L-citrulline-malate influence over branched chain amino acid utilization during exercise

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Sep;110(2):341-51. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1509-4. Epub 2010 May 25.


Exhaustive exercise induces disturbances in metabolic homeostasis which can result in amino acid catabolism and limited L-arginine availability. Oral L-citrulline supplementation raises plasma L-arginine concentration and augments NO-dependent signalling. Our aim was to evaluate the effects of diet supplementation with L-citrulline-malate prior to intense exercise on the metabolic handle of plasma amino acids and on the products of metabolism of arginine as creatinine, urea and nitrite and the possible effects on the hormonal levels. Seventeen voluntary male pre-professional cyclists were randomly assigned to one of two groups: control or supplemented (6 g L-citrulline-malate 2 h prior exercise) and participated in a 137-km cycling stage. Blood samples were taken in basal conditions, 15 min after the race and 3 h post race (recovery). Most essential amino acids significantly decreased their plasma concentration as a result of exercise; however, most non-essential amino acids tended to significantly increase their concentration. Citrulline-malate ingestion significantly increased the plasma concentration of citrulline, arginine, ornithine, urea, creatinine and nitrite (p < 0.05) and significantly decreased the isoleucine concentration from basal measures to after exercise (p < 0.05). Insulin levels significantly increased after exercise in both groups (p < 0.05) returning to basal values at recovery. Growth hormone increased after exercise in both groups, although the increase was higher in the citrulline-malate supplemented group (p < 0.05). L-citrulline-malate supplementation can enhance the use of amino acids, especially the branched chain amino acids during exercise and also enhance the production of arginine-derived metabolites such as nitrite, creatinine, ornithine and urea.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / blood*
  • Arginine / blood
  • Bicycling
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Citrulline / administration & dosage
  • Citrulline / analogs & derivatives*
  • Citrulline / blood
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / blood*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Exercise*
  • Human Growth Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Malates / administration & dosage
  • Malates / blood*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Nitrites / blood
  • Ornithine / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Urea / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Malates
  • Nitrites
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Citrulline
  • Urea
  • Arginine
  • Creatinine
  • Ornithine
  • citrulline malate