About two months ago I came across a YouTube video discussing a supplement I had never heard of before. The supplement was L-Carnitine. This supplement was supposed to help people with fat loss and building muscles. Being very intrigued by this supplement I started to do a bunch of research for the next 6 hours into this whether this supplement works and what the science was behind it. After doing the research on L-Carnitine I decided to go ahead and try it and see if it had any effects on my body. In this article I will first discuss what L-Carnitine (Tartrate) is, what the supposed benefits are of taking it, and my own personal experience from taking it.
What is L-Carnitine (Tartrate)? Well it is a substance that helps your body use long-chain fatty acids for energy production, increases androgen receptors which then leads to muscle growth, and helps burn fat. It is produced naturally in the liver and kidneys from amino acids. The body uses the amino acids lysine and methionine which both are essential amino acid and must be obtained from your diet to then produce the normal levels of L-Carnitine. You can get L-Carnitine naturally from animal-based proteins and dairy products. The body typically makes enough L-Carnitine to meet your needs. Typically, those who are deficient and need to supplement L-Carnitine are the middle aged/elderly and vegetarians. As the body starts to get older it becomes less efficient which makes it harder for it to produce enough of the L-Carnitine needed. Also, since vegetarians do not eat meat, this makes it harder to get some of the essential amino acids in their diet. For this reason, they made need to take amino acids and L-Carnitine supplements so that they have sufficient levels of these substances in their system, which will then help them with muscle growth. Now that we have a basic understanding of what L-Carnitine is let’s look at the supposed benefits are from taking it.
There are many supposed benefits of taking L-Carnitine, however, none of them have been evaluated from the Food and Drug Administration. The proposed benefits are: burning fat for energy, increased performance and fatigue resistance, muscle repair, better pumps and blood flow, and increased reception of free testosterone/increase in lean muscle. You may be asking yourself, how much L-Carnitine should I take to see these benefits? From all the research I’ve done everyone seems to conclude that you should take about 2,000mg per day for optimal results. First, lets look at how L-Carnitine burns fat for energy. What L-Carnitine does is it shuttles fat into the cells mitochondria where this fat can then be used for energy. If you are deficient in L-Carnitine, then you will lack the necessary mechanism to efficiently burn fat. This can then lead to weight gain or make it harder to lose fat which nobody wants. It was shown in a research that when the participants took L-Carnitine 55% less energy was use from carbs and energy produced by using fat was increased by 55%. This increase in fat burning could be extremely beneficial to those trying to lose weight or build lean muscle. The second and third benefits of L-Carnitine is increased performance/fatigue resistance, and muscle repair. L-Carnitine has been seen to increase workout length by up to 25% without getting fatigued. This can be due to the fact that those who took L-Carnitine were seen to have lower levels of lactic acid and higher levels of creatine in their system. This is probably because less muscle glycogen was used during the workout since more of the energy was being produced from fat. The increased creatine levels also most likely helped the subjects being tested resist fatigue since having an abundance of creatine helps increase ATP which is an easy source of energy typically used by the body when weight lifting. Having high levels of ATP will also help you recover faster after a workout, so you have more energy and feel good for your next workout. (See article on the benefits of creatine and why it is my favorite supplement here!) Forth, L-Carnitine increases blood flow which will allow you to have a better pump during your workout.The great thing about being able to increase blood flow to the muscles is that blood is the transporter of rich nutrients and hormones. Increasing the nutrients and hormones to the muscle will then help you to put on more muscle mass in a shorter amount of time. One added benefit that is cosmetic is increased vascularity which will also give you the appearance of being leaner and bigger.
Finally, a L-Carnitine can increase reception of free testosterone/increase in lean muscle. This last reason was the biggest reason I decided to try out L-Carnitine. There are two key things to think about when trying build muscle. First, is that your body has free testosterone floating around in your blood. Having high levels of testosterone is great since it is responsible for male feature development, which includes muscle growth. If you can figure out how to better utilize the free testosterone in your body, then you can also increase your muscle mass naturally. This is where the second key thing to think about comes into play. Your body only has a certain amount of androgen receptors also known as NR3C4. Why is this important? Well, androgen receptors are the binding sites for testosterone. You will be able to build a more masculine physique by increasing the androgen receptor density in your muscle tissue. The more androgen receptors you have in your body the more free testosterone can be utilized for muscle growth. There are several ways to increase androgen receptors. However, the one we are focused on is taking L-Carnitine.The supplementation of L-Carnitine has been shown to increase androgen receptors in muscle throughout the body, but especially in androgen receptor rich areas such as the Deltoids (shoulders), Trapezius (traps), and Latissimus Dorsi/ Erector Spinae (back muscles). At the end of the day this increase in androgen receptors will then help you build more lean muscle mass. Who doesn’t want that?
All that information is good and all but what have I found since taking it? Well let me start off by saying that if you’re a young healthy individual with a good diet supplementation of L-Carnitine is probably not necessary. However, if you are middle aged or a vegetarian then taking L-Carnitine could be extremely beneficial! Since I first started taking L-Carnitine two months ago, I haven’t seen any drastic changes. This is honestly what I expected, since my diet and lifestyle is relatively healthy already. That said, I have noticed increased vascularity in my chest, shoulders, and traps. To me this signals an increase in blood flow to those areas, which also signals an increase in androgen receptors in those areas and an increase in muscle mass. I have also been able to put on 5lbs of lean muscle over the last two months, which is pretty good for a natural lifter. So, should you take L-Carnitine? I’ll leave that up to you to decide!
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This article was written by:
NASM Certified Personal Fitness Trainer
Josiah Brannon is an National Academy of Sports Medicine
(NASM) Certified Personal Trainer with experience in helping clients improve their Sports Performance, Everyday Functional Fitness, and Bodybuilding. He is not only passionate about Fitness, but he promotes living life to the fullest mentally, physically, and spiritually. To hire Josiah Brannon as a Personal Fitness Trainer click here!