Acetyl-L-carnitine, or ALCAR, is an antioxidant made up of the amino acids lysine and methionine. Acetyl-L-carnitine helps convert fat into cell energy and fights free radicals. Acetyl-L-carnitine keeps cells healthy, improves physical and mental energy, and increases brain power, making it an ideal anti-aging supplement.
What Is the Difference Between L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine and Acetyl L-carnitine are two slightly different forms of the same compound. While small, the difference means that each has its own benefits.
What Is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine, while often referred to as an amino acid, is actually an amino acid derivative. It is a dipeptide — a compound made up of two amino acids. In the case of L-carnitine, the two amino acids forming this dipeptide are lysine and methionine.
The primary job of L-carnitine is to help convert fat into energy by transporting it to cell mitochondria to be burned as fuel for the cell. This process of converting fat to energy is called beta-oxidation, and the resulting energy is referred to as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.
The fat-burning power of L-carnitine makes L-carnitine supplements — combined with appropriate exercise — ideal for weight loss. Because it’s an energy producer, L-carnitine supplements allow for more intense physical workouts and so it is also a supplement popular with bodybuilders.
What Is Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
Acetyl-L-carnitine, also called ALCAR, Acetyl-L-carnitine Hydrochloride, Acetyl-L-carnitine HCl, or ALCAR HCl, is L-carnitine with an acetyl group added to the molecule. An acetyl group is a chemical grouping of two carbon, three hydrogen, and one oxygen atoms. If the chemistry isn’t important to you, then just know that the body adds acetyl groups to molecules to affect how the molecules act in the body.
The effects of acetyl-L-carnitine are very similar to those of L-carnitine, though they are broader. Unlike L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine can pass directly through the barrier between blood and the brain, making acetyl-L-carnitine the preferred form of carnitine for brain and memory support.
Like L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine helps convert fat into energy, but its benefit is primarily related to brain function — acetyl-L-carnitine is known to improve learning ability, mental focus and clarity, with a side helping of a slight elevation in mood.
Which Supplement Is Best to Take?
While L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine are both powerful supplements with strong similarities in benefits, your primary goals in taking a supplement means you will probably benefit more from one form than the other. For instance, if your main goal is weight loss or muscle mass gain L-carnitine would be your best choice. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in “brain power,” acetyl-L-carnitine supplements make more sense.
Note: L-carnitine if often referred to simply as carnitine. However, carnitine is actually the generic term for a number of compounds that include L-carnitine, such as L-carnitine itself, acetyl-L-carnitine, and propionyl-L-carnitine. So while carnitine could be referring to any one of these compounds, when you see the word carnitine in print the text is usually referring to L-carnitine.
Anti-Aging Benefits of Acetyl-L-Carnitine
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) has shown exceptional promise in alleviating many of the effects of aging, including:
- Senile depression
- Aging skin
- Chronic fatigue
- Insulin sensitivity
- Testosterone deficiency
- Neurological decline
- Alzheimer’s disease
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Provide Cellular Energy
Cellular energy is responsible for every action and process that takes place in the body. Declining cellular energy leads to many of the health issues associated with aging.
Mitochondria’s Role In Cell Health
Mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles — small, specialized structures within a cell. Mitochondria are responsible for a variety of cell-related functions, including the conversion of fats, carbohydrates and proteins into adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is the energy source used to carry out the functions of cells — including functions key to healthy aging. Mitochondria is so important to cell health that they are sometimes referred to as the power house of cells.
Mitochondria have their own DNA — their own genetic material — which is susceptible to free radical damage. Free radicals are molecules with an odd number of electrons, making them unstable. The unstable free radical molecules react with other molecules in a negative way, damaging the molecules they come in contact with in a process called oxidation. Antioxidants are molecules that have the ability to stabilize free radicals, ending the cellular damage they cause.
With aging comes a gradual decline in mitochondria energy production. This can result in a cycle where the low energy production of mitochondria leads to a general, overall dysfunction, which contributes to still lower mitochondria lower energy production. As mitochondria produce less energy, what energy they do create needs to used for very basic, essential and immediate survival processes. Thus there is less energy that can be devoted to important long term health needs such as efficient tissue repair. Poor cell health and poor tissue and organ repair leads to a multitude of health problems commonly associated with aging.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Strengthens Mitochondria
Acetyl-L-carnitine is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals, including those that damage the genetic material of mitochondria. They also promote the production of glutathione, perhaps the most potent free radical scavenger.
Supplementing with acetyl-L-carnitine increases mitochondria energy, increasing both physical and mental energy and reducing some of the negative aspects of aging. For even better effect the consensus is that lipoic acid should be taken along with either acetyl-L-carnitine.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Is More Efficient When Taken With Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid (also called alpha lipoic acid) is a micronutrient and antioxidant produced in cell mitochondria. It’s often referred to as the universal antioxidant because unlike other antioxidants that work only in fatty tissues (vitamin E) or water (vitamin C), lipoic acid is both fat and water soluble. This means it provides mitochondria (and thus cell) free radical protection in all parts of the body.
Lipoic acid also helps in the regeneration of other, “used up” antioxidants, making them active again — it’s valuable in its ability to recycle, or restore, inactive antioxidants such as CoQ10, glutathione, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Like acetyl-L-carnitine, lipoic acid plays a role in the conversion of glucose into mitochondria energy. Recent studies demonstrate that together these two compounds play important and synergistic roles in keeping mitochondria healthy. This is why you’ll find acetyl-L-carnitine supplements often also include lipoic acid as a second ingredient.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Improves Cognitive Function
The negative aspects of aging aren’t just physical — to a large degree aging is associated with mental decline or disease. For those wanting to reduce the effects of stresses on the brain, improve memory, strengthen overall brain performance, and improve mood while reducing depression, acetyl-L-carnitine supplements should be strongly considered.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Is a Cognition-Enhancing Nootropic
Acetyl-L-carnitine has the ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier, allowing it near immediate access to the mitochondria in brain cells (as well as to mitochondria in cells everywhere else in the body). This is why ALCAR has become very popular as a nootropic supplement. Nootropics, also called cognitive boosters, are a class of substances that enhance and improve brain function.
Cognition is the mental actions, or processes, involved in gaining knowledge and understanding from thought, senses and experience. Cognition is how a person reacts, understands, stores and retrieves information. With aging comes a lessening of cognitive abilities, including sometimes drastic lessening as in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials show that acetyl-L-carnitine delays the onset of age-related cognitive decline, or ARCD, and improves overall cognitive function.
Acetyl-L-carnitine Increases the Neurotransmitter Acetylcholine
An important role of Acetyl-L-carnitine is to increase acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger that sends information between neurons by crossing a synapse, the junction between two neurons where impulses cross) that is vital to general cognition. The importance of this neurotransmitter is well known — a shortage acetylcholine is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Acetylcholine also supports neuroplasticity, the brain’s continuous ability to adapt and grow throughout a person’s lifetime.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) Supplements
You can buy Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR HCl) in either capsule or powder form at BulkSupplements.com. Most people find capsules more convenient than powder, but if you plan on taking several supplements daily you might want to buy each in powder form and mix them together as your own sort of custom supplement. Whichever route you take, BulkSupplements.com offers some of the best prices on nutritional supplements.
The antioxidant acetyl-L-carnitine, or ALCAR, is a compound made from two amino acids: lysine and methionine. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant acetyl-L-carnitine plays a major role in the conversion of fat to cell energy, a process key to cell health, and thus key to fighting the negative effects of aging. The result is improved mental and physical energy, and increases in general congnition.
For nootropic and anti-aging benefits, 1 to 2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine (often in conjunction with lipoic acid) split into two daily doses is an ideal supplement.