Acetyl-L-Carnitine, or ALCAR, is a form of the micronutrient L-carnitine, which is a derivative of the amino acid lysine.

The body naturally produces L-carnitine, which can also be synthesized from animal proteins in the diet. While studies suggest that actual carnitine deficiency is relatively rare in healthy people with no metabolic disorders, supplementation has nonetheless proven to be of substantial benefit in many ways, from promoting heart health to enhancing brain function.

ALCAR is one of several forms of L-carnitine supplements, all of which have been extensively studied and shown to offer major physical and mental benefits. ALCAR, which is L-carnitine to which an acetyl group (-COCH3) has been added, is thought to be the most bioavailable form of L-carnitine.‍[1] Unlike other forms of L-carnitine, which help convert fat to energy in the body proper, ALCAR readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts within the brain itself. Its primary actions are related to brain function.

ALCAR is effective in many respects when taken alone, but its nootropic properties are most pronounced when it is taken in combination with other nootropics. In many cases the combination of ALCAR with other nootropics is mutually potentiating, making all the compounds in the combination or stack work better and more efficiently than they would separately.

Other forms of L-carnitine supplements include L-carnitine L-tartrate (LCLT), typically used to enhance physical performance, and glycine propionyl L-carnitine (GPLC), which is primarily used to alleviate blood flow issues. The only L-carnitine variant that has nootropic capabilities, ALCAR provides both L-carnitine and acetyl groups, which are molecule clusters that may be used in the formation of the “learning neurotransmitter,” acetylcholine.

ALCAR is safe, extremely well-tolerated, affordable, and readily available without a prescription as a nutritional supplement.

Benefits and Effects

Research has proven that that ALCAR benefits both the brain and body in a surprising variety of ways, from enhancing cognitive abilities to increasing energy, reducing pain, and even preventing damage from alcohol consumption.

Cognitive Enhancer

ALCAR’s primary nootropic function is the enhancement of the acetylcholine system. It is believed to be a promote the production of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with memory and learning.

ALCAR has repeatedly been proven to improve and enhance brain function in individuals suffering from cognitive decline. Studies show that it successfully reduces mental fatigue and enhances cognitive function‍[2] and improves learning ability.‍[3]

It’s effect on cognition on otherwise healthy individuals has not been thoroughly studied, however, anecdotal evidence suggests subjective positive results as well.‍[4]‍[5]

An Effective Neuroprotectant

Because of its potent antioxidant properties, ALCAR acts as a neuroprotectant, preventing and even repairing damage caused by free radicals that scavenge and damage brain cells.‍[6]

It also helps the brain rid itself of other toxins and is thought to reduce cell death due to excitotoxicity, a pathological process triggered by the overactivation of glutamate receptors. ALCAR improves the neural network by strengthening nerves and signal receptors and has even been shown to protect the brain against the harmful effects of drinking alcohol.‍[7]

Potential Treatment for Age-related Disorders

One of ALCAR’s most exciting prospects is as a treatment for age-related neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s Disease. It has been shown to effectively slow decline in Alzheimer’s patients and reduces age-related memory loss.‍[8]

Other studies showed that ALCAR helps restore ambulatory capability in the aged and acts as a mood elevator and anti-depressant in the elderly.‍[9]

Physical Health Benefits

Nootropic capabilities are only part of what ALCAR has to offer.

  • There is significant evidence that ALCAR can be of substantial benefit to people with physical disorders typically associated with aging, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
  • It has proven to be effective in treating nerve pain, improving kidney function, and promoting heart health.
  • ALCAR is sometimes used to treat male infertility and ameliorate the symptoms of andropause and erectile dysfunction. It is also used to combat Peyronie’s disease, an inflammatory condition that affects the penis.
  • It has been shown to improve fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.‍[10]

How It Works

Like all L-carnitine variants, ALCAR is synthesized primarily in the liver and kidneys and then transported to other tissues.

ALCAR has excellent bioavailability and is readily absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Once absorbed its actions differ considerably from those of other forms of L-carnitine, which don’t cross the blood-brain barrier. The acetyl groups that make ALCAR unique enable it to cross the blood-brain barrier readily and rapidly, and ALCAR’s most important functions take place in the brain.

Increased Production of Important Neurotransmitters

One of ALCAR’s most significant nootropic benefits involves the acetyl groups, which are thought to provide the basis for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Sometimes referred to as “the learning neurotransmitter,” acetylcholine is largely responsible for learning, memory, and cognitive function.

Increased levels of acetylcholine are associated with enhanced cognitive abilities, and low levels of this important neurotransmitter increase the risk of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

ALCAR has also been shown to increase levels of norepinephrine and serotonin, crucial neurotransmitters that play a major role in mood and brain function.‍[11] The ability to increase neurotransmitter production is one of the primary ways that ALCAR complements nootropics like the racetams, which enhance the action of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain.

Enhanced Brain Metabolism

ALCAR also targets brain metabolism, boosting cellular energy and acting as a potent neuroprotectant.‍[12] Its significant antioxidant properties combat the effects of cellular oxidation and reduce the number of damaged cells in the brain, making ALCAR a powerful anti-aging agent.

Damaged fat cells known as lipofuscin – called “age spots” when they appear on the skin – also occur in the brain, and are strongly associated with age-related neurological disorders, loss of energy, and poor memory.

By helping the brain eliminate these damaged cells, ALCAR both boosts brain function and significantly reduces the risk of neurodegenerative disorders.‍[13]

It has also been shown to prevent brain deterioration during periods of stress.‍[14]

Promotes Neuroprotection

One of the most important ways that ALCAR safeguards the brain and improves cognitive function is by strengthening the protective myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves in the brain.‍[15] Weakening or damage to the myelin sheath has a severe adverse effect on vision, hearing, balance, coordination, and general brain function.

ALCAR has also been shown to protect membrane signal receptors in the brain and help keep neurons healthy and functional. This protective ability not only increases the ability to form and maintain new memories, but it is also another way in which ALCAR complements and potentiates other nootropics.

Other Actions in the Body

ALCAR works in the body as well as the brain, performing many of the same functions as L-carnitine.

While the conversion of fat to energy isn’t one of ALCAR’s primary benefits, it does increase metabolic efficiency and provides many of the same energy-related benefits as other L-carnitine variants.

ALCAR has also been shown to be particularly effective at reducing hypertension‍[16] and lowering insulin resistance.‍[17]


Recommendations for the daily dosage of ALCAR vary considerably, starting with 250–500 mg per day. A dose of 500 mg per day, taken all at once or split into smaller doses, is considered a good starting point for most healthy adults.

From that point, dosage can be adjusted as needed to realize maximum results. The elderly may benefit from higher doses.

For peak daytime brain function, the initial dose of ALCAR should be taken in the morning, though some users say ALCAR works best when split into two or more doses taken at intervals throughout the day. Taking ALCAR late in the evening can result in disruption of the normal sleep cycle.

ALCAR can be taken on an empty stomach, but users who experience gastrointestinal upset report that it can be minimized or avoided by taking ALCAR with food.


ALCAR’s effects are truly potentiated when combined with other nootropics. It is commonly included in stacks that feature nootropics in the racetam family, allowing them to each function to their fullest potential. Since ALCAR works in tandem with the acetylcholine system, it may also be a good idea to include a choline precursor, such as Alpha GPC, in your stack.

ALCAR and Piracetam Stack

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ALCAR and Mind Lab Pro Stack

An easy and effective stack is to combine ALCAR with a preformulated nootropic blend, such as Mind Lab Pro by Opti-Nutra which contains 11 all-natural research-backed ingredients. Mind Lab Pro can serve as an excellent foundation to your stack as it is designed to improve all aspects of memory, mental performance, mood and stress resistance, maintenance, and brain repair.

For a detailed overview of its ingredients and effects, refer to our Mind Lab Pro review.

1x-2x per day

Side Effects

ALCAR is exceptionally safe and well tolerated. Side effects are rare; those that are reported are minor and are often associated with high dosage.

Nausea, the most commonly reported side effect, can usually be addressed by taking ALCAR with food.

Headaches, the second most commonly reported side effect, may be attributable to excess choline. Many users who experience a headache when taking ALCAR say that reducing the amount of choline in their regimen eliminates them.

Where to Buy

ALCAR can be purchased directly from, a reliable supplier of specialty nootropic supplements.

If you prefer doing your online shopping on, we recommend sticking to products made by reputable brands such as NOW Foods Acetyl L-Carnitine.

Closing Thoughts

ALCAR is a remarkable natural supplement that offers a host of benefits for both brain and body.

A powerful brain booster in its own right, it works well with other nootropics and can act as a powerful complement and potentiator. It’s safe, affordable, very well tolerated, and readily available without a prescription.

For anyone who’s interested in better health, better cognitive abilities, and better defense against aging, ALCAR is a supplement to try.

References   [ + ]

Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.

This page was last updated on December 12, 2018.