Citrulline Malate for Cycling Performance
For the last few years, we have dedicated hundreds of hours to scouring the internet and researching publications searching for those .05% gains that are the difference between standing on the podium or suffering the long drive home thinking over and over… “What if?”
Ultimately, there’s a ton out there on the market that claims to be “the solution”. The one stop shop that will make you faster, more efficient, more powerful - you name it. Here’s the truth: when we talk about supplements, we talk about minute, but measurable gains. We talk about the 1%. We talk about optimizing every potential advantage you have.
So far, we’ve told you about a few tricks, specifically the increasingly known benefits of Beta Alanine. Well, today we have another addition to your pre and post workout routines - Citrulline.
What is Citrulline?
Citrulline is naturally occurring non essential amino acid. This means you don’t need to consume it via food sources, because your body actually makes it on its own. Citrulline is actually found in all sorts of common foods as well, from meat and fish to legumes and garlic, and watermelon! Watermelon is actually one of the sources with the highest content of citrulline.
There are plenty of bodybuilding websites that with a quick google search will tell you that Citrulline Malate might be worth considering, but what’s harder to find is a proven benefit for Endurance Athletes. Road cyclists especially are required to use multiple energy systems to win races. Sprinting, attacking at VO2Max, and sustained efforts all are a part of being a competitive athlete.
The Science - What’s going on at the cellular level?
Citrulline is an amino acid that our body uses every day when our muscles contract as part of two essential processes, the Urea Cycle and the Nitric Oxide cycle. When your muscles work intensely, they build up levels of ammonia and when this happens, we get a signal saying “I’m tired! Stop!” The body essentially combats this by turning that Ammonia (all the waste from your muscles) into Urea so it can be extracted out of our bodies through Urine. Our muscle cells create this Ammonia waste, and then combines with another amino acid, Ornithine to produce Citrulline. SIMPLE RIGHT?
Not quite....there are a few more steps. The Citrulline leaves the cell and eventually becomes arginine, and after an enzyme is introduced, and causes arginine to split into more ornithine and the waste product urea. Citrulline is created as a byproduct in the nitric oxide cycle. The Nitric oxide is created when you start to exercise to help because it helps soften and dilate blood vessels.
Long story short, we really are trying to get more arginine, because more arginine means we can deal with more waste, and produce more Nitric Oxide.
SO WHY DON'T WE SUPPLEMENT ARGININE?
While the limiting factor here is Arginine, there are two major problems. Arginine has a limited “bioavailability” meaning it is very hard to absorb. The kidneys just don’t process it efficiently “Well, just take more!” That leads to the next issue, gut distress. Trust us, you don't want to take more than 8g, it’s not going to be pretty*
*hint, you are going to spend the rest of your day on the toilet!
Lucky for us, Citrulline is readily absorbed by the kidneys and in about an hour you will be ready to rock! You can double your Arginine levels, and consequently double your Ornithine levels. Increase Ornithine, and you can increase how much junk you can get rid of and you can work your muscles both longer and harder, AND you will help with blood flow to the muscles when they so desperately need it under stress when exercising.
Research On Citrulline Malate in Cycling
This study from Japan indicated it improved performance in 4km time trial, and this study indicated a 7% improvement in sprint power after a sustained time trial. These studies both provide some promising information about the benefits here, but the sample size of the studies is very small. From a research perspective, there still isn’t a great body of knowledge about how citrulline affects cycling performance. However, on a cellular level, researchers can conclusively say that supplementing citrulline is effective within the body. So, what we know is, on the CELLULAR level it works. But there isn’t enough data for us to definitively say “based off these double blind placebo studies of A, B, C, and D, we know Citrulline works”
Does that mean it doesn’t work? WHY AM I READING THIS?!
From personal experience, and the experience of our athletes, there is definitely something to citrulline malate. Remember friends, we are on the front line of experimentation with citrulline, and just because it hasn't been proven in a lab yet, doesn't mean it’s useless. Long term supplementation will reduce soreness and speed up recovery in addition to providing benefits during your workout! Cycling training is all about the long game. If you can get in a few extra minutes on your sweet spot workout, or recover just a bit faster and can put in an extra training day at the end of a block then you are getting a benefit that just can't be measured in a lab!
We have noticed a significant improvement in Time To Exhaustion At Threshold when taking Citrulline as compared to not taking it. You will FEEL the difference in just the first time taking Citrulline. Your legs will get a better pump from the vasodilation on day 1!!!
Dosing Protocol for Cycling
Dosing effect seems to be directly related to quantity and timing, so we recommend 6-8g 1 hour before before and 4g after workouts. Dosing before will elevate your Arginine levels for your workout, and after will help your body accelerate the healing process and reduce post exercise fatigue. It takes a full hour for citrulline to be absorbed so make sure you nail this timing!
Citrulline has been proven to provide additional health benefits such as reduced blood pressure and improving heart health by lowering resting blood pressure. Even if you aren’t an athlete, these benefits alone should be reason enough to consider citrulline!
Is citrulline a legal substance?
YES! It is completely legal. We aren’t doctors and you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements. This is not intended in any way to be medical advice.
Are there any unhealthy side effects of Citrulline?
Citrulline Malate reduces blood pressure, so if you have chronic Hypotension (extremely low blood pressure) you might not want to take this.
There is a good body of research that suggests Citrulline will improve performance both intensively and extensively for both endurance and power athletes, but it’s not yet conclusive. Long term supplementation has shown NO NEGATIVE side effects even at significant dosage levels (we couldn't find any information on quantities tested past 20g per day).
We LOVE citrulline and believe the benefits will extend far past what current research has shown given the relatively short length of these studies, and the small sample size.
Start Supplementing Citrulline today! This amino acid pairs really well with Beta Alanine and when taken LONG term you will be able to MEASURABLY improve your performance!
If you have tried Citrulline or Beta Alanine in the past, we would love to hear about your experience. Comment below to start discussion, or reach out personally for a free consult! Sold on Citrulline? Follow the link below to buy your first batch today!