A Holistic Approach for Pre-Workouts: Citrulline

Proactivity is often the catalyst for achieving mediocre or extraordinary results. When purchasing a pre-workout either online or at the nearest supplement store you know you are set for the subsequent few weeks. However, once you start building a tolerance or realize you purchased a mediocre product, the need for proactivity and awareness is augmented. We are all aware of the synergistic impact of the ingredients in a pre-workout. However, some people forget these ingredients can also be consumed from a dietary regimen. If you browse the internet and compare the supplement facts label on each pre-workout, you will see many similarities but differences as well. All products, whether it is non-stimulant, high stimulant, or anything in between, were created for a particular market. If you review the price of supplements, you will see it distributed between a specific range. Some may choose the lowest priced pre-workout while others will purchase one from their favorite company or sponsored athlete. A few, however, will conceptualize the ingredient composition of their pre-workout and make dietary modifications to optimize the potency of their product in order to have a successful workout.

If we take a pyramid, layer it into three, and jot the value of sports nutrition strategies, you would first place a dietary regimen as the foundation. On the next layer, would be the benefits of using sports bars or drinks, and at the top, you would finally see the ergogenic aids seen in pre-workouts. Now, taking a step back from the pyramid, one can conclude that ergogenic aids are the least valuable of the three layers as they are only intended to supplement a dietary and exercise regimen. However, note that this relationship is reversible; meaning your dietary regimen can complement your pre-workout as well, by supplying it with effective ingredients.

If you look at the supplement facts label on pre-workouts, you will likely see arginine and Citrulline either as a regular non-essential amino acid or in a modified form. Both ingredients act as ammonia detoxifiers and nitric oxide synthesizers. They have been marketed to promote vasodilation, nutrient and oxygen delivery, and endurance. Unfortunately, research on arginine is not convincing as the literature has shown mixed results. Arginine has a low bioavailability because it is metabolized extensively in the small intestine and extra-intestinal tissues [1]. As a result, the supplement industry has created new modified forms of arginine to increase bioavailability. However, the literature remains finite, and their conclusions remain equivocal. For this reason, companies have gravitated towards Citrulline which is a precursor to arginine. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study, Citrulline has shown to reduce blood pressure, speed VO2 kinetics, and enhance endurance exercise performance [2]. Further, the development of Citrulline malate has also caused the supplement industry to reformulate their products. The addition of malate, an intermediate component of the tricarboxylic acid cycle, now augments our muscle’s ability to generate energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate [3].

If your pre-workout contains minimal amounts of Citrulline, another way to obtain this amino acid is from your dietary regimen. Watermelon is the most concentrated food source of Citrulline. If you want to increase your intake of Citrulline, watermelon is a suitable source. Often when you switch between pre-workouts, for one reason or another, one product has less Citrulline than the other. Therefore, you will be interested to know that yellow or orange fleshed watermelons provide more Citrulline than red fleshed watermelons [4]. Further, keep in mind that the majority of Citrulline in watermelon is located on the rind. The rind by itself may not taste well, but by blending the rind with lime, you can increase its palatability and reap the benefits of Citrulline.

Overall, the abundance of supplement companies in the industry has increased the likelihood you will try several pre-workouts. As a result, you can decrease your average consumption of vital ingredients such as Citrulline. If you want to stay consistent, then proactivity is essential. In the case of Citrulline, consuming yellow or orange fleshed watermelons and their rind can keep your Citrulline intake consistent. If you are not a fan of watermelon or lack proactivity, then picking a pre-workout with the proper ergogenic aids is mandatory. When you switch pre-workouts, I encourage you to look at the supplement facts label to ensure you are either not getting a proprietary blend or getting short changed on Citrulline. By just understanding the ingredient content on your pre-workout, you will not only save a few dollars but increase the intensity of your workout and optimize your gains.


By: Robert E. Salazar MS (candidate), RD


  1. Luiking, Y.C., et al., Arginine de novo and nitric oxide production in disease states. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2012. 303(10): p. E1177-89.
  2. Bailey, S.J., et al., l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985), 2015. 119(4): p. 385-95.
  3. Giannesini, B., et al., Citrulline malate supplementation increases muscle efficiency in rat skeletal muscle. Eur J Pharmacol, 2011. 667(1-3): p. 100-4.
  4. Rimando, A.M. and P.M. Perkins-Veazie, Determination of citrulline in watermelon rind. J Chromatogr A, 2005. 1078(1-2): p. 196-200.

Science & Fitness Tech Editor
Science & Fitness Tech Editor for RESULTS Magazine.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply