Citrulline - what it is, effects, dosage, when to take + opinions

Citrulline is an amino acid that is a common choice for supplementation among athletes.

Nina Wawryszuk - AuthorAuthorNina Wawryszuk
Nina Wawryszuk - Author
AuthorNina Wawryszuk
Natu.Care Editor

Nina Wawryszuk specialises in sports supplementation, strength training and psychosomatics. On a daily basis, in addition to writing articles for Natu.Care, as a personal trainer she helps athletes improve their performance through training, diet and supplementation.

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Kuba Pągowski - Reviewed byReviewed byKuba Pągowski
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Kuba Pągowski - Reviewed by
Reviewed byKuba Pągowski
Clinical nutritionist

Clinical nutritionist and trainer. Specialises in working with athletes of all disciplines.

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Bartholomew Turczynski - Edited byEdited byBartholomew Turczynski
Bartholomew Turczynski - Edited by
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Bartłomiej Turczyński is the editor-in-chief of Natu.Care. He is responsible for the quality of the content created on Natu.Care, among others, and ensures that all articles are based on sound scientific research and consulted with industry specialists.

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Citrulline - what it is, effects, dosage, when to take + opinions
29 April, 2024
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Citrulline is a popular supplement among athletes that gets you pumped up on a workout: veins like cables and +50 to motivation. I've collected previous work from researchers who took subjects and tested whether they could actually do more and last longer with citrulline - in the gym, on the bike or in the... bedroom.

I prepared this article together with nutritionist Kuba Pągowski. Learn all about the properties of citrulline - you may find it will be a cool supplement for you, unless... you prefer to cut into watermelon. Lots of watermelons. But about that in a moment...

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From this article you will learn:

  • What citrulline is and how it works.
  • What it does.
  • What are the benefits of citrulline supplementation.
  • .
  • How to take citrulline to support your training and health.
  • How to take citrulline to support your training and health.
  • How much watermelon would you need to eat to assimilate 3g of citrulline.

See also:

Citrulline - what is it?

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Citrulline is a non-protein amino acid that the body produces naturally, but can also be found in food. It is included in many nutritional supplements for active people for its properties of increasing blood flow, reducing fatigue and achiness and lowering blood pressureand.

The name comes from the Latin citrullus meaning 'watermelon'. - because it is this fruit that is its richest sourceand.

Citrulline has several functions in the body, including and:

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  • takes part in the urea cycle,
  • .
  • produces another important amino acid, arginine,
  • .
  • increases blood flow in the circulatory system,
  • .
  • expands blood vessels,
  • .

Dietary supplements with citrulline are popular with active people, especially those training at the gym. Manufacturers offer preparations with citrulline in two forms:

  • Citrulline malate  - a combination of l-citrulline and an ionised form of malic acid naturally found in fruit,
  • .
  • L-citrulline - which is simply pure citrulline.

Both forms can produce similar effects, but it is citrulline malate that is more common in sports supplements. Interestingly, when using citrulline malate, it is not clear which health effects are due to citrulline and which are due to malateand.

How does citrulline work?

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Citrulline works by converting into arginine, an amino acid that then stimulates the production of nitric oxide. This is a key neurotransmitter that helps to dilate blood vessel walls -a process called vasodilationand.

Through this action, citrulline:

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  • improves blood flow, allowing blood to move more freely, resulting in more efficient transport of oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues ,
  • .
  • lowers blood pressure, which is particularly important for those suffering from hypertension or who are predisposed to heart disease ,
  • benefits muscle performance during exercise .

Can you say: if arginine is so cool, maybe it's better to supplement with it, instead of citrulline? Research suggests that consuming dietary supplements with citrulline may increase arginine levels in the body more than consuming arginine aloneand.

Is citrulline a steroid?

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No, citrulline is not an anabolic steroid because, unlike synthetic versions of sex hormones, it does not affect protein synthesis and has no direct effect on muscle development . Citrulline is a safe and well-studied amino acid.

Citrulline is also a precursor to the body's production of nitric oxide (NO), which plays a role in dilating blood vessels and improving blood flow, so it is often used as a pre-workout supplement to enhance physical performance , but has nothing to do with so-called doping.

Is citrulline safe?

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Yes, citrulline is safe to use. In research studies, taking up to 15g of citrulline per day had no side effectsand. Citrulline is a well-studied amino acid, and when used according to the manufacturer's recommendations, it should not harm you.

Properties of citrulline

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According to scientific studies, citrulline has been shown to support training performance and post-exercise muscle recovery, has a positive effect on blood vessels, can reduce blood pressure (by up to 15%), and may be helpful in erectile dysfunctionand.

Citrulline was isolated in 1914 and has since attracted the interest of scientists, who have been 'under the magnifying glass' and with human participants to test the interesting properties of this amino acid .

Research to date suggests that citrulline:

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Increases muscle pump

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Call the power station, someone has solid cables to connect!"

Let's not kid ourselves - a good pump motivates performance. It is created when nitric oxide acts on the muscles, dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow to the muscles. This makes them swollen and the veins on the arms more visible. The effect lasts for up to tens of minutesand.

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During an intense workout, the muscles require significantly more oxygen and nutrients. Dilating blood vessels increases their supply, which can help improve muscle performance and endurance.
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Kuba Pągowski.

Kuba Pągowski clinical dietitian

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Through its properties, citrulline contributes to the formation of arginine, which implies the production of nitric oxide (NO)and. The consequence of this is improved blood flow and therefore faster delivery of the substance to the muscles.

Well, and those cables.

Reduces fatigue during training

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Citrulline can help you exercise for longer and survive the last series of your workout when you are already tired. Researchers interviewed several study groups to confirm this beneficial effect.

In a 2015 study, strength-trained men were divided into two groups. One received 8g of pure (99%) citrulline malate, the other a placebo. They performed five sets each of leg press, machine squat and leg raise. The men taking citrulline malate performed more repetitions during all exercises compared to the placebo groupand.

In a 2016 study, a group of 22 trained cyclists took 2.4 g/day of L-citrulline or placebo for 7 days. On day 8, they took 2.4 g of L-cytrulline or placebo 1 hour before a 4km time trial on the bike. In the 'citrulline' group, it reduced the time it took to complete the exercise test and lowered the subjective feeling of muscle fatigue after exerciseand.

Reduces muscle soreness after exercise

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A good workout can follow you for several days. You can feel its effects even just walking down the stairs from the gym - it's just fatigue and soreness.

When you do a strong workout, your muscles work so hard that the circulation is unable to supply them with enough oxygen. This is when they start to produce lactateand.

Lactate has a bad reputation as the 'culprit' of muscle pain and fatigue. However, its production is a natural mechanism that tells you when your body has reached its limits and needs rest.

In a 2017 study, a group of men were given either a placebo or a watermelon drink enriched with L-cytrulline (3.45 g in 500 ml). After two hours, they ran a half marathon (21 km). The men drinking the juice reported less muscle soreness from 24 to 72 hours after the race, and their bodies maintained lower plasma lactate concentrations.

Influences on growth hormone (GH)

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Growth hormone (GH, pronounced  growth hormone) plays an important role in tissue (e.g. muscle) regeneration and recovery, which is particularly important for those who train regularly.

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After intense training, muscles experience some degree of micro-trauma, which is integral to the adaptation process to exercise. GH supports this process by stimulating protein synthesis, as well as the regeneration of muscle tissue.
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Kuba Pągowski.

Kuba Pągowski clinical dietitian

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Citrulline is one of the better growth hormone boosters. A 2010 study involved two groups of experienced cyclists. One group received a placebo and the other 6g of citrulline malate before starting a 137km bike ride.

The supplemented group had a 67% higher growth hormone output. The increased GH is linked to citrulline's effect on better amino acid utilisation and activation of pathways affecting its ejectionand - i.e. better tissue regeneration and restoration.

Reduces blood pressure

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Citrulline is helpful in lowering blood pressure. This happens under the influence of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and improves blood flowand.

A 2015 study analysed the effects of citrulline supplementation on 43 obese postmenopausal women. They were divided into 3 groups and tookand:

  • L-cytrulline (6 g),
  • .
  • L-cytrulline (6 g) and trained WBVT (vibration training),
  • .
  • placebo and trained with WBVT.

L-cytrulline or l-cytrulline combined with vibration training lowered blood pressure in the women studiedand.

In 2016, a group of 12 young men were given 3g of citrulline daily and after just one week, their blood pressure dropped by 6-16% .

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What is important: it is not clear whether citrulline has a significant effect on blood pressure in healthy individuals .

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For hypercholesterolaemia, or high cholesterol, studies have shown that citrulline supplementation helps to increase nitric oxide levels and lower blood pressure in patients.
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Kacper Nihalani physician

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Erectile enhancement

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Citrulline with arginine can be found in many erection tablets available over-the-counter. Let me stress right away that citrulline will not cure erectile dysfunction, but in some men it may prove supportive therapy.

In a 2011 study, a group of 24 men with erectile dysfunction were given either a placebo or 1.5g of citrulline daily for one month. Before and after supplementation, the men rated penis hardness on a dedicated scale and indicated the number of sexual intercourses per monthand.

After one month of supplementation:

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  • the hardness rating of the penis increased from 3 to 4 in 50% of subjects using citrulline and in 8% of subjects in the placebo group,
  • .
  • the number of intercourses increased in both groups,
  • .

Another 2018 study tested the efficacy of taking L-citrulline and transresveratrol in 13 patients with erectile dysfunction who are using concomitant medications for the disorderand.

The researchers concluded that additional supplementation of citrulline and trans-resveratrol may support erectile dysfunction treatment therapy. Importantly, the addition of these compounds to therapy does not cause side effectsand.

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If you are taking erectile dysfunction medication and are considering using citrulline first discuss this with your doctor, as some agents like citrulline increase nitric oxide levels and excess levels can be toxic.
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Kacper Nihalani physician

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Care for endothelial health

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The vascular endothelium is the single layer of cells between the lumen of the vessel and the smooth muscle cells of the vessels, explains nutritionist Kuba Pągowski.

Citrulline, through its positive effect on the endothelium, reduces the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions, type 2 diabetes, and many diseases underlying endothelial dysfunctionand.

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Increases endurance

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Recent research suggests that citrulline supplementation may indirectly improve exercise performance through various mechanisms - nitric oxide synthesis, ammonia buffering, increased oxygen delivery and energy production .

In research studies with athletes on improving endurance, blends of citrulline with other compounds worked best Citrulline solo is not the best supplement typically for improving endurance. It can support it indirectly, but if you are endurance training, for example, beta-alanine would be a more apt choice .

How does citrulline not work?

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When taking citrulline, it's worth knowing what effects to ... not expect. There are various opinions circulating about it among athletes ("it stimulates me"), and supplement manufacturers bend reality in their product descriptions ("giga concentration, giga erection").

Citrulline is not a good product.

Citrulline:

  • Not stimulant. It is not a stimulant (such as caffeine or taurine). You can take it even in the evening.
  • It is not an anabolic. It is not citrulline that makes your muscles grow, but rather sufficiently hard training and an adequate supply of protein.
  • Does not induce erections. Despite its effect on vasodilation, consumption alone does not cause an erection. If it did, it would be uncomfortable in the gym.
  • .

Citrulline - how to use?

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Always follow the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging. Remember that if you buy supplement-mixes, there may be other compounds in them which, unlike citrulline, can cause side effects when used in excessive amounts.

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Important

The daily serving varies depending on the form: 1.75 grams of citrulline malate provides 1 gram of L-citrulline. The remaining 0.75 grams is malate.

How much citrulline to take?

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To increase training performance and support muscle recovery, it is recommended to take 6-7 g citrulline or 8-10 g citrulline malate 30 minutes before trainingand. If using it for any other purpose (e.g. erectile support or lowering blood pressure), consult your doctor.

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In the table you will find usage information based on manufacturers' recommendations and results of scientific studies to dateand.

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Purpose of use

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Recommended quantity

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Best time to take

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Increase muscle pump and improve workout performance

6-7g of pure citrulline or 8-10g of malate

About 30 minutes or one hour before training

Improved performance

6-7g of pure citrulline or 8-10g of malate in 2-3 servings

Independent of the time of day and workout

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Erectile enhancement*

1.5-6 g pure citrulline or 8-10 g malate

About one hour before intercourse

Reduction of blood pressure*

8-10 g divided into two servings per day

Independent of the time of day

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*Use after consultation with a physician.

More is not better

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Scientific research suggests that high doses of citrulline (above 10g) do not increase blood arginine concentrations as much as expected. This means that there is a limit to the amount of citrulline that the body can utilise. Using more than 10 g does not provide much benefit.

When to take citrulline?

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To improve strength training performance, it is best to take citrulline about 30-60 minutes before training. When you are looking to improve endurance performance (e.g. running) take 8-10g of citrulline malate in 2-3 servings at any time of day, not necessarily before trainingand.

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Citrulline does not need to be taken with a meal, however, if you have a sensitive stomach, do not take it on an empty stomach. This may cause discomfort in some people.

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Citrulline on training and non-training days

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Citrulline is worth consuming on training days 30-60 minutes before weight training to improve its effectiveness. On non-training days, supplementation is not 'mandatory' as with, for example, creatine, which your muscles need to be saturated with all the timeand. You can take citrulline in the same daily portion as you would on a training day.

Test on yourself: anecdotally, we have noticed with ourselves and a few friends that using citrulline before a performance workout such as running (especially on a hot day) can make training more difficult. The pump is nice in the gym, but when running, the swollen muscles can just... get in the way.

With what to combine citrulline?

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Citrulline is a 'companion' amino acid. It can nicely complement the effects of other compounds, does not impair their absorption and has no side effects on its ownand.

Below you can read what effects popular combinations of compounds with citrulline in sports supplements can have .

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Substance combination

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Effects

Citrulline + arginine

Increase nitric oxide production, improve blood flow and training performance, promote muscle mass growth.

Citrulline + creatine

Increase in muscle endurance and post-exercise recovery speed, supporting muscle mass growth.

Citrulline + creatine.

Citrulline + creatine + protein

Accelerate recovery processes, improve muscle growth and maintenance, increase endurance and efficiency during training.

Citrulline + AAKG

Improve blood flow and oxygen capacity.

Improve blood flow and oxygen capacity.

Citrulline + Beta-alanine

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Increase muscle endurance, delay fatigue and improve performance.

Citrulline + BCAAs

Promoting muscle recovery.

Do you do calf melting?

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A 2023 study suggests that a combination of BCAAs, L-cytrulline and A-GPC (a central nervous system stimulant) taken for 7 days improved performance and endurance in cyclistsand.

Who is citrulline for?

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Citrulline can be a useful dietary supplement for:

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  • strength trainers,
  • .
  • capacity trainers,
  • .
  • persons with sexual dysfunction*,
  • .
  • persons with circulatory disorders*,
  • .
  • persons who are overweight or obese,
  • .

*The use of citrulline in these cases is worth consulting your doctor.

Natural sources of citrulline

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Gaining reliable information on the specific citrulline content of foods was like finding a free bench at the gym on Mondays after 5 p.m. Unfortunately, different papers by scientists give different values, but they agree on the richest sources of this amino acid.

Produced citrulline is a good source of citrulline.

Products rich in citrullineand:

  • carrot,
  • .
  • melon,
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  • granate,
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  • fresh cucumber,
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  • papaya,
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  • currant,
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  • clove,
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  • garlic,
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  • carrots,
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  • walnuts, almonds,
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  • chickpeas,
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  • soy,
  • .

There is only one king

The most 'packed' with citrulline is watermelon. This fruit is estimated to contain around 350 mg of citrulline per 100 g. So you would need to eat around 2.2-3.3 kg of fresh watermelon per day to provide your body with 3 grams of citrulline, which is considered the minimum effective doseand.

Citrulline - is it worth it? Expert opinions

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In my opinion, citrulline is the most effective supplement that not only supports exercise capacity, but also has health-promoting effects. It is relatively inexpensive and safe which makes it a helpful supplement for training and beyond. I often recommend it to clients.
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Kuba Pągowski.

Kuba Pągowski clinical dietitian

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Citrulline is an amino acid that will be great for those looking to 'kick-start' their physical performance, and also to enhance muscle outline during and after exercise. It is an ideal pre-workout supplement that will not make you "jump out of your sneakers", as it does not turn up the nervous system like, for example, caffeine.
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Marta Kaczorek.

Marta Kaczorek clinical nutritionist and personal trainer

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In clinical dietetics and biochemistry, citrulline is an important factor in the urea cycle. Without it, it would be impossible to remove urea from the body. In addition, it increases levels of the nitric oxide precursor arginine (L-arginine), through which we observe the potential to regulate blood pressure, improve erections and better access to oxygen for muscles.
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Julia Skrajda.

Julia SkrajdaDietitian

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Citrulline contraindications

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Citrulline is a safe supplement, however some people should exercise caution before supplementation. Contraindications to the use of citrulline include: pregnancy, breastfeeding, digestive system, use of medications that affect blood pressureand.

If in doubt, consult your doctor before supplementation.

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Side effects of citrulline use

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In scientific studies, citrulline did not cause side effects in subjects, even at doses above 15 gand. However, if you have stomach problems (e.g. sensitive digestive system, IBS) do not take citrulline on an empty stomach.

Also be aware of other ingredients in your citrulline preparation - they may cause some unpleasant side effects.

See also:

Summary

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  • Citrulline is an amino acid that your body produces on its own, but you can also supply it from food.
  • Citrulline is an amino acid that your body produces on its own, but you can also supply it from food.
  • Citrulline is involved in the urea cycle, produces arginine and increases blood flow in the circulatory system.
  • Citrulline is an amino acid that your body produces on its own, but you can also provide it from food.
  • Thanks to these properties, it supports performance during training, delays fatigue and causes the so-called muscle pump.
  • .
  • The muscle pump lasts for up to several tens of minutes and makes the veins more visible and the muscles more swollen.
  • Citrulline can be helpful for people with hypertension and erectile problems.
  • .
  • For athletes, 6-7 g of pure citrulline or 8-10 g of malate are recommended.
  • .
  • This amino acid is well researched and understood, and supplementation should not cause side effects.
  • .

FAQ

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. How many kcal does citrulline have?.

Citrulline as an amino acid has no kcal. Amino acids are not metabolised in a way that would translate into providing energy. However, formulations with flavoured citrulline or in combination supplements (e.g. pre-workout) may have a caloric value.

. From how old can you take citrulline?.

According to recommendations from the US FDA - Food and Drug Administration, among others, citrulline should not be taken by anyone under the age of 18. The effects of citrulline in still developing organisms are unknown. Young athletes should primarily rely on a quality, nutritious diet tailored to activity, and use dietary supplements after consulting a doctor.

. Does citrulline have caffeine?.

No, citrulline does not have caffeine. It is an amino acid that does not have a stimulating effect. Preparations consisting of mixtures of different substances (e.g. pre-workouts) may contain caffeine or taurine in addition to citrulline, which have a stimulating effect on the body. Read product labels before use.

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. Citrulline - what is it?.

Citrulline is the English name for the amino acid citrulline (l-citrulline) often used on the packaging of products containing this compound. Citrulline Malate means that the formula contains citrulline malate, which is the well absorbed form of this amino acid.

. Is citrulline healthy?.

Yes, citrulline is healthy if taken as recommended, usually up to 10 000 mg per day. Citrulline improves the body's performance during training, reduces fatigue, has a beneficial effect on post-workout recovery and reduces the possibility of so-called "sourness".

. What is better creatine or citrulline?.

Both creatine and citrulline can be useful supplements to an athlete's diet. They are compounds with different actions and effects, so it is not possible to compare them and indicate which is better. Creatine is useful for daily supplementation to support the building of muscle mass, and citrulline is worth using before training to increase the so-called muscle pump.

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. AAKG and citrulline - how to use?.

AAKG and citrulline is best used 30 minutes before training. It is recommended to take approximately 5 g of AAKG and 6 g of citrulline, depending on the manufacturer. These compounds have a beneficial effect on training performance, muscle pump effect, motivation and muscle recovery after exercise. It is worth combining AAKG and citrulline.

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. Can you mix creatine with citrulline?.

Yes, it is possible to mix creatine with citrulline, as the two compounds do not affect each other's effects. This combination (usually around 6g citrulline + 5g creatine) is popular in many supplements for athletes. They can also be combined from separate products.

. What is the best citrulline?.

The best citrulline is citrulline malate, and should be taken in a daily portion of around 6-10g to improve strength or performance results. Malate is a well-studied form of citrulline that is safe to use. It can be purchased from a variety of manufacturers in packs of around 400g for £40-50. Choose from citrulline in tablets, powder or liquid, in flavoured or neutral versions.

. How does citrulline work on reduction?.

During a reduction, citrulline can support performance during training, improve the quality of training and delay muscle fatigue, while the so-called pump has a motivating effect. During a calorie deficit, on the other hand, it's natural that you don't train as intensively, which is why citrulline can be helpful on a reduction.

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Sources

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. See all.

Allerton, T. D., Proctor, D. N., Stephens, J. M., Dugas, T. R., Spielmann, G., & Irving, B. A. (2018). l-Citrulline Supplementation: Impact on Cardiometabolic Health. Nutrients10(7), 921. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10070921

Alsop, P., & Hauton, D. (2016). Oral nitrate and citrulline decrease blood pressure and increase vascular conductance in young adults: A potential therapy for heart failure. European Journal of Applied Physiology116(9), 1651-1661. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-016-3418-7

Bahri, S., Zerrouk, N., Aussel, C., Moinard, C., Crenn, P., Curis, E., Chaumeil, J.-C., Cynober, L., & Sfar, S. (2013). Citrulline: From metabolism to therapeutic use. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.)29(3), 479-484. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2012.07.002

Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., Lord, T., Vanhatalo, A., Winyard, P. G., & Jones, A. M. (2015). L-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology119(4), 385-395. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00192.2014

Biochemical, physiological, and performance response of a functional watermelon juice enriched in L-citrulline during a half-marathon race | Food & Nutrition Research. (n.d.). Retrieved September 6, 2023, from https://foodandnutritionresearch.net/index.php/fnr/article/view/1203

Chopra, S., Baby, C., & Jacob, J. J. (2011). Neuro-endocrine regulation of blood pressure. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism15 Suppl 4(Suppl4), S281-288. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.86860

Harnden, C. S., Agu, J., & Gascoyne, T. (2023). Effects of citrulline on endurance performance in young healthy adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition20(1), 2209056. https://doi.org/10.1080/15502783.2023.2209056

Harrington, R. N. (2023). Effects of branched chain amino acids, l-citrulline, and alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine supplementation on exercise performance in trained cyclists: A randomized crossover trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition20(1), 2214112. https://doi.org/10.1080/15502783.2023.2214112

Moinard, C., & Cynober, L. (2007). Citrulline: A New Player in the Control of Nitrogen Homeostasis123. The Journal of Nutrition137(6), 1621S-1625S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/137.6.1621S

Oral L-citrulline and Transresveratrol Supplementation Improves Erectile Function in Men With Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Pilot Study | Sexual Medicine | Oxford Academic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 6, 2023, from https://academic.oup.com/smoa/article/6/4/291/6956414

Oral nitrate and citrulline decrease blood pressure and increase vascular conductance in young adults: A potential therapy for heart failure-PMC. (n.d.). Retrieved September 6, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4983290/

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