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Citrulline 101: Citrulline Malate & L-Citrulline Guide

Citrulline Supplements

Guys, let’s be real, we’re all here because we’re looking for hacks to help us build a physique that an Ancient Greek God from Mount Olympus would be envious of. On paper, building muscle is simply a matter of going to the gym, lifting weights, and eating endless Tupperware’s full of grilled chicken, broccoli, and brown rice, with the occasional protein shake thrown in for good measure.

The reality of training, and indeed, of living like a bodybuilder, is very different. Building muscle is a great deal harder than that. If it was easy, we’d all be shredded, vascular, and jacked. In order to make some serious gains when busting your butt in the gym, you not only need to be doing the right exercises at the right time, but you also need to ensure that your diet and nutrition is dialled in.

Assuming that you’re eating plenty of the foods needed to facilitate muscle growth, recovery, and optimal health in the process, you can then consider supplements. Supplement use is synonymous with bodybuilding, but as a newbie, it can be tough knowing where to begin. Today, we’re going to move away from tried and tested supplements and we’re going to instead look at Citrulline Malate and L-Citrulline. Here is a detailed guide to help you learn more about these awesome supplements.

Pre-Workout Perfection

As you know, in order to build muscle, burn fat, or make progress of any kind at an athletic level, you constantly need to be pushing the body and pushing yourself mentally in the process. When you get complacent with your training, is when you can kiss your progress goodbye. If you’re happy to remain as you are, that’s perfectly fine, but why strive for mediocrity when you can strive for perfection? Pushing yourself in the gym is not generally an enjoyable experience, at least, to most people, but it is necessary to get to where you need to be.

Speaking from experience, you can all probably relate to the fact that some days in the gym are more productive than others. Some days when you hit the gym, you’re full of energy, you’re full of motivation, your strength is up, and you power through your workout like there’s no tomorrow. On other days however, you’ll find that you just don’t have the energy, endurance, or stamina to get anything productive done at all. When you experience times like that, is when a pre-workout formula proves so useful. Aside from caffeine, nowadays you’ll find that the main key ingredient in the best pre-workout supplements is Citrulline. In the past, it used to be combined with arginine, yet newer formulas are benching arginine completely, and are instead focussing on citrulline. But why?

Here comes the science, so sit tight and pay attention, because we’re only going to go over this once. In the body, citrulline is utilized as a precursor for arginine. This is basically a fancy way of saying that citrulline is used to produce arginine. Arginine is an amino acid that still has its place in the world of sport, health, and fitness, and rightly so. Arginine is used by the body to stimulate the natural production of N.O, or Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide is a very beneficial compound from an athletic standpoint, because it acts as a vasodilator. This means that it dilates the blood vessels and causes them to relax and expand in size, which means that more oxygen-rich blood can travel through them and be delivered to the muscles.

So, this begs the question of why arginine is being left out of pre-workout formulas. After all, if citrulline is used to produce arginine, why not cut out the middleman and simply consume arginine instead, that way the body won’t need to synthesize it itself. Well, unfortunately, nothing in life is ever simple or straightforward, especially when it comes down to things that should be beneficial for us. The reason why arginine supplements are losing out in terms of popularity when compared with Citrulline is because arginine undergoes an extensive and strenuous digestive process when consumed from dietary sources. It is absorbed by the small intestine and liver before it eventually makes its way into the bloodstream and starts being distributed around the body. By the time the arginine eventually reaches the bloodstream, it is far less potent, and the effects are far less noticeable. Don’t get us wrong, an arginine supplement will still enhance N.O production and improve athletic performance, it’s just that citrulline will provide more impressive results.

This is where citrulline shines. You see, when you supplement with citrulline, the citrulline is able to bypass the extensive digestive process and can instead make its way directly into the bloodstream. This means greater levels of Nitric Oxide production. As a result, citrulline proves more effective at increasing arginine levels in the blood than citrulline supplements themselves. Kind of ironic, huh? Furthermore, as citrulline bypasses the digestive process, consumers experience far less digestive distress than they would with arginine supplements. So, citrulline is indeed the king of Nitric Oxide production, and it could be argued that it is therefore the king of pre-workout performance.

Hold on, What’s the Difference between Citrulline Malate and L-Citrulline?

The eagle-eyed amongst you will probably have noticed how, when describing Nitric Oxide production above, we simply referred to the star of today’s supplement guide as “Citrulline” as opposed to “Citrulline Malate” or “L-Citrulline” like included in the title, so what gives? Well, don’t worry, because that’s what we’re going to be clearing up for you now. To cut to the chase, not all forms of citrulline are created equal. If you search supplement stores for citrulline supplements for example, you’ll find that you generally get to choose between L-Citrulline and Citrulline Malate. Though they’re from the same family, the two supplements have different characteristics and traits when consumed, and it’s therefore important to know the differences. We’ll start by looking at L-Citrulline…

What is L-Citrulline?

L-Citrulline is becoming one of the more popular supplements in the fitness community. It is generating quite the buzz on the online fitness forums and is being used by bodybuilders, athletes, CrossFit competitors, and fitness fanatics alike. If you read the ingredients label of many popular pre-workout supplement formulas nowadays, you’ll find that many of them include L-Citrulline as a key ingredient.

L-Citrulline is an amino acid which also happens to be non-proteinogenic. It is citrulline in its natural form. It is considered to be non-essential as we can produce it naturally. However, the amounts that we produce are not sufficient enough to prove beneficial for athletic purposes, this is where L-Citrulline supplements can be so useful instead.

Normally when we think of amino acids, we think of proteins, and so we think of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. However, L-Citrulline is non-proteinogenic, which means that you will find it in a more unlikely source. In particular, it is found in watermelon of all things, and other similar fruits. As it has been found to be so beneficial, it is also now available in supplement form. Now, as you will know if you were reading and paying attention before, L-Citrulline plays a vital role in the production of Nitric Oxide within the body. We’ll be looking at why N.O production is so beneficial from an athletic standpoint a little later on.

L-Citrulline also plays a key role in the removal of fatigue-inducing by-products of physical exertion, such as ammonia. L-Citrulline helps to remove ammonia from the blood, which if left, would cause the muscles to become tired and fatigued. There are plenty of benefits associated with L-Citrulline, and Citrulline Malate, and we’ll be looking at those in more detail shortly. For now however, we’ll simply say that L-Citrulline, is a very important amino acid when it comes to increasing energy levels during exercise, and for preventing intra-workout muscular fatigue. Everybody from bodybuilders to endurance runners can benefit from this supplement.

What is Citrulline Malate?

Okay, so we’ve looked at L-Citrulline, and we’ve established that it’s pretty darn cool, so what about Citrulline Malate? Is this just another fancy word for L-Citrulline to help supplement companies sell more Citrulline products? Absolutely not.

Citrulline Malate is L-Citrulline with the addition of Malic acid. Now, to a lot of you, that probably doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, but trust us, it really is. You see, Malic Acid is important when it comes to energy production, in a different way to how other supplements tend to work in that respect, I.E creatine and ATP production. Malate, you see, is a vital component of the TCA (Tricarboxylic) cycle, which is another process whereby the body naturally produces energy. To cut a long story short, by consuming malic acid, in the form of Citrulline Malate, you are able to increase your natural energy production levels, and also increase blood flow and circulation, which is hugely beneficial for physical exercise and exertion in itself.

Citrulline Malate, thus far, is not as popular as L-Citrulline, though this is mainly due to the fact that Citrulline Malate is relatively new when compared with L-Citrulline, so who knows how things will be a decade or so from now? Though research is ongoing, it is suggested that Citrulline Malate could potentially be beneficial for athletes requiring explosive strength and power, I.E Olympic lifters, CrossFit competitors, and sprinters. Citrulline Malate has also been found to help promote endurance when lifting, making it useful for people looking to squeeze out those one or two additional reps, that could literally make all of the difference when it comes to their physiques.

What are the Benefits of Citrulline Supplements?

Rather than looking at the individual benefits of both supplements, we’re instead going to combine them both together because they’re both very similar in terms of what they do to the body. There is of course, one main difference and we’ll be looking at that towards the end of this guide when we compare the two. For now, however, here are some key benefits of Citrulline Malate and L-Citrulline supplements.

– Increased Nitric Oxide production – Arguably the most prominent health benefit of using Citrulline supplements is the fact that they help to increase Nitric Oxide production within the body. Nitric Oxide functions as a powerful vasodilator, which helps to relax the blood vessels and arteries and dilate them. This means that they become wider, and consequently, more oxygenated blood can flow through them. This helps improve circulation, which in itself offers many health benefits, not to mention many benefits when it comes to athletic performance. When we consume Citrulline supplements, they help the body to naturally produce arginine, which is then used to produce the Nitric Oxide needed to dilate the blood vessels and boost circulation.

– Increased utilization rates of amino acids – Another very effective fitness-based benefit of using Citrulline supplements, is the fact that they can also help you to make better use of amino acids during exercise. The body uses amino acids for a whole variety of different physiological processes. Some are used for metabolism, whereas others help to increase ATP production and enhance protein synthesis. As you probably know, certain amino acids when consumed before, during, and after exercise, can help you to get more from your training. You’ll find that some of the more popular amino acids on the market include: BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids), along with Glutamine, and Leucine (which is also one of three BCAAs, though in large dosages it is thought to positively influence protein synthesis). These amino acids are designed to help increase energy levels, fight fatigue, increase explosive power, promote muscle pumps, and increase rates of post-workout recovery via protein synthesis. Using L-Citrulline supplements and Citrulline Malate supplements helps to increase absorption and utilization rates of amino acids. This basically means that citrulline helps the body to absorb more amino acids and to use them more effectively before, during, and after you train.

– Increased athletic performance – Now it’s time to look at how Nitric Oxide in the body is so beneficial when it comes to athletic performance. We’ve already established how N.O boosts circulation, so we won’t go over that again. The reason why this is beneficial is because the more blood that can be carried around the body via the bloodstream, the more oxygen and other important nutrients can also be transported via the red blood cells. In the blood stream, red blood cells carry oxygen via haemoglobin. Oxygen is then transported to the cells, including the cells in the muscles, where it is absorbed into the cell nuclei, and used as a primary source of energy. The more energy the muscle cells have, the more energy your muscles will have. Your muscles will be able to contract more frequently which means that you can lift more weights, perform more reps, perform more sets, and exercise for longer before fatigue sets in. The harder your muscles work, the more productive your workout becomes which will translate into greater levels of muscle hypertrophy, or “muscle growth” for everyday conversation.

– Reduced muscle fatigue and soreness – Another very useful benefit when it comes to using Citrulline supplements, is the fact that they have been found to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness after a strenuous workout. After a tough workout, delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS can set in. This is perfectly normal and it’s a good sign. When we exercise and lift weights, we aren’t building muscle at all, we’re actually tearing existing muscle tissues and fibers down. We grow when we rest. The reason why we’re sore is because we have literally damaged our muscles. However, in extreme cases DOMS can hinder the way you train the following day, and it can make you uncomfortable in everyday life. Citrulline supplements, both L-Citrulline and Citrulline Malate, have been found to help reduce muscle fatigue and muscle soreness, meaning that you can recover quicker and train more productively the following day, whilst still building plenty of muscle as you recover.

– Great for your sex life – Okay, this next benefit probably isn’t very useful from a bodybuilding perspective, but from an everyday standpoint, we’re sure that none of you will be complaining about the following. Another very useful and enjoyable benefit of Citrulline supplements, is the fact that they have been proven to help promote a healthy sex life. Again, this all comes down to Nitric Oxide and circulation. When men become aroused, blood rushes to erectile tissue in the genitals. Erectile tissue is spongy, and is absorbs the blood, oxygen, and nutrients carried there via the bloodstream. The more oxygen rich blood the tissue can absorb, the more aroused the man becomes, and the larger and more prominent his erection becomes. Not only does Citrulline help to boost your libido, but it can also help you to achieve and maintain an erection, making it great for treating erectile dysfunction, and for promoting a healthy sex life in general. Women’s libidos will also benefit from these supplements because the more blood that reaches their genitals, the more aroused they become as well. As N.O boosts circulation, it allows more blood to flow around the body, including to the genitals, meaning greater levels of arousal, and in men’s cases, larger, harder, and more prominent erections.

– Reduced blood pressure – Hypertension, or high blood pressure as it is also known, is one of the world’s most serious health risks. Many health experts call it the ‘silent killer’ because there are no obvious symptoms to help with a diagnosis. Hypertension can cause atherosclerosis, it can cause renal failure, heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, and much more besides. To control high blood pressure, prescription drugs such as Ramipril are prescribed. These bring their own health risks and can also damage the major organs. Citrulline supplements, however, have been found to be very effective when it comes to reducing blood pressure, because they boost circulation. By helping the blood vessels to dilate, more blood can be carried around the body and therefore blood pressure is reduced.

What Sort of Dosages should You be Using?

In order to get the most from your citrulline supplements, it’s vital that you use them correctly and in the recommended dosages. Failing to do so could render the supplements ineffective and could even put your health at risk. Now, when it comes to Citrulline Malate and L-Citrulline, suggested dosages are the same. Experts recommend that you consume between 2 and 4 grams per day. If you are training, consume 2g before training, ideally on an empty stomach around 30 minutes before exercising. The following 2g should be consumed later in the evening. On non-training days, simply consume 2 x 2g servings throughout the day.

L-Citrulline vs Citrulline Malate

Now, when you search online for Citrulline supplements, you’ll find that Citrulline Malate is the product that seems to be grabbing the headlines. Though the two supplements are virtually identical (other than the addition of Malic Acid) it has been found that Citrulline Malate may prove more effective when it comes to resistance training, and individuals looking to benefit from explosive speed and power. Therefore, it really comes down to what type of training you perform and what you want to get from your workouts. Bodybuilders generally find that Citrulline Malate gives them a slight edge when compared with L-Citrulline, so make of that info what you will.

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