So you’ve heard that l-carnitine can help you lose weight, but since you are a vegan you aren’t sure if you can consume it.
One problem about augmenting your nutrient intake with supplements is figuring out the sources. It’s troublesome, I get it :/
Is it natural or synthetic? What is it made of exactly? Does it work? Is it safe? Yep, all those questions and more. And for us vegans, the first question is always, “is it vegan-friendly?”
So, Is l-carnitine vegan? The answer is it depends on the source. Got new questions yet? Then keep reading because I have all the answers!
What Is L-Carnitine Exactly?
First of all, l-carnitine or levocarnitine is a type or form of carnitine. Oh yes, they’re two different things! So let’s break it down a bit:
Carnitine is an antioxidant product of amino acids, which our body can produce naturally.
However, the compound was first isolated from meat, hence its name, which is from the Latin “carnus” that means flesh. It’s safe to say that the functions of carnitine are pretty much the same as that of l-carnitine.
Are you having a light bulb moment yet? Well, this is only the beginning.
To continue, carnitine has several forms:
- L-carnitine – the biologically active form which is also carnitine’s simplest form, which gives it the highest absorption rate among other forms.
- L-carnitine l-tartrate – LCLT is a double l-carnitine and is the purest form
- Acetyl l-carnitine/acetylcarnitine – also known as ALCAR, and is a useful compound in supplements and medicines for brain health.
- Propionyl l-carnitine – or GPLC (glycine), which works more on blood flow regulation.
Some supplements contain two or more of these forms, but for weight loss and fitness, it’s l-carnitine that you should look for. For more about weight loss supplements, vegan style, click here.
Also, if you’ve heard of d-carnitine, that’s the inactive form, which is not really useful. In fact, it can interfere with carnitine absorption! So you can just ignore and avoid that.
Carnitine and l-carnitine can be easily mistaken for each other, so watch out for the single letter difference. More importantly, the recommended dosage for l-carnitine is much lesser. The human body only needs between 500 to 2000 mg of l-carnitine every day. On the other hand, you can have carnitine from 1000 to 4000 mg doses.
What Does L-Carnitine Do?
You probably already know that it’s a popular weight loss ingredient, but do you know what it does exactly? Or more appropriately, the (many) things it does? Do you ever wonder how it can make you lose weight?
To summarize the answer, here are l-carnitine’s contributions to human health, weight loss and more!
- Aids in energy production by transporting fatty acids
- Improves stamina
- Hastens muscle recovery
- Increases the body’s natural fat burning function
- May contribute to red blood cell production
- Contributes to healthy aging
- Protects against cellular brain damage and mental decline
- Potentially reduces blood pressure
- Reduction of diabetes type II symptoms and risks
- Improves men’s sperm quality and motility
Do note though that these are mostly dependent on the source. And, while there is a need for more research on these, current studies seem promising so far.
Where Does L-Carnitine Come From?
For us vegans, that is the most important question.
The human body can produce its own carnitine and l-carnitine by synthesizing lysine and methionine, which are amino acids. This process of synthesis happens in the liver, kidneys, and brain. Outside of that, there are different sources:
- Laboratories (synthetic forms)
Red meat is known to have the highest l-carnitine content. The redder the meat, the more l-carnitine it contains. In smaller amounts, it is also found in chicken, fish, dairy products, and vegetables.
So, NOT ALL l-carnitine is vegan. If you want to use supplements and make sure it is vegan, choose those made from vegetable, or just get the synthetic ones.
However, a common problem with synthetic sources is the bioavailability. While synthetic compounds are designed for supplementation purposes and should therefore be absorbable, most of them are not absorbed completely. This is why supplementations often recommend a higher dosage.
If possible, go for supplements that tell you how absorbable it is.
What Foods Are High In L-Carnitine?
From the sources noted above, here is a table for your perusal:
From the table, you will notice that most food sources that are high in l-Carnitine are not vegan. Unfortunate, I know!
For what is worth, here are other vegan food sources with trace amounts of l-carnitine:
- Whole wheat bread
- White bread
- Leafy greens
- Peanut butter
The Problem With L-Carnitine From Animal Sources
If you have not foreseen this, then let me tell you now. While meat is a significant source of carnitine and l-carnitine, excessive consumption of meat is unhealthy.
This also means that you may not get all the benefits of l-carnitine. For example, excessive red meat consumption can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension, That’s just to name a few.
However, that doesn’t just apply to red meat sources. In all honesty, excessive consumption of a single vegetable is a bad idea too. Yes, everything should be taken in moderation.
But between vegetables and red meats, there is a big difference. With vegetables, you can avoid the problem of over-consumption through variety. With red meat, well you have beef, pork, and lamb, but they can all induce high cholesterol. Translate that to heart disease risk.
Perhaps, this is where supplements have a bit of an edge, especially synthetic ones. They usually have a higher concentration, and do not come with other compromising contents that you’d get from sources like bad cholesterol from meat.
Ways To Enhance Your Own L-Carnitine Production
What better way to get your daily l-carnitine fix by boosting your body’s natural production, right? To do this, you will need to consume food with these l-carnitine pre-requisites and their sources:
For the rest of the questions you might still have, here’s a classic FAQ section for you:
Does l-carnitine burn fat?
Yes! It produces energy by metabolizing or oxidizing fats and transporting them to each cell’s powerhouse (mitochondria).
Is there l-carnitine in vegetables?
Yes, in some vegetables and vegetable products. Most vegetables only contain trace amounts it, but increasing servings of a variety of its sources will help. See tables above.
Can I take l-carnitine on an empty stomach?
This might depend on the instructions of the particular supplement you are taking. However, in general, l-carnitine is best taken on an empty stomach in the morning, preferably 30 minutes before you eat anything.
This is because all the carbohydrates in your food may make it harder for your body to absorb it. That’s also the best time for you to take your l-carnitine supplement.
How much l-carnitine should you take a day?
L-carnitine supplements often recommend doses from 500 to 2000 mg every day. If you have a medical condition, you might need more or less under your doctor’s recommendation.
Is l-carnitine supplement safe?
When taken according to directions, l-carnitine supplements are safe. If you want to make sure about exact dosages or have any health issues, it’s best to consult your doctor first.
Does l-carnitine have side effects?
Yes, when taken in higher amounts. It can cause nausea, stomach discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea. It may also aggravate seizure disorders. Prolonged high intake may increase TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide) levels, which can lead to atherosclerosis.
Can you have too much l-carnitine?
Of course! If you consume more than 5000 mg a day, you’re more at risk for side effects. This upper limit may vary per individual. So if you have less tolerance, then a lower dose will be enough to trigger negative reactions.
What causes l-carnitine deficiency?
Aside from inadequate intake, certain medical conditions are a cause such as metabolic impairment and enzyme deficiencies from severe liver disease. Some medical treatments like hemodialysis may also deplete l-carnitine stores.
Not all L-carnitine sources are vegan, so you must do you part to make sure it is. Aside from l-carnitine supplements made from vegetables, only synthetic l-carnitine is vegan. For the best l-carnitine, consume foods that can boost your own natural production.
What are your favorite vegan sources of l-carnitine? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.