What is Acetyl-L-Carnitine (aka ALC, or ALCAR)?

Acetyl-L-carnitine, or ALCAR for short, sometimes just ALC, is an essential substance that plays an important role in energy production and fat utilization by your body, and is gaining popularity in both medicine and sports. ALCAR is a naturally occurring amino acid that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and reaches its maximum plasma concentration approximately three hours after ingestion. This article will enlighten you on why this substance is so important, how it works in your body, and how it can benefit you.

Acetyl-L-carnitine molecule image
Acetyl-L-carnitine molecule

The name L-Carnitine is derived from the Latin name for meat, carnis. It tells us exactly where the amino acid can be found. It is concentrated in muscles (especially in the heart muscle), but can also be found in other tissues. In plant proteins, however, it is not present at all or only in very small amounts. Therefore, there is a risk that vegetarians and vegans may suffer from carnitine deficiency.

ALCAR is structurally different from ordinary L-carnitine. Here, an acetic acid group is additionally attached to the carnitine molecule. This makes it easier for ALC to cross the blood-brain barrier and protect the nervous system. Acetic acid groups can bind to choline in the body and become acetylcholine, a substance that strengthens the nervous system and memory. ALC can more easily penetrate the mitochondria located in the cells. Mitochondria produce energy and ALC can increase their energy capacity. It is therefore better than L-carnitine when it comes to increasing the body’s energy production and strengthening memory.

The human biochemistry can usually produce the amino acid L-Carnitine itself from the amino acid L-Lysine. However, they are dependent on the help of L-methionine and vitamin C, among others. The body’s own production should not be taken for granted. Most people do not consume enough vitamin C to ensure the conversion of L-lysine into L-arginine, for example. In addition, this conversion is a 5-step process that requires several enzymes. If only one single enzyme is missing because the body doesn’t produce enough, or doesn’t produce this enzyme at all due to hereditary factors, then the conversion is impossible.

ALCAR can be great both for men and women image
ALCAR can be great both for men and women

As we’ve seen, L-carnitine alone is found in some foods, including meat, cheese and milk. This is why vegetarians and vegans in particular often supplement this substance. Acetyl L-carnitine, on the other hand, because of its very low natural occurrence, has to be produced industrially. The reason for this is again the acetyl group, which is intentionally added. Only then does acetyl L-carnitine achieve its high efficacy and bioavailability, which makes it so special and unique.
The bioavailability of a substance describes how quickly and in what quantity a substance can be absorbed or is available where it is needed. The following applies: the higher the bioavailability, the better. Acetyl-L-carnitine has an extremely high bioavailability and therefore fast efficacy.

Although ALCAR is mainly referred to as an amino acid, scientists did not agree for a long time on which kind of nutrient one should assign L-Carnitin to. Some people prefer to regard this substance as a vitamin — a B vitamin — rather than an amino acid. Still others call it a metabim, which is the name for a vital metabolic factor — an essential metabolite.

Is ALCAR a nootropic?

This substance is also known as the “L-Carnitine of the brain” and is, therefore, a component of most supplements, including, yes, lots of nootropics (brain supplements). Nootropics, in the broadest sense, are substances that have beneficial effects on the central nervous system. These substances allow the consumer to positively influence brain function. Among the positive effects are improved concentration, increased memory, improved responsiveness and even increased social interaction.

Brain image
Your brain can benefit quite a lot from ALCAR

In contrast to conventional L-carnitine, which can be produced by the body, and which is probably more commonly known to most people, ALCAR, as we know, has an added acetyl group. The advantage of this is that L-carnitine is now able to cross the blood-brain barrier through the added acetyl group. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a natural barrier that separates blood circulation from the central nervous system — this is extremely important for your brain because it protects it from pathogens and toxic substances circulating in the blood. On the other hand, if a beneficial substance cannot cross the BBB, your brain will not take advantage of it. Acetyl L-carnitine can thus feed the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier.

In contrast to conventional L-carnitine, which can be produced by the body, and which is probably more commonly known to most people, ALCAR, as we know, has an added acetyl group. The advantage of this is that L-carnitine is now able to cross the blood-brain barrier through the added acetyl group. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a natural barrier that separates blood circulation from the central nervous system — this is extremely important for your brain because it protects it from pathogens and toxic substances circulating in the blood. On the other hand, if a beneficial substance cannot cross the BBB, your brain will not take advantage of it. Acetyl L-carnitine can thus feed the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier.

But why is ALCAR so important and effective to brain performance? The secret lies again in the added acetyl group. This, in combination with another active substance called citicolin, improves the formation of the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This is why ALCAR can be found in many nootropic supplements. Here we’ve now arrived at the real function as a nootropic — the reason why acetyl-L-carnitine is used as a brain supplement. In combination with citicoline, the two substances form acetylcholine. It’s quite a lot of complicated processes and technical terms if you’re not familiar with them, but finally you’ll end up with the formation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). This neurotransmitter is essential for the transmission of stimuli and information in your brain. Neurotransmitters, i. e. the messenger substances, are therefore involved in a large number of thought processes.

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ALCAR helps with neurotransmitters

It is extremely important to be sufficiently supplied with the neurotransmitter, especially in challenging situations. The two substances should therefore always be used in combination for best results, because acetyl L-carnitine and citicoline together increase the concentration of the important acetylcholine. If one were to see oneself as a light bulb, one could also say that ALCAR increases electrical power so that one “burns brighter and longer” than before. In addition, acetyl-L-carnitine acts well with other nootropics. When combined with other substances of this kind, it produces a mutually potentiating effect that improves the overall effect of all compounds.

What are ALCAR’s benefits?

ALCAR can probably increase not only mental but also physical performance.
Acetyl L-Carnitine can now be purchased individually or in some supplements in which it is used together with substances of the same or similar type to improve mood and stimulate the mind. Some people use it not only before training or before learning and thinking tasks, for which focus and concentration are necessary, but also before social evenings as a kind of “social lubricant”!

Meanwhile, however, thanks to the burgeoning field of nootropics, much more can be achieved in the mental area.
One of the most impressive substances in the family of nootropics is undoubtedly our acetyl L-carnitine — it’s often referred to as a learning and memory neurotransmitter.
Nootropics are said to have a wealth of beneficial effects, which has also been proven by research.
Positive effects include:

  • Increase in energy production in the mitochondria and the associated increase in physical and mental performance over several hours;
  • Improvement of the “processing speed” of information;
  • Improvement of focus, mood and both long-term and short-term memory;
  • Improvement of language competence;
  • Increase in brain concentrations of glucose and creatinine, both of which decrease during aging;
  • Protection of brain cells during alcohol consumption;
  • Stimulation of brain cells to form new connections with other neurons;
  • Increased learning speed;
  • Combating some forms of depression;
  • Alleviation of dysthymia, a depressive disorder;
  • Improving learning, attention span and facial recognition in Alzheimer’s patients.

How does ALCAR work?

Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) is a donor of acetyl groups originally associated only with energy metabolism.
It’s involved in the transport of fatty acids through the inner mitochondrial membrane. It facilitates the transfer of fatty acids from the cytosol into the mitochondria. The fatty acids are used there as a raw material for beta-oxidation. The mitochondria are the power stations of your body, and are responsible for the entire energy supply of body and brain. To put it simply, your food contains energy in the form of the macronutrients (fats, sugars, carbohydrates), but this energy is not in a form your body can use. The energy you ingest is transported through the blood to the mitochondria, where it is harnessed. Then, in the mitochondria, usable energy, in the form of ATP, is produced. ATP is the energy currency of the body, which can be used for any purpose. This process is one of the most fundamental in your body and its effectiveness determines how well your brain is supplied with energy, and whether you feel fit and powerful.

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All your muscles, including your heart, will welcome ALCAR

ALCAR is thus a physiological substance with great pharmacological potential. It can be chemically synthesized and thus used as a drug, especially in metabolic disorders. However, a positive influence of L-carnitine and its derivatives (including ALCAR) on diseases could be found in almost all areas of medicine. The most likely cause is the interaction of these substances with coenzyme A, which alters the acyl-CoA/CoA quotient. As a result, L-carnitine and its derivatives indirectly influence many bodily functions, although the exact mechanisms of action are often still unknown.

Some effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in the body have already been scientifically studied. Exciting positive effects have been observed.

For example, a study at the University of Cantania, in Italy, looked into this issue and administered acetyl L-carnitine to subjects suffering from fatigue. Acetyl L-carnitine was able to help improve the fat metabolism of mitochondria and thus produce energy easily and efficiently. As always, the more real energy (NOT stimulats) your body and brain can be provided with, the better.

Another study, by the Institute of Neurobiology at the University of Rome, has shown that acetyl L-carnitine has numerous effects. In the study, acetyl L-carnitine was administered to one test group and placebo to the other. The results showed that the activity of the enzyme acetyltransferase was significantly increased in the acetyl-L-carnitine group. This enzyme is responsible for the conversion of citicolin. This shows how important it is to have a sufficient concentration of certain substances, which in turn can increase the content of neurotransmitters.

What does ALCAR do?

But what exactly does acetyl-L-Carnitine do, and why is it so important for performance?This is the most important for the consumer, what acetil-L-carnitine can be useful for.
The actions of acetyl-L-carnitine at a glance:

1. Increases the formation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine;
2. The added acetyl group ensures that the blood-brain barrier can be crossed;
3. Participation in the fat metabolism of mitochondria by acetyl-L-carnitine;
4. Regulates the conversion of fat into energy in the body.
5. It is especially good for the heart and circulation.

Are you an athlete? Then you know how important the transmission of information from the brain via the central nervous system to the muscles is. In all such processes, neurotransmitters are the all important messengers. When taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine, you should, based on experience, pay attention to a few things in order to generate the optimal effectiveness of the substance and avoid any side effects. The aim of increasing acetylcholine is to gain as much of the neurotransmitter as possible. Neurotransmitters are important in the speed of your brain and the transmission of communication between synapses.
The body’s own strengthening of the heart is primarily attributable to L-carnitines, as they supply energy to the muscles (especially the heart muscle).

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Bodybuilders all over the world use ALCAR

Physical training increases the concentration of L-canitine in the tissue and this increased concentration improves the tolerance of stress and other physical activities. L-carnitine is said to increase athletic performance, especially where endurance is concerned and fat burning is crucial. A few studies — carried out on runners and wrestlers — show that athletes can benefit physiologically from a good L-carnitine supplement.

L-carnitine not only regulates the cholesterol level, but it also has a positive influence on the triglyceride content in the blood, i.e. the blood fat, which means a relief for the body. People who took a well-considered supplement of L-carnitine mainly showed low blood fat levels. In addition, regular intake strengthens the heart.

In some individuals there is a correlation between low serum L-carnitine levels, high blood triglyceride levels and low thyroid activity. Here also, it may be a good idea to take ALCAR.

Does ALCAR relieve depression?

Acetyl-l-carnitine deficiency in blood indicates depression

New York City – Some patients with major depression have a deficiency of Acetyl-l-carnitine, a molecule with multiple effects in the brain. The results presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1801609115) indicate a therapeutic potential of the simple substance, which in previous studies has relieved depression in rats within a short time.

In an earlier study, Carla Nasca from Rockefeller University in New York was able to show that ALCAR has an important function in the brain. In the hippocampus and frontal cortex, ALCAR inhibited the activity of excitatory glutaminergic neurons. This resulted in a rapid relief of depressive symptoms in the experimental animals (PNAS 2013; 110: 4804-4809).

How exactly acetyl-L-carnitine achieves all these improvements is still being researched, but what can be said for sure is that it increases concentrations of norepinephrine (noradrenalin) and serotonin — two neurotransmitters that play an important role in mood and brain function. ALCAR may even work directly by improving neuronal transmission by stimulating the synapses themselves or blocking postsynaptic inhibition.

What are ALCAR’s side effects?

ALCAR is exceptionally safe and well tolerated. Side effects are rare; the reported are low and often associated with high dosage.
Nausea, the most frequently reported side effect, can usually be corrected by taking ALCAR with food. Headaches, the second most reported side effect, may be due to excess choline. Many users who have headaches when taking ALCAR say that reducing the amount of choline in their remaining supplement eliminates this.
If you are sensitive or really abuse the dosage, then you can get diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting (but this is true to almost every other supplement). For some people there can also be other side effects, such as headaches, trouble sleeping and even higher blood pressure. Again, these are rare.
As with any other supplement you should also check interactions and reactions to particular conditions, other supplements, diseases and medications.
A problem with some ALCAR products, mainly powders, is that they contain a number of added chemical additives and flavorings. This is due to the fact that acetyl L-carnitine has a very bitter taste. THESE can cause unwanted side effects, which aren’t really ALCAR’s side effects. For this reason, acetyl L-carnitine, like any other supplement, should only be bought from a reputable brand — and, always check the ingredients!

What is the best way to take ALCAR?

As already explained, although it can be useful, it doesn’t make much sense to use Acetyl-L-Carnitine simply by itself, but always in combination with other active ingredient(s). Only then can acetyl-L-carnitine develop its full power. Therefore already tested combination products are recommended, in which the correct dosage of every ingredient is co-ordinated with each other. Remember to always get enough restful sleep.

Note: L-carnitine alone has become a popular health product because of its essential properties. In the USA, L-carnitine can be bought in the form of health drinks in salad bars and railway station kiosks and in the rush hour people can be observed drinking their daily carnitine drink on trains. Popularity creates abuse and also in this case irresponsible people have tried to sell cheap synthetic carnitine, i.e. DL-carnitine, to ignorant people out of greed for profit. The D-fraction in synthetic products is not only superfluous, but also a burden on the body, because it blocks the activity of the L-fraction and thus the desired energy production in the heart muscle cells by burning fat. A bad deal for the consumer! So, again, you have to always check the ingredients.

What is ALCAR’s Dosage?

Recommendations for the daily dosage of ALCAR vary greatly, starting with 250-500 mg, up to 8 g per day or more, according to age, gender, goals and conditions. To be taken in the morning and afternoon between meals. A dose of 500 mg per day taken at once or divided into smaller doses is considered a good starting point for most healthy adults. From this point, the dosage can be adjusted as needed to achieve maximum results. Older people can benefit from higher doses.
For peak function, the starting dose of ALCAR should be taken in the morning, although some users say that ALCAR works best when divided into two or more doses taken at intervals during the day. Taking ALCAR late in the evening may interfere with the normal sleep cycle.
If one is taking any kind of medications, must, of course, check for interactions.

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ALCAR and a healthy lifestyle, a wining combination

Our conclusion on acetyl-L-carnitine

ALCAR is a remarkable natural supplement that provides a variety of benefits for the brain and body.

It is a powerful, self-contained brain enhancer that works well with other nootropics and can act as a powerful supplement and enhancer. It is safe, affordable, very well tolerated and available without prescription in most countries.

For those interested in better health, better cognitive skills and better resistance to aging, ALCAR is a supplement to try.