Many athletes who use citrulline malate really do sing its praises; however there have been only a few robust human studies investigating its benefits in terms of human performance.
Citrulline malate is a combination of the amino acid ‘Citrulline’ which is involved in the urea cycle and ‘Malate’ a key catalyst for the TCA (tricarboxycylic acid cycle) and enhancing the production of ATP.
The TCA cycle is a major producer of aerobic (with oxygen) energy within the mitochondria (the power house of the cell) and ATP which is the battery supply of energy needed for exercise.
From the small pool of scientific evident available ‘citrulline malate’ has the following physiological benefits in terms of performance:
- It enhances the amount of energy that is produced aerobically
- It enhances recovery in the phosphocreatine pathway
- Improves fatigue recovery
- Enhances the clear out of ammonia and its build up during exercise
What are the performance benefits of Citrulline Malate?
Citrulline is synthesised in small amounts from the amino acid L-glutamine and it is then converted by our bodies to arginine. When supplementing with citrulline malate there is an overall increase in arginine.
Arginine is an amino acid that has a key part in cell division, removal of ammonia, immune function, hormone release, the production of nitrate oxide, tissue growth and repair.
The production of nitric oxide increases blood flow, oxygen delivery and nutrient delivery to the skeletal muscle, which in turns increases the rate of muscle growth.
It is well established via research that arginine can increase exercise tolerance and efficiency when exercising at high intensities via its increase in nitric oxide production.
Arginine also increases resting growth hormone levels and this anabolic hormone enhances protein synthesis within the muscle.
It is this effective process that possibly increases muscle mass, muscle size and strength gains via supplementing with citrulline malate.
In addition, supplementation with citrulline malate has been shown to increase the levels of bicarbonate and this mechanism also buffers the effects of lactic acid.
The regulation of the blood pH levels maybe a corresponding factor in the increase of exercise duration at higher intensities.
In a nutshell, you can exercise for longer and harder at higher intensities before the negative effects of increased acidity kicks in!
Research has shown that citrulline malate supplementation not only provides a protective barrier against increased blood acidity but also boosts the removal of ammonia without affecting ammonia accumulation.
Citrulline plays a role in the urea cycle and helps with the detoxification of ammonia.
A key point to note is that blood ammonia concentrations levels raise with increasing intensity and duration of exercise. These increases in blood ammonia levels have been associated with fatigue.
Ammonia is extremely toxic to our bodies. When decreasing the toxic effects via citrulline malate supplementation, excess ammonia is converted by the liver to a less harmful substance; urea!
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated the effects of two doses of 8 grams of citrulline malate on fatigue resistance when pumping out as many barbell chest presses to exhaustion, at an intensity of 80% 1RM for eight sets.
From the third to the final set, the citrulline malate group were able to pump out 60% more reps than the placebo group.
Basically, they were able to train for longer at a high intensity and it was reported that there was a decrease in DOMS for up to 48 hours post exercise.
The results of this study do lean towards citrulline malate’s short term impact on performance gains when resistance training. It may support the notion of reducing fatigue levels with the regulation of pH levels within the body.
Supplementing with citrulline malate has demonstrated an increase in aerobic performance and a reduction in fatigue levels.
Some research has discovered that the rates of phosphocreatine recovery were decreased by 20%.
This was attributed to an increase in aerobic ATP creation combined with reduced proportion of the body’s anaerobic supply. Therefore, the subjects within the research experienced lower levels of fatigue at higher exercise intensities.
In addition, some research on cyclists revealed that supplementing with 6 grams of citrulline malate, produced higher levels of non-essential amino acids and growth hormones after a 140 km race.
Again, this research leans towards citrulline malate being a catalyst for maintaining energy levels, improving recovery, enhancing exercise performance and improving fatigue resistance.
Citrulline Malate dosage & timings
3000 mg of citrulline malate on an empty stomach in the mornings before you work out can help with enhanced aerobic energy production, improve recovery from exercise, enhance fatigue resistance and will help to stop the build-up of lactic acid.
Forty minutes before you start your work outs take between 3500-4000 mg of citrulline malate.
Timing of citrulline malate is very important as the body needs to time absorb this hybrid amino acid.