Do you often have trouble with brain fog? Do you often feel like you need more focus? You’re not alone. I’ve often wanted to know; what is the best supplement for energy and concentration?
Well, today I’m happy to tell you that I think there might be an answer; Acetyl L-Carnitine, or ALCAR.
ALCAR is best known for increasing energy levels, acting as an antioxidant, improving brain function, and slowing down the aging process.
In a nutshell, it accomplishes all of these things by facilitating the metabolism of fats, absorbing free radicals, and supporting the health of our mitochondria.
It has some other mechanisms of action, which we’ll get into later, but these main benefits make ALCAR great for improving mental clarity, focus, motivation, mood, and learning ability.
ALCAR really is a ‘powerhouse nootropic’.
So without further ado, let’s find out more…
L-Carnitine vs Acetyl L-Carnitine – What’s the Difference?
The first thing I want you to understand is the difference between L-Carnitine and Acetyl L-Carnitine.
L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is naturally present in the body. The liver can synthesize it from other compounds, or we can get it from the foods we eat.
Good sources include red meat, dairy products, spinach, broccoli, and yeast.
Amino acids are usually used as building blocks for proteins in the body, but L-Carnitine is not. Instead, it’s used to burn fats as energy.
Then there’s ALCAR, which is basically L-Carnitine with an acetyl group added to it.
So why does that matter? How much of a difference does that make?
Quite a lot, actually.
The extra acetyl group in ALCAR allows it to easily pass through the blood-brain barrier. L-Carnitine is almost useless as a nootropic, because it can’t reach the brain.
As a result, it’s common to see L-Carnitine used in supplements to benefit our physical health, but ALCAR is the standard for cognitive enhancement.
However, ALCAR can still provide all the same advantages to our bodily health that L-Carnitine can, so it’s a lot more versatile.
That’s why this post is more focused on ALCAR as a supplement, as opposed to L-Carnitine.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way, what is ALCAR typically used for?
Acetyl L-Carnitine Benefits – for Overall Health
There are a number of health benefits that ALCAR has to offer.
It’s essentially a micronutrient that supports cellular respiration by providing fats to the mitochondria in our cells.
Just in case you don’t know what mitochondria are, they’re basically tiny organelles that live symbiotically inside our regular cells.
They help our regular cells process energy and dispose of metabolic waste.
As a result, ALCAR is best known for it’s ability to increase our energy levels, both physically and mentally.
But that’s not all it does.
This is a list of some of it’s other advantages:
- Acts as an Antioxidant
- Improves Cardiovascular Health
- Alleviates Chronic Fatigue
- Helps with Nerve Pain
- HIV Treatment
- Relieves Impotence in Men
- Accelerates Weight Loss
Studies have shown that ALCAR is a very potent antioxidant, with the ability to absorb free radicals, and reduce inflammation.
This prevents damage to all the tissues in the body and the brain.
ALCAR can help with atherosclerosis by regulating the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the blood, and improves brain function by protecting brain cells from oxidative damage.
It also accelerates the metabolism of mitochondria, relieving chronic fatigue, slowing down cellular aging, reducing nerve pain, and improving HIV symptoms.
What’s at play here is a kind of a ‘Trickle Down Effect’.
When mitochondria are operating at full capacity, energy levels are increased, and pretty much every cell in the body becomes healthier, including nerve tissue.
Acetyl L-Carnitine for Weight Loss – Honorable Mention
Even though the main focus of this article is on ALCAR as a nootropic, I thought I should make a quick mention of how it can help you shave off some pounds.
ALCAR acts as a cofactor for fat metabolism, especially if your insulin level is low because of a keto diet, or you’re in the middle of a serious workout.
This is when ALCAR jumps in and starts to perform ‘The Carnitine Shuttle’, carrying long chain fatty acids directly to your mitochondria for energy.
ALCAR is also water soluble, so it can help with glucose metabolism at the same time(although to a lesser extent).
Talk about being, ‘Johnny-on-the-Spot’!
Long story short, ALCAR has been a best kept secret among dieters and health nuts alike for a long time.
So are those all the benefits for physical well being?
There’s just one more footnote here we need to make first…
Acetyl L-Carnitine and Alpha-Lipoic Acid – The Dynamic Duo!
There are some things in life that are just better together.
Coffee and donuts.
Hamburgers and French fries.
Apple pie and ice cream.
You get the idea.
(Hungry yet?! LOL)
When ALCAR is taken with Alpha-Lipoic Acid, a similar magical chemistry happens.
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
I’m glad you asked.
It’s a fatty acid that has some vitamin-like qualities, and acts as an antioxidant at the same time. It’s commonly found in foods like liver, kidney, spinach, broccoli, and yeast.
Basically, while ALCAR is shuttling fats and glucose to the mitochondria for energy, ALA is absorbing free radicals to protect the mitochondria.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid can also rejuvenate ALCAR molecules that are saturated with free radicals. This allows ALCAR to continue working as an antioxidant and energy cofactor.
Put it another way, Alpha-Lipoic Acid supports ALCAR, then ALCAR supports the mitochondria, and the mitochondria supports the entire body.
Pretty crazy, isn’t it?
Now it’s time to look at how ALCAR can support brain health and function.
Acetyl L-Carnitine for the Brain
I’ve already mentioned how ALCAR provides neuroprotection by acting as an antioxidant, and how it increases energy levels by supporting mitochondria.
But hold on! We’re not done yet!
There are 5 main mechanisms ALCAR uses to boost brain power:
- Acts as an Antioxidant
- Increases Mental Energy
- Helps Create Neurotransmitters
- Encourages Neurogeneration
- Acts as a Vasodilator
After Acetyl L-Carnitine crosses the blood-brain barrier, it’s able to donate its’ acetyl group in order to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is the first neurotransmitter ever discovered, and it has tons of benefits for cognitive function.
Supplementing with it, or with precursors like ALCAR, has been shown to improve memory, focus, and overall executive function.
The main point I want to make is this: when ALCAR is taken with any other supplement that provides choline, the acetyl group from ALCAR and the choline combine to form acetylcholine.
And voila! Your brain is like a fighter jet rocketing through the sound barrier!
Sorry, I got excited… I might ‘Geek Out’ on you from time to time…
Ahem. Moving on.
ALCAR also stimulates increased production of BDNF, or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor.
BDNF is a protein that encourages accelerated nerve cell growth, including brain cells.(which is another reason ALCAR helps with neuropathy and HIV)
It also promotes the development of neurites, or connections between brain cells so they can communicate more effectively.
Last but certainly not least, ALCAR acts as a vasodilator, opening up blood vessels to allow more blood to reach brain cells and other tissues.
This of course leads to more nutrients and oxygen getting to all of the neurons in the brain.
It also helps with flushing out toxins and metabolic waste.
When all of these effects are happening at the same time, the synergy created optimizes cognitive function and brain health.
The overall benefits are as follows:
- Increased Mental Energy
- Improved Memory
- Enhanced Focus
- Elevated Mood
- Better Neuroplasticity
These are the basic advantages, but let’s take a look at some of the practical implications for our well being…
Acetyl L-Carnitine for Dementia
In one double blind study, 56 dementia patients were given 500 mg of ALCAR daily for 28 weeks. The test subjects showed significant improvements in attention and language ability.
Keep in mind that the recommended dosage for ALCAR supplementation is anywhere from 500 mg to 4,000 mg/day, depending on the condition being treated.
The 500 mg/day dosage used for this study was very conservative, and still yielded statistically significant results. It’s a good start.
However, more research is needed to really understand just how effective ALCAR can be in treating dementia.
Acetyl L-Carnitine for Depression
Numerous studies have revealed that low blood serum levels of ALCAR are directly linked to lifelong issues with depression.
This means that ALCAR can now be used as a biomarker for the risk or onset of clinical depression; increasing patient confidence in their diagnosis and treatment.
It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but other indicators, like vitamin D deficiency, can also play a role.
Another study conducted on rats and mice found that ALCAR was just as effective as a prescription antidepressant in improving stress test results.
The prevailing theory right now is that when people get stressed out, their brain produces too much glutamate in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.
Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that stimulates neurons, and when it’s overactive, it can cause brain cells to die off prematurely.
The hippocampus is the emotional center of our brains, and the prefrontal cortex is in charge of our higher functions.
So when glutamate floods the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, people start to shut down, mentally and emotionally.
Their brain cells are vibrating like a harp string, and suffocating on their own toxins.
ALCAR reverses these effects by acting as a vasodilator, facilitating energy metabolism, and encouraging BDNF production.
It essentially speeds up cellular respiration and encourages the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex to heal.
The nice thing about ALCAR vs prescription meds is that it stays effective with long term use; it’s naturally present in the body, so people don’t develop a tolerance to it.
ALCAR also has less side effects.
In any case, a lot of people have found that ALCAR helps them with depression, but more research still needs to be done.
Now that we know ALCAR is good for depression, let’s take a look at what it can do for ADHD…
Acetyl L-Carnitine for ADHD
The research on ALCAR for ADHD is inconsistent.
There are basically 3 types of ADHD:
The most recent study on ALCAR for ADHD showed that it didn’t help people with either the hyperactive or combined type, but did provide improvements in attention for those with the inattentive type(ADD).
There are also some neuro-hackers that have shared their experience with ALCAR, and they claim that it helps them with their cognitive function.
This anecdotal evidence is not very strong, and more research really needs to be done for us to better understand how effective ALCAR is for ADHD.
Acetyl L-Carnitine Dosage – Recommended Usage
There are supplements on the market that just provide L-Carnitine, but they can’t cross the blood-brain barrier.
This makes them a poor choice as a nootropic because they have a minimal effect on brain function.
I recommend using Acetyl L-Carnitine, otherwise known as ALCAR.
You could also use some other form of L-Carnitine that can cross the blood-brain barrier. However, I like the fact that ALCAR can donate its’ acetyl group to facilitate acetylcholine synthesis.
ALCAR is available as a powder, tablet, or in capsules.
The recommended dosage can vary slightly depending on the condition you are trying to improve:
- Memory Loss – 1.5-2 g/day
- Chronic Fatigue – 4 g/day
- Cognitive Enhancement – 2 g/day
- Neuropathy – 1.5-3 g/day
- Depression – 1-4 g/day
Most people see good results when they take around 2 grams/day, except those dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome.
They need to take 2 grams/day twice daily.
So now that we know how to use ALCAR for best results, is it safe?
Acetyl L-Carnitine Side Effects – What are the Risks?
ALCAR is naturally occurring in our body, and is very safe to use.
Side effects are rare, but may include:
- Dry Mouth
- Weight Loss
- “Fishy Odor” in Urine
If you are pregnant or expecting, it’s better to avoid using ALCAR, just to be cautious.
ALCAR can increase the effectiveness of medications that prevent blood clotting, so if you happen to be taking this type of medication, consult with your doctor to adjust your dosage.
So those are all the ‘Doom and Gloom’ warnings I have for you.
I thing it’s about time we wrap things up!
Acetyl L-Carnitine – Final Word
So what have we learned so far?
ALCAR gives us more energy by shuttling fats to the mitochondria, and provides neuroprotection by acting as an antioxidant.
It also boosts brain power by increasing neurotransmitter levels, brain cell respiration, and encouraging neurogenesis.
Supplementing with ALCAR improves mental energy, attention, memory, motivation, executive functions, and mood.
It’s been used to help with memory loss, depression, ADD, and a host of bodily ailments as well. It’s also very useful for weight loss.
ALCAR is more effective when taken together with Alpha-Lipoic Acid, which recharges ALCAR molecules, allowing them to continue working longer.
ALCAR has been found to be very safe, and to maintain its’ effectiveness with long term usage because it’s naturally present in the body.
This makes ALCAR a very good compliment, or even a viable alternative to prescription medications for certain conditions.
So have I convinced you that ALCAR is the best supplement for energy and concentration yet?
It definitely has a lot of benefits to offer, at the very least.
Well, I hope you enjoyed giving this article a read. I loved putting it together for you.
In my next article, I’ll be looking at Alpha-Lipoic Acid as a nootropic. If you liked this article, you don’t want to miss the next one!
If ALCAR were a superhero, ALA would be its’ faithful sidekick!
P.S. – Leave a comment below if you have any questions.
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