Heard of L-Carnitine before? It is an amino acid and popular supplement typically taken to improve fat loss, fertility and overall health. There is some disagreement as to whether it is worth taking or not. Some people swear by it, others say you shouldn’t bother. As with all supplements, it depends on your individual needs and goals. Read below to learn all about L-Carnitine and whether taking it would benefit you.
What Is L-Carnitine For?
L-Carnitine is a chemical naturally produced in the body but we can also get it through animal products like steak, chicken and cheese. Its primary job is to transport compounds around your body. Essentially, L-Carnitine is like an Uber driver. It is responsible for driving fats out of your cells in order for them to be used as energy. Without sufficient L-Carnitine, your body won’t be able to efficiently utilise the food you eat as fuel. For this reason, it is often used as a weight loss supplement however L-Carnitine can be useful for a few different things. Studies show that taking it can also benefit brain health, fertility and muscle recovery. Because you can get L-Carnitine through food, taking it in supplement form is not 100% necessary. However, for those who have special conditions, are deficient, vegan or really want to optimise fat loss, taking a bit on the side can be more beneficial than relying on diet alone.
Does It Benefit Weight Loss?
Whether or not L-Carnitine is beneficial for fat loss is heavily debated. Some research shows that supplementation can help you reduce your bodyweight and fat mass. As stated above, L-Carnitine’s job is to take fat out of your cells so it can be used for energy. It would therefore make sense that supplemental L-Carnitine could improve your metabolism. Obviously the best thing for weight loss is a calorie deficit and exercise. Don’t think that taking L-Carnitine exempts you from making good nutrition and lifestyle choices. However if you are already implementing healthy habits and want your body to be more efficient at using food as fuel, supplementation can help. This is especially true if you are on a plant based diet or don’t consume many animal products. The occurrence of fat loss after taking L-Carnitine is not guaranteed, but it may potentially make the process a little bit easier.
Effects On Fertility
Probably the most interesting benefit of L-Carnitine supplementation is its effect on fertility. The research seems to consistently show that taking around 1g per day can improve the quality and motility of sperm. This is great news for the men out there who want to be fathers but aren’t having luck in the fertility department. Additionally, L-Carnitine can benefit ladies with a hormonal disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This disorder occurs when a woman’s body produces too much male hormone, sometimes resulting in ovarian cysts. Oral supplementation of L-Carnitine can increase ovulation, improve blood sugar levels and assist with weight loss (all things that many PCOS sufferers struggle with). In this study, women who took L-Carnitine were more likely to get pregnant and had better menstrual regularity compared to the placebo group. Overall, it is relatively undisputed that supplementation can noticeably improve fertility in both men and women. If becoming a parent is important to you, definitely consider adding L-Carnitine to your supplement routine.
Can It Help With Depression?
It has been observed that those struggling with mental illnesses like depression tend to have lower than average L-Carnitine levels. Scientists are not yet sure if the deficiency is the cause of mental health issues or merely the result. More research is still needed but taking L-Carnitine may have some positive effects on brain function. Studies so far show that supplementation can reduce symptoms of depression, even compared to placebo. The participants in the study found that L-Carnitine provided them with relief comparable to that of antidepressants but without all of the adverse side effects. This is great news for those who want to feel better but are hesitant to try more potent medications. We still aren’t sure why L-Carnitine has this effect but it is a promising area of research. Of course, if you have a mental disorder, you should always rely on advice from your doctor. But it is interesting to know that L-Carnitine has such a wide range of functions.
What About Exercise Performance And Recovery?
L-Carnitine is not typically taken for its ergogenic properties. Basically this means it won’t make you significantly stronger or fitter. However some research shows that taking it could improve your recovery and muscle endurance. For example, this study found that L-Carnitine supplementation reduced thigh muscle damage in men following a squat training plan. More research suggests that it can also reduce soreness and fatigue in both men and women. As with most things, more research is still needed. But if you are constantly feeling a bit achy after workouts or want to try something new to boost recovery, L-Carnitine could be an ideal choice.
Are There Side Effects?
There are very few potential negative side effects of L-Carnitine. The biggest downside would be the natural fishy odour that puts some people off. If you aren’t a fan of the smell, mix it in a flavoured beverage and you won’t notice it at all. The odd person may also experience an upset stomach after taking it. This effect could be mitigated by having it alongside a meal to help with digestion. If you do experience gastrointestinal distress, cease supplementation or try sneaking it into your food to see if that helps. On the whole, L-Carnitine is a relatively safe product and doses of 2g or less per day seem to be well tolerated by most individuals. Always read the label on the back of the product before you take it to avoid any adverse effects. If you follow what is prescribed, you should be good to go.
Will L-Carnitine cure all your problems? No. But if you have the extra money and are wanting to reap any of the benefits outlined above, go ahead. The small monetary cost of the product can be heavily outweighed by the numerous health improvements you might experience from supplementation. Give it a try for yourself and see if you notice a difference. It might be the best choice you’ve ever made.
Written by Lauren Carruthers