Research Spotlight: Citrulline malate improves strength endurance

Research Spotlight articles share concise breakdowns of interesting studies. The study reviewed is "Acute Effect of Citrulline Malate on Repetition Performance During Strength Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis" by Vårvik et al.
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Nitric oxide precursors are among the most commonly used supplements on the market, mostly because they’re a staple in just about every pre-workout product. Arginine was the first nitric oxide precursor to become popular, but it has largely fallen out of favor due to its poor bioavailability.

Citrulline malate (CitMal) is one of the supplements that has taken the place of arginine in pre-workout supplements, as it can effectively increase nitric oxide production, which can favorably impact blood flow, exercise efficiency, and the contractile function of muscle.

This meta-analysis gathered up all the studies assessing the acute impact of citrulline malate supplementation on strength endurance (repetitions to failure during resistance exercise). Compared to placebo, CitMal led to trivial-to-small positive effects on lower-body, upper-body, and overall strength, with the overall effect being statistically significant.

These results are quite similar to the findings of our very own Eric Trexler, who published a 2019 meta-analysis more broadly assessing the effects of citrulline on a variety of strength and power outcomes. While this body of research isn’t particularly large, the data available suggest that 6-8g of CitMal (preferably in a 2:1 Cit:Mal ratio) can enhance strength endurance when taken about an hour before exercise.

There are also a couple of nice bonus features to acknowledge: CitMal is pretty affordable in comparison to many other supplements, and also has a sour taste that pairs very well with just about any sweet beverage or water enhancer. 

If you want to read more about citrulline and related supplements, check out our article: Are Nitric Oxide Supplements Beneficial For Strength and Hypertrophy?

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2 thoughts on “Research Spotlight: Citrulline malate improves strength endurance”

  1. I’m very much a skeptic about supplements and haven’t noticed any effects from almost anything, but L-Citrulline DL-Malate has also noticeably reduced muscle soreness from playing long ultimate tournaments (3-4 two hour games a day with lots of sprinting).

  2. Hi Eric,

    Just came across this recent and potentially very important paper on the effects of individual BCAAs on lifespan/healthspan. Thought you might be interested, given the role of BCAAs, especially leucine, in muscle protein synthesis. Looks like leucine is not the prime suspect after all..

    Cheers,

    YF

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33887198/

    Cell Metab
    . 2021 May 4;33(5):905-922.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2021.03.025. Epub 2021 Apr 21.

    The adverse metabolic effects of branched-chain amino acids are mediated by isoleucine and valine

    Deyang Yu 1 , Nicole E Richardson 2 , Cara L Green 3 , Alexandra B Spicer 4 , Michaela E Murphy 5 , Victoria Flores 5 , Cholsoon Jang 6 , Ildiko Kasza 7 , Maria Nikodemova 4 , Matthew H Wakai 3 , Jay L Tomasiewicz 8 , Shany E Yang 3 , Blake R Miller 3 , Heidi H Pak 3 , Jacqueline A Brinkman 3 , Jennifer M Rojas 9 , William J Quinn 3rd 9 , Eunhae P Cheng 3 , Elizabeth N Konon 3 , Lexington R Haider 3 , Megan Finke 3 , Michelle Sonsalla 3 , Caroline M Alexander 7 , Joshua D Rabinowitz 10 , Joseph A Baur 9 , Kristen C Malecki 4 , Dudley W Lamming 11

    1. Thanks for sharing! It’s certainly an interesting paper, but I’m not fully on board with the idea of protein restriction for health (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27006163/), and I have skepticism about the idea that BCAAs or protein play a causative role in inducing unfavorable and practically relevant changes in cardiometabolic risk factors in humans. It’s an area where the mechanistic data and observational data seem to be at odds with the longitudinal data from RCTs, in my opinion

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