Creatine vs L-Carnitine: A Detailed Comparison

In this article, we will take a close look at two popular supplements: Creatine and L-Carnitine. We will take a look at their roles in energy metabolism, their benefits for physical performance and health, and potential side effects. This comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision on which supplement is best suited to your specific health goals and needs.
Nithishwer Mouroug Anand

Nithishwer Mouroug Anand

Nithish is a computational biochemist at the University of Oxford working on alchemical methods for protein-drug interactions.

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Creatine vs L-Carnitine: An Overview

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that is crucial to energy metabolism. It is abundant in human skeletal muscle, brain, and heart. Creatine is synthesised internally and can be obtained through an omnivorous diet or supplements. It is essential for normal growth, development, and health [1]. Creatine is stored in your skeletal muscles as phosphocreatine, which can be broken down during physical activity to be used as energy for muscle contractions [2].

On the other hand, L-Carnitine, also known as Acetyl-L-Carnitine, is a compound that plays a critical role in energy production by transporting fatty acids into your cells' mitochondria. The mitochondria act as engines within your cells, burning these fats to create usable energy. While the body naturally produces L-carnitine, it is also found in foods like meat, fish, and dairy products and can even be taken through supplements [3].

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Benefits of Creatine and L-Carnitine

Creatine and L-Carnitine are supplements athletes and fitness enthusiasts often use for various benefits.

Benefits of Creatine:

Creatine is known for its effectiveness in increasing the capacity for high-intensity exercise. It enhances the energy output of muscles, enabling longer and more arduous workouts [4]. Creatine supplementation has also been shown to increase lean muscle mass [5].

In addition to its benefits for physical performance, creatine has potential clinical benefits. These include improving clinical markers in neurodegenerative diseases, treating congestive heart failure, lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, minimising bone loss, and improving cognitive performance [4].

Benefits of L-Carnitine: L-Carnitine has been shown to enhance exercise capacity, increase muscle mass, reduce physical and mental fatigue, and alleviate muscle injury. L-carnitine supplementation can also lead to increased muscle mass accompanied by a decrease in body weight [6].

When combined, L-carnitine and creatine can significantly increase muscle protein synthesis and activation of anabolic signalling, enhancing muscle growth and strength [7].

Creatine vs Carnitine: Side Effects

Side effects of Creatine: Creatine is generally considered safe, but some potential side effects have been reported. These include nausea, dizziness, muscle cramping, diarrhoea, dehydration, weight gain, bloating, heat intolerance, and gastrointestinal pain [8, 4, 9, 10].

More severe side effects such as liver damage, kidney damage, kidney stones, and compartment syndrome have been reported, but these are usually associated with higher dosages or underlying health conditions [9].

The link between creatine and cancer is also quite interesting.

Side effects of L-Carnitine: L-Carnitine is also well-tolerated most of the time but can cause mild nausea and vomiting. Taking up to 2 g/day in 3 divided doses is recommended to avoid any side effects [11].

Warning: It's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially for individuals with pre-existing health conditions. For instance, creatine should not be used by individuals with pre-existing renal disease or those with a potential risk for renal dysfunction (diabetes, hypertension, reduced glomerular filtration rate) [11].

Choosing Between Creatine And L-carnitine

When it comes to choosing between creatine and L-carnitine, it's essential to consider your specific health goals and needs. Both supplements have unique benefits and potential uses.

Athletes often choose creatine, and those looking to improve their physical performance. As discussed before, It's known for its ability to enhance athletic performance during high-energy demand physical activity [12]. A study found that a combination of creatine and L-carnitine led to a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis, suggesting a potential synergistic enhancement of muscle protein synthesis and activation of anabolic signalling [7].

On the other hand, L-carnitine is often used by individuals looking to support their energy metabolism and those with certain health conditions. For instance, L-carnitine supplementation is beneficial in reducing muscle cramps in patients with stroke [13], and it may also help manage conditions like chronic kidney disease [14].

However, it's important to note that the effectiveness of these supplements can vary between individuals and may depend on factors such as dosage, individual health status, and the presence of other nutrients.

In conclusion, both creatine and L-carnitine have their unique benefits. Your choice should depend on your specific health goals and needs. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

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Nithishwer Mouroug Anand

Nithishwer Mouroug Anand

Nithish is a Doctoral Researcher in Computational Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. A physicist by training, he applies principles of thermodynamics and computational methods to investigate the interactions between drugs, proteins, and cell membranes. His expertise ranges from single-cell RNA sequencing and cancer genomics to utilizing free energy methods to understand protein biophysics.