As we cruise through the supplement aisle, we can’t help but notice that the majority of supplements these days have one thing in common. We’re talking about L-Citrulline. And while the human body is perfectly capable of producing this non-essential amino acid on its own, most supplements firmly believe that L-Citrulline needs to be part of a killer muscle building formula.
If you are half as curious as we are, this ultimate guide to L-Citrulline will shed light on how this nutrient can help you sculpt muscles you can be proud of.
What is L-Citrulline?
As mentioned earlier, L-Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid. Unlike with essential amino acids, that means you don’t need to eat certain foods to stock on this nutrient. Your body has that covered. How? There are two ways in which L-Citrulline is produced.
The Arginine Pathway
The first pathway refers to a fellow amino acid, known as L-Arginine. According to research, Arginine converts into nitric oxide leaving L-Citrulline as a byproduct. So, what happens is that the said amino acid is recycled from arginine. This pathway accounts for about 10% of the circulating citrulline in the human body.
The Glutamine Pathway
Now, the second pathway revolves around glutamine. Based on this approach, L-Glutamine contains nitrogen and some carbon. When these elements interact with the enzyme Ornithine Transcarbamylase, citrulline is produced. This pathway accounts for approximately 90% of circulating citrulline.
But, what does the “L-” stand for? It refers to the structure of the amino acid and is a way of showing that this nutrient can be used to create protein. This amino acid plays a key role in the Urea cycle. It basically helps your body get rid of toxic byproducts of digesting protein while producing cellular energy.
The amino acid got its name from the Latin word for watermelon, Citrullus, as it was first isolated from the fruit during the 1930s. In fact, one recent study confirms that consuming watermelon juice increases the conversion rate of citrulline to arginine.
L-Citrulline and Exercise Performance
One of the primary reasons L-Citrulline features in most muscle building supplements these days is its ability to improve the exercise performance of bodybuilders and athletes. In fact, one recent study suggests that taking L-Citrulline alleviates fatigue and boosts performance during high-intensity exercise.
As you exercise, your body goes through an awful lot of processes, some good some bad. One of them is the increase in ammonia concentration in skeletal muscle. If you don’t know this by now, ammonia prevents oxidation and leads up to muscle exhaustion.
Remember when you go for another lift, but your muscles are shaking and feel like they are on fire? That’s the ammonia taking over.Luckily, L-Citrulline (along with arginine and ornithine) reduces the release of exercise-induced ammonia and, thus, improves your athletic performance.
L-Citrulline and Blood Flow/Pressure
Physical performance aside, L-Citrulline supplementation is said to improve blood flow while reducing increased blood pressure. In fact, numerous studies (here, here and here) conclude that this non-essential amino acid improves situations where blood pressure is abnormally high, or blood flow hindered.
But, lowering blood pressure levels is not the only way L-Citrulline benefits your body through increased blood flow. As the arteries dilate and more blood is rushing through them, more nutrients get to reach the muscles. This way you are ahead of the muscle soreness curve and reduce the time between workout sessions.
L-Citrulline and Libido
L-Citrulline is also considered one of the most efficient pro-erectile agents out there. Much like other PDE5 inhibitors such as Viagra and horny goat weed, the amino acid induces erection hardness by improving the nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation. Due to its mild physiological effects on the human libido, experts usually prescribe L-Citrulline supplements to patients with mild erectile dysfunction and who are afraid to try out misunderstood medication such as Viagra.
L-Citrulline and Free Radicals
Although free radicals are an essential part of several physiological processes in the human body, excessive amounts may cause unpleasant side effects such as aging skin, cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases and much more.
Luckily, one study suggests that L-Citrulline helps your body get rid of the harmful free radical mainly induced by intense exercise. When you work out intensely, you put your body under a lot of stress which spikes free radical production. So, here is another reason why pre-workout supplements are so hung up on including this ingredient.
L-Citrulline and Side Effects
Up until now, there have been no reported side effects from taking L-Citrulline, even in high doses. However, having in mind all of the above, it’s best to stay away from medication containing nitrates or erectile dysfunction drugs while on L-Citrulline. The chances of an adverse reaction are high. Also, it’s always safe to consult a health specialist before taking the big step.
To sum up, if you think L-Citrulline deserves its place in your supplement cabinet, you should expect the following results:
Less Muscle Soreness
Greater Muscle Gains
Improved Blood Circulation and Blood Pressure after Intense Exercise
But, remember, it’s not L-Citrulline that sculpts a great physique on your behalf (or any other supplement for that matter!). It’s dedication, perseverance and healthy nutrition that help you achieve your fitness goals.