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L-Carnitine: Myth or Magic? Part II

February 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 389

At the beginning of 2012, I decided to supplement my normal diet with L-Carnitine while training for a marathon. This decision resulted from reading various research papers on the potential benefits of L-Carnitine. Many articles about running supplements promote L-Carnitine's ability to help our bodies produce energy by metabolizing fat and carbohydrates during exercise. But I learned that carnitine is important for everyone, not just athletes.

Dietary Sources of L-Carnitine

Six weeks into 2012, here's some pointers that I discovered from personal experience and from my research:

Carnitine is now widely available as a supplement in several forms (L-Carnitine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, and Propionyl-L-Carnitine), but the most popular seems to be L-Carnitine. Research studies prefer to use Acetyl-L-Carnitine because it is better absorbed in the small intestine than L-Carnitine.The most common source of dietary carnitine is red meat. Carnitine is naturally present in red meat, because it is stored in the muscle tissue of mammals. When we eat red meat, the carnitine is absorbed in our small intestine and from there enters our bloodstream.Carnitine is present in these types of meat (from the US National Institutes of Health): 4 oz steak = approx 160 mg of carnitine; 4 oz ground beef = about 100 mg; 4 oz cod fillet = approx 4-7 mg; pork, bacon, lamb and chicken also contain carnitine, but in smaller amounts.Carnitine is also present in foods of plant origins, but at much lower levels. Dairy products, as well as some fish, nuts and legumes, can be good sources of carnitine in the average person's diet. One cup of whole milk, for instance, contains 5 mg.Excess amounts of carnitine are excreted in our urine.

Energy drinks

Changing my normal diet to contain more red meat, chicken, and cod would be an easy way to boost my dietary consumption of carnitine. But I also considered using energy drinks as a supplement. I wondered why L-Carnitine is added to many sports drinks, and discovered it allows advertisers to promote energy drinks as "providing muscular energy" and "assisting fat metabolism". Both those claims would naturally attract athletes.

But I soon realized that taking a concentrated oral supplement of L-Carnitine would be more efficient than drinking sports drinks, because one can of energy drink might contain on average only about 50 mg of L-Carnitine. The scientific studies which I've read used daily dosages as high as 2000 mg in their testing of human subjects.

Oral L-Carnitine Supplements

If I didn't want to get my L-Carnitine from sports drinks, what would be my best alternative?

I could purchase carnitine in caplet form at any health food/vitamin store. For the purposes of my personal study, I selected one at random that contains 120 caplets per bottle, with each caplet containing 500 mg, for $11.99.I could also purchase bottles of liquid supplement. I bought one bottle of triple strength L-Carnitine for approximately $30.00, with 30 daily doses of 1500 mg of L-Carnitine, and was satisfied with the price. An average can of energy drink costs between $2.00-$3.00. I would have to buy 900 cans of energy drink, spending over $2000.00, to equal one bottle of liquid L-Carnitine!Taking 1500 mg of L-Carnitine in caplet form on a daily basis would be even cheaper, but not as much fun. I love the taste of the liquid, which comes in flavors that make me think of Jolly Ranchers! I take the recommended dosage of 1 tablespoon per day (1500 mg), immediately priot to a run or other moderate to intensive exercise.One tablespoon containing 1500 mg of L-Carnitine contains 4 g of carbohydrates and 15 calories. Be sure to shake the bottle well before use! I didn't see this warning on the bottle originally. Also, be sure to take it on an empty stomach.Because a friend of mine is sensitive to gluten, I investigated the L-Carnitine I'd purchased. The caplets and liquid supplements contain NO gluten.

Six weeks into my grand experiment, am I feeling any different? After consuming a regular dose of L-Carnitine, was my muscle fatigue lower? I do feel as if I have a little more energy, particular in the evening when I am running after work and before dinner. My weight has remained constant.

Perhaps most importantly after six weeks, I have realized that I will have to continue my experiment for quite a while longer than I expected. The study that most impressed me describes testing L-carnitine supplementation in athletes after 24 weeks of taking 2000 mg of L-Carnitine on a daily basis. In a later article, I will discuss the results of that British study, which were released last year, and also record more of my own anecdoctal observations during the next 4 ½ months.

Ramona Swanberg runs marathons, ultra-marathons, and half-marathons for fun and fitness. Twenty years of running the solitary prairie trails of Illinois has given her lots of time to think about running. Find a wealth of running tips and sports watches at

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L Carnitine Supplements


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