By Michael Martin
Whether it's grabbing an energy drink before hitting the track or field or mixing up some pre-workout before a gym session, most of us have a go-to when we sense our workout could use a boost. One pre-workout ingredient you may want to consider is L-citrulline, a key ingredient in LADDER Pre-Workout.
L-citrulline is considered an ergogenic supplement, which helps enhance energy and performance. Read on to find out how and what the experts say about it.*
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L-citrulline is a non-essential amino acid (non-essential because it's made by the body, meaning it's not critical to derive from food) that promotes vasodilation, or expansion of blood vessels, by supporting arginine production. The process by which this happens is complex, but it ends in nitric oxide (NO), which relaxes the walls of veins and arteries.*
"When you supplement with citrulline, it's converted in the body to arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide," says Paul Falcone, senior scientist with the Scientific Affairs team at LADDER. "This is the main reason citrulline is seen in pre-workout supplements: to stimulate the production of NO."*
Here are some of the ways that L-citrulline can benefit your next workout.
1. May help improve athletic performance
L-citrulline's ability to promote NO is important because NO has a key role in energy production. It helps enhance the delivery and uptake of fuel substrates — such as oxygen and glucose — through vasodilation.
Thus, "citrulline can help improve exercise performance, particularly in strength and power," says Falcone.
Here are a few examples:
2. May support muscle
Studies have found that L-citrulline supplementation may:*
3. May help improve vascularity
Vasodilators like L-citrulline help expand blood vessels, promoting the "pump" you get from lifting weights. A 2019 review of studies and meta-analyses found that L-citrulline supplementation may modestly improve vessel responsiveness.*
Some people don't naturally produce L-citrulline efficiently. Others may just want to use it as a workout booster.
"For people that don't eat foods that contain L-citrulline and for those whose bodies have a hard time making it, it may be worth taking a supplement to help improve exercise performance," says Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.*
If L-citrulline is the middleman to L-arginine, why not just take an arginine supplement?
"Interestingly, L-citrulline increases blood arginine better than taking arginine," says Falcone. He explains: L-arginine supplements are metabolized by the liver, which absorbs much of it. But L-citrulline is metabolized by the kidneys, so more of it is available to be readily used by the body.*
According to D'Angelo, some foods that contain L-citrulline include:
According to a 2021 study in the journal Nutrients, L-citrulline has been found to be safe in doses up to 15 grams a day. But always take any supplement exactly as directed.
"One should follow the appropriate dosage," says Seema Bonney, MD, a board-certified physician and medical director of the Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Philadelphia. "There are little to no known side effects of taking L-citrulline supplementation. However, you should always check with your doctor before beginning supplementation to review for side effects or interactions with any other medications you may be taking."
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.