L-CARNITINE – IDEAL IN THE WAR ON FAT
There is a great deal of ongoing change in the fields of supplementation and Dietetics. New theories and fashions are springing up all the time for the use of various products. Some of them appear on the scene, rise to stardom for a few seasons and disappear without a trace. However, there are ingredients which have been used successfully for years and one of them is L-carnitine – an old but trusted companion in the war against unwanted fat.
L-CARNITINE – NO. 1 IN THE WAR ON FAT?
The progress in scientific research both in Dietetics and supplementation continues to astonish us with new discoveries. Let us go back in time a little – in the past, products which are nowadays considered thermogenic supplements were not of much use, and the market that served the fight against excessive fat was dominated by L-carnitine. Why is it so effective in burning subcutaneous triglycerides? In order to answer this question, we need to look more closely at its physiological function. L-carnitine is a vitamin-like substance, which means that its correct levels are indispensable for the proper functioning of the biochemical processes taking place in our organism. It is an ingredient of utmost importance for the intramitochondrial transport of fatty acids, in addition it influences the balance between fatty tissue and muscle tissue levels. It is true that thermogenic supplements had been gaining popularity in subsequent years, and in the end became competition for L-carnitine. But let’s say it clearly, their effect on subcutaneous fatty tissue is completely different. And this doesn’t mean that good old L-carnitine should now play a marginal role, on the contrary. Not everyone can take formulations which stimulate thermogenesis. These supplements, aside from being effective in getting rid of excessive fat, contain ingredients with the potential to stimulate the central nervous system (e.g. caffeine). Moreover, during extreme physical effort they contribute to increases in both body temperature and blood pressure. What am I getting at? In fact, it can be concluded from observation that, although thermogenics are certainly effective, they are not for everybody – they are not recommended for those who suffer from ailments of the nervous, cardiovascular or circulatory systems. They cannot be used by sufferers of arterial hypertension either. What conclusions can be drawn from the above? L-carnitine, which makes use of different mechanisms to fight subcutaneous fat, is an effective agent that anyone can use, whereas thermogenics – despite their undoubted efficacy – are not recommended for everybody.
WHAT IS L-CARNITINE AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
The substance which was given the name carnitine was first isolated from meat in 1905 by Gulewitsch and Krimberg – following this discovery it took a long time for research to commence on the functioning and wider applications of this compound. It was only in 1947 that it gained interest, and subsequently became popular as one of the “miraculous substances“ assisting competitive athletes due to its multi-level effects and high effectiveness. After more research and assessments of its efficacy it became commercially available in a suitable form, as a dietary supplement recommended for athletes.
What is then this highly significant substance? L-carnitine is classified as an organic compound – the human organism is able to synthetize it in the kidneys, brain and liver from the amino acids methionine and lysine. It is present in relatively large quantities in our muscles. Carnitine, or more precisely 3-hydroxy-4-(trimethylazaniumyl)butanoate, exists in two stereoisomers.
L-CARNITINE – A SUPER TRANSPORTER
The beneficial fat burning properties of L-carnitine are related to the mechanism of Beta oxidation of fatty acids which takes place in the organism, and with the transport of fat molecules. In order to fully understand how the supplement works one should find out a bit more about the way it has to travel during the process. An essential aspect here is also transport of the free, predominantly long-chain fatty acids. But let’s start from the beginning, that is from the site of the process. It all happens in the mitochondrion – a specialized cell organelle, a structure which is found within the cytoplasm. It fulfills very specific metabolic functions – in this case it is mainly transformation of nutrients into energy. How is it all connected? In the event of extreme physical exhaustion, for example caused by training, and during states of hunger, mitochondria work very hard. After the depletion of the basic carbohydrate energy substrates there is a significant drop in energy levels and in response to hormonal stimulation the process of lipolysis is triggered – free fatty acids are released from the adipocytes (fat cells) and they begin to travel through the organism. After they reach the muscle cells in the blood, they enter the mitochondrial matrix through the mitochondrial membrane, where they are oxidized with a release of energy. This helps to maintain physical activity. But it is not as simple as it would seem. Why? Both the outer and the inner mitochondrial membranes are permeable exclusively to short-chain fatty acids. In combination with coenzyme A, with the involvement of ATP they are carried into the mitochondrial matrix. There is a problem with the transport of long-chain fatty acids, which are much more numerous in our organism. It is here that L-carnitine, also called a super transporter of fatty acids, comes to the rescue. It combines with the fatty acids to form acyl-L-carnitine and only in this form carries them across the inner mitochondrial membrane – fatty acids thus conquer the last barrier and reach the energy-producing furnace of the cell.
In the course of beta-oxidation which takes place in the mitochondrial matrix the fatty acids are converted into energy. It is interesting that a very efficient source of energy, e.g. the beta-oxidation of one molecule of Palmitic acid, yields up to 106 molecules of ATP. For the sake of comparison, the anaerobic breakdown of 1 molecule of glucose yields only one.
It would be worthwhile to mention here the process of beta-oxidation itself, which is a specific mechanism of fatty acids combining with oxygen. Why should be mention it so late? Because it is only after the complex fatty acids aided by L-carnitine entered the mitochondrial matrix that the process of beta-oxidation is activated. The above mentioned compound which is formed as a result of carnitine combining with the complex fatty acid (acyl-L-carnitine), with the involvement of the appropriate enzyme, reacts with coenzyme A – and as a result free carnitine is generated once again, which can return to its original site. It is also the time when complex fatty acids can be converted to energy. It all depends on the optimal amount of oxygen, activity level and the number of active mitochondria, as well as the sugar level, since the process of beta-oxidation and thus the complete breakdown of lipids cannot proceed without the above mentioned ingredients. What else? No oxidation of long-chain fatty acids occurring even in the largest quantities could take place were it not for the presence of the carnitine transporter and of its biologically active form – L-carnitine. The greater the momentary energy demand, the more of it is required in the cell. Provided there is a sufficient supply of carnitine, the process of oxidation of fatty acids takes place faster and is more effective.
BENEFITS, ACTION AND EFFECTS
L-carnitine is a substance with a wide variety of applications, and its working can be described as multi-level. It acts both as a transporter of fatty acids, an intermediary in the process of their breakdown and an anti-catabolic agent (in relation to muscles). It has a lipolytic effect on the subcutaneous fatty tissue. How can L-carnitine be of use to us? It is effective, after an appropriate transformation, in limiting the activity and effects of lactic and pyruvic acids (oxidation), which in the face of extreme physical activity lead to increasing muscle acidity (impaired acid–base homeostasis). This situation results in an increased activity of the enzymes which destroy muscle protein and the creation of an acidic environment which they require for their activity. L-carnitine inhibits this process and helps to prevent muscle degradation. It also influences energy conversions, as it mediates in the secretion of an active enzyme which increases energy production (obtaining of ATP from fatty acids using cytochrome oxidase). It also exhibits properties which have a beneficial influence on psychological well-being – this is linked to an ability to stimulate production of beta-endorphins and a simultaneous decrease in the number of the received pain stimuli.
The anti-catabolic effect, which is a supporting factor in the stimulation of the anabolic conditions, can also be strengthened by reducing cortisol to an optimal level – it is after all one of the more dangerous catabolic factors which have an destructive influence on the muscle fibers. In addition, L-carnitine exhibits antioxidant potential, which has a protective effect on the muscle tissue, guarding it against the free, aggressive, reactive oxygen species (free radicals – ROS).
WHAT CAN WE ACHIEVE THROUGH L-CARNITINE SUPPLEMENTATION:
• Maintaining of a balance between fat and muscle level
• Effective metabolism of subcutaneous fat without side effects
• Better transport and oxidation of free fatty acids
• Decline in bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and an increase and optimization of good cholesterol levels (HDL),
• Improved heart function (choline connection),
• Secondary prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic disease (health promoting functions)
• Improved sense of comfort and general psychological well-being,
• Antioxidant and anti-catabolic protection
• Indirect stimulation of anabolic processes (muscle growth)
• Decline in fatty tissue accumulation with increasing muscle mass
DOSAGE, SUPPLEMENTATION AND SCIENTIFIC OPINION
On the whole, L-carnitine dosage is possibly the most controversial of all the aspects related to this supplement. Once it was thought appropriate to limit the dosage to between 0.7–1 g daily, whereas nowadays this limit has been raised to servings of 2 to 3 g. It has been proven that L-carnitine essentially does not provoke any serious side effects, whereas in conditions of extreme physical effort it works with much greater efficiency in greater concentrations and increased dosage. It can be found that in the context of psychological and physical exhaustion of the organism and training development of today‘s athletes the dosage has been increased on account of the multidimensional effect of the supplement. The once recommended dosage of L-carnitine is simply too low in relation to the demand for this ingredient under extreme conditions, such as a heavy physical workout in combination with other activities which place a psychological load on the organism (professional work, study).
Research findings published in “Metabolism – Clinical and Experimental” and in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” in 2009 unequivocally weigh in favor of L-carnitine and its antioxidant and anti-catabolic properties. One may thus draw the conclusion that, in its different fractions, it improves the dynamic muscle function and supports the regeneration of the muscle fibers at tissue level. The same can be said about research conducted at the University of Connecticut, which confirmed that the supplement works in that dimension irrespective of age. Whereas in the experiments conducted at the University of California in Storrs (published in 2008, in the Journal Strength Conditioning Research) it was proven that L-carnitine increased the amount of oxygen used by the subjects in the study sample group, during squats and forearm exercises (the conclusions were obviously drawn in relation to muscle tissue). In the context of the same study the subjects were also tested for the number and presence of markers with a destructive influence on muscle tissue in relation to free radicals – the obtained results were satisfactory, as they indicated far lower levels of destructive markers than in cases with an absence of L-carnitine supplementation.
ABSORPTION VERSUS TYPES OF SUPPLEMENT
There are different types of carnitine supplements available on the supplements market (softgel, gelatin capsules, liquid, gel) which often contain different chemical varieties of the same ingredient. It is important to select the correct form to suit ones individual needs and demands and according to one‘s convenience and habits. I recommend liquid gel capsules, e.g. L-CARNITINE SOFTGEL, which contain a concentrated and highly absorbable form of chemically free L-carnitine, often referred to as L-carnitine base. Liquid–form concentrates L-CARNITINE GOLD and L-CARNITINE 3000 are also an excellent idea, they contain respectively 2000 mg and 3000 mg of free L-carnitine per serving. Of course one can also choose a multi-ingredient product -– L-CARNITINE COMPLEX, which includes such valuable additions as chromium and Vitamin B6, or a blend of L-carnitine and green tea (L-CARNITINE + GREEN TEA). These ingredients have a synergistic effect and intensify the process of fat reduction as well as reduce appetite during a weight loss diet.
Compared to other fat burners and thermogenics, L-carnitine can be of benefit to everyone – it works in a specific and positive way irrespective of age and type of training one is involved in. It improves both mental and physical well-being and also fulfills a health promoting function. There are no contraindications as to its usage during a reduction cycle, such as is the case with thermogenics, which cannot be used by persons who suffer from cardiovascular or circulation problems. The multidimensional working effect and user safety, as well as convenience due to the existence of a variety of forms of the supplement make it appear in an extremely positive light. Now you know how it works and why it works so well – it is a perfect ally in fighting fat. It can also prove to be an excellent supplement for you, and this is confirmed by numerous research results.