Carnitine plays an important role in the energy production of the body. Therefore, a shortage of carnitine causes fatigue. The body can partly produce carnitine itself, the vast majority comes from food, especially meat.
The percentage of vegetarians and vegans is increasing. Carnitine is naturally found in animal proteins, which is why it is important that vegetarians and vegans are alert to a shortage. Below you will find more information about the functions of carnitine in the body, the consequences of a deficiency and supplementation.
Carnitine is an amino acid found in all tissues of the body. Carnitine is important for the transport of the fatty acids to the cells in the body. Here the substance is delivered to the mitochondria, the power plants that occur in every cell. With a shortage of carnitine, problems occur with the burning of fatty acids, causing fatigue and weight gain. Other complaints with carnitine deficiencies are listlessness, cardiovascular disorders, nerve disorders, overweight, acidification (lactation), hypoglycemic complaints, heart failure, chronic fatigue and infertility.
Carnitine can combat physical and mental fatigue. Carnitine has a protective effect on the heart and blood vessels. It ensures that more antioxidants are produced by the body itself. The material also appears to be very important for the brain. Carnitine can prevent memory loss. Especially people with autism or ADHD can benefit from extra carnitine. There is also evidence that carnitine supplementation may contribute to obesity loss
In addition, it is stated that carnitine also provides:
- better functioning of the heart muscle;
- less fatigue in the elderly;
- faster recovery in men after exercise;
- reduction of ADHD complaints in children;
- improvement of blood cholesterol levels;
- reduction of calf pain after walking;
- less fatigue after chemotherapy treatment;
- decreased enlargement of the heart;
- strengthening the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells.
Vegetarians and vegans
Our body can produce 25% of the required amount of carnitine. This means that the other 75% must come from food. Animal foods (mainly red meat) such as lamb, beef and pork contain the highest amounts of carnitine. Carnitine deficiency can occur in people who do not eat meat. It is important to ensure that there are enough basic substances in the diet for carnitine production. To make carnitine our body needs the amino acids lysine and methionine. Plant-based foods rich in lysine include legumes (tempeh, chickpeas and lentils), nuts (macadamia, cashews, pistachio and pumpkin seeds) and grains (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat). Diet with a relatively high amount of methionine is again sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, oats, white beans, chickpeas, corn and almonds. For the production of carnitine in the body, cofactors of vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium and niacin are required. Vegetarians and vegans can still generate enough carnitine without having to eat meat or other animal proteins.
Carnitine supplementation can support a vegetarian or vegan diet. Also, as we age, less free carnitine circulates in our system. Supplementation can also change this. Always choose L-carnitine, because that is the shape as it also occurs in nature. L-carnitine in supplement form that is considered to be very effective is Acetyl-L-Carnitine. According to researchers, it has no added value to take high doses. The normal daily requirement for L-carnitine is between 200 and 500 mg. With a strong physical load, top sport, stress or illness, this need can rise to 1200 mg per day. It is better not to take L-carnitine simultaneously with proteins, because the presence of large amounts of other amino acids can prevent the absorption of L-carnitine. It is also not recommended to supplement it in the evening because the vigilance and activity urge that it can bring with it can disturb the night’s sleep.