Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

OverviewBenefits and EffectsMechanism of ActionDosageSide EffectsUser ExperienceF.A.Q

Summary: Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a popular multi-functional nutrient, amino acid type nootropic. It benefits the body and brain. A potent antioxidant and neuroprotectant, and a powerful energizing nootropic that promotes anti-aging and longevity.

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Overview

What is Acetyl-L-Carnitine?

Acetyl-L-Carnitine, also known as ALCAR and ALC, is an amino acid naturally produced in your body to generate energy. It’s also found in animal proteins such as red meats. Many people supplement with acetyl-L-carnitine because of its potential benefits. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a more bioavailable form of amino acid l-carnitine, a derivative of amino acid lysine. The body continuously produces L-carnitine, and furthermore gets it from the foods you eat.

Although research shows actual carnitine insufficiency is uncommon in healthy people with no metabolic disorders, supplementation with addition of it is proven to be beneficial in many different ways. Ranging from improving heart health [1] to enhancing brain function. [2]

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is L-carnitine with the addition of an acetyl group, thereby making it the most bioavailable form of L-carnitine and it readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Its primary actions work towards brain functionality. Its nootropic properties seem to magnify when taken with other nootropics. The combination makes it a potentiating agent allowing nootropics to work more effectively.

Other forms of L-carnitine include L-carnitine L-tartrate (LCLT) which is typically assessing physical performance, and Glycine Propionyl L-carnitine (GPLC), which relieves blood flow issues. The only L-carnitine form that possesses nootropic properties is Acetyl L-carnitine, and it furthermore provides both L-carnitine and acetyl groups (molecule) that act towards the development of the learning neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.

From Nootropics Depot product description:

Acetyl L-Carnitine, also commonly known as ALCAR, is an acetylated version of L-Carnitine. L-Carnitine is an amino acid naturally produced but is also taken in supplement form. It is a natural nootropic supplement that may aid in delivering fatty acids to our cells’ mitochondria to be broken down. Acetyl L-Carnitine has superior absorption in comparison to standard L-Carnitine. Acetyl L-Carnitine promotes energy.

Acetyl L-Carnitine HCL Capsules are best known for supporting brain health and cognitive function, but it has many other potential uses.

ALCAR vs L-Carnitine vs Carnitine

  • ALCAR: supplies acetyl group and carnetine, and crosses the blood brain barrier easier. The acetyl group detaches from the amino acid and helps to recycle acetylcholine.
  • L-Carnetine: the same as carnitine. The ‘l-‘ prefix is just a part of the chemical notation and is often omitted because cells only make ‘l-‘ form (as only those forms are used in proteins) and it's implied that it's the ‘l-‘ form if it's not specified (if you imagine a molecule as a 2D picture of structure, then ‘l' and ‘d' prefix specifies whether the molecule is flipped or not; flipped version can have totally different properties; the ‘l-‘ version of amino acids is the one you supplement and your cells use).
  • Carnitine: Refrence the above. It is also involved in energy metabolism.

Taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine or ALCAR, therefore, supplements both and gets both the effects.

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Benefits and Effects

What Are Acetyl-L-Carnitine Benefits?

  1. Enhances Brain Function and Stamina
  2. Provides Neuroprotection Against Brain Cell Death
  3. Restores Cognitive Function and Repairs Impairment
  4. Support Mitochondrial Function and Nervous System
  5. Regulates Sexual Infertility and Erectile Dysfunction

Supporting research:

Enhances Brain Function and Stamina

Research proves ALCAR beneficial to the brain and body in many ways. From enhancing cognitive abilities [3] to increasing energy [4], reducing pain, and even preventing damage from alcohol consumption. [5]

Studies show that it successfully lowers mental exhaustion and improves cognitive function as well as learning capability. In a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind, 2-phase study, 66 participants with fatigue were given 2 g of L-carnitine once a day. By the end of the study, the group taking L-carnitine showed significant improvements in physical fatigue, mental fatigue, fatigue severity amongst other physical enhancements, as compared to those receiving a placebo.

Moreover, the study confirms that oral supplementation of L-carnitine reduces the total of fat mass, increases muscular mass, increases capacity for physical and cognitive activity, improves cognitive functions, all while reducing fatigue as well. [6]

Provides Neuroprotection Against Brain Cell Death

Due to its potent antioxidant attributes, ALCAR acts as a neuroprotectant, blocking and restoring damage from free radicals that injure brain cells. It also helps the brain clear itself of other toxins and decreases cell death due to excitotoxicity, a neurotic process that triggers by the over-activation of glutamate receptors. It enhances the neural network by stimulating nerves and signal receptors and additionally protects the brain against the damaging influences of drinking alcohol. [7]

Restores Cognitive Function and Repairs Impairment

One of Acetyl-L-Carnitine' many exciting prospects is as a treatment for age-related neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. It has been confirmed to dramatically slow decline in Alzheimer's patients and decreases age-related recall failure. Other studies showed that ALCAR supports repair ambulatory capability in the elderly and functions as a mood lifter as well as working as an anti-depressant in the elderly. [8]

Support Mitochondria and Nervous System

ALCAR promotes mitochondrial function and serves to support the nervous system overall performance. Especially in the case where an individual is subject to neurodegenerative disease. It can be of significant benefit to people with physical disorders typically correlated with aging, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. It has shown to be efficient in managing nerve pain, enhancing kidney function, and improving heart health. [9] [10]

Regulates Sexual Infertility and Erectile Dysfunction

ALCAR regulates men's infertility and improves signs of andropause and erectile dysfunction. It is also in use to fight Peyronie's disease, an inflammatory disease that affects the penis. [11] [12]

Additionally, it is under clinical trials as a possible treatment for chronic fatigue.

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Mechanism of Action

How Does Acetyl-L-Carnitine Work?

ALCAR synthesizes primarily in the liver and kidneys, after which it travels to other tissues. ALCAR has excellent bioavailability. The gastrointestinal tract quickly digests it. Its actions differ considerably from other forms of L-carnitine, which don't cross the blood-brain barrier. The acetyl groups that make ALCAR unique, enable it to cross the blood-brain barrier readily and rapidly. Its most effective role is within the cerebellum.

alcar benefits
Acetyl-l-carnitine skeletal structure

Another one of ALCAR's nootropic benefits involves the acetyl groups, which produce the support for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Often referred to as “the learning neurotransmitter,” acetylcholine is accountable for learning, memory, and cognitive function. Increased levels of acetylcholine result in an improvement in cognitive function, and low levels of that essential neurotransmitter risks neurological complications similar to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

On Neurotransmitters

ALCAR resumes showing increasing levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. They are vital neurotransmitters that play an essential part in mood and brain function. The capacity to improve neurotransmitter production is one of the principal techniques that ALCAR complements nootropics attributes. Similar to those of the racetams, which enhance the action of neurotransmitter receptors in the cerebellum.

Moreover, ALCAR targets brain metabolism, promoting cellular energy and serving as a potent neuroprotectant. Its critical antioxidant qualities combat the impressions of cellular oxidation. It further decreases the number of damaged cells in an individual brain, thereby becoming a useful longevity tool.

Damaged fat cells identified as lipofuscin (age spots) also happen in the brain and are actively correlated amidst age-related neurological dysfunctions, lack of energy, and weak memory. By supporting the brain excrete those damaged cells. ALCAR increases brain function and significantly lessens the risk of neurodegenerative disorders. It has also been shown to limit brain deterioration during times of stress.

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Dosage

How to Take Acetyl-L-Carnitine?

Typical Acetyl-L-Canritine dosage is 500 mg per day once in the morning, and up to 1,500 mg split into three doses of 500 mg. From there, adjust dosage to your need without exceeding 1,500 mg. At least not during trial period. It is water-soluble, therefore it can be taken with or without food. However, taking ALCAR late in the evening can result in disruption of sleep.

Recommended ALCAR dosage, active amounts, other details:

“The standard dose for L-carnitine is between 500-2,000mg. There are various forms of carnitine supplementation available.Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is used for cognitive enhancement. L-Carnitine L-Tartrate (LCLT) is typically used for physical performance and power output. Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine (GPLC) is used to alleviate intermittent claudication and blood flow issues. L-carnitine is supplemented daily. The equivalent dosage range for other forms of L-carnitine are as follows: 630-2,500mg (ALCAR), 1,000-4,000mg (LCLT) and 1,000-4,000mg (GPLC).”

Examine.com

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Side Effects

What Are the Side Effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine?

  • Headaches may occur in cases of consuming high doses before allowing the body to adapt to the additional amount of Acetyl-L-Carnitine that it is receiving.
  • Nausea is the most common side effect. It is easily preventable by taking ALCAR alongside food rather than on an empty stomach.
  • Headaches are the second most common side effect, which may imply an excessive amounts of choline.
  • Users report that headaches from ALCAR use decrease when they reduce the amount of choline in their stacks and diets.

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User Experience

To be fair in sharing the Reddit community experiences, I will add the first 3 that I see whether the experience is positive or negative. Three Acetyl-L-Carnitine reddit experiences:

Reddit 1

As the title says, it’s been a game changer. Old stack was: Citicoline 300mg b.id with centrophenoxine 350mg one to two times daily. Switched Centro to ALCAR 500 one daily just to try and damn it’s been really good. Mornings are good, everything is really clear. Honestly this feels a lot like amphetamine. So much so that I cancelled my pdoc appt to get a refill. I was basically off the meds but wanted to have a few around but now I really don’t think I need them. Very glad people on here have posted about alcar before!

Reddit 2

Funny enough I get a stronger response from ALCAR then I do racetams in regards to mental performance. It seems to make me really smart. Your mileage may vary though. To OP: I get results in a day. Be careful for not overdoing it. I’ve posted before that acetylcholine overload tends to make you depressed and function worse. – eastmangobo

Reddit 3

“I have been taking Acetyl for about 17 years. For the last 2 yrs or so it has affected me less and less (no idea why) but before that, I noticed a MASSIVE positive boost from taking it. I experienced a huge uptick in word retrieval and overall brain function. used to always say that when I took Acetyl, it was like an electric switch was turned on, as that’s what it felt like … electric..I always bought it in bulk powder and almost always used 1 gram in my morning shake (180lb Male). DO NOT use it after noon …. you will NOT sleep !!!! You should notice a difference within 3-4 days. As I did mention, I am noticing now that I am affected by Acetyl less and less. If I miss a few days, I don’t really notice it like I did years ago and I don’t really get that electric charge feeling. I don’t know why this is, as I’ve purchased a few different brands.” Gernan_Mafia

Tim Ferris

Measuring the effects of acetyl-L-carnitine on various aspects of cognitive performance. Alas, after multiple consecutive nights of vivid nightmares (which I rarely have), I wondered if ALC might play a role. I only experienced this when taking ALC in the later afternoon or evening, and daily total consumption never exceeded 1,500mg. After finding a few reports like this, I decided to call it quits with my protocol. Thus far, I have found ALC to produce unpleasantly vivid dreams to a much greater extent than, say, galantamine or huperzine-A, which enhance vividness but don’t seem to create the same degree of negative tone. Of course, this is an N of 1 (single subject) amateur hour, but the contrast has been both remarkable and remarkably consistent. I’d be curious to hear if anyone else has experienced something similar. And be careful with those cholinergic neurons…

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Conclusion

ALCAR is an outstanding amino acid nootropic. It offers many benefits to both the body and the brain. In addition to its potent  brain boosting effect, it is also a healthy nutrient. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is safe, affordable, very tolerable, and easily accessible in department and drug stores. It enhances cognitive function, supports ant-aging and longevity, which makes it a nootropic worth adding to any stack.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between L-Carnitine L-Tartrate, L-Carnitine Tartrate, and Acetyl L-Carnitine?

L-Carnitine L-Tartrate and L-Carnitine Tartrate are the same thing, they just truncate the L-Tartrate for brevity. This is the form of L-Carnitine that is in supplements that some studies have linked to possibly helping recover times from work outs (specifically it was shown that people taking L-carnitine had less damage to their leg muscles after a workout versus people that weren't taking it), there weren't any other observations of it's added use outside of that.
Acetylcarnitine is an alternative form of l-carnitine for supplementation that has been pushed because of it's bioavailability. The downside is that it's less concentrated in the bloodstream after digestion. It doesn't appear that any studies have been performed linking acetylcarnitine to exercise performance, but it's only proven use has been in increasing sperm mobility. A few proposals have set out to use it treat neurological conditions, but none have yet been proven.

Can I take 5-HTP and Acetyl L-Carnitine together?

To date there has been no evidence that either counteract the other or have negative effects. Both substances are great for many aspects of brain health. You can be pretty safe in the assumption that it’s worth testing out for yourself to see how you react to this combination.

Can I take acetyl-l-carnitine & taurine together with antidepressants, antipsychotics and NAC?

They don’t interact, in fact, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is used as “complementary” therapy along with Psych Meds. Taurine is as well. Taurine is also VERY much so present in Energy Drinks like Red Bull & Monster. It is responsible for much of the “kick” and focus Energy Drinks give us.

Is ALCAR effective?

Yes. ALCAR has nootropic and neuro-protective benefits. This compound works great alone if you want a substance to help protect your brain from oxidative stress. Better cognitive results often happen when ALCAR is stacked with other nootropics.

The main nootropic benefits of ALCAR will be consistent with higher acetylcholine levels. Low acetylcholine is linked to cognitive deficient and low energy levels. Although ALCAR helps in the production of Acetylcholine, nootropic benefits may not be apparent when taken alone. For this reason, ALCAR is highly recommended to stack with other nootropics. Below is a list of typical benefits seen in an ALCAR + racetam/ampakine combination.

Better memory
Faster learning
Higher concentration
Heightened perception

ALCAR is often stacked with a cheap choline salt like choline bitartrate or citrate because it acts synergistically to produce Acetylcholine. Some people will use this stack as a cheaper alternative to more expensive acetylcholine intermediates such as alpha GPC or citicoline.

ALCAR by itself or in a choline stack will also work great with the racetams and ampakines. Boosting the level of Acetylcholine will allow for a synergistic combination with racetams which act as Acetylcholine receptor agonists. ALCAR is suggested to help protect from excitotoxic situations resulting from excess glutamate that may be a result of taking certain ampakines. For this reason, ALCAR may be beneficial when stacked with certain glutamate agonists like sunifram and unifram.

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Further and Related Readings

  1. N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT)
  2. L-Theanine
  3. N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)
  4. Agmatine Sulfate
  5. The Ultimate Nootropics FAQ

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