L-Carnitine Injections: Benefits, Usage, Side Effects

Performance-enhancing substances are nothing new in the world of exercise and athletics. One substance that has been widely used for decades is L-carnitine. You can find forms of carnitine naturally throughout the body, but it can also be taken as a supplement or an injection.

Key takeaways:
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    Carnitine is a naturally occurring substance in the body that helps with energy production in cells.
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    L-carnitine is taken as an injection or supplement to help with certain medical conditions and support wellness goals.
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    L-carnitine may help promote weight loss, lean muscle building, and increase energy and brain function.
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    Taking L-carnitine does come with potential side effects including stomach issues and a fishy body odor.

Like any medication or supplement, it’s important to understand the potential side effects of L-carnitine injections to see if they outweigh the benefits.

What is L-Carnitine?

Carnitine is a generic term for different compounds that are derived from amino acids – molecules that work together to form proteins in the body. It plays a key role in energy production and can be found in nearly every cell in the body. Outside of L-carnitine supplements and injections, carnitine can also be found in dairy, poultry, fish, and meat.

The main types of carnitines are:

  • L-carnitine;
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine;
  • Propionyl-L-carnitine.

When comparing L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine, the main difference between the two is how they’re absorbed. Acetyl L-carnitine can more easily cross the blood-brain barrier as it’s more readily absorbed by the gut.

Generally, people meet their daily carnitine needs thanks to production in the liver and kidneys, but some people want to increase their levels to reach certain health goals or help with certain medical conditions.

Where is injectable carnitine used?

Because it’s responsible for so many roles in the body, L-carnitine is used in medical settings as well as to help support people’s personal wellness goals.

L-carnitine injections may be used in the rare cases of a deficiency that occurs from a genetic disorder, disorders such as kidney failure, or in other cases like after the use of certain antibiotics. Besides treating deficiencies, it may also be used to help enhance someone’s quality of life.

Some of the most common uses of injectable L-carnitine are to support fat loss, boost energy and brain function, and enhance athletic performance. L-carnitine injections are commonly used in medical spas as a tool for enhancing weight loss.

What are L-Carnitine benefits?

Although it’s available as a supplement as well, taking an L-carnitine injection can seem like a risky move in the name of self-care. That being said, it comes with some notable benefits:

  • Promotes energy production;
  • Aids weight loss;
  • Enhances exercise performance;
  • Helps with brain function;
  • Supports heart health.

It may also help treat valproic acid toxicity, a medication used to treat bipolar disorder, migraines, and epilepsy.

Helps with energy production

Mitochondria are structured in cells that are responsible for respiration and create the primary energy source in the body. Naturally occurring carnitine plays a key role in this process, as well as helping to clean out cellular waste so that the body can work more efficiently.

Usually, the body makes enough carnitine naturally to support these processes, so what happens to energy levels when you get an L-carnitine injection?

Studies show that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation may benefit from the energy-boosting benefits of L-carnitine to help with fatigue, quality of sleep, and overall mood. Other research on L-carnitine and energy levels has focused mainly on athletes, where it’s shown some potential benefits in increasing anaerobic performance and helping with recovery after training.

Aids weight loss

L-carnitine is often marketed as a weight loss tool by medical spas, or supplement companies. Its ability to help support energy production and lean muscle building means it may help people with their overall weight loss goals.

While it may not be drastic, researchers have found that supplementing L-carnitine can help reduce BMI, body weight, and fat mass by a modest amount. This is especially true for people who are overweight or obese.

Improves exercise performance

One of the go-to uses of injecting L-carnitine is to increase athletic performance and improve exercise. While many people anecdotally report benefits, there is a lack of consistent research that supports this claim.

Other research, however, suggests that L-carnitine may make a significant impact when it comes to increasing lean muscle. This, in combination with its ability to reduce muscle damage and promote recovery after exercise, is one of the reasons it's popular amongst bodybuilders.

Supports heart health

People with heart conditions tend to have low levels of carnitine, so it makes sense that taking carnitine can help support heart health. Injecting L-carnitine has been shown to help reduce hypertension, hyperglycemia, obesity, and other conditions that can contribute to cardiovascular issues.

Supports brain function

It’s not just physical performance that can be enhanced with L-carnitine, this compound may come with incredible brain-boosting benefits as well. Research supports its ability to help improve mental function in older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.

What is the dosage of L-carnitine?

The dosage of L-carnitine depends on someone’s goals. People taking it for athletic performance take an average of 2–6 grams a day for 1–28 days. Cancer patients have typically supplemented doses ranging from 250 mg to 3 grams per day.

Note
You have an increased risk of adverse side effects with doses of 3 grams per day and higher.

L-carnitine side effects

Although it can help people in many ways, L-carnitine does come with a few potential side effects:

  • Diarrhea;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Abdominal cramps;
  • A fishy body odor.

Other more serious potential side effects include seizures in those with seizure disorders, muscle weakness in people with uremia, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. L-carnitine may have interactions with medications including certain types of antibiotics.

Although it has been studied extensively, there are mixed results on whether or not L-carnitine is effective for non-medical uses, specifically weight loss and athletic performance. Because of its potential risks, it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider whether or not carnitine injections or supplements are right for you.

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