Every serious bodybuilder has to keep up with the latest sports nutrition trends to perform their best in the gym and continue packing on slabs of lean muscle tissue. Although not a “recent breakthrough”, one of the supplements rising in popularity of late is an ingredient called citrulline malate. Unlike other ingredients that have arrived on the scene over the last few years, citrulline malate is backed by a plethora of solid research that suggests it to be one of the better pre-workout nutrients for bodybuilders. Better as in superior muscle pumps and noticeable strength-endurance improvements. If the name sounds similar to citrus, it’s because citrulline was derived from the Latin word citrullus, the plant that produces watermelon. And, as the name suggests, citrulline is found in large amounts in watermelon and other citrus fruits, hence why its name was derived from citrullus. Ok, enough with the etymology lesson, let’s get to the good stuff…
What Exactly is Citrulline?
Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid. Non-essential meaning your body can produce it on its own, but not necessarily in sufficient amounts. This citrulline production occurs during the urea cycle, which – you guessed it – is the process of removing ammonia from the body and eventually excreting it in your urine. Don’t let the non-essential classification sway you away from citrulline, because supplementing with it can help you take your workouts to the next level. The main benefit citrulline provides you with is an increase in nitric oxide (N.O.). This is your body’s chief vasodilation molecule, responsible for expanding your blood vessels and thus enhancing total circulation. Better blood circulation means better pumps while you work out. Not to mention, it can help decrease your blood pressure. It’s important to note that citrulline does not increase N.O. directly. During the urea cycle, citrulline undergoes a conversion into arginine, the direct precursor to N.O. When your body’s levels of arginine are elevated, your body is able to produce more N.O., and, once again, more N.O. means better blood flow, greater pumps, etc. So, you may be thinking, “Why not just supplement with arginine”? While logic may suggest this to be a better alternative, there is a little more to this. We are talking about the human body after all, an overwhelmingly complex machine. When you ingest arginine orally, much of it gets degraded in your digestive tract by intestinal bacteria and by the enzyme arginase in your liver. Studies have shown the absorption to be between 38% and 70%. So, you would need to consume higher levels of arginine for your body to produce a noticeable increase in N.O.. Citrulline, on the other hand, does not get degraded to the extent that arginine does, because it bypasses your liver and escapes arginase breakdown. Therefore, most of the citrulline you ingest can be used to produce arginine, which in turn, can be used to increase your body’s N.O. production. Research has shown that up to 80% of the citrulline you consume is used to raise your N.O. levels. This means you don’t need to consume as much citrulline as you do arginine to notice better blood flow and thus better muscular pumps during your workouts.
As beneficial as citrulline is, researchers have taken it up a notch by combining it with malic acid, thus forming citrulline malate. Malic acid is one of the intermediates produced, and then used up, during the citric acid cycle. This is a process occurring in your body’s mitochondria, which are organelles that generate ATP, the primary energy molecule used by virtually all of your cells, including your muscle cells. By providing your body with malic acid via citrulline malate, you help increase the production of ATP, allowing your muscles to work harder and longer. Citrulline malate is truly one of the best supplement ingredients to emerge as of late. It’s quickly becoming a popular additive in many pre-workouts, including our very own MUSCLEPRIME, for the simple reason that it works as advertised. Research suggests you should ingest a 4 to 8 gram dose of citrulline malate daily for maximum effectiveness. So, do yourself a favor and give citrulline malate a try to experience bigger muscle pumps and greater strength-endurance levels in all of your workouts.
- Bendahan, D. et al. (2002). Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 36(4):282-9.
- Bode-Boger, S.M. et al. (1998). L-arginine-induced vasodilation in healthy humans: pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 46(5):489-97.
- Castillo L, Chapman et al. (1998). Dietary arginine uptake by the splanchnic region in adult humans. American Journal of Physiology. 265: E532-E539.
- Morris, S.M., Jr. et al. (2004). Enzymes of arginine metabolism. Journal of Nutrition. 134: 2743S-7S.
- Osowska, S. et al. (2004). Citrulline increases arginine pools and restores nitrogen balance after massive intestinal resection. Gut Journal. 53(12):1781-6.