L-carnitine is a compound that is responsible for transporting fatty acids within cells to the place they get burned (the mitochondria). So more fat transporter means more fat burning, right? Not so for healthy individuals. There is little scientific evidence that supports use of carnitine supplements in weight loss. Here’s what you need to know…
The burning of fuel (oxidation) depends on the demand for energy. This demand only increases with physical activity or certain conditions such as illness or environmental extremes. Providing more fat available to burn doesn’t increase the rate of the burning process. This is similar to the idea that your car can only use so much gasoline at once, even with a 50 gallon tank at its disposal. The engine consumes just what it requires at the time, regardless of how much is available. It’s how you drive and your speed that increase the engine workload which in turn burns more gasoline.
Taking L-carnitine as a supplement would only promote fat burning if you are deficient in it. The body produces a little carnitine and the rest we get from our diet. With carnitine found in red meat, dairy products, and small amounts from most plant foods, deficiencies are very rare. Vegans may consume very little carnitine and could stand to supplement.
For endurance athletes, supplemental high-dose carnitine has been used to prolong exhaustion, possibly via enhanced mitochondrial oxidation and decreased tissue damage. There is not enough scientific data to conclude that carnitine is beneficial at this point, and more studies are underway.
L-Carnitine supplementation combined with aerobic training does not promote weight loss in moderately obese women. Villani RG, Gannon J, Self M, Rich PA. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Jun: 10(2): 199-207.
The Effects of Acute L-carnitine Supplementation on Endurance Performance of Athletes. Orer GE, Guzel NA. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Feb: 28(2): 514-519.
New Perspectives on Nutritional Interventions to Augment Lipid Utilization During Exercise. 2012 Gonzales JT, Stevenson EJ. British Journal of Nutrition 107: 339-349.
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- Debbie J., MS, RD
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