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What is Citrulline Malate?

How Citrulline Malate Works to Boost Nitric Oxide in Your Body

If asked to name amino-acid rich foods, most people wouldn’t say watermelon. After all, it’s a fruit, not a protein source.

But, watermelon is actually one of nature’s richest sources of citrulline, a potent amino acid with many health benefits. One cup watermelon contains nearly 300 mg citrulline.[1][2]

You don’t have to eat watermelon to take advantage of citrulline’s benefits, though. Many supplements contain citrulline as a main ingredient, usually as citrulline malate, a more potent citrulline compound with additional benefits.[3]

Here’s a closer look at what citrulline can do for you.

How Citrulline Malate Works to Boost Nitric Oxide in Your Body

Although watermelon and supplements are excellent citrulline sources, the body produces some citrulline on its own.[4] Citrulline participates in the urea cycle which disposes of ammonia.[5]

Once inside the body, citrulline converts to arginine.[4][6] Arginine is an amino acid that regulates blood flow and encourages nitric oxide production.[7]

But, the digestive enzyme arginase blocks arginine absorption. That means some arginine is excreted in urine before it ever stimulates nitric oxide production.[6]

Luckily, scientists discovered citrulline absorbs much better than arginine.[6] Consequently, many supplements contain citrulline instead of (or in addition to) arginine for creating nitric oxide.

Why worry about boosting nitric oxide? Athletes and bodybuilders utilize increased nitric oxide boosts to get their blood flowing better during exercise. Essentially, nitric oxide tells blood vessels to dilate.[7] As blood vessels dilate, blood delivers nutrients and oxygen more efficiently to cells.

Because citrulline malate boosts nitric oxide, it’s sometimes included in male sexual enhancement supplements. As nitric oxide enhances blood flow, bigger and harder erections result.

Scientists directly tested citrulline’s effects on erectile function in a 2011 study. Twenty-four men aged 46 to 66 with mild erectile dysfunction took 1.5 grams citrulline daily for a month. Half these men returned to normal erectile function as measured on an erection hardness scale. Men who experienced this improvement felt very satisfied with the results.[8]

What is “Malate”?

Like citrulline, malate comes from fruit. Also known as malic acid, malate gives apples, grapes, and other fruits their sour or tart flavor.[9] Malate is so sour candy companies use it to intensify flavor of super-sour sweets.[9]

Malate participates in the Krebs cycle, also known as the citric acid cycle.[3] Cells use the Krebs cycle to generate energy from a compound called pyruvate. But, the Krebs cycle requires oxygen. Without oxygen, pyruvate becomes fatigue-inducing lactic acid.

However, since citrulline enhances blood flow by encouraging nitric oxide production, citrulline malate ensures cells have plenty of oxygen to go through the Krebs cycle. Consequently, the malate in citrulline malate enters the Krebs cycle, thereby promoting energy production and preventing lactic acid buildup. These effects are especially beneficial during exercise.

Research confirms malate’s role in the Krebs cycle is a major reason citrulline malate promotes decreases exercise fatigue. Scientists measured a 34% increase in ATP production attributable to citrulline malate supplements.[10]

Effects of Citrulline Malate Consumption

Now that we’ve reviewed what each citrulline malate component contributes, it’s time for a brief examination of its overall effects. What effects will you notice during your weightlifting session when you take citrulline malate?

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research gives us a pretty good idea. In the study, men took 8 grams citrulline malate or placebo before doing several sets of barbell bench presses. The citrulline malate group performed nearly 53% more barbell repetitions than the placebo group during the two final sets. And, their muscle soreness was 40% less than the placebo group.[11]

Based on this study, it’s clear citrulline malate improves not only workout capacity but also recovery time. When was the last time you worked out longer but felt better afterwards? Citrulline malate lets you achieve that.

Citrulline malate’s benefits are obvious. In fact, citrulline malate could be the secret to making every workout the best workout of your life.


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