Ask Vivomed’s Pharmacist – L-Carnitine Supplementation

L-Carnitine Supplementation

L-Carnitine has received a lot of media attention in the past couple of years in relation to its application as an ergogenic aid. L-Carnitine, like many supplements is already formed naturally in the body (in this case the kidneys). The amount produced is relatively small but that shouldn’t underestimate its role within the body.

How does it work?

Its primary function centres around its effects on energy production. Specifically, its action on the mitochondria, which are regarded as the “powerhouse of the cell”. The mitochondria use both fat & glucose in combination with oxygen to generate energy in the form of ATP. L-Carnitine promotes the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria where they can be converted into this useable energy form. Not only does it facilitate the transport of essential nutrients into the mitochondria it also aids the removal of resulting waste products. This would explain why the vast majority of L-Carnitine stores are found within the working muscles (accounting for greater than 90%). The result of enhancing fatty acid transport into the mitochondria can improve both energy production & the potential to accelerate weight loss. These two benefits alone make L-Carnitine a popular supplement within the weight loss & fitness communities.

Ergogenic Effects of L-Carnitine
Ergogenic Effects of L-Carnitine
Benefits of L-Carnitine

• Improves energy production
• Potential to accelerates weight loss
• Improves sports performance
• Reduces oxidative stress
• Improves recovery times
• Improves brain function

Side Effects of L-Carnitine

• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Heartburn
• Seizures
• Diarrhoea

Sources of L-Carnitine

Whilst L-Carnitine is produced naturally within the body, it can also be sourced from food sources such as red meat, pork, seafood & chicken. While a deficiency in L-Carnitine is highly uncommon, those who do not consume the aforementioned food sources (i.e vegetarians or vegans) may choose to use L-Carnitine supplementation. L-Carnitine is available in a variety of forms including; capsules, tablets, liquids & powders.

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

Under the current guidelines, L-Carnitine is considered a legal supplement when taken in small amounts. Athletes should be aware at all times of what supplements they are taking & up to date with WADA guidance.


The two primary benefits of L-Carnitine as a performance & weight loss aid make it an attractive supplement within the weight loss & fitness communities. Supplementation may be required for individuals who don’t consume an adequate amount of L-Carnitine from food sources, although it should be stressed that the body does not require large amounts. Athletes aiming to increase their L-Carnitine levels should be advised to try food sources before supplementation. While there are several benefits associated with its use, all supplements carry the risk of side effects.

Useful Links

World Anti-Doping Agency-

Brass, EP. (2000). Supplemental carnitine and exercise . The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition. 72 (1), 618-623.

L-Carnitine – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects (L-Carnitine)

For more information about drugs in sport and how to make sure your club and players are staying within the rules please see this article about sports team drug ordering

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