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Does Citrulline Help Build Muscle?

Citrulline may aid muscle building by enhancing blood flow, increasing protein synthesis, and improving exercise performance. However, its effects are modest and best combined with proper training and nutrition.

Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts are always on the lookout for supplements that can give them an edge. Citrulline has gained popularity in recent years. This amino acid promises to boost muscle growth and exercise performance. But does it live up to the hype? Let’s explore the science behind citrulline and its potential benefits for muscle building.

What Is Citrulline and How It Works

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid. Our bodies produce it naturally. It’s also found in some foods, especially watermelon. Unlike other amino acids, citrulline doesn’t directly build proteins. Instead, it plays a crucial role in the urea cycle. This process helps remove ammonia from the body.

The body converts citrulline into another amino acid called arginine. Arginine then produces nitric oxide. This molecule is key to citrulline’s potential muscle-building benefits. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow throughout the body.

Improved blood flow is crucial for muscle growth. It ensures muscles receive a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients during exercise. This enhanced delivery can lead to better performance and faster recovery. Some studies suggest citrulline might also stimulate growth hormone production. Growth hormone is essential for muscle growth and repair.

Another potential benefit of citrulline is its effect on protein synthesis. It may activate vital signaling pathways involved in muscle building. Additionally, citrulline might reduce the liver’s uptake of certain amino acids. This could prevent their breakdown, potentially contributing to muscle mass maintenance or growth.

Citrulline’s Impact on Exercise Performance

Many athletes and bodybuilders use citrulline as a pre-workout supplement. They hope to enhance their exercise performance and muscle gains. Some research supports this use, but the results are mixed.

A review of several studies found that citrulline supplements offer a small but significant benefit for high-intensity exercises. Citrulline malate, a specific form of citrulline, may improve resistance to fatigue during strength training. This could allow athletes to perform more repetitions during their workouts.

Reduced muscle fatigue is another potential benefit of citrulline supplementation. By improving blood flow and nutrient delivery to muscles, citrulline may help delay the onset of fatigue. This could lead to better overall performance and more productive workouts.

Interestingly, citrulline’s benefits seem more pronounced in anaerobic exercises like weightlifting. The effects are less clear for aerobic activities such as running. This difference likely stems from the increased blood flow to working muscles, which is more critical in high-intensity, short-duration activities.

Scientific Evidence: What the Studies Say

While many users swear by citrulline, it’s vital to look at the scientific evidence. Several studies and meta-analyses have examined citrulline’s effects on muscle building and exercise performance.

A systematic review and meta-analysis by Trexler et al. looked at citrulline’s effects on high-intensity power and strength outcomes. The results showed a small but significant benefit of citrulline supplementation compared to placebo treatments. The pooled standardized mean difference was 0.2, indicating a modest positive effect.

Another meta-analysis by Varvik et al. found a small ergogenic effect of citrulline malate on repetition performance during strength training. This suggests that citrulline might help athletes perform more reps during their workouts, potentially leading to greater muscle growth over time.

However, not all studies show positive results. A meta-analysis involving four studies and 138 assessments found no overall effect favoring citrulline malate supplementation on muscle strength in resistance-trained individuals. This highlights the inconsistency in the research and the need for more studies.

According to a study, “The exhibition of an ergogenic effect on exercise performance within the literature is inconsistent”. This means that while some studies show benefits, others don’t find significant improvements in muscle strength or endurance performance with citrulline supplementation.

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