, carnitine, derived from an amino acid found in almost all body cells. The term comes from the Latin word ‘carnus’, meaning flesh, as the compound is found to be isolated from meat. Carnitine occurs in two forms, namely D and L, which mirror images of each other. However, this article will focus only on the one active in the body and is found in most food, which is the L-carnitine [1]. 

As an amino acid, L-carnitine is involved in cell function, more specifically in helping your body produce more energy. You can find L-carnitine in every cell, transporting long-chain fatty acids from the bloodstream into the mitochondria. When the fatty acids reach the mitochondria – thanks to L-carnitine – they will be burned or go through the process of oxidation and then be converted into an energy resource. 

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Muscle benefits of L-carnitine

The bona fide role of L-carnitine in burning fat is reasonably well-established, which is why this compound is often heard in the fitness world. If you aim to achieve a bulk body shape, L-carnitine can effectively help as it limits fat gains and makes a “cleaner” bulk. Some other benefits of L-carnitine can be identified as the following:

  • Burn fat as fuel – One interesting claim that was found while studying the benefits of L-carnitine is its ability to enhance athletic performance. In a study conducted in a medical school, the researchers found that people who took L-carnitine burned around 55 percent less muscle glycogen during low-intensity cycling while also increasing their body’s ability to burn fat by 55 percent. Furthermore, they were found to have lower levels of lactic acid and higher levels of creatine phosphate during high-intensity cycling [2]. 
  • Lower muscle soreness and enhance recovery – Surprisingly, taking one to two grams per day of L-carnitine can reduce muscle damage from strenuous physical activity and improve the body’s capacity to recover quickly [3]. The chances of muscle soreness are found to be fewer when consuming L-carnitine.
  • Better blood flow and pumps – L-carnitine supplements are also great for improving the blood flow in the muscles. An increased blood flow simply means more nutrients and hormones are well transported to specific body parts where they are needed most during exercise.
  • Fatigue resistance – L-carnitine is also helpful in prolonging one’s resistance to fatigue. According to one study, people who take L-carnitine supplements can resist fatigue for more than 25 percent during a cycling test. It happens because L-carnitine helps burn more fat while preserving muscle glycogen in the body.
The benefits of L-carnitine to your muscle, metabolism, health and longevity

Metabolism benefits of L-carnitine

Many studies have been trying to identify the exact benefits of L-carnitine in promoting weight loss, taking into consideration its function in helping burn fatty acids as a source of energy. 

Among the relevant research, one comprehensive review of nine different trials has suggested that people who consume L-carnitine can lose more than 1.3 kilograms or 2.9 pounds more compared with non-takers. [4]. Moreover, an increased level of carnitine content can alter muscle fuel metabolism in two different ways during exercise, as suggested by health experts. It can work wonders in fat oxidation, enhancement of insulin response and balancing glycogen levels by lowering carbohydrate use.

Additionally, L-carnitine is effective in weight management in adults who are overweight and obese, as it can generally help reduce weight, body mass index (BMI) and fat mass. In the analysis, it was found that supplementing carnitine to the body can further lead to a significantly greater weight loss and a more significant drop in BMI compared with a control group. Take note, though, that the results of using L-carnitine for weight loss may vary from one person to another. 

For instance, one research conducted in Australia derived the conclusion that L-carnitine may not work for some people. The researchers involved 36 obese women who took either L-carnitine or a placebo and were asked to complete eight weeks of aerobic training. At the end of the study, it was found that L-carnitine had no impact on the participants’ total body mass or fat mass [5]. 

While some results of the studies may be contradicting, the best takeaway is that L-carnitine should not be considered a quick fix for weight loss. Healthy habits and lifestyle with proper diet and regular exercise are still more effective than just simply taking L-carnitine. You may want to pair L-carnitine with a workout plan and nutritious diet to see maximum results.

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Health benefits of L-carnitine 

L-carnitine’s health benefits can go beyond helping to improve athletic performance and reduce weight. It offers a wide range of health benefits, such as the following:

Improve heart health

Although some research studies are still ongoing, L-carnitine has the potential to improve heart health. Supplementation may aid in enhancing L-carnitine levels in a failing heart, resulting in boosted heart health and blood circulation in the short term following a heart attack. L-carnitine can also help with the symptoms of heart failure, including chest pain and arrhythmia [6].

Help with the symptoms of diabetes

Managing the symptoms of type 2 diabetes takes a lot of discipline. Interestingly, L-carnitine supplementation is found to be helpful in easing some of the symptoms and risks of type 2 diabetes. Research reveals that acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) can dial down nerve pain and weakness caused by type 2 diabetes [7]. In another earlier study, the findings suggest that L-carnitine supplements could also lower blood sugar.

Although there are much more research studies revolving around L-carnitine’s benefits in weight loss rather than easing type 2 diabetes, you should know that taking L-carnitine is more likely to help than hurt. If you are a bit sceptical about the claim, you should consult with your physician before taking L-carnitine supplements. 

Can reduce some side effects of cancer treatment

In some instances during cancer treatments, a patient becomes deficient in L-carnitine, most especially when undergoing chemotherapy. When a cancer patient has become deficient, taking L-carnitine supplements can help in reducing some side effects of cancer treatments, especially fatigue and weakness [8]. 

The benefits of L-carnitine to your muscle, metabolism, health and longevity

Help with kidney or liver disease

Any disease in the kidney and liver can lead to L-carnitine deficiency as these organs are primarily responsible for L-carnitine production in the body. Health experts generally recommend L-carnitine supplementation when you have kidney or liver disease in order to support the function of these organs and prevent further deficiency [9]. 

Improve male infertility and sexual function

Having low sperm counts is associated with low carnitine levels in men. Some studies suggest that L-carnitine supplements can significantly increase sperm count and motility.

Moreover, here’s some good news for gentlemen. Some studies also found that propionyl-L-carnitine can help in improving male sexual function. L-carnitine is linked to the improved effectiveness of sildenafil or viagra in men with diabetes who had not previously responded well to viagra. 

Furthermore, a combination of propionyl-L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine enhanced the effectiveness of viagra in men who experienced erectile dysfunction after prostate surgery. Although more studies are needed, the progress of the research is promising. 

Reduce symptoms of hyperthyroidism

Some research proves that L-carnitine can aid in preventing or lowering the symptoms of an overactive thyroid, which include insomnia, nervousness, heart palpitations and tremors. 

In fact, a study that was conducted on a small group of people with hyperthyroidism found their symptoms to improve and their body temperature to become normal when taking L-carnitine. However, a more extensive research model and a better-designed clinical trial are needed to really claim the statements. 

Additionally, the researchers believe that L-carnitine helps hyperthyroidism by blocking the action of the thyroid hormone. It could be life-threatening for people with low thyroid levels. 

Longevity and L-carnitine

In a healthy body, L-carnitine can be produced at its proper levels. However, your body’s capacity to produce L-carnitine reduces as you age and acquire diseases. When this happens, L-carnitine supplementation can really help you. 

In fact, animal studies found that L-carnitine can boost cognitive function as we age and protect brain cells from damage [10]. 

Meanwhile, in clinical studies, the findings showed that L-carnitine could improve general brain function in older adults who are not suffering from Alzheimer’s or similar brain conditions [11]. The study was conducted within 90 days with chronic alcoholics who were supplemented with two grams of acetyl-L-carnitine daily and showed improvements in all areas of brain function. 

L-carnitine can also help your body to recover from oxidative stress easily, alleviate stress during aging and extend your lifespan.

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[1] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Carnitine-HealthProfessional/
[2] https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/jphysiol.2010.201343 
[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0026049509004879 
[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21561431/
[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10861338/
[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0024320517306525 
[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15616239/ 
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5795559/
[9] https://rrtjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41100-015-0004-0 
[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33290254
[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3229874/ 

Photograph: bernardbodo/Envato
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