As an active individual and consistent workerouter, you’re constantly on the hunt for more ways to improve athletic performance, increase strength, and recover faster. One of the best ways to improve your performance is through supplementing with Citrulline Malate. Due to the many proposed benefits, it has on protein synthesis, amino acid utilization, nitric oxide production, and the delay of muscle fatigue through enhancements of aerobic and anaerobic production, Citrulline Malate is one of the best ingredients you can include in your pre-workout regimen. We’re going to discuss the health benefits of Citrulline Malate and exactly how it can improve your athletic performance.
What Is Citrulline Malate?
Often found as an active key ingredient in a majority of pre-workouts supplements, Citrulline Malate is a unique combination of the nonessential amino acid L-Citrulline and malate, a derivative of malic acid. Citrulline Malate has been used for over 25 years in Europe as a pharmacological treatment for fatigue, muscle weakness, and dementia. Studies have shown that citrulline malate supplementation helps improve muscle performance in subjects suffering from asthenia (abnormal physical weakness or lack of energy). Only recently, has Citrulline Malate been offered for commercial use in sports supplementation due to its proven effectiveness on performance measures and outcomes.
Although most pre-workouts contain this powerful ingredient, the problem is found with the dose. Most pre-workouts are under-dosed anywhere from 1-3g and do not provide the performance benefits found from clinical studies since the recommended clinical dose is between 5-8g per serving. Therefore if you want to boost strength, endurance, and muscle pump you’ll need to supplement at least 5g before your workout.
How Does Citrulline Malate Work?
L-Citrulline is a key component in what’s called the urea cycle. The urea cycle facilitates the detoxification of ammonia into urea, which is the metabolic waste product of protein digestion generated from exercise. When your digestive system metabolizes Citrulline Malate, enzymes in your liver convert it into ornithine and arginine, where it is then converted into Nitric Oxide (NO).
Higher ornithine and arginine plasma content improves the ammonia recycling process and nitric oxide metabolism.
Nitric oxide plays an imperative role in the performance enhancements of Citrulline Malate. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which allows more blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to be transported directly into the muscle tissue. Citrulline Malate is the perfect supplement for high-intensity training protocols since with more nitric oxide come greater advancements in stamina, endurance, strength, and power.
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Citrulline Malate Vs. L-Arginine
Arginine, specifically arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, was what started the NO supplement craze back in the late 1990’s, because arginine is converted into Nitric Oxide. So why should you supplement with Citrulline Malate instead of arginine? Both Citrulline Malate and arginine produce greater blood flow to muscle fibers, by relaxing the blood vessels, allowing them do widen and dilate. More oxygen and nutrient transport, directly translates into more energy and endurance. However studies have shown that Citrulline Malate is a far superior nitric oxide booster than arginine.
Arginine undergoes what’s called first-pass metabolism (FPM) and is metabolized by the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and liver. Unlike arginine, Citrulline Malate does not undergo FPM and bypasses metabolic processing through the gut and liver. Therefore, Citrulline Malate is more efficient than arginine in facilitating nitric oxide production [R].
Citrulline Malate Vs. L-Citrulline
Although research has shown a positive effect on athletic performance with Citrulline Malate, studies have had very mixed results with L-Citrulline supplementation alone. L-Citrulline is the free form version of the amino acid citrulline. Citrulline is converted into arginine and nitric oxide, which provides for more blood and oxygen transport.
However, studies indicate that L-Citrulline alone does not directly affect aerobic ATP production. Malate which is an intermediate of the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) or urea cycle affects aerobic ATP production through anaplerotic reactions [R].
5 Ways Citrulline Malate Can Improve Athletic Performance
1. Citrulline Malate Increases Aerobic Energy Production And Delays Muscle Fatigue
Studies have shown that Citrulline Malate helps delay muscle fatigue through its direct impact upon aerobic energy production.
In a study published in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine eighteen male subjects complaining of asthenia were administered 6g of Citrulline Malate per day, to determine the effects of Citrulline Malate supplementation on muscle energetics for a period of fifteen days. The study concluded that Citrulline Malate ingestion resulted in a significant reduction in the sensation of fatigue, a 34% increase in the rate of oxidative ATP production during exercise, and a 20% increase in the rate of phosphocreatine recovery after exercise, indicating a larger contribution of oxidative ATP synthesis to energy production [R].
More ATP results in greater aerobic energy production, which will help improve performance indicators such as increased volume of reps, peak power output, resulting in greater gains in strength and endurance.
2. Citrulline Malate Relieves Muscle Soreness
One of the greatest benefits of Citrulline Malate is the ability to optimize recovery, specifically post-workout muscle soreness. With increased blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient transport directly to muscle tissue, your body can recover faster. Muscle soreness can cause extreme physical discomfort and interrupt training sessions. With a reduction in acute muscle soreness and post-workout muscle breakdown, you can increase training volume, and generate greater gains in strength and overall performance.
In a study, published in the Journal Of Strength and Conditioning Research, 41 male participants performed two consecutive flat barbell bench-training sessions for a total of sixteen sets. 8g of Citrulline Malate was administered during one of the first two sets and placebo was administered for the third. The subjects' resistance was tested using the repetitions to fatigue test at 80% of their predetermined one rep max in the 8 sets of bench presses during the training session.
The results indicated an increase in the number of reps performed from placebo group to the Citrulline Malate group from the third set achieving 52.92% more repetitions.
3. Citrulline Malate Enables Nitric Oxide Production
One of the biggest benefits of Citrulline Malate is its ability to influence Nitric Oxide (NO) production through a rise in plasma L-Arginine levels. Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator, therefore widening blood vessels, increasing blood flow and circulation without increasing blood pressure. That means better muscle repair, faster recovery, and increased strength. By improving each aspect of your training through an increase in Nitric Oxide production, you'll be able to clock faster times, delay muscle fatigue, increase training volume, row harder, and lift heavier [R].
4. Citrulline Malate Facilitates Protein Synthesis
With higher levels of L-Arginine, Citrulline Malate also facilitates the biological process of protein synthesis, where cells generate new proteins. During this process, amino acids are absorbed into muscle cells, leading to an increase in blood insulin levels to maintain and increase muscle mass and strength. High-intensity training or CrossFit causes muscle anabolism and catabolism, (buildup and breakdown) of muscle tissue. Therefore, facilitating the process of protein synthesis will help produce and maintain muscle mass and strength.
5. Citrulline Malate Influences Amino-Acid Utilization
Citrulline Malate also enhances how your body utilizes amino acids, especially the branched chain amino acids, which are responsible for building and rebuilding lean muscle mass.
In a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, 17 pre-professional male cyclists were administered 6g of Citrulline Malate two hours prior to exercise and participated in a 137-km cycling stage. Results from blood tests indicated that most essential amino acids significantly decreased their plasma concentration as a result of exercise; however, most non-essential amino acids tended to significantly increase their concentration. Citrulline Malate also significantly increased the plasma concentration of citrulline, arginine, ornithine, urea, creatinine, and nitrite, with a significant increase in growth hormone. This study proves that Citrulline Malate actually enhances the body’s use of amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids during high-intensity training. [R]
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Citrulline Malate Benefits: Takeaway
Citrulline Malate is really an all in one super supplement. Through several mechanisms to increase strength, endurance, and recovery such as increasing nitric oxide production, facilitating protein synthesis, increasing phosphocreatine levels, generating ATP, and enhancing amino acid utilization, Citrulline Malate is the best thing since Creatine came to market in the early 1990s. By adding Citrulline Malate into your workout routine, you will get to your goals faster and achieve greater enhancements in overall performance.
Looking To Add Citrulline Malate In Your Supplement Regimen To Crush Your Workout Performance?
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Bendahan D, Mattei JP, Ghattas B, et al Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle British Journal of Sports Medicine 2002;36:282-289.
Agarwal, Umang et al. “Supplemental Citrulline Is More Efficient Than Arginine in Increasing Systemic Arginine Availability in Mice.” The Journal of nutritionvol. 147,4 (2017): 596-602. doi:10.3945/jn.116.240382
Suzuki, Takashi et al. “Oral L-citrulline supplementation enhances cycling time trial performance in healthy trained men: Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled 2-way crossover study.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 13 6. 19 Feb. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0117-z
Pérez-guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(5):1215-22.
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