Carnitine is sometimes referred to as an amino acid, but technically speaking it is not. Rather it is similar in chemical structure to some B vitamins, however it is not a true vitamin because the body makes it in small amounts (true vitamins are substances which cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by the body and must thus be obtained from the diet).
Carnitine is responsible for transporting fat to the mitochondria, a part of the cell where it is "burnt up" i.e. metabolised as a fuel source. If you can't get fat into the mitochondria, you can't metabolise it and therefore no fat burning can occur. Optimal carnitine levels therefore allow your body optimally burn body-fat.
Carnitine is primarily found in animal products, especially red meat and thus unless you are eating plenty of red meat or other animal proteins, you are probably not getting sufficient carnitine to derive its full benefits.
Because carnitine plays a critical role in fat burning, it is crucial to facilitating optimum endurance because fat is the #1 fuel our body uses during endurance sports. Research shows carnitine enhances aerobic performance, allowing athletes to exercise longer without fatigue. Carnitine has also been shown to increase peak running speed in athletes by 6%. In other studies, subjects supplemented with carnitine have seen statistically significant improvements in reduced fatigue levels. Increases in energy and well-being appear to be more pronounced the longer subjects supplement with carnitine.
Increased cellular levels of carnitine support fat loss naturally, because carnitine transports fat molecules to the part of the cell where they are burns up. Scientific evidence shows that increased levels of carnitine lead to increased fat burning. Carnitine has also been demonstrated to be useful for eliminating cravings and increasing the amount of energy you have to exercise, both of which are very helpful for those wanting to lose body fat.
The heart muscle derives around 70% of the energy it requires to keep beating efficiently from fat. Since fat cannot be efficiently burnt without carnitine it should come as no surprise that carnitine is one of the most important nutrients for promoting heart health. Furthermore studies have shown carnitine supplementation to be helpful in the treatment of angina, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure. Since carnitine is also one of the more important nutrients for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides it would be a pro-active approach for those fitness enthusiasts concerned with life-long heart health to consider carnitine supplementation.
Start by taking 500-1000mg of carnitine with breakfast. After a few weeks of supplementation the dose can be increased if more energy or weight loss is desired by taking 1000mg with both breakfast and lunch i.e. increase your dose gradually until you see the results you desire. Some individuals find that taking carnitine late in the day impacts on their ability to fall asleep at night. If you are one such individual, avoid taking carnitine after mid-day. Heart patients and those with other serious medical conditions should only supplement with carnitine under the supervision of their medical practitioner as it is believed than in some cases carnitine supplementation can reduce the need for heart-supporting medication.
If you have been carnitine deficient, you should notice an increase in energy levels within the first few days of supplementation. Weight loss results should begin to manifest within the first week and become noticeable within 3-4 weeks. For enhanced sports endurance, it may take a few weeks to begin noticing increased endurance and thus performance levels. For those concerned with heart health, cholesterol and triglyceride lowering effects tend to manifest after a month or two of regular supplementation.
For Fat Loss – consider taking carnitine along with chromium and green tea extract (EGCG)
For Heart Health - consider supplementing with magnesium, taurine, vitamin E, Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids and CoQ10, which all help carnitine benefit the heart more effectively
Note – supplementing CoQ10 with carnitine is generally a good idea, as these nutrients work synergistically in your cells.
Remember to treat all health problems with the guidance of a health care practitioner