Guide to L-Citrulline for Bodybuilding

Better performance. Better endurance. Better pumps.

That’s what L-citrulline does.

This guide to L-citrulline for bodybuilding, on the other hand? Think of it as your own personal Mr. Miyagi – a mentor who will teach you everything you need to know.

So, put down whatever it is you’re doing, and let’s wax on!

What is L-Citrulline?

L-citrulline is a non-essential amino acid that is naturally produced in the body (synthesized by small bowel enterocytes from glutamine, but that’s too much info). And it can also be found in certain foods such as watermelon or nuts.

But you’d need to eat 10 pounds of watermelon to make it worth your while, so supplementing with it is a better option.

Anyway, L-citrulline may very well be the missing piece in your muscle-building puzzle.

In the bodybuilding world, L-citrulline is used to enhance anaerobic performance and muscle endurance during training. [1]

It also gives you MASSIVE PUMPS.

Citrulline works by converting itself into another amino acid called L-Arginine, which then boosts nitric oxide (NO) levels in the body.

Nitric oxide is a gas that dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow to your muscles.

By aiding NO production, citrulline feeds your muscles with oxygen and nutrients, effectively enhancing your performance and post-workout recovery.

What are the Benefits of L-Citrulline for Bodybuilding?

The primary benefits of L-citrulline for bodybuilding are:

  • Improved anaerobic performance
  • Enhanced endurance
  • Reduced muscle soreness and faster recovery
  • Greater pumps

That said, let’s see how those affect and benefit you.

1. Improved Anaerobic Performance

L-citrulline helps to increase athletic anaerobic performance by boosting blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

By enhancing the muscles’ ability to receive vital resources during high-intensity exercise, L-citrulline helps to delay fatigue, allowing you to perform at your best, get a few extra reps in, and potentially even lift heavier weights (although the last thing may not always hold true). [2]

In other words, you’ll smash out a more intense workout session.

2. Enhanced Endurance

L-citrulline has been shown to reduce muscle fatigue during exercise, effectively improving your stamina and endurance in the gym.

By being able to push through tough training sessions without feeling exhausted early on, you can achieve greater muscle gains.

This translates to being able to train harder for longer and seeing the results in your physique.

In other words: more volume – more results.

3. Reduced Muscle Soreness and Faster Recovery

L-citrulline helps to speed up recovery time by objectively reducing post-workout muscle soreness. [3]

And we all know how painful and pesky feeling sore is.

Thankfully, less pain means you’ll get to your optimal, ready-to-go state quicker. Meaning you will get back in the gym sooner without sacrificing your gains by not allowing your muscles to rest and recover.

4. Greater Muscle Pump

For many bodybuilders, getting a good muscle pump is a sign of a successful workout.

L-citrulline is (in)arguably the best pump booster known to mankind.

The overwhelming body of evidence found in recent years proves this without a shadow of a doubt.

As you can imagine, citrulline does this by improving vasodilation and enhancing nitric oxide levels, leading to a greater muscle pump during and after intense training.

So, you’ll be picture-ready. Don’t worry.

Does L-Citrulline Help Build Muscle Mass?

To answer simply, L-citrulline alone will not directly lead to increased muscle mass (the same way an anabolic steroid would).

However, citrulline can certainly support the muscle-building process. Sort of like a helpful tool in your muscle-building journey – not a magic solution.

That said, some studies support L-citrulline’s muscle-mass-building performance. [4]

However, the increase in skeletal muscle weight, outlined in the study above, was shown in mice, not people. So, take that as you will.

Nevertheless, if citrulline ensures you perform at your best and push through tough workout sessions – your muscles will GROW.

L-Citrulline Dosage for Bodybuilding

The recommended dose of L-citrulline (malate) for bodybuilding is 6-8 grams an hour before a workout.

However, as with any supplement, the dose will vary on several factors, mainly body weight.

In other words, an efficacious dose of L-citrulline could be 5 grams for a scrawny teen but 10 grams for a massive hunk.


One thing you must learn about L-citrulline supplements is how to dissect the label.

Let me explain.

What you’ll most often read on the label is “Citrulline Malate“. That is supposed to be a unique, chemically bonded, and very useful compound made from L-citrulline and DL-malic acid.

The problem is, this is almost never the case.

What you get instead of real citrulline malate is a simple mixture of citrulline and malic acid without the necessary chemical reaction to actually bond the two together.

This is important because an effective dose for citrulline malate is the same as for pure citrulline.

But unless there’s a chemical reaction between the two compounds, what you’re actually getting is 50% citrulline and 50% malic acid (unless the ratio states otherwise), meaning that if the label reads 6 grams of citrulline malate – you’re actually getting 3 grams of citrulline and three grams of malic acid.

It’s sad, but that’s the reality of the supplement industry.

How Long Does It Take for L-Citrulline to Have Effects?

It takes about an hour for L-citrulline to turn into L-arginine and then into nitric oxide.

So, if you take it as a part of a pre-workout, don’t expect to feel it right at the start. It’ll probably kick in once you’re 30 minutes in.

Does L-Citrulline Have Any Side Effects?

L-citrulline is considered to be very safe, with no associated side effects.

While more research is still needed to fully cement this claim, from what we know, it’s generally agreed that L-citrulline, taken at the optimal dose, is free from any short and long-term adverse effects.

Are L-Citrulline Supplements Necessary for Bodybuilding?

L-Citrulline supplements are not necessary for bodybuilding.

At the same time, L-citrulline is remarkably useful and beneficial for bodybuilding, so even if it is not necessarily necessary, you’re still better off using it than not.


All in all, L-citrulline is one of the top five supplements you could use to support your bodybuilding goals.

Falling short only to creatine, whey protein, and caffeine, L-citrulline is an incredibly potent substance, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to build some muscle.

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