Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) Is The Emperor Of Nootropics


Photo courtesy of rakratchada, via

Photo courtesy of rakratchada, via

Acetyl-L-Carnitine, affectionately known as “ALCAR” is a modified version of an amino acid (L-Carnitine), that is able to affect the brain, via crossing the blood brain barrier. It’s a well known nootropic substance in the underground world of smart drugs, and is used by millions of people everyday, to include futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil.

ALCAR does a number of things to the brain from improving Acetylcholine synthesis, to optimizing how it uses energy substrates, like glucose and fatty acids, but it also has some interesting effects on what’s known as “Nerve Growth Factor.” It’s such an epic nootropic compound, we’ll likely be adding it to the next version of the Cortex Nootropic stack (our stack used by the US Military, Wall ST, and people around the world). 

When I take it by itself (which I do quite frequently), I almost immediately notice an improved energy, verbal fluency, and memory profile. The strange thing? It lasts hours upon hours. Far longer than Aniracetam, (or any other Racetam for that matter), and most other nootropics I’ve taken. I feel brighter. Smarter. More in tune. Everything is easier. Quicker. More in depth. Frankly, I love the stuff, and I think it’s one of the best nootropics there is, and I’m prepared to back that up by breaking down each one of the above mentioned points, in finer detail.

Acetylcholine Synthesis Improved by ALCAR

One of the most comprehensive and impressive breakdowns of the cholinergic effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine can be found here, in an awesome thread on Longecity by user: Chrono. In this breakdown, he goes on to explain that: “ALCAR also increases the utilization of glucose in the brain probably by stimulating non-oxidative pyruvate dehydrogenase activity, which effectively increases the amount of ACh synthesized from glucose/pyruvate.”

Another Pubmed study that concluded that Acetyl-L-Carnitine could be a great agent in the treatment of age related cholinergic deficits, clearly demonstrates the production of Acetylcholine was present with the combination of ALCAR and glucose, a fuel substrate all of our brains use for energy, that is safe to assume everyone has floating around to one degree or another. Even if you’re in ketosis all day, the brain is still using a certain percentage of glucose that it creates in other ways (ways other than getting it from food).

I don’t believe, through my experience, that ALCAR is a strong facilitator of Acetylcholine, compared to some of the more bioavailable Ach precursors (like Alpha GPC), but it contributes to building the neurotransmitter nonetheless. This means, as you might imagine, that ALCAR is synergistic with most cholinergics.

So, the verdict is out: ALCAR improves Acetylcholine synthesis, and though it may not be a direct precursor, brain levels of Acetylcholine do rise as a result of ALCAR administration. But that’s not it. Let’s get into the energy optimization part of ALCAR.

ALCAR – The Ultimate Energy Optimization Tool for the Brain

ALCAR enhances the energy profile of your brain. It does so in a couple of fascinating ways, that I’ll try to dumb down as much as I can, for myself and for you readers. This study tells us that ALCAR changes brain energy metabolism in rats with chronic use. In a heading titled: “bioenergetics” on’s write up on ALCAR, they state that: “There are increase in glucose availability in certain brain regions following 25 days oral ingestion of 500mg/kg in otherwise young mice, such as the hippocampal formation (43%) with a decrease in alanine and lactate as well as the cortex (55%) although no changes in lactate occurred.”

They go on to say that both glucose and creatine levels in the brain are increased from 25 day ALCAR use, which is indicative of more energy being produced.

The fact that ALCAR improves glucose availability in the brain is profound. Glucose, for many of us, is the main fuel for our brains. As we age, it becomes harder and harder to use glucose for energy, and the ultimate negative illustration of this is Alzheimers disease, which is though to be an effective “diabetes of the brain,” to some. It’s hypothesized that rather than a glucose availability issue, AD is more of a glucose utilization issue. And ALCAR improves cerebral glucose usage in high doses (and I believe in low doses as well). Additionally, fatty acids cannot be metabolized unless they are transported into the mitochondria of a cell, something ALCAR does. So, I’m quite sure ALCAR improves the utilization of fatty acids for brain energy.

ALCAR and Nerve Growth Factor

This is a particularly attractive topic for me. Initially, when building the Cortex Gen 1 nootropic, I was really trying to create a nerve growth factor nootropic stack. I had read about ALCAR being a part of a long compiled NGF stack, and the wheels started turning from there. It was actually in most of my initial formulas for Cortex Gen 1. I don’t think I ever tried taking it out, because I know so much about how beneficial it is.

cortex_buyRita Levi Montalcini, who is actually the one responsible for discovering Nerve Growth Factor (she’s a laureate because of it), has been the center of my fascination with NGF. I’m fascinated by HER in fact. She discovered it, then took it through eye drops everyday until her late years, and can be seen giving interviews in her late 90’s, with the intellectual capacity of a 20 year old. To me, nerve growth factor is one of the most important nootropics in the world. And ALCAR facilitates it.

The stimulation (and utilization) of Nerve Growth Factor levels can be seen when administered to old rats. This is an extremely profound outcome. Nerve Growth Factor is a neuropeptide involved in the growth and regulation of hosts of groups of neurons in the human brain. I believe it’s one of the major things you have to keep healthy in your brain to ascend into your later years with optimal brain function. And ALCAR helps you do that. And judging from my reading and experimentation (as well as the Cortex products we’re launching at Surrogate Labs), it’s extremely synergistic with a ton of other nootropics. Actually, let’s get to that.

ALCAR Seems to Stack Well With:

  1. CDP Choline – CDP Choline is not only a precursor to Acetylcholine, but for Uridine as well. Uridine has some NGF properties in it also, which make the CDP/ALCAR combo quite the powerful punch.
  2. Uridine Monophosphate – I had to include this even though we just talked about it. There are some interesting studies pointing to the enhancement of both NGF and neurite outgrowth (axons and dendrites) with the combination of Uridine Mono and ALCAR.
  3. Artichoke Extract – First, CILTEP is the first product to put these together, and I imagine due to the success of their product, these chemicals go well together. But Cortex also has them combo’d. The Artichoke Extract in Cortex is in far lower quantities, but there nonetheless.  Every now and then (and you could totally try this stack), I throw down 450MG ALCAR, and 130MG Artichoke Extract and it turns me on something crazy! Gets me ready to work, with a ton of brain energy.
  4. Ashwagandha – This amazing nutrient, which is in my top 3 nootropics to recover from cognitive deficits associated with sleep apnea, is also an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which ultimately means it helps the brain to prevent the breakdown of that neurotransmitter. I’ve taken roughly 500MG of Ashwagandha with 300MG of ALCAR, and felt a definite nootropic effect from it. That’s actually a cool stack. It energizes while calms you.
  5. L-Tyrosine (in both forms) – LT, and N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, both seem to be synergistic with ALCAR. I know this because I’ve experimented with stacks with the both of them in it, that worked out quite well for me. For example, I was taking a stack of: Uridine Monophosphate, ALCAR, Bacopa, NALT (N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine), and Artichoke Extract and that stack gave me some of the best verbal fluency I’ve ever had from a nootropic. And thus, it’s probable that ALCAR stacks well with:
  6. Bacopa Monnieri – as a mild acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, and adaptogen, ALCAR stacks quite well with Bacopa.
  7. Vacha – Also called “sweet flag” and hosts of other names, Vacha is a super interesting compound that for me, really improved mental clarity and sentence formation. I tested this compound with ALCAR quite some time ago, and it was pretty awesome.
  8. Huperzine A, and most other cholinergics.
  9. Some of the racetams – I say this because I’ve only tried ALCAR with Piracetam, and Aniracetam, and in both cases, I noticed a nice synergistic effect.
  10. Sulbutiamine – Sulbutiamine works on the cholinergic system in a potentiating way. Both my experience, and the fact that Sulbutiamine works on the cholinergic system tell me ALCAR connects quite well with the substance.

And likely a lot of other nootropics out there.

Summing it up

ALCAR has the ability to improve everything from Nerve Growth Factor levels, to glucose utilization, to fatty acid mobilization for energy. It’s really a wonder nootropic in most people’s eyes, and certainly in mine. If all else fails, and you have reactions to certain nootropics, or don’t get some of the positive effects that other people report having, ALCAR is an extremely safe bet.

I would, just like most other nootropics, cycle on and off of it. I do actually believe you can take it everyday, I just think that ALCAR doesn’t need to be taken everyday. I notice residual effects from it when I take it by itself, spanning 1-3 days, and based on its ability to do all of the above stated things, it’s likely that it’s making positive long term changes to your brain.

ALCAR is a wonder nootropic. It’s safe, extremely cheap, and extremely effective. People all over the web rave about it, for good reason, and I’m no exception. ALCAR is awesome, and I highly recommend it to nootropic users, or anyone trying to get more out of their brains.

Sources and Referential Data

  1. Blood Brain Barrier – Wikipedia
  2. Which Supplements Does Ray Kurzweil Take? – Quora Forum
  3. Cortex Generation 1 Nootropic 
  4. The Cholinergic Mechanisms of Alcar – Longecity
  5. Acetyl-L-Carnitine as a Precursor to Acetylcholine – Pubmed
  6. Dietary supplementation with uridine-5′-monophosphate (UMP), a membrane phosphatide precursor, increases acetylcholine level and release in striatum of aged rat – Pubmed
  7. Chronic acetyl-L-carnitine alters brain energy metabolism and increases noradrenaline and serotonin content in healthy mice – Pubmed
  8. L-Carnitine –
  9. Effects of acetyl-L-carnitine on regional cerebral glucose metabolism in awake rats – Pubmed
  10. Glucose metabolism in normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease: Methodological and physiological considerations for PET studies – Pubmed
  11. Acetyl-L-Carnitine -
  12. The Best Nerve Growth Factor Stack –
  13. Rita Levi Montalcini – Wikipedia
  14. Interview with Rita Levi Montalcini –
  15. Acetyl-L-carnitine treatment increases nerve growth factor levels and choline acetyltransferase activity in the central nervous system of aged rats – Pubmed
  16. Nerve Growth Factor – Wikipedia
  17. Nootropics help sleep apnea induced cognitive impairment –
  18. Ashwagandha as a Nootropic –
  19. Screening of selected Indian medicinal plants for acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity – Pubmed
  20. Acorus Calamus – Wikipedia
  21. Sulbutiamine – Wikipedia


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