Once again we find ourselves here discussing performance supplementation for hockey athletes. As I’ve stated several times in the past, the majority of supplementation currently available on the market just comes up short within the research and offers almost zero benefit to performance or body composition progress.
Supplementation should have well-controlled research, plenty of compelling evidence and also a research consensus among top professionals. This eliminates 90%+ of supplementation currently on the market and beyond this, we then have to look at the demands of the sport, the dose of the ingredient and the safety of use. While one supplement may be good for one athlete in marathon running, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is also conducive towards hockey performance.
Before moving on, I highly recommend (if you need a refresher) checking out my Top 10 supplement research tips I discussed in my previous “Top 3 supplements for hockey” blog. Understanding and putting these tips into practice allows you the athlete to cut through the crap and find what’s legitimately worth your time and money. It should also be stated as well, before the dissection of Citrulline malate, that although supplementation can and does have its place within sports science, its’ effectiveness towards body composition and performance is a detail in comparison to your daily diet.
An average athlete can become a better athlete with a good diet, but a good athlete can also become an average athlete should he/she choose to eat poorly.
Now that the air’s cleared, let’s discuss what Citrulline malate actually is and have an unbiased look at the research to see what we can make of it.
What is Citrulline Malate?
Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid that plays a role in the detoxification of ammonia through the urea cycle. Ammonia accumulation within the body is a direct cause of muscular fatigue, thus, the more efficient the detoxification pathway (urea cycle) functions the greater potential endurance benefits one can receive during exercise.
Malate on the other hand plays a key role in the production of ATP (energy), but also acts to shuttle accumulated lactate produced from exercise back into the mitochondria to produce more energy. Here we hit two birds with one stone, less lactate + turning that lactate into an effective energy source to fuel activity.
Understanding the function between those two components, you can begin to see why it would seem advantageous for sports athletes to create and combine the two into Citrulline malate. So far we have detoxification of ammonia improving time to fatigue alongside more ATP and less lactate. Seems like a heck of a good option so far.
In addition to the above, Citrulline malate as a combination also effectively works to act as a precursor for arginine production within the body. When the body creates its own arginine, this can increase nitric oxide production which then brings about all sorts of athletic benefit potential including improved blood flow, improved delivery of nutrients to working muscles, improved delivery of fatigue producing by-products out of the cell and improved energy production. It’s also important to note here that Citrulline malate out performs even arginine in this area for improving arginine levels within the body. In a similar scenario, the whole mechanism for beta alanine’s effectiveness is due to its ability to raise carnosine levels within the body more effectively than actually just taking carnosine. Pre-cursors FTW.
Another potential benefit is through the potential suppression of bacterial endotoxins. Endotoxicity has been linked to fatigue and Citrulline malate has some promise to show benefit in this area, although there isn’t much to be said about it at this point in time.
Now this all sounds fantastic right? Why wouldn’t we take it?
Well, functions that happen within the body under normal circumstances during exercise don’t necessarily become enhanced due to oral ingestion of a certain nutrient. For example, ATP is the energy currency of the body. We break all nutrients down to it to perform our given physical activity, although, supplementing with it has come up quite weak within the research.
What does this mean?
Dietary supplementation doesn’t always get to where we want it to or do what we want it to due to the multiple pathways it must go through and the degradation that occurs within the stomach during digestion.
So what can we do?
We can have a look at some research and see what we come up with.
Bendahan et al conducted a study utilizing 6g Citrulline malate daily for 15 days which resulted in a 34% increase in the rate of aerobic energy during exercise (remember lactate redistribution discussed above?), and a 20% increase in the replenishment of phosphocreatine after exercise. Additionally, subjects reported feeling much less fatigue. Although it must be somewhat amusingly noted that this study was conducted performing finger exercises. Nevertheless, at least it’s positive.
Perez-Guisado and Jakeman tested 8g Citrulline malate on the performance on some chest work (4 sets incline barbell, 4 sets incline DB fly, 4 sets barbell chest press). The Citrulline malate group outperformed the control group by 59% more total repetitions performed. On top of this, the Citrulline malate group also saw a greater reduction in soreness. Although, 15% of Citrulline malate users reported stomach discomfort. Cost / benefit looks pretty good to me?
Lastly since I don’t want to bore you guys to death with study after study (although this could go on a while), Sureda et al found with cyclists consuming 6g Citrulline malate 2 hours prior to exercise that this effectively raised arginine concentrations within the body (chalk one up for nitric oxide) but also raised growth hormone levels within the body beyond the control group. Although no actual performance parameters were measured here, still pretty good to see this stuff come through.
As a fun fact, Citrulline malate has also been used pharmaceutically in Spain for the treatment of asthenia, which is a condition typically characterized by weakness or loss of strength. Although this says nothing of its effects towards the athletic population, you now can effectively be as socially awkward as me when the topic of Citrulline comes up between you and your friends. You’re welcome.
Finally, it’s important to note Hickner et al actually found Citrulline to actually decrease performance by reducing time to fatigue in a treadmill test, so take from that what you will.
Is Citrulline Malate Beneficial For Hockey Players?
Although I feel Citrulline malate is very promising, I also feel beta alanine, electrolytes, carb powder, whey protein, casein protein and creatine monohydrate have more compelling evidence towards body composition and performance.
Having said that, I still feel it holds leaps and bounds more supporting research than the many compounds that are out there on the market that did not make it on this list. Citrulline malate has some very good research behind it and I feel has some great applicability towards the hockey population.
Citrulline has also shown some great merit in its ability to re-synthesize ATP (energy) by increasing lactate reabsorption. What we get there is 2 birds with 1 stone, more energy and less lactate accumulation. Beyond this, Citrulline offers two more relevant benefits towards hockey athletes and that is increasing your ability to utilize BCAA’s and detoxifying ammonia. It is able to support detoxification of ammonia through its activity within the urea cycle, long story short, ammonia activates phosphofructokinase and prevents the conversion of pyruvate to Acetyl-CoA. Thus, leading to a decrease ATP production increasing the rate at which you fatigue.
Lots of benefits to be had here, the recommended dose is 6g total per day and best taken in the pre and post workout window.
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