Last update: June 11, 2024

6 minute read

What is Carnitine?

Discover how carnitine, an important nutrient, can boost your health by turning fat into energy. Learn about natural sources, dosages, and the different types of supplements.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Dimitar Marinov, MD, MBA, PhD

Learn more about our editorial standards

Carnitine is ready for its moment in the spotlight! In this blog post, you'll learn all about this essential nutrient, including its benefits for your body and mind, natural sources, recommended dosage, and potential side effects.

Key takeaways

  • Carnitine is an essential nutrient that helps convert fat into energy and supports overall health
  • Main sources of carnitine are animal products like beef, pork, chicken, and fish
  • Carnitine supplement types include acetyl-L-carnitine, propionyl-L-carnitine, and L-carnitine L-tartrate

    What is carnitine?

    So, what is carnitine? Carnitine is a nutrient that plays a vital role in energy production, helping your body convert fat into energy and supporting overall health, including brain and cardiovascular functions.

    Why is carnitine important?

    Carnitine, a super useful nutrient, is crucial in your body's energy production process. It transports fatty acids into the mitochondria to transform them into energy for your cells.

    Without carnitine, your cells would have difficulty accessing the energy they need to function optimally, making it a vital player in your overall health. The importance of carnitine goes beyond just energy production.

    Research shows it has many health benefits, like cardiovascular health, brain function, and fertility. For example, athletes often use carnitine supplements to support muscle damage and recovery, while others might use them to support cognitive abilities and mental clarity.

    What are the natural sources of carnitine?

    Great news for meat lovers: carnitine is mainly found in animal products. Foods high in carnitine include beef, pork, chicken, and fish.

    If you're a vegetarian or vegan, don't worry! While plant-based foods generally contain lower amounts of carnitine than animal products, you can still find it in options like avocado, tempeh, and whole wheat bread.

    Your body can also produce a small amount of carnitine from the amino acids lysine and methionine, which are present in plant-based protein sources like legumes, nuts, and seeds.

    Dairy products, like milk and cheese, are another source of carnitine, making them a good choice for vegetarians who include dairy in their diet. So, whether you're a carnivore, herbivore, or somewhere in between, there are plenty of natural sources of carnitine.

    VitaRx Fun Fact

    The word "carnitine" is derived from the Latin word "carnus," which means "flesh" or "meat." So, it's no surprise that animal-based foods are the main sources of this essential nutrient.

    Top natural sources of carnitine

    The following list shows a variety of natural sources of carnitine and the carnitine content per 100 grams of each food. This handy reference will help you choose the right ingredients to include in your diet to make sure you're getting enough of this essential nutrient.

    • Beef: 56-162 mg
    • Pork: 24-31 mg
    • Chicken: 3.9-5.6 mg
    • Salmon: 4.9-12.2 mg
    • Cod: 5.6 mg
    • Whole Milk: 3.3 mg
    • Cheddar Cheese: 4.5 mg
    • Avocado: 0.4 mg
    • Tempeh: 0.3 mg
    • Whole Wheat Bread: 0.2 mg

    Caption: A selection of carnitine-rich foods, with their respective carnitine content per 100 grams.

    Which carnitine types should you take?

    When it comes to carnitine, variety is the name of the game! Each type offers unique benefits, making it essential to choose the right one for your needs. Let's explore carnitine types and find out what makes each one special:

    • D-carnitine: Ironically, this inactive form might cause a carnitine deficiency by blocking the absorption of other beneficial forms.
    • Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR): If you're looking for a brain booster, ALCAR is the one for you! It's like carnitine's smart cousin, potentially benefiting people with neurodegenerative diseases.
    • Propionyl-L-carnitine: Perfect for people looking for circulatory support, this type is all about supporting blood flow. It's great for people with high blood pressure or peripheral vascular disease.
    • L-carnitine L-tartrate: The fitness enthusiast's best friend, this form absorbs rapidly and may help reduce muscle soreness and muscle damage after exercise.

    VitaRx Tip

    In general, acetyl-L-carnitine and L-carnitine are the go-to options for most people. But remember, it's important to choose the carnitine type that best matches your personal needs.

    What is the recommended dosage of carnitine?

    When it comes to carnitine supplementation, the right dosage can vary based on factors like age, weight, and specific health goals. Generally, a daily dose of 500-2,000 mg of L-carnitine or acetyl-L-carnitine is considered safe and effective for most adults. However, it's always best to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

    Potential overdose side effects

    Carnitine is generally well-tolerated, but some potential side effects may include:

    1. Gastrointestinal issues: In some cases, carnitine supplementation can cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Lowering the dosage or splitting it into smaller doses throughout the day may help alleviate these symptoms.
    2. Fishy odor: High doses of carnitine can lead to a fishy body odor due to the accumulation of a substance called trimethylamine in the body. Reducing the dosage can usually help resolve this issue.
    3. Interactions with medications: Carnitine may interact with certain medications, like anticoagulants (blood thinners) and thyroid medications. It's crucial to discuss any potential interactions with your healthcare provider before starting carnitine supplementation.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about carnitine.

    Final thoughts

    From its crucial role in energy production to its wide-ranging health benefits, it's no wonder carnitine has captured your attention. By adding natural sources of carnitine to your diet and choosing the right type of supplement based on your needs, you can harness the power of carnitine for a more energized lifestyle.

    Remember, if you're looking to "Carni-tap" into this amazing nutrient's potential, always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen. With the right guidance and information, you'll be well on your way to becoming a happier, healthier you!


    1. Carnitine - Health Professional Fact Sheet
    2. Effect of Acute and Chronic Oral l-Carnitine Supplementation on Exercise Performance Based on the Exercise Intensity: A Systematic Review
    3. Carnitine - Health Professional Fact Sheet.


    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

    Dr. Dimitar Marinov avatar

    Dr. Marinov has years of experience in scientific research and preventive and clinical medicine. His publications in peer-reviewed journals are on nutritional status, physical activity, and musculoskeletal disorders among adolescents.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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