L-CARNITINE, FOOD FOR YOUR MUSCLES
L-Carnitine is considered one of the most widely used nutritional ingredients for both sportsmen and weight control programs.
It dates back to 1905, when Russian researchers Gulewitsch & Krimberg discovered this substance in the muscles of mammals. Their research showed that L-Carnitine was necessary for the biochemical functioning of muscle cells.
It was called vitamin BT in the mid-century, around the 1950s, by the German scientist Fraenkel and the American Blewett. Their studies have confirmed that L-Carnitine is a key nutritional component for the body.
But…what is L-Carnitine?.
L-Carnitine is a very small molecule, soluble in water, which is found in natural and highly concentrated amounts in the muscles. Around 98% of L-Carnitine is found in the muscles, together with some traces in the liver and blood.
That is where L-Carnitine plays a fundamental role in the metabolism of fatty acids, and also in the performance of muscle contraction.
The body produces it as a natural substance, but it is also absorbed by the body through the intake of animal protein and food supplements. It reaches our tissues through the blood circulation. It needs to be provided with a support of essential amino acids, mainly lysine and methionine together with iron and vitamins C, B3 and B6, in order to be synthesised.
What is L-Carnitine used for? Its function in our organism.
L-Carnitine helps free fatty acids to be carried into the inner mitochondria of the cells to be transformed into energy. Without the activity of L-Carnitine, fatty bodies would be likely to build up in muscle tissue, fat tissue and arteries.
The mitochondria act as motors inside the cells, burning fat to produce useful energy.
L-Carnitine is first synthesised mainly in the liver, and from there it is transported through the bloodstream to the muscles.
The action of L-Carnitine on muscle energy metabolism and the integrity of muscle tissue makes it a natural active component and key to physical and sports performance.
It is not common to have L-Carnitine deficiencies in the body, but in those cases that do exist they are manifested by muscle fatigue, cramps or premature aging.
The lack may be due to a deficit in the diet, but also to genetic components causing problems in its synthesis, intestinal mal-absorption or liver disorders.
Properties and benefits of L-Carnitine.
L-Carnitine is involved in the production and release of energy, is saved in our body and quickly released as an energy input. Thanks to this, sports performance and aerobic and anaerobic capacities may be optimised.
L-Carnitine uses fat as an energy source for the body rather than sugars. This activity has an effect on fat mass, reducing muscle fatigue and recovery time after exercise, hence its common use among sportsmen and women.
L-Carnitine is also used for the treatment of patients who do not produce enough Carnitine and has been studied for its positive activity on muscle tissue affected by chemotherapy.
The benefits of L-carnitine on people who do sports are related to its functions in the energy metabolism with positive effects on physical performance. Its effects are not immediate, they may take several days to appear if intake is regularly increased.
It can help muscular recovery, cardio-respiratory fitness, endurance capacity by increasing blood flow, and reduce fatigue and muscular discomfort after exercise.
Wear and tear on the muscular-skeletal system.
The production of L-Carnitine in the body is reduced over the years, so muscle and bone deficiency is common at older ages.
This is often associated with exhaustion, poor strength of grip or involuntary weight loss due to mitochondrial dysfunction caused by L-Carnitine deficiency.
Dietary intake of L-carnitine could reduce the unbalance between protein anabolism (synthesis) and catabolism (degradation) leading to wear and tear of bone muscle.
Foods containing L-Carnitine.
A healthy organism is able to produce quantities of Carnitine (approximately 16 mg/day) according to the needs of our body, depending on weight.
In addition, L-Carnitine is present in many common foods in the diet, especially of animal origin, such as meat or dairy products. Thus, it is present in beef, pork, fish or chicken breast.
In smaller quantities, it is also found in cereals and foods of vegetable origin such as carrots or tomatoes, and fruits such as peaches, pears and bananas.
Due to its high presence in animal foods, vegetarians and vegans may consider taking L-Carnitine extra in their diet.
When should I take L-Carnitine?.
L-Carnitine, as we have said, is widely used by sportsmen and women, and sometimes, together with a balanced diet for this ingredient, it can be supplied as a dietary supplement as an energy input for specific activities. It is usually available in liquid format or in tablets for oral use.
Taking L-carnitine is very effective before physical activity for toning or bodybuilding training, usually for about 15 minutes.
It can be taken daily before breakfast to maintain its benefits in the body if a training program is followed.
Side effects and contraindications of L-Carnitine.
As it is a component of natural origin in the body, L-Carnitine is a safe component.
If intake is increased through the use of supplementation, the recommended indications and quantity must be followed, although it usually has no side effects.
- Dr. Bernardo García, J. Mitos y Realidades de la L-Carnitina.
- Higdon J. Ph.D., Linus Pauling Institute et Oregon State University. L-Carnitine. 2002.
- National Cancer Institute. Dictionary of Cancer Terms: L-Carnitine. Feb, 2011.
- Mawer R., L-Carnitine: Benefits, Side Effects, Sources and Dosage. Nov, 2018.
- WebMD. L-Carnitine: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.