What is L-Citrulline?
L-Citrulline, also truncated to citrulline, is an amino acid named after the Latin word Citrullus, meaning watermelon. Doctors named and described the compound as early as the late 19th century, but researchers didn’t isolate citrulline until 1914. They obtained the culture from a watermelon, hence its name.
What Does L-Citrulline Do?
Citrulline didn’t garner much attention until 1930, when scientists established it as an α-amino-δ-carbamidovaleric acid. By 1932, researchers discovered citrulline is a critical component of the urea cycle, facilitating the excretion of ammonia by converting it into urea. The cycle starts with arginase enzymes converting l-arginine into ornithine. Ornithine enzymes use carbamoyl phosphate as a cofactor to synthesize l-citrulline. The enzymes use ammonia to complete this process, thereby decreasing ammonia while increasing urea.
Citrulline also plays a role in the nitric oxide cycle. The body can recycle citrulline to create more arginine. Citrulline binds to l-aspartate to produce arginosuccinate, which enzymes break down into fumarate and arginine. Nitric oxide synthase enzymes catalyze this process to produce more nitric oxide.
Potential L-Citrulline Benefits
Citrulline as a Nitric Oxide Booster
Citrulline’s efficiency at increasing arginine bioavailability and synthesizing nitric oxide often outperforms direct arginine supplementation. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that also possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It relaxes blood vessels to increase blood flow and the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to muscle tissue. Nitric oxide also plays a role in protein synthesis and building lean muscle. Nitric oxide is critical for men’s sexual function, but its production and bioavailability decrease with age. Boosting nitric oxide levels may support sexual health in men.
Best Nitric Oxide Supplements
Nitric oxide is an effective vasodilator with many beneficial properties, but the body breaks it down rapidly. One study found that taking citrulline and reduced glutathione (GSH)
together inhibited this breakdown, thereby boosting nitric oxide levels.
Citrulline as a Vasodilator
Blood vessels need nitric oxide to help smooth muscles relax. Nitric oxide also widens blood vessels for improved blood flow. Vasodilation has a strong correlation with enhanced exercise performance. It also supports heart health by reducing arterial resistance.
Citrulline for Exercise Performance
Citrulline may help improve exercise performance and reduce muscle soreness after exercising. It fuels muscles by boosting nitric oxide production to increase blood flow for greater oxygen and nutrient delivery. Muscles work more effectively when oxygenated and replenished. Taking NO boosting supplements like citrulline may allow individuals to work out harder for longer. Citrulline also helps build lean muscle by stimulating protein synthesis and preventing the breakdown of amino acids that also help build muscle. Citrulline also clears away waste products that contribute to muscle fatigue. Studies have noted that citrulline supplements effectively reduced the participants’ rate of perceived exertion during workouts. One study reported that citrulline supplements reduced the participants’ muscle soreness by 40%.
L-Citrulline vs Citrulline Malate
Citrulline malate is citrulline combined with malic acid. Malate is a critical component of the citric acid cycle (CAC). CAC is a critical pathway that connects the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary source of energy that powers all cellular processes.
Potential L-Citrulline Side Effects
Most individuals can take citrulline supplements without experiencing side effects. Studies using doses as high as 15g reported no adverse effects. However, excessively high doses don’t yield better results, and there are no studies on the long-term effects of ingesting such high amounts of citrulline supplements. Citrulline may interact with certain medications. Individuals taking medications for heart conditions or erectile dysfunction should not take citrulline supplements. Consult with a physician before taking any new supplements.
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