April 4, 2024

L-Citrulline Supplements: Everything You Need To Know

Written by our expert


Avanthika Nityanand

M.Sc Human Genetics, B.Sc Plant Biology & Plant Biotechnology

L-Citrulline Supplements: Everything You Need To Know
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What is Citrulline?

Citrulline is an amino acid that plays a significant role in the body's urea cycle, which helps eliminate ammonia.

It's named after "citrullus," the Latin word for watermelon, from which it was first isolated. Unlike some amino acids, citrulline does not build proteins.

Instead, it's crucial in processes that produce certain proteins and enzymes and in vasodilation—the widening of arteries or veins. It's found in some foods (like watermelons) and is also produced naturally by the body.

Citrulline works by converting into another amino acid, arginine, after supplementation. Arginine is then converted into nitric oxide, which helps improve blood flow and oxygen delivery throughout the body.

This process supports various bodily functions, including muscle building, heart health, and immune system effectiveness.

Why Do People Take Citrulline?

Citrulline is primarily taken to enhance sports performance and cardiovascular health. It’s popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts because it increases nitric oxide production in the body.

This increase in nitric oxide leads to improved blood flow, enhancing exercise performance, reducing fatigue, and speeding up recovery after workouts.

Citrulline is also taken to support heart health. Improved blood flow can reduce blood pressure and promote healthier blood vessels.

Moreover, citrulline supplementation has been linked to improved erectile function in men with mild erectile dysfunction.

This is again due to its ability to enhance blood flow, proving its versatility beyond just athletic performance.

How Much Citrulline Malate Can you Take Per Day?

The recommended dosage of citrulline malate, a compound that combines citrulline with malate, varies depending on the intended use.

Studies have shown that effective doses for exercise performance range from 6 to 8 grams of citrulline malate taken about an hour before exercise. [ref]

This amount is believed to be sufficient to increase the body's arginine and nitric oxide levels, thereby enhancing exercise efficiency and reducing fatigue.

It's important to note that citrulline malate supplements come in different ratios of citrulline to malate, with 2:1 (citrulline to malate) being common.

When considering the dosage, account for this ratio to ensure you're getting the intended amount of citrulline.

Does Citrulline Help With Fatigue?

Eighteen men without documented disease but experiencing fatigue participated in a study involving a rest-exercise-recovery protocol conducted over several sessions, including before, during, and after 15 days of consuming 6 g/day of citrulline malate. The results suggest that CM may enhance aerobic function through the increased availability of malate, which supports ATP production, highlighting CM's potential in improving muscle energetics and reducing fatigue. [ref]

When to Take Citrulline Malate?

The timing of citrulline malate supplementation can influence its effectiveness, especially concerning exercise performance and recovery.

To maximize its benefits for workout performance, taking citrulline malate about 30 to 60 minutes before exercising is generally recommended.

This timing allows the body to convert citrulline to arginine and then to nitric oxide, ensuring increased blood flow during the workout.

Some may opt to take it after exercise for recovery purposes; however, the pre-workout timing is more commonly suggested for its performance-enhancing effects.

If the goal is cardiovascular health or other benefits unrelated to immediate exercise performance, the timing may be less critical, and consistent daily intake becomes more important.

How Much Citrulline to Take?

The optimal dose of citrulline depends on your goals. For enhancing sports performance, a dose of 6 to 8 grams of citrulline malate is often recommended before exercise.

For pure L-citrulline, which is another form of the supplement, doses are typically lower, around 3 to 6 grams daily, due to its higher concentration of citrulline without the addition of malate.

It's worth noting that while these dosages are supported by research, individual needs can vary based on body weight, metabolism, and specific health or performance goals.

Always start with a lower dose to assess tolerance before gradually increasing to the recommended levels.

Which Citrulline is Best?

The "best" citrulline supplement depends on your specific needs and preferences. There are two main forms available: L-citrulline and citrulline malate.

L-citrulline is the pure form of the amino acid. At the same time, citrulline malate combines citrulline with malate, an acid that plays a role in the Krebs cycle—a series of chemical reactions that release stored energy.

For those focused on improving exercise performance and endurance, citrulline malate might be preferred due to the potential additional benefits from malate.

For those more interested in the cardiovascular benefits or improving erectile dysfunction, pure L-citrulline could be a better choice due to its direct conversion to arginine.

What's Better: Arginine or Citrulline?

The debate between arginine and citrulline supplements centers on their effectiveness in increasing nitric oxide levels in the body.

While arginine directly supplies the body with the amino acid needed to produce nitric oxide, citrulline is converted into arginine in the kidneys, leading to a more sustained increase in arginine and nitric oxide levels.

Studies suggest that citrulline may be more effective than arginine in increasing plasma arginine levels due to its better absorption and bioavailability.

Therefore, citrulline might be the better choice for long-term benefits and effectiveness in enhancing nitric oxide production.

Citrulline Supplements: Where to Buy?

Citrulline supplements can be purchased from various sources, including health food stores, pharmacies, and online retailers.

When buying supplements, choosing products from reputable manufacturers that provide transparent information about the purity, sourcing, and concentration of their ingredients is crucial.

Look for products with minimal additives and third-party testing to ensure quality and safety.

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Are Citrulline Supplements Safe?

Citrulline supplements are generally considered safe for healthy adults when used at recommended dosages. Side effects are rare but can include gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals.

However, people with certain medical conditions or medications should consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, including citrulline, to avoid potential interactions or adverse effects.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also seek medical advice before taking citrulline or any other supplements. As with any supplement, it's essential to adhere to the recommended dosages and be mindful of any changes in your health.

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