Effects of citrulline supplementation on fatigue and exercise performance in mice

J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2011;57(3):246-50. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.57.246.


During high-intensity exercise, the concentration of ammonia is augmented in skeletal muscle. Ammonia activates phosphofructokinase and prevents oxidation of pyruvate to acetyl CoA, thus leading to exhaustion. Citrulline is an amino acid component of the urea cycle in the liver, along with ornithine and arginine. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of citrulline supplementation on fatigue and performance during high-intensity exercise. We constructed a swimming exercise protocol, in which mice were subjected to exhaustive swimming with a load of 5% body weight, and measured the time until exhaustion, the blood levels of lactate and ammonia, and the glycogen content of the gastrocnemius and biceps femoris muscles. Citrulline supplementation significantly increased the swimming time until exhaustion. Exercise-induced blood ammonia elevation was repressed by citrulline supplementation, and exercise-induced blood lactate increment in the citrulline-supplemented group was significantly lower than that in the non-supplemented group. Citrulline supplementation may facilitate the detoxification of ammonia via the urea cycle and inhibit additional glycolysis. Our findings suggest that citrulline supplementation may be useful for improving the exercise performance of athletes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / blood
  • Animals
  • Citrulline / pharmacology
  • Citrulline / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatigue / blood
  • Fatigue / prevention & control*
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Swimming / physiology*


  • Citrulline
  • Lactic Acid
  • Ammonia