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Citrulline Malate Supplementation: Benefits, Dosing, and Side Effects

December 04, 2015

Citrulline Malate Supplementation: Benefits, Dosing, and Side Effects

Citrulline is a nonessential alpha-amino acid that is organically produced in the rind and flesh of watermelons.

Citrulline is not coded for by human DNA but is still present in certain proteins and the urea cycle.

L-Citrulline appears to have a variety of synergistic effects with other popular pre-workout supplements, such as arginine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and is gaining a reputation as a potent “pump”/blood flow enhancer.

The Physiological Role of Citrulline

Citrulline is primarily relegated to bolstering nitric oxide-dependent signaling, but also plays a myriad of physiological roles.

Citrulline is an important component of the urea cycle and manufactured by a variety of other amino acids in the liver; the urea cycle facilitates the elimination of ammonia and other nitrogenous toxins from the blood (most of which takes place in the liver of mammals).

Nitrogen metabolites accrue from digestion, absorption, and metabolism of proteins. Given that bodybuilders and health enthusiasts generally consume large amounts of protein, proper nitrogen metabolism is crucial.

Oral citrulline supplementation has been demonstrated to elevate plasma arginine concentration and thus augments production of arginine-derived metabolites (such as nitrate, creatinine, and ornithine). [1]

As previously discussed, this is imperative as synthesis and elimination of urea are necessary for removing nitrogenous toxins from the body. Citrulline works along with citric acid, aspartic acid, and magnesium to improve nitrogen metabolite excretion.

In exceptionally rare instances, a disorder may occur in humans called citrullinemia; this condition occurs when there is a deficiency of the enzyme necessary to catalyze the citrulline and arginine reaction of the urea cycle.

Research suggests that supplementing with the mineral zinc can improve the conversion of citrulline to arginine in the liver and lower blood ammonia levels. [2]

Moreover, since pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) activates transaminases (enzymes that convert an amino acid to a different amino acid) in the urea cycle, it may be useful to supplement with if there is a suspected malfunction in the liver.

That being said, such clinical abnormalities should always be addressed by a qualified health professional or personal care physician.

Primary Benefits of Citrulline Supplementation

Citrulline supplementation, generally in malic acid salt form (citrulline malate), has a strong body of scientific and empirical evidence supporting its benefits in the realm of physical performance enhancement.

Aside from being a necessary biomolecule in the urea cycle, citrulline may enhance health and performance by:

  • Elevating nitric oxide (NO2) production which is a positive regulator of vasodilation and blood flow. [2]
  • Enhancing elimination of toxic nitrogen metabolites. [2]
  • Enhancing the utilization of essential amino acids during exercise. [1]
  • Improving recovery time after exercise by attenuating delayed-onset muscle soreness. [4]
  • Reducing/inhibiting the increase in plasma insulin levels that usually arises after high-intensity exercise. [3]
  • Increasing growth hormone levels to a higher degree in individuals after resistance training as compared to a placebo group. [1]

Possible side effects of citrulline supplementation

Unlike some other nitric oxide enhancing supplements, citrulline is a generally well-tolerated compound, and the side effects are benign.

Most commonly the side effect people supplementing with citrulline may encounter is gastrointestinal distress, but this can be avoided by taking citrulline on an empty stomach.

Who can benefit from citrulline supplementation

  • Physique competitors, weight lifters
  • Athletes looking to increase their performance capability
  • Powerlifters
  • Those looking for increased blood flow and more intense “pumps” during training

Who should avoid citrulline supplementation

  • Those with citrullinemia, as this would worsen their condition

When to take citrulline

  • Optimally, citrulline should be ingested about 15-30 minutes before training.
  • May also take citrulline during and/or after training if desired

Recommended dose

The Altius Difference

ALTIUS pre-workout powderMany consumers may notice that Altius contains a much higher amount of citrulline malate than most pre-workouts on the market.

The reason being is that many companies simply include a minimal dose of citrulline in their products just to make them seem better when all they really are is under-dosed garbage.

Altius contains a scientifically-proven amount of citrulline malate in each serving, none of these trivial doses you see from cheap brands just trying to make a quick buck.

Citrulline Malate FAQ

Q: I’ve heard citrulline should be taken on an empty stomach, is this true?

A: This is likely due to the rare occurrence of stomach distress that may occur after ingesting citrulline; it is fine to take citrulline with or without a meal, depending on how you tolerate it.

Q: How long does it usually take for me to notice the effects of citrulline?

A: This will vary for most individuals, but acute effects such as endotoxin removal will happen after the first dose. More progressive benefits such as strength increases and decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness may take a few weeks to notice.

Q: Is it true citrulline may enhance libido and treat impotence?

A: This is actually another nice “benefit” of citrulline supplementation as the increase in nitric oxide will relax blood vessels and increase blood flow (which can help improve erections, among other things).

Q: Can I just eat watermelon rather than supplementing with citrulline?

A: Unfortunately, it’s not very practical to obtain the doses of citrulline suggested herein through diet, and most of the citrulline found in watermelon is actually in the rind of the fruit, not the flesh (the most edible part).


  1. 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 Sep;110(2):341-51. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1509-4. Epub 2010 May 25. PubMed PMID: 20499249.
  2. Wijnands KA, Vink H, Briedé JJ, van Faassen EE, Lamers WH, Buurman WA, Poeze M. Citrulline a more suitable substrate than arginine to restore NO production and the microcirculation during endotoxemia. PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37439. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037439. Epub 2012 May 29. PubMed PMID: 22666356; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3362574.
  3. Marchesini, G., Fabbri, A., Bianchi, G., Brizi, M., & Zoli, M. (1996). Zinc supplementation and amino acid‐nitrogen metabolism in patients with advanced cirrhosis. Hepatology23(5), 1084-1092.
  4. Pérez-Guisado, J., & Jakeman, P. M. (2010). Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(5), 1215-1222.
  5. Hickner RC, Tanner CJ, Evans CA, Clark PD, Haddock A, Fortune C, Geddis H, Waugh W, McCammon M. L-citrulline reduces time to exhaustion and insulin response to a graded exercise test. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Apr;38(4):660-6. PubMed PMID: 16679980.


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