There has been a lot of talk about L Carnitine recently and links between Mo Farah, Alberto Salazar and Nike Oregon Project.
So what is this L Carnitine all about and is it as bad as you think it is? A quick answer is no.
I will explain what it is, where you can get it, and what it is used for.
L Carnitine is an amino acid. An amino acid is a protein. It is actually naturally produced in the body. It is used by the body to produce energy. In fact, some strict vegans and vegetarians supplement with L Carnitine as one of the natural sources of the amino acid is from red meat and chicken.
It is important for not only energy conversion, but also for brain function and muscle movement. It is actually prescribed in high doses to people who are recovering from a heart attack. It is also considered as a very powerful anti oxidant.
So lets get down to if it helps in your performance. I have tried L Carnitine several times in a liquid form. 1000mg in a liquid form ingested by the mouth to be exact (you can buy this in Blanchardtown shopping centre in one of the natural food shops). The first time I tried it was a normal run of 60 minutes. I took it right before my run. Half way throughout the run it turned into one of those runs that feels effortless. It was really enjoyable and I felt like I was going at a decent pace. I actually forgot that I had consumed the liquid shot. The second time I tried it, I didn't have the same effect. I felt nothing. It didn't really give me a “buzz” or a feeling or effortlessness. So I am putting the first time I tried it down to just being a good run. I have tried it before I ran a race. Did I run quicker? No. I ran 18 minutes for 5km which was expected for my current fitness (my PB is below 15 minutes). I have tried it before a half marathon where I ran just below 90minutes. Again, this correlated with my current fitness level. I put L Carnatine in the same bracket as caffeine. Sometimes when you take caffeine you get buzz. Other times, not so much. It has been shown to reduce lactic acid production, which makes you run faster for longer before you start to feel like you are running in porridge.
In the papers, it says that Nike Oregon project used a transfusion of L Carnitine. Just to make everything completely clear, I didn't see anything weird or confusing going on when I went to the Nike Oregon Project. I have also never tried any form of IV or infusion of any sort. and would never think of it as well. Actually, I am telling a lie. In 2012 I had a seizure and i was given a glucose IV afterwards as my seizure was down to hypoglycaemia. To be honest, I felt amazing after that IV. But then again, I was unconscious for a few hours so I presume any sort of nutrient would have given me the same effect.
Is it a grey area to take L Carnitine? Short answer is no. Long answer is where do you cross the line of what is considered a grey area. Pseudo Anaemia, or Sports Induced Anaemia requires an iron supplement. Lots of athletes supplement with iron. If they stopped running, their iron levels would go back up as it is the endurance sport that is giving them the iron deficiency. Is this a grey area? Strictly speaking, yes it is. I think a grey area is where a supplement is giving the athlete a boost or an upper hand. So caffeine tablets, caffeine chewing gum, protein shakes, B12 etc can all be classed as a grey area. It wasn’t that long ago that caffeine was actually on the WADA banned list. Nowadays, it’s common to see athletes of every level taking a few caffeine tablets.
However, if WADA states that you are forbidden to inject more then 50ml in a 6 hour period, then is 49ml in a 6 hour period classed as OK? Seemingly it is. Similar to some cyclists keeping their hematocric under 50% because over 50% means that you are on EPO.
In my last article I explained what Taoufik was doing to recover. I never suggested or gave him a supplement because I feel that you should be able to get everything naturally. He didn't even want to take anything unnatural as it is considered “haram” which in Arabic means it is harmful. The most out there thing was beetroot powder from Bakala Academy in Leuven, Belgium. No protein shakes, no caffeine tablets (even though he loves a ristretto).
In terms of my own health (Cystic Fibrosis), I actually try and obtain everything naturally before taking supplements. That’s not to say I don't believe in current medication for CF, I just want to try my best to get everything naturally.
I feel that people think it is a bad nutrient because the papers have talked about it in a bad light. Is it a grey area? I don't really think so. Should you try L Carnitine? I hope I have given you enough information to make your own mind up. Ultimately, it isn’t what the majority of people have made it out to be. Whether to take it or not, that is entirely your call.