Carnitine – Fat Burner or Supplement Myth? The Misunderstood Fat Transporter

L-Carnitine is an ingredient that has been on the market for decades, most commonly sold as a liquid where users take “carnitine shots” in hopes of burning more fat. It’s mostly sold as L-Carnitine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, and L-Carnitine-L-Tartrate. In the end, all versions get metabolized down to the base form of carnitine. Carnitine products leave a lot to be desired, and their simple formulations show how manufacturers have not taken the time to actually learn if and how carnitine supplementation can be beneficial.

Let’s first start with how carnitine works in the body naturally – not via supplementation. Carnitine exists in all of us, and is a transporter of long-chain fatty acids to mitochondria to be used as energy, in layman terms, it helps transport fat to be burned for energy.

You can see why supplementing with carnitine became a popular trend. More carnitine = more fat transported to be burned, right? Well…it’s not that simple. Studies have been done on carnitine supplementation, and unless you are deficient in carnitine in your diet, no promising results have been seen [1][2][3]. If you are vegan, you may be deficient in L-Carnitine and get some benefit from taking it, but read on, there is a right way to do it!

When we were performing our research during the formulation of Alphamine powder, we were looking for a way to increase the amount of carnitine in the body. To do this, we had to better understand what happens during carnitine supplementation, and see why traditional supplementation was not giving any results.

It is not as simple as “take X to increase levels of X”, and oftentimes supplement manufacturers don’t dig into (or understand) the actual science. There are plenty of examples of this when it comes to biochemistry and metabolism. In many instances you have to consume Y to increase levels of X, because there is a “rate limiting” process in the body. Luckily, you can depend on us to do all the research when we are formulating a new product.

Through this research, we found exactly what we were looking for. It is not as simple as just taking carnitine – it must be combined with some amount of choline as well, and if possible, caffeine.

Researchers have found in animal models that just by consuming choline itself, concentrations of carnitine increase in skeletal muscle, as does a loss in total body fat [4].  Similar findings have been seen in female athletes supplementing with choline [5]. This is an example of “taking Y to increase X”.

In another study on women given both choline and carnitine, researchers found a shift in carnitine that favored fat mobilization, which allows it to be burned for energy. From this research and understanding the relationship between supplemented choline and carnitine, and increasing carnitine levels in the body for the purpose of a more favorable fat-burning environment, we realized everyone taking these carnitine-only products were really wasting their money, and all of these products could have been formulated properly had the research been done. Taking choline increases levels of carnitine, but this study showed how the combination of the two can be very effective by working together.

Our research went on, where we found that scientists had tested the same combination in animal models, choline + carnitine, plus added caffeine to the mix to see what would happen. As one might expect since caffeine is known to increase energy expenditure, adding caffeine to the equation had remarkable effects [6][7]. This is the “base” of our Alphamine formula, the combination of choline, carnitine, and caffeine. The formula doesn’t end there, but the foundation was built on formulating a product that actually could tap into the mechanism behind carnitine in the body – which is a unique path to shifting one’s metabolism into an environment favoring burning fat for energy.

 

References
[1] Brandsch C, Eder K. Effect of L-carnitine on weight loss and body composition of rats fed a hypocaloric diet. Ann Nutr Metab. 2002;46(5):205-10. doi: 10.1159/000065408. PMID: 12378044.
[2] Melton SA, Keenan MJ, Stanciu CE, Hegsted M, Zablah-Pimentel EM, O'Neil CE, Gaynor P, Schaffhauser A, Owen K, Prisby RD, LaMotte LL, Fernandez JM. L-carnitine supplementation does not promote weight loss in ovariectomized rats despite endurance exercise. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2005 Mar;75(2):156-60. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831.75.2.156. PMID: 15929637.
[3] Villani RG, Gannon J, Self M, Rich PA. L-Carnitine supplementation combined with aerobic training does not promote weight loss in moderately obese women. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Jun;10(2):199-207. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.10.2.199. PMID: 10861338.
[4] James W Daily III, Nobuko Hongu, Randall L Mynatt, Dileep S Sachana. Choline supplementation increases tissue concentrations of carnitine and lowers body fat in guinea pigs. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Volume 9, Issue 8, August 1998, Pages 464-470
[5] Elsawy G, Abdelrahman O, Hamza A. Effect of choline supplementation on rapid weight loss and biochemical variables among female taekwondo and judo athletes. J Hum Kinet. 2014 Apr 9;40:77-82. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2014-0009. PMID: 25031675; PMCID: PMC4096089.
[6] Sachan DS, Hongu N. Increases in VO2max and metabolic markers of fat oxidation by caffeine, carnitine, and choline supplementation in rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2000 Oct;11(10):521-6. doi: 10.1016/s0955-2863(00)00119-4. PMID: 11120451.
[7] Nobuko Hongu, Dileep S. Sachan, Caffeine, Carnitine and Choline Supplementation of Rats Decreases Body Fat and Serum Leptin Concentration as Does Exercise, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, Issue 2, February 2000, Pages 152–157
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