CrossFit and other high-intensity sports, impose a huge demand on aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, strength, and energy production. Imagine if you could perform an entire workout and never experience one bout of muscle fatigue the entire time. You could easily knock out more reps, you would optimize training times, you would gain more lean muscle mass, and your endurance would be through the roof. One of the many clinically proven benefits of Citrulline Malate (CM) is the ability to increase training volume through the delayed onset of muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue is perhaps the most incapacitating component of your training. Working out completely fatigue free might be stretching it, but reducing muscle fatigue and adding in a few more reps can provide a dramatic difference in your overall performance.
What Is Citrulline Malate
CM is a unique combination of the nonessential amino acid L-Citrulline and malate, which comes from malic acid. L-Citrulline is derived from watermelons while Malate is taken from the Latin word mālum, meaning “apple.” Vegans, go ahead and raise the roof! CM has been used now for over 20 years in Europe as a pharmacological treatment for fatigue, muscle weakness, and dementia. Only recently, has CM been offered for commercial use in sports performance and supplementation.
What Does Citrulline Malate Do
L-Citrulline can be naturally obtained one of two ways. One is from diet and two, your body can manufacture it from l-ornithine another amino acid through a biochemical process called the urea cycle. The urea cycle helps your body get rid of ammonia, a waste product of protein digestion. When your digestive system metabolizes CM, enzymes in your liver convert it into arginine, where it is then converted into Nitric Oxide (NO). Therefore, CM supplementation raises ornithine and arginine plasma content, which improves the ammonia recycling process and nitric oxide metabolism.
1. Citrulline Malate Helps Reduce Muscle Fatigue And Optimize Endurance
One of the greatest benefits of Citrulline Malate is in it’s proven ability to help delay muscle fatigue, by promoting an increase in aerobic energy production. A study published in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine, found that 6g of CM taken daily, reduced muscle fatigue, by producing a 34% increase in the rate of oxidative ATP production during exercise. The study also found a 20% increase in the rate of phosphocreatine recovery after exercise, indicating a larger contribution of oxidative ATP synthesis to energy production. (1) Thus, CM supplementation can help you fight muscle fatigue, due to the increase in ATP production and phosphocreatine release after exercise. When you’re competing at an elite level, generating more energy can provide a sustainable impact on your athletic performance.
2. Citrulline Malate Helps Relieve Muscle Soreness And Improves Recovery
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, at the University of Córdoba, Spain 41 male participants performed two consecutive flat barbell bench-training sessions for a total of sixteen sets. 8g of CM were administered during one of the first two sets and a placebo was administerd 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 number of reps showed a significant increase from placebo treatment to treatment with CM from the third set achieving 52.92% more repetitions. The study also showed a 40% reduction in muscle soreness at 24 hours and 48 hours with a response rate greater than 90% with Citrulline Malate supplementation. (2) Again, this study proves that one of the greatest benefits of Citrulline Malate is reducing muscle fatigue, in addition to optimizing post-workout recovery.
3. Citrulline Malate Can Produce Greater Gains In Strength
Citrulline Malate has proven to have significant benefits on increasing strength through different mechanisms of action.
Citrulline Malate Enables Nitric Oxide Production
One of the biggest benefits of CM 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.
Citrulline Malate Facilitates Protein Synthesis
With higher levels of L-Arginine, CM 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 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.
Citrulline Malate Influences Amino-Acid Utilization
Yet another amazing benefit of Citrulline Malate, is the ability to enhance the body’s use of amino acids during exercise.
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. CM 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. (3)
How Should You Take Citrulline Malate
To enhance sports performance, 5-8g of CM should be supplemented within an hour of high-intensity training.
Through extensive pharmacological use and clinical research, Citrulline Malate is proven to be one of the most effective supplements in sport performance to help fight fatigue, increase strength, and improve recovery. If you want to increase your training volume and endurance, I highly suggest adding Citrulline Malate to your daily supplement and nutrition regimen. With an increased training volume, your gains in strength and endurance compound over time, to increase overall athletic performance.
- Bendahan D, Mattei JP, Ghattas B, et al Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscleBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2002;36:282-289.
- Pérez-guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(5):1215-22.
- Sureda A, Córdova A, Ferrer MD, Pérez G, Tur JA, Pons A. L-citrulline-malate influence over branched chain amino acid utilization during exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010;110(2):341-51.