In an ideal training world we could all do with an extra burst of energy when training hard at the gym. Does L-carnitine give us that extra boost that we all need in the gym? Well, this review will highlight the benefits of supplementing with L-carnitine and will determine if it really does boost your energy levels. Here goes……..
How is L-carnitine made?
L-carnitine is made in the liver and kidneys, and is formed by the amino acids lysine and methionine. It need vitamins B3, B6 and iron to help with the synthesis of L-carnitine and around 97% of the body stores are found in the muscles. L-carnitine is not made by the body and is created when eating foods such as red meats, beans and some dairy products. A key point to consider is that a balanced nutrition intake can contribute to around 75% of L-carnitine which is needed within the body for it to function at an optimal level. However, the problems start when the supply of the L-carnitine out stripes the demands. For resistance training it is essential that the body has enough L-carnitine to sustain optimal energy levels throughout your session. The extra 25% of L-carnitine should come from supplementing your diet. Therefore, the next steps are to discuss the major benefits of supplementing with L-carnitine and its associated mechanism that boost your energy levels.
The mechanisms behind L-carnitine
L-carnitine carries the long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) across the mitochondria, which is located in your skeletal muscle, to be broken down and used as energy. It also helps to release stored body fat and activates the use of LCFAs as a primary fuel source. The use of triglycerides as a primary fuel source enables the liver to spare the use of its glycogen stores which is required when training at high intensities and for longer durations. Interestingly when exercising at around 80% of your maximum heart rate, L-carnitine supplementation is a catalyst for reduced usage glycogen from carb and it this is sparing mechanism that is essential for you to train harder.
This in turns enables increase levels of body fat to be used as a fuel, this increases energy levels for prolonged exercise and it reduces your % body fat drastically. Subsequently this process allows a lot more body fat to be broken down and used as energy by the skeletal muscle; this is by far the biggest benefit of supplementing with L-carnitine.
Valid research backs this up and underlines L-carnitine as a major amino acid that stimulates the fat burning mechanism within your body. In the absence of L-carnitine the LCFAs have an arduous task of breaking through the mitochondria and their use as a fuel source when training is hindered. Let us not forget that carbs and fats are required as energy for the skeletal muscle to operate and the next is to explain this statement a little further.
The Next Step
When you consume some carbohydrates they are converted into glycogen to be used as energy and/or stored within the skeletal muscle and liver. L-carnitine facilitates the usage of fat as a fuel; however during high intensity bouts of exercise L-carnitine levels within the muscle can become exhausted. If you supplement L-carnitine the levels are topped up and it is this mechanism that allows you to access the body fat as a fuel. This also enables you to shift your unwanted body fat. You have a double whammy effect when supplementing with L-carnitine because fat is the main fuel being used by the body and this allows you to exercise for longer at higher intensities.
Therefore you feel like you are having an extra boost of energy and you are blasting the fat off your trunk because you can exercise for longer periods of time. In this situation you will undoubtedly start to become a whole fitter and this will enhance your metabolic and hormonal ability to burn body fat.
Other benefits associated with L-carnitine
L-carnitine has other benefits than its major role of transporting fat to be used a primary fuel source. Another key role of L-carnitine is that it enhances the insulin’s sensitivity on the skeletal muscle. It is this mechanism that enables the glucose to be driven in it and this increases its availability to be used as primary fuel. In addition supplementing with L-carnitine supports the body in blood glucose regulation and this has even been observed in people who have just eaten a meal that is high in carbohydrates.
This is excellent news because this ensures that less insulin is secreted to regulate the glucose; as one of insulin’s main roles is to force the body to store the unwanted fat! Research has indicated that L-carnitine can also help the body to replenish its glycogen stores after a lot quicker post exercise. It is this strategy that will help you to recover more rapidly after your finish your blast in the gym.
There is evidence to suggest that supplementing with L-carnitine increases blood flow to the skeletal muscle; this translates to an improved delivery of oxygen, nutrients and hormones which are essential when building muscle. It also decreases the oxidative damage caused by training as an increase in blood flow enables the muscles to remove metabolic waste efficiently and to buffer its pH levels.
Let’s us not forget about its oxidative role on nitric oxide. When we train nitric oxide can be damaged but L-carnitine boosts the levels of a key enzyme that actually increase nitric oxide level in your blood stream. This protective mechanism of nitric oxide enhances muscle recovery times and can increase your energy levels. In addition supplementing with L-carnitine has the following training benefits:
- It can increase the number of androgen receptors which enable the testosterone to bind to the muscle tissue. This increases muscle mass size.
- It acts as a catalyst for insulin growth factor-1 which is vital for protein binding in the muscle tissue.
In terms of dosage it is recommended to consume 3 grams of L-carnitine with 30 grams of carbohydrate and 40 grams of proteins. Try to consume L-carnitine after you have trained and/or in between meals to optimise your fat burning potential.