Pre-workout is a crucial piece to your success before you hit the weights at your next training session. It gives you focus, energy, more oxygen, and depending upon the ingredients and amounts, you can improve performance outcomes like strength and muscular endurance. Citrulline malate is one of those proven ingredients. Studies have shown that citrulline malate facilitates the release of nitric oxide, increases your body’s natural energy adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and promotes muscle protein synthesis, making it one of the best pre-workout ingredients.
What Is Citrulline Malate?
Citrulline malate is a combination of L-citrulline and malate. L-Citrulline is a nonessential amino acid that helps promote the natural release of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a vasodilator, meaning it widens blood vessels, which opens the flood gates for more oxygen, blood flow, and nutrients to be transported to your muscle tissue. This is why L-citrulline or other known NO boosters such as L-arginine and beet juice, are marketed for their infamous “pump”. Extracted from apples, malate is a derivative of malic acid and contributes to the sour taste of fruits. This is why unflavored citrulline malate often times has a natural sour taste. When these two components are combined, they create citrulline malate. Studies have shown that Malate is the active key ingredient that contributes to added performance benefits of citrulline malate, as opposed to L-citrulline alone.
How Does Citrulline Malate Work?
Citrulline malate enables the natural production of nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is a gas that's main purpose is to promote vasodilation or increased blood flow. NO is one of the most fundamental molecules of the body’s vasculature, regulating key signaling pathways and nutrient transport. NO is secreted by the endothelial cells that line the inner walls of your blood vessels, communicating to your smooth muscle cells to relax, through vasodilation. Consequently, nitric oxide widens blood vessels increasing blood flow and circulation without increasing blood pressure.
Research has shown that nitric oxide is essential for overall health, especially cardiovascular health as it supports the transport of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your body and muscle tissue efficiently and effectively. Studies have shown that increased nitric oxide may improve recovery times, increase strength, promote muscular endurance, and delay muscle fatigue.1 2 3
Citrulline Malate Dosage and Timing
Studies suggest that in order to derive performance benefits of citrulline malate the recommended dosage is between 5-8g per day 20-45 minutes pre workout.
3 Ways Citrulline Malate Can Benefit Your Pre-Workout
Step up your pre-workout with citrulline malate. Need more convincing? Citrulline malate can improve strength, reduce muscle soreness, and improve your overall performance in the gym.
1. Citrulline Malate Improves Strength
One of the greatest benefits of citrulline malate is its ability to increase power and strength. The exact mechanism of action, aka the biological process of how it works is even more unique. Research has shown that citrulline malate influences amino-acid utilization rate, specifically the brabnched-chain amino acids, which are responsible for building, rebuilding, and repairing lean muscle mass while also increasing growth hormone.3
Citrulline malate stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is the biological process of increasing muscle mass, where cells generate new proteins. Therefore MPS is responsible for muscle growth, accelerated muscle recovery and improved muscle endurance. If you’re trying to lift heavy and add more mass, muscle protein synthesis is the key to build more muscle and stack on more gains.
A study published in the European Journal Of Sports Science examined the effects of grip strength, vertical power, and anaerobic cycling performance in female tennis players. 17 female tennis players consumed 8g of citrulline malate or placebo one hour before training. Results indicated that the citrulline malate group exhibited greater maximal strength, with significant increases in peak power and explosive power.4
2. Citrulline Malate Delays Muscle Fatigue And Increases Muscular Endurance
Another reason why you need citrulline malate in your pre-workout is that it delays muscle fatigue. If you can work out for a longer period of time without enduring as much muscle exhaustion, you’ll unquestionably gain more muscle mass and improve workout performance.
Citrulline malate directly impacts adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP creates more molecular and chemical energy. Essentially, ATP is your body's internal fuel tank. This is the exact same way creatine works, by facilitating the release of ATP leading to greater gains in power, speed, and delayed muscle fatigue. In fact, studies suggest that citrulline malate supplementation actually improves the release of phosphocreatine levels.1
A study published in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine found that 6g of citrulline malate 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.
A systematic Cochrane review published in 2019, analyzed twelve studies with a total of 198 study participants, to examine the Acute Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on High-Intensity Strength and Power Performance. The results found that citrulline malate supplementation provides a significant benefit to high-level athletes in regards to recovery, endurance, and strength as compared to placebo.6
3. Citrulline Malate Speeds Reovery Time
The greatest benefit of citrulline malate is its ability to stimulate the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide improves vasodilation meaning it widens your blood vessels consequently increasing nutrient transport, blood flow, and oxygen uptake. Several studies suggest that increased NO leads to improved recovery times and endurance.
Remember citrulline malate enhances the use of amino acids, specifically the branched chain amino acids, which are response for muscle growth and recovery and stimulates muscle protein synthesis.
A study published in the Journal of Strength And Conditioning, administered 8g of citrulline malate to 41 participants to examine the effects on anaerobic performance and post workout muscle soreness. Study results showed a significant increase of 53% more max reps than placebo, with a 40% decrease in muscle soreness.2
Less post workout muscle soreness means that you’ll be able to get back to training faster, and increase workout volume, which translates to better performance results.
Related: 5 Recovery Tips to Help You Build Muscle Faster
Take Home Message
In summary, the science suggests that citrulline malate is one of the greatest pre workout ingredients of all time. If your pre workout does not have the clinical dose of 5g per serving, adding citrulline malate to your supplement regimen as a stand-alone ingredient is highly recommended to improve strength, reduce muscle soreness, and improve overall performance outcomes.
- Bendahan D, Mattei JP, Ghattas B, et al Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle British 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 May;24(5):1215-22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0. PMID: 20386132.
- 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. PMID: 20499249.
- Glenn JM, Gray M, Jensen A, Stone MS, Vincenzo JL. Acute citrulline-malate supplementation improves maximal strength and anaerobic power in female, masters athletes tennis players. Eur J Sport Sci. 2016 Nov;16(8):1095-103. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2016.1158321. Epub 2016 Mar 28. PMID: 27017895.
- Trexler ET, Persky AM, Ryan ED, Schwartz TA, Stoner L, Smith-Ryan AE. Acute Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on High-Intensity Strength and Power Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2019 May;49(5):707-718. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01091-z. PMID: 30895562.