L-citrulline reduces time to exhaustion and insulin response to a graded exercise test

Robert C Hickner, Charles J Tanner, Chris A Evans, Paige D Clark, Amy Haddock, Chris Fortune, Heather Geddis, William Waugh, Michael McCammon
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2006, 38 (4): 660-6

PURPOSE: Oral L-arginine supplementation has been shown to improve treadmill time to exhaustion and resting insulin sensitivity in individuals with peripheral vascular disease and type 2 diabetes, respectively. Furthermore, L-citrulline supplementation increases plasma L-arginine concentration to a level higher than that achieved by oral L-arginine supplementation. The purpose of this investigation was therefore to determine whether time to exhaustion during a graded treadmill test, as well as plasma insulin and glucose profiles, could be improved with oral L-citrulline supplementation in healthy individuals.

METHODS: Seventeen young (18-34 yr), healthy male and female volunteers performed incremental treadmill tests to exhaustion following either placebo or citrulline ingestion (3 g 3 h before test, or 9 g over 24 h prior to testing).

RESULTS: Steady-state submaximal respiratory exchange ratio and VO2max were not significantly different between placebo and citrulline trials. Treadmill time to exhaustion was lower following citrulline ingestion than during placebo trials (888.2 +/- 17.7 vs 895.4 +/- 17.9 s; P < 0.05; N = 17), which was accompanied by a higher rating of perceived exertion during exercise in the L-citrulline compared with the placebo condition. There was also an increase in plasma insulin in response to this high-intensity exercise in the placebo, but not in the L-citrulline, condition (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: It can be concluded that, contrary to the hypothesized improvement in treadmill time following L-citrulline ingestion, there is a reduction in treadmill time following L-citrulline ingestion over the 24 h prior to testing. The normal response of increased plasma insulin following high-intensity exercise is also not present in the L-citrulline condition, indicating that L-citrulline ingestion may reduce nitric oxide-mediated pancreatic insulin secretion or increased insulin clearance.

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