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Citrulline: Benefits, Sources, and Supplementation Tips

Citrulline is an amino acid that offers various health benefits, from improving athletic performance to promoting heart health. It is found naturally in some foods and can also be taken as a supplement, either with meals or on an empty stomach. Watermelon is the richest food source of citrulline, while other sources include pumpkins, gourds, and beets.

Citrulline has gained popularity as a supplement due to its potential to enhance exercise performance, support cardiovascular health, and boost nitric oxide production in the body. This non-essential amino acid is produced naturally by the body but can also be obtained through diet or supplementation.

Citrulline’s Role in the Body

Citrulline plays a crucial role in the urea cycle, helping to eliminate harmful compounds like ammonia from the body. Once ingested, citrulline is converted into another amino acid called arginine, which is then transformed into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels, improves blood flow, and lowers blood pressure.

This process of converting citrulline to arginine and then nitric oxide is thought to be responsible for many of citrulline’s health benefits. By increasing nitric oxide production, citrulline may improve oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles during exercise, leading to enhanced athletic performance and reduced fatigue.

Food Sources of Citrulline

While citrulline supplements are widely available, this amino acid can also be obtained through diet. Watermelon is by far the richest food source of citrulline, with one cup of watermelon providing about 365 mg of citrulline. Other foods that contain citrulline in littleer amounts include:

  • Bitter melon
  • Cucumber
  • Pumpkin
  • Gourds (bottle gourd, dishrag gourd, wax gourd)
  • Muskmelon
  • Beets

Incorporating these foods into your diet can help boost your citrulline intake naturally. However, it’s essential to note that the citrulline content in these foods is much lower compared to watermelon or citrulline supplements.

Citrulline Supplementation

Citrulline supplements are available in two main forms: L-citrulline and citrulline malate. L-citrulline is the pure form of the amino acid, while citrulline malate is a combination of citrulline and malic acid, which is involved in energy production.

When it comes to timing, citrulline supplements can be taken with or without food. Some people prefer taking citrulline on an empty stomach to maximize absorption, while others find it more convenient to take with meals. Ultimately, the best approach is to experiment and find what works best for your individual needs and preferences.

The optimal dosage of citrulline supplements varies depending on the desired health benefit. For exercise performance, doses ranging from 6-8 grams of citrulline malate taken 30-60 minutes before exercise have been shown to be effective. For general health purposes, lower doses of 2-3 grams per day may be sufficient.

Beets and Citrulline

While beets are not a significant source of citrulline, they are rich in nitrates, which can also boost nitric oxide production in the body. When consumed, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, leading to vasodilation and improved blood flow.

Some studies have investigated the combined effects of citrulline and beetroot juice supplementation on exercise performance. One study found that the combination of citrulline and nitrate-rich beetroot extract improved aerobic power and recovery status in male triathletes compared to citrulline or beetroot extract alone.

These findings suggest that combining citrulline with nitrate-rich foods like beets may offer synergistic benefits for athletic performance and cardiovascular health. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential of this combination.

The bottom line

Citrulline is a versatile amino acid that offers numerous health benefits, from boosting exercise performance to promoting cardiovascular health. While it can be obtained through diet, particularly from watermelon, citrulline supplements provide a convenient and concentrated source of this valuable nutrient.

Whether you choose to increase your citrulline intake through food or supplementation, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach for your individual needs and health goals. By incorporating citrulline into a well-rounded diet and lifestyle, you can tap into its potential to support your overall health and well-being.


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