Supplements that help us think sharply and feel more energized are sought after by individuals of all ages. You don’t have to be a diehard biohacker to get the benefits of brain and energy boosting supplements. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) are amino acid based compounds that have caught the attention of researchers and health enthusiasts alike for their profound effects on energy and brain health.* Just what can these amino acids do for you? Read on to find out more.
What is N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)?
N-acetyl-cysteine is based on the semi-essential sulfur amino acid L-cysteine combined with an acetyl group. Cysteine is considered semi-essential because very small amounts can be synthesized in the body. NAC is bioavailable within the body and also able to pass the delicate blood-brain barrier. If you take a NAC supplement, the n-acetyl-cysteine acts as a precursor to glutathione, an antioxidant that is created within the liver.* Glutathione is known as the “master antioxidant” because of how efficiently it shuttles toxins and other harmful agents out of the body.*
What is Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)?
Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR), is an acetyl group combined with L-carnitine, a natural compound that is made from the amino acid lysine. In the body we create miniscule amounts of L-carnitine and certain health conditions can reduce production of this substance even further. L-carnitine is vital for fat metabolism and many other chemical processes that affect our energy levels.* Acetyl-l-carnitine is a bioavailable supplement form that is more easily absorbed in the digestive system than L-carnitine.
How do Nootropics Acetyl-L-Carnitine and N-Acetyl-Cysteine Affect the Brain?
Both of these supplements pass the blood-brain barrier which means they can be categorized as nootropics. Nootropics are any supplements that can positively affect brain function and cognitive health. Our blog article Nootropics and Cognitive Health discusses brain boosting supplements in depth.
NAC and Acetyl-L-Carnitine Balance Glutamate*
One way in which acetyl-l-carnitine and n-acetyl-cysteine improve brain health is how they respond to abnormal levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate. It’s helpful to think of glutamate as the “double shot of espresso” of brain neurotransmitters. If you have espresso or coffee, it can help you feel alert and you may become more productive as a result. If you were to have several shots of espresso, you’d simply become jittery and not able to focus at all. In a similar way, glutamate is necessary for the brain to learn and function, however too much glutamate can make it hard to calm oneself and focus. Certain degenerative brain health problems can be traced to excessively high levels of glutamate. Research shows n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) has a balancing effect on the stimulating neurotransmitter glutamate.* Acetyl-l-carnitine acts in much the same fashion on glutamate within the brain, decreasing excess glutamate to normal levels required for brain performance.*
The acetyl group attached to both NAC and ALCAR support the brain’s acetylcholine levels. Acetylcholine balances brain signals and regulates how neurons fire. Acetylcholine also influences mood, focus and learning ability. These are just two factors that these amino acid supplements can contribute to. There are many other mechanisms for how acetyl-l-carnitine and n-acetyl-cysteine benefit brain health including increasing serotonin and dopamine which are associated with a healthy mood.*
Enhance Your Energy with NAC and Acetyl-L-Carnitine*
NAC and ALCAR promote increased energy levels by supporting mitochondria within the cells. Both amino acid supplements help the cell’s powerhouse, mitochondria, utilize fat for energy.* This can lead to increased vigor and support weight management goals. It’s just one reason why N-acetyl-cysteine and acetyl-l-carnitine are often a go-to supplement for fitness enthusiasts and body builders. In one study, taking n-acetyl-carnitine before physical exercise not only increased performance strength but reduced soreness later on. Studies done in the elderly showed parallel results in terms of muscle output and endurance. N-acetyl-cysteine’s ability to promote antioxidant activity may decrease soreness from intense workouts.* Acetyl-l-carnitine and NAC supplementation supports exercise endurance, weight management and energy, no matter your level of physical activity or age.*
Where Can I Find NAC and Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
Have you experienced the surge in vitality that these supplements promote? You can find N-acetyl-cysteine in our customer favorite, Super Thistle which also contains L-glutathione and milk thistle to support glutathione synthesis and liver health. Acetyl-l-carnitine is one of three potent nutrients in our CoQ10 + Alpha Lipoic Acid + Acetyl L-Carnitine HCl formula which supports enhanced energy, brain and heart health.*
Yongjie Ma, Mingming Gao, & Dexi Liu. (2016, August). N-acetylcysteine protects mice from high fat diet-induced metabolic disorders. Pharmaceutical research. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27161488/
Bavarsad Shahripour, R., Harrigan, M. R., & Alexandrov, A. V. (2014, March). N-acetylcysteine (NAC) in neurological disorders: Mechanisms of action and therapeutic opportunities. Brain and behavior. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967529/
Olav B Smeland, Tore W Meisingset, Karin Borges, & Ursula Sonnewald. (2012, July). Chronic acetyl-l-carnitine alters brain energy metabolism and increases noradrenaline and serotonin content in healthy mice. Neurochemistry international. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22549035/