Everything you need to know about Pure Citrulline vs Citrulline Malate

L-Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid, which basically means it's not needed in our diet. However, if your a bodybuilder or someone who weight trains it has been found to be very effective at improving blood flow. Therefore supplementing with it before and during training will enhance your workout.

However, no doubt you have seen different forms of citrulline and wondered which is better? Pure L-Citrulline or Citrulline Malate? To answer this question you first need to understand how citrulline works in the body.

How does citrulline work?

When we take L-Citrulline, it bypasses the liver and gut wall before being transformed into L-Arginine, making it a precursor to L-Arginine. You want an increase in L-Arginine levels because this leads to an increase in nitric oxide which means faster vasodilation, leading to improved blood flow to your muscles.

By increasing blood flow you should feel less fatigued as more oxygen and nutrients are available. While fresh oxygen and nutrients are available the L-Citrulline will also delay the build-up of lactic acid, that pesky set ending burn!

So why not simply take L-Arginine?

We get that question all the time at Cardiff Sports Nutrition. Studies have found that 75% of supplemented L-Citrulline reaches the bloodstream as opposed to 40% of orally ingested L-Arginine – that's a gigantic difference, so it wouldn't make sense to supplement with L-arginine.

It does this as L-Citrulline doesn't get broken down in the liver, it avoids it all together whereas- L-Arginine does.

L Citrulline vs Citrulline Malate

The benefits of Citrulline are undeniable from both a performance and bioavailability perspective, but which form of L-Citrulline is best? Citrulline Malate is a popular choice used by manufacturers due to the fact that it is a cheaper option, but CSN highly recommends Pure Citrulline for these reasons.

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1) More Active Ingredient

Pure Citrulline provides 100% of the active ingredient. Most supplements will use Citrulline Malate, which is formulated in a 1:1 ratio with Malic Acid (some are even 2:1). This means that a dose of 6g of Citrulline Malate equates to only 3g of actual L-Citrulline, accompanied by 3g of Malic Acid. On the other hand, if you were to consume 6g of Pure Citrulline you will get the full 6g – twice as much L-Citrulline as opposed to the same serving size of Citrulline Malate.

Why is this done? Basically, it’s cheaper for a supplement company to use Citrulline Malate because it only has half the active ingredient compared to Pure Citrulline (do not let them convince you otherwise!).

2) Malate is less expensive than pure citrulline

So, gram-for-gram citrulline malate costs far less to formulate. This is likely why many supplement companies promote the use of citrulline malate over citrulline: It increases profit margins by basically diluting the most expensive (and active) ingredient L-citrulline.

3) No studies backing up Malic Acid

There are no human exercise studies that have directly evaluated and compared the performance benefits of supplementing citrulline malate versus pure L-citrulline. In fact, there are no compelling exercise studies showing that malate, on its own, provides an ergogenic effect whatsoever.

So, when companies and “experts” make claims that citrulline malate provides greater citrulline-based performance enhancements over pure L-citrulline, they are simply making this up! Think about it, if malate does provide performance benefits, why not just formulate it as a separate ingredient and list exactly how much L-citrulline and malate the product has per serving? Almost no product does that because, to date, malate has no proven benefits for supporting muscle building.

Fermented Versus Non-Fermented or Synthetic

Pure Citrulline is fermented from vegetables rather than the more commonly used synthetic or animal byproduct alternatives. The methods used to source and process any supplement is extremely important for the health of the athlete. When companies are transparent with these factors, it gives the end-user the opportunity to decide if the product is right for them and what they want to put into their body.

Purity and quality

When comparing Pure Citrulline to the Citrulline Malate alternatives, it’s easy to see the difference in purity. Pure Citrulline is non-GMO and gluten-free. It’s also excipient-free, meaning it contains no fillers or synthetic additions. These are often used to “glue” supplements together. It’s also certified to be free of potentially harmful BSE/TSE agents.


You would be forgiven to think pure Citrulline and Citrulline Malate are both L-Citrulline supplements, but from this article hopefully, CSN has made it clear to see that there’s a vast difference between the two when it comes to quality. By being more informed with the supplements you buy, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision – for your performance as well as your health!

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