We’re all looking to maximize our workout performance. You’re no different. Or maybe you’re simply curious or have a choice between citrulline vs creatine and you’re wondering what to go for.
Perhaps you’re wondering whether by combining these two supplements, you’ll achieve even greater results?
Valid questions; I’ve personally used both together and have got you covered in this post.
We’re going to look at both supplements from an evidence-based viewpoint and see what the science says they do, what they don’t do and whether they’re worth it for you.
- Citrulline and creatine supplements may both help maximize workout performance, but creatine monohydrate has a much larger body of evidence proving its efficacy.
- Citrulline increases nitric oxide production and improves blood flow.
- Creatine boosts ATP production to help with muscle contractions during intense exercise and helps improve strength, performance and muscle mass.
- Combining citrulline and creatine may lead to better results for endurance athletes, but citrulline malate likely won’t help bodybuilders trying to build muscle, unless you are training to failure while taking short rest periods (60 seconds or less).
Citrulline Vs Creatine: The Basics
Citrulline and creatine are both popular supplements. Let’s first take a surface-level glance at what these supplements are, what they do and where they come from.
Citrulline: is an amino acid found in watermelon and also made in the body, but when synthesized and taken as a supplement (the most effective form for sports performance is combining l-citrulline with malic acid to make Citrulline Malate), it may increase nitric oxide production, improve blood flow to your muscles, and enhance exercise performance in certain circumstances.
Citrulline malate can be bought as a standalone supplement or is often contained in a pre-workout supplement.
For health benefits and lowering blood pressure, there is more data on the original l-citrulline form of the supplement
Creatine: is also an amino acid that naturally occurs in meat and fish. Creatine boosts ATP production which creates more energy for muscle contractions and power output.
It is one of the most studied safe and effective supplements in fitness and is proven to increase strength, sports performance, build muscle and power. Creatine can even show benefits without working out.
The Science Behind Citrulline and Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation
To understand the science behind citrulline and creatine, you need to know how these compounds work in your body to enhance your workout performance.
Citrulline: is an amino acid that the body converts into a different amino acid, called L-arginine.
It increases nitric oxide production through increases in plasma arginine levels (to a higher degree than arginine supplementation), which improves blood flow and enhances exercise performance.
Citrulline has been shown to have positive effects on endurance performance, reducing fatigue and potentially promoting muscle pumps.
Creatine: unlike most supplements in the fitness industry, creatine has many studies and a huge body of evidence supporting its efficacy.
It is also a naturally occurring amino acid found in meat, fish and other foods, as well as produced by your body.
Around 95% of the creatine in our body is stored in our muscles as phosphocreatine.
It increases ATP production, providing energy for muscle contractions and improving muscle strength. Creatine has been proven to have positive effects on muscle strength and power.
Should You Take Citrulline and Creatine Together for Synergistic Results?
These two supplements may work together synergistically to enhance your exercise performance, but only in very specific scenarios.
The effects of citrulline include increased endurance if you are taking each weight training set to failure and only take short rest periods, but this isn’t an optimal way to train in the first place.
Here’s how citrulline and creatine may complement each other:
- Increased Nitric Oxide Production: Citrulline boosts nitric oxide production, improving blood flow and may increase your “pump” and vascularity when strength training. Creatine also keeps your muscles full by drawing in water.
- Reduced Fatigue and Muscle Soreness: Citrulline may help reduce soreness post-workout. Creatine also aids in muscle recovery, and potentially helps recover from muscle damage faster.
- Improved Health: As citrulline is shown to improve heart health, blood pressure and blood flow, taking the effective dosage of 8 grams daily (in malate form) or take 6g of l-citrulline, (split into 2g doses three times a day) may help improve your cardiovascular health outside of exercise. This could be a good reason to combine the two supplements.
Ultimately, though, there is rarely a need to combine creatine supplementation with citrulline, unless for health or sports specific scenarios.
Benefits of Citrulline For Workout Performance
Much of the evidence for citrulline malate supplementation supports the benefits for workout performance mostly in aerobic endurance sports, rather than for bodybuilding workout performance.
There are other health benefits outside of this however.
To help you understand the potential benefits of citrulline, here is a table comparing its effects with creatine:
|Improved blood flow in older adults (1)||Increased ATP production (5)|
|May reduce muscle soreness after high volume resistance training to failure (3)||Enhanced strength and power|
|May reduce blood pressure (2)||Improved muscle growth and increased muscle protein synthesis|
|May enhance grip strength in sports (4)||Improved recovery after exercise|
Cons of Citrulline Malate and Creatine
|May not have much application for bodybuilding or building muscle||Small number of the population report gastrointestinal problems with creatine|
Citrulline malate is generally considered safe, but it may have some potential side effects such as stomach upset.
As for the dosage, the recommended range is 6-8 grams per day, taken about an hour before exercise.
As always, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
Citrulline malate is not a magic pill – in fact, it’s far from it – especially for workout performance.
It’s a better supplement for health and endurance training, rather than for resistance training.
This is what Dr Eric Helms had to say about it:
if you are resting for too short of a period and taking all sets to failure then perhaps citrulline malate could be useful in order to mitigate the decrement to training volume that can occur from doing so. But it begs the question, why wouldn’t you just train properly in the first place?
Dr Eric Helms
Benefits of Creatine for Workout Performance
Creatine has numerous benefits for workout performance, including enhancing endurance at the more intense ends of your rep ranges and reducing fatigue.
When you engage in high-intensity exercises, your muscles rely on ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for energy.
Creatine helps increase ATP production, providing your muscles with more energy for contractions, which can lead to improved endurance, power output and workout performance in high-intensity scenarios like resistance training to build muscle.
Creatine has also been shown in some studies to reduce fatigue during prolonged endurance exercise, allowing you to push harder and for longer periods of time, but this research is inconsistent, currently.
Some studies also show that it provides cognitive benefits.
Choosing the Right Supplement: Citrulline or Creatine?
Choosing the right supplement out of creatine or citrulline will come down to your specific needs to achieve your goals.
If the goal is maximum power, strength and muscular hypertrophy (growth), no other natural supplement can hold a candle to creatine.
Citrulline (especially malate) is better known for its ability to increase nitric oxide production and improve blood flow, leading to enhanced performance for sports, reduced muscle soreness, and potentially increased muscle pumps.
Both supplements have their unique benefits, and they can be used together for synergistic effects, but creatine is a great supplement with more data to support its benefits for most sports situations, and I’d choose creatine monohydrate for the best value.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Any Potential Risks or Interactions When Taking Citrulline and Creatine Together?
No, both creatine and citrulline can be taken together and are often used as a pre-workout in most formulas.
Though, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to ensure complete safety if you’re unsure.
What Is the Recommended Dosage for Citrulline and Creatine Supplements?
Creatine Monohydrate Dosing: 20-25g per day for 5 days (loading phase) and then 5 grams per day (maintenance dose)
Citrulline Malate Dosing: 6-8g per day, 30-60 mins before your workout
NOTE: The ideal recommended dosage for citrulline and creatine supplements depends on individual factors such as body weight and exercise intensity.
Can Citrulline and Creatine Be Used by Both Men and Women?
Yes, both men and women can benefit from using citrulline and creatine supplements. Both genders can benefit as the effects don’t seem to be gender exclusive.
Are There Any Age Restrictions for Using Citrulline and Creatine Supplements?
There are generally no age restrictions for using citrulline and creatine supplements.
However, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects, such as stomach upset.
It’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional for advice that is relevant to your health.
We recently took a more in-depth look at whether creatine is safe for teens.
Can Citrulline and Creatine Supplements Be Taken on an Empty Stomach or Should They Be Consumed With Food?
There is no evidence that creatine or citrulline supplementation should be consumed with food for best results.
Some people may find taking micronized creatine vs normal creatine monohydrate also helps with stomach issues.
Timing-wise, creatine can be taking any time, compared to citrulline where taking a dose around 60 minutes pre workout is key for optimal benefits.
Conclusion and My Thoughts
Incorporating citrulline and creatine supplements into your workout routine may enhance your performance and results. I’ve used both together in the past.
But looking at all of the data and in my experience, there’s no need to combine the two supplements for a bodybuilder.
The combination may be a great addition if you’re looking to take something to help with cardiovascular health, namely reducing blood pressure. The combo of creatine and citrulline may also help with your grip strength and perceived exertion levels in some sports but the jury is out.
Citrulline improves blood flow and may reduce muscle soreness.
It has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes and widens blood vessels, leading to improved circulation.
This increased blood flow can deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, helping them perform better and recover faster.
However, studies are limited and more need to surface to be absolutely sure.
On the other hand, creatine is a naturally occurring compound that plays a crucial role in energy production. It has thousands of studies showing its benefits and I’d put it up there as an essential supplement.
It increases the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary source of energy for muscle contractions. By increasing ATP production, creatine improves strength, power, and muscle growth.
As a result, taking creatine while cutting can also help preserve strength, and therefore, your muscle mass while you lose fat.
It also helps to replenish ATP stores during intense exercise, allowing you to maintain high levels of performance for longer durations.
(1) Gonzales, J.U., Raymond, A., Ashley, J. and Kim, Y. (2017), Does l-citrulline supplementation improve exercise blood flow in older adults?. Exp Physiol, 102: 1661-1671. https://doi.org/10.1113/EP086587
(2) Allerton TD, Proctor DN, Stephens JM, Dugas TR, Spielmann G, Irving BA. l-Citrulline Supplementation: Impact on Cardiometabolic Health. Nutrients. 2018 Jul 19;10(7):921. doi: 10.3390/nu10070921. PMID: 30029482; PMCID: PMC6073798.
(3) Pérez-Guisado, Joaquín1; Jakeman, Philip M2. Citrulline Malate Enhances Athletic Anaerobic Performance and Relieves Muscle Soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(5):p 1215-1222, May 2010. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0
(4) Jordan M. Glenn, Michelle Gray, Austen Jensen, Matthew S. Stone & Jennifer L. Vincenzo (2016) Acute citrulline-malate supplementation improves maximal strength and anaerobic power in female, masters athletes tennis players, European Journal of Sport Science, 16:8, 1095-1103, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2016.1158321
(5) Mujika I, Padilla S. Creatine supplementation as an ergogenic aid for sports performance in highly trained athletes: a critical review. Int J Sports Med. 1997 Oct;18(7):491-6. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-972670. PMID: 9414070.