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Natural therapies support athletic performance and provide sustained benefits for exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One study vouches for the combination of L-citrulline and L-arginine in powering up collegiate soccer players' cycling performance
Your body demands amino acids for its normal functioning. These amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins, and both amino acids and proteins are considered the building blocks of life.[i] One type of these "building blocks" are nonessential amino acids, which means your body is able to produce them even if you do not get them from your food.
Two examples of nonessential amino acids are L-citrulline and L-arginine, the central subjects in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Oral L-citrulline increases blood concentrations of L-arginine, which then leads to enhanced nitric oxide production.[ii]
Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, potentially improving athletic performance.[iii] It is deemed a potential modulator of blood flow, muscle energy metabolism and mitochondrial respiration during exercise.[iv]
Study Findings: The Citrulline-Arginine Duo
With the belief that the combination of the two amino acids immediately as well as synergistically ups blood levels of arginine and nitrate more than either of them alone, researchers assessed their combined effects on 10-minute cycling performance among 24 male soccer players.
The participants consumed either citrulline and arginine or placebo, worth 1.2 grams (g) per day each, for six days. On the seventh day, the citrulline and arginine group took the formula an hour before undergoing a 10-minute full power pedaling test on a bicycle ergometer.
The researchers measured the subjects' plasma nitric oxide and amino acid levels before and after the cycling test, and also gauged their subjective view of physical exertion.
Based on the results, seven days of ingesting the citrulline-arginine formula improved the male collegiate soccer players' 10-minute cycling performance, as well as their perception of physical exertion. Plasma concentrations of post-exercise nitric oxide, citrulline and arginine, along with overall power output, were significantly higher in the citrulline-arginine group. This segment also had better post-exercise perception of leg muscle soreness and ease of pedaling.
Natural Boosters of Sports Performance
A previous study highlighted similar outcomes, where L-citrulline supplementation alone substantially increased blood levels of L-arginine and reduced completion time of a cycling task compared with placebo.[v] It also improved subjective feelings of muscle fatigue and concentration immediately post-exercise.
There are plenty of other non-drug, non-invasive performance boosters known to athletes and physically active individuals, including Pycnogenol, the patented extract from the French maritime pine tree developed by a European firm.
In an Italian study, Pycnogenol takers enhanced their running times and the number of pushups and situps they could perform. The athletes' oxidative stress levels were also significantly lower.[vi]
Research also backs beet juice as a surefire way to enhance elite athletic performance -- and even everyday function among those who are not planning to join the Tour de France, including the elderly or patients with heart or lung conditions wanting to live a more active life.
Exercise itself is a powerhouse of health benefits, especially in its ability to minimize and even reverse age-associated declines in mitochondrial function.[vii] This is a huge wellness perk, as the health of your mitochondria affects every cell, tissue and organ in your body.
[ii] Suzuki I et al "A combination of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine improved 10-min full-power cycling test performance in male collegiate soccer players: a randomized crossover trial" Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019 May;119(5):1075-1084. Epub 2019 Feb 16.
[iii] Suzuki I et al "A combination of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine improved 10-min full-power cycling test performance in male collegiate soccer players: a randomized crossover trial" Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019 May;119(5):1075-1084. Epub 2019 Feb 16.
[iv] Suzuki T et al "Oral L-citrulline supplementation enhances cycling time trial performance in healthy trained men: Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled 2-way crossover study" J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 Feb 19;13:6. eCollection 2016.
[v] Suzuki T et al "Oral L-citrulline supplementation enhances cycling time trial performance in healthy trained men: Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled 2-way crossover study" J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 Feb 19;13:6. eCollection 2016.
[vi] Vinciguerra G, Belcaro G, Bonanni E, Cesarone MR, Rotondi V, Ledda A, Hosoi M, Dugall M, Cacchio M, Cornelli U. "Evaluation of the effects of supplementation with Pycnogenol® on fitness in normal subjects with the Army Physical Fitness Test and in performances of athletes in the 100-minute triathlon" J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Dec;53(6):644-54.
[vii] Koltai E et al "Age-associated Declines in Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Protein Quality Control Factors Are Minimized by Exercise Training" Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Jul 15;303(2):R127-34. Epub 2012 May 9.