L-Carnitine - What can this amino acid do for you? For me, I can push more weight! When I first learned about this amino acid, I was looking for ways to increase the amount of weight I could lift and the distance I could run. For 3 years now I’ve been competing in The North Face Canadian Death Race, a 125km cross-country adventure relay through the bear-filled, rugged terrain, and steep mountains of Grande Cache, Alberta, Canada (8 hours north of Calgary) over a 24 hour period. I really wanted to learn more about optimizing energy and taking my training to the next level. That’s when I came across L-carnitine and since then have seen great improvements in my personal fitness and my nutritional and personal training clients with regards to increased fat loss and energy levels, and pushing past plateaus. 

L-carnitine is a nonessential amino acid (aka protein) and has many exciting roles and functions in the body. Although it is not an essential amino acid, it’s still great to learn about and find out how you can get it through food. The function of L-carnitine is to taxi (yup, just like a taxi driver!) long-chained fat molecules to the energy producers in our bodies (you may already known of them: mitochondria) which are located inside our cells. The mitochondria’s function is to make energy from glucose, protein and fat. In aiding the body to break down fat, L-carnitine helps with fat-loss and lowering blood triglycerides. Keep reading to discover:

  • Top 3 benefits of L-carnitine
  • Foods high in L-carnitine
  • My high L-carnitine recipe!

Top 3 benefits of L-carnitine

1. Burning fat and improving energy

Yep! L-carnitine may be a small and nonessential amino acid, but this little guy helps burn fat efficiently and improve our energy levels. The more insulin sensitive the cell is, the easier the uptake of L-carnitine and the higher the fat burn and energy we produce! Ok, let’s stop there. I know what you’re thinking: “Mark, what the heck does that mean?” Let me break it down for you.

Insulin Sensitivity:

Insulin sensitivity tells us how sensitive our bodies are to insulin. Someone that is insulin sensitive needs smaller amounts of insulin to lower blood glucose levels than someone who has low sensitivity. People with low insulin sensitivity (aka insulin resistance) need larger amounts of insulin from their pancreas in order to keep blood glucose stable. Having insulin resistance is a sign that your body is having difficulty metabolizing glucose, and this can mean bigger health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

There’s also another addition here to optimize fat burn! Wait for it, you’re gonna love it!… Ok, here it is: we’ve all heard about the benefits of super healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies), chia seeds, flaxseeds and algae. Well, get this: Omega 3 fatty acids if taken in high enough amounts can improve insulin sensitivity therefore “loading” the amount of L-carnitine into the cell. So, how does this translate to burning fat and increased energy? Well, more L-carnitine in our bodies means an increased amount of fat delivered to the energy centers in each of our trillions of cells. This fat is then broken down to make energy that we can use to lift groceries, squat 200lbs, or climb a few flights of stairs. The more energy that is produced, the more work that can be done and the more fat that can be burned. It’s a beautiful healthy cycle we can get ourselves in with healthy eating and increased regular exercise (with our new found energy)!

2. L-carnitine reduces belly fat

Belly fat has been shown to be connected with high cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis. The good news is that L-carnitine can be used to improve cholesterol levels and reducing our risk of atherosclerosis. If we choose to use L-carnitine to lower cholesterol levels, other nutritional changes should be made:

  • reducing high saturated fats
  • increasing unsaturated fats (oily fish such as salmon)
  • using healthy oils for salad dressings (olive oil, grapeseed oil, and flaxseed oil)

Note: Never reduce or stop taking prescribed drugs without the assistance of a medical doctor. It is best to consult a holistic nutritionist or registered naturopath and have them work together with your family doctor to best optimize lowering cholesterol.

3.Increased performance and recovery

Over a period of 3-6 months of increasing your intake of L-carnitine, you’ll notice improved physical athletic performance, my forte. This is only possible with elevated insulin levels, as we mentioned in #1 above. Insulin is required for the delivery of L-carnitine into the cell. Remember that Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for improving insulin sensitivity.

Choosing healthy complex carbohydrates through whole grains (such as brown rice) and sweet potato will increase insulin. Remember, that portion control is key! Stick to 1/2 cup serving sizes of cooked whole grains, not a big bowl of pasta equating to 3 or more cups! Improving insulin sensitivity through the intake of Omega-3 oils will improve L-carnitine “loading”. Beautiful!

Improved L-carnitine levels will improve energy levels while improving our productivity throughout the day. This will provide more energy to carry the groceries from the car into the house and improve physical stamina and strength so you can work out harder in the gym or play harder in a soccer game.

Foods high in L-carnitine

Animal and fish protein are the best sources of L-carnitine. There are 2 vegetables that contain small amounts of L-carnitine.

Animal protein sources:

  • Grass-fed organic beef tops the chart at a whopping 81mg of carnitine per 3oz! Also, grass-fed beef has a much higher Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio compared to conventionally raised beef. We know important Omega 3’s fit into our health and into this equation!
  • Organic pork contains 24mg per 3oz serving
  • Organic chicken breast contains 3mg per 3oz serving

Fish protein sources:

  • Wild Cod contains 5mg per 3oz serving

Vegetable sources:

  • Asparagus contains a small amount of L-carnitine at 0.2mg per 6 spear serving
  • Avocado’s contain 2mg of L-carnitine per 1 medium avocado

High L-carnitine recipe

Avocado's contain 2mg of carnitine per 1 medium avocado Organic grass-fed steak with avocado salsa


Steak Spice-Rub

4-6 organic grass-fed beef steaks
1/4 cup organic paprika
3 tsp fresh organic ground coriander seeds
1 tsp organic tumeric
1/4 cup organic chili powder
1 tsp fresh organic ground pepper
Smoked sea salt to taste
Dash of organic cayenne pepper
4-6 tbsp melted organic coconut oil, brushed onto outsides of steaks

Avocado Salsa

4 organic avocados, diced
1 pint of organic cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 organic red onion, minced
2 tbsp organic freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tsp fresh organic oregano leaves, roughly chopped to bring out flavors
1 tsp fresh organic thyme leaves, roughly chopped to bring out flavors
Celtic sea salt and organic black pepper to taste


  1. Mix all dry rub ingredients together, grind in a coffee grinder to bring out all the delicious flavors, and place in a large bowl.
  2. Rub each coconut oil-brushed steak with the dry rub mixture.
  3. Let the steaks marinate for at least 1 hour or over night.
  4. Combine all ingredients for the avocado salsa in a separate bowl.
  5. Cook on your favorite grill til’ it’s done just the way you like it.
  6. Top with avocado salsa.
  7. Enjoy!

Mark and Ashley at Tri-Fitness.org This article on L-carnitine was provided by Mark Guarini. You can also check out Mark’s website by Clicking Here. At The Naked Label, we’ve always got our eye out for sports nutrition information and we love the holistic spin Mark puts on it.

Did you enjoy this article? Did you enjoy this recipe? Need some more explaining? No problem! Leave us your comments and questions below and Mark will be happy to answer them! Help us spread the word about L-carnitine, Omega 3 fatty acids, burning fat, and increasing energy levels and stamina, by using the Facebook and Twitter links below and share this article with your friends! 


Charles Poliquin