Citrulline is one of the most popular supplement ingredients in pre-workouts, nitric oxide supplements, and as a standalone supplement for its ability to increase muscle pumps and enhance recovery.
Today, we’ll talk about whether an L-Citrulline supplement is worth the try and the best options for standalone citrulline supplements on the market.
Citrulline is a nonessential amino acid, which means that your body can produce it on its own. You can also increase your Citrulline levels by eating foods containing Citrulline (like watermelon, squash, and pumpkin) or taking a supplement.
Citrulline can increase nitric oxide levels and help blood vessels widen. This can provide some health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and improving oxygen levels to enhance athletic performance. Acutely though, this increase in blood pressure leads to increased muscle pumps.
In its supplement form, citrulline is often labeled as L-Citrulline or L-Citrulline Malate. We prefer l-citrulline because, with malate products, only half of the supplement by weight is actually citrulline, which is where the benefits come from. For more on this, you can check out this article on l-citrulline vs citrulline malate.
Effectively-dosed supplements usually have between 3-6 grams. Some of the more “hardcore” pre-workouts have up to 10-12 grams.
The main reason why people take l-citrulline is to improve exercise performance.
Studies have shown that increased levels of nitrate in the blood are associated with a 25% increase in intermittent exercise performance. Basically, the increased blood flow, may result in a few extra reps during your training.
Another study suggests that a citrulline supplement can increase oxygen levels in muscles, while another study suggests that the supplement can enhance weight training performance. This makes sense because blood carries oxygen, so increased blood flow can mean our muscles are going to get more resources. In this realm, it may also support muscle recovery.
Increased blood flow can have other benefits like an improved mind-muscle connection.
Along these lines, some research has suggested that citrulline supplementation can reduce muscle soreness.
Note, citrulline is a dietary supplement and is NOT approved for treating any diseases. That said, there are a few studies on citrulline and blood pressure and hypertension.
For example, one study demonstrated that taking an L-Citrulline supplement for seven days helped the blood vessels widen in people who had or were at risk of heart disease. Widened blood vessels can promote increased blood flow and decrease blood pressure.
Another study showed that, in participants with high blood pressure, taking an L-Citrulline supplement helped decrease blood pressure.
This has lead to claims that citrulline can support cardiovascular health overall. However, we still need more research.
Based on much of the scientific research provided, it seems that L-Citrulline supplementation is most effective when taken for two reasons:
1) Consistently over long periods for general health/blood flow benefits.
2) Shortly before your workout in your pre-workout stack to take advantage of the blood flow increases during your training, and get those crazy pumps that Arnold was talking about. In fact, as we talked about in this article on the best non-stim pre-workouts, it’s a staple in most effective pre-workout supplements.
Many ‘boner pill’ supplements that you’ll find on sketchy websites, in porn ads, and more are often nothing more than simple citrulline, arginine, and other proven nitric oxide boosters.
In fact, when it comes to citrulline and sex, it has even been looked at as a potential support for mild erectile dysfunction. Again, though, l-citrulline is not used to treat any diseases, including ED. Any claims that it’s “better than viagra” or “Viagra without the side effects” is just marketing.
With that said… it does support blood flow which means it probably will support blood flow to your nether regions. If that is your goal, and again I’m not endorsing it, save your money on the expensive “bedroom performance” supplements, and just grab some simple l-citrulline.
Here are the best l-citrulline supplements on the market. Every product on our list is basically just citrulline. They’re third-party tested, dairy-free, soy-free, and free of fillers.
*Note: We do have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you purchase from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info in an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
This L-Citrulline supplement by Kaged uses all plant-based sources to create a potent powder-based supplement.
We love it for a few reasons. First of all, some l-citrulline that’s not plant-based comes from sketchy sources like bird feathers and animal carcasses. This is not what you want to be putting in your body.
It’s also unflavored and mixes easily into any pre-workout or post-workout drink without altering the taste at all.
It’s also NSF-informed sport certified, so it’s a great choice for athletes, in addition to going through strict third-party testing.
Each scoop contains 2 grams of Citrulline, and the product contains a whopping 100 servings.
This product is…
For these reasons, Kaged L-Citrulline is our clear #1 pick.
L-citrulline is the only ingredient. It has zero fillers or other ingredients.
Double Wood’s L-Citrulline supplement provides high-quality ingredients for a great price. Each of their products is third-party tested for purity and manufactured in the USA. If it ends up not being for you, Double Wood offers a money-back guarantee, which shows that they are confident in their product.
In contrast to Kaged, this is a capsule product. Each capsule contains 600mg, so you’ll have to take a bunch to get a solid dose. While it’s a slightly less upfront cost, it’s not as good of a value on a per-gram basis as Kaged.
PureBulk’s L-Citrulline Powder is another great powder-based option for buying in bulk.
What’s cool about this product is that you can choose a bag size ranging from 100 grams to 1 kilogram. The powder base also allows you to add it to any meal, shake, or smoothie.
In other words, PureBulk gives you options so that you can experiment and see what works best for you.
California Gold Nutrition L-Citrulline uses quality ingredients sourced in the USA and offers a super affordable price. Each capsule includes 500 mg of L-citrulline, and each bottle contains 60 capsules for under $10. Plus, it comes in a vegetarian capsule and is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.
NOW Foods L-Citrulline is another capsule-based supplement that offers quality ingredients. Each capsule contains 750 mg of citrulline as well as 36 mg of calcium. It can provide a 45 to 90-day supply (depending on what bottle size you buy) at an affordable cost. It comes in a vegetarian capsule and is safe for vegetarian, vegan, and keto diets.
Even at high doses (6-10 grams), l-citrulline doesn’t have common side effects.
However, L-Citrulline may interact with certain medications. If you have heart disease or are taking medication for your heart health, talk to your healthcare provider before taking citrulline.
You’ll see a lot of products use citrulline malate, instead of plain l-citrulline. Citrulline malate is one part citrulline, and one part malic acid.
Malic acid seem to have any additional benefits. This means, if you buy citrulline malate, you’re only actually getting half as much citrulline.
For that reason, we looked based the fancy marketing on citrulline malate, and mostly stuck with pure l-citrulline products on our list.
L-citrulline is often considered a “nitric oxide booster” because it encourages the production of nitric oxide. In turn, this causes vasodilation and increases blood flow.
More specifically citrulline gets converted to arginine, which then increases nitric oxide synthesis. This brings us to the next question…
If citrulline must first get converted to arginine, why not just take an arginine supplement?
Arginine doesn’t get absorbed as well. Because of its subpar absorption, it can often lead to GI distress and slight nausea. Ironically, citrulline may do a better job at increasing arginine levels than arginine itself.
For this reason, citrulline has begun to replace arginine in many of the best pre-workout supplements.
For the blood flow benefits before your workout, start with a dose of 3-6 grams of l-citrulline. If you’re an advanced trainee, you can take up to 10 grams.
For citrulline malate supplements, you’ll have to double that dose.
Nope. While the “pump” benefits apply most to bodybuilding populations, many athletes and trainees with various goals can get the benefits of citrulline supplementation.
When it comes to supporting muscle growth and reducing muscle fatigue, citrulline is a simple supplement that may help you out.
Technically, yes. Most notably, watermelon has an abundance of citrulline. However, practically speaking, supplementing is your best best.
Disclaimer: Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement, including citrulline.