Carnitine is an amino acid which is one of the building blocks of protein in the body. It is a naturally occurring substance which is found in most protein foods and can be easily assimilated by the human body. Most people make enough carnitine for the immediate bodily functions from the food they eat, although it is possible to supplement it for extra benefits.
The benefits of carnitine include extra energy, increased body fat metabolism and increased muscle building. Other benefits include improve mental function and some relief from certain conditions such as memory loss and fatigue.
For the above reasons, carnitine is a popular supplement, especially in the body building world where it is thought to give extra energy for longer and more effective workouts. However, many people are very confused about the different names which appear to be associated with carnitine and the different ways in which it is sold.
Carnitine and L-carnitine are essentially the same thing. The "L" in front of any amino acid simply represents the fact that it is one of the amino acids which can be separated into two types. These are usually "L" and "D". The "D" form is only ever made by scientists and is not readily used by the body. However the "L" form is used by the body. Whenever the word carnitine is used it almost always refers to L-carnitine.
The difference between L-carnitine and acetyl l-carnitine is a little more complicated. When using a supplemental form of l-carnitine the body finds that it cannot be absorbed as readily as the acetyl l-carnitine which is in a form which enters the blood stream more quickly.
Acetyl l-carnitine is thought to reach the brain more quickly and will therefore affect mental energy levels to a higher degree. It can also offer mental clarity and even a feeling of euphoria.
When it comes to the structural difference between the two substances, the acetyl l-carnitine is a molecule which comes from the l-carnitine which contains an acetic acid grouping. This is a small difference structurally but changes the way it works quite radically. L-carnitine is the parent form of acetyl l-carnitine.
Acetyl l-carnitine is thought to have neuro-protective properties and will help in the process which allows carbohydrates to be used for energy. It is also thought to protect the nervous system, something which l-carnitine does not do. It also protects the mitochondria which are the cells which transport energy around the body.
For those who wish to gain the best benefit from taking a carnitine-based supplement, it does seem that the acetyl based product is the best option. It can be found in protein based food, but vegetarians and particularly vegans may find that taking a supplement is wise. Especially if they enjoy bodybuilding or other sports. It is also thought that the body produces less of this amino acid as we age, so supplementing may be a good idea in later life.