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How Citrulline and Arginine Work to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels

Nitric-oxide-boosting supplements, such as citrulline and arginine are among the most popular types of supplements today. One of the reasons is that they improve exercise performance for many athletes and gym enthusiasts.

The other reason is that they improve sexual function in men and women who struggle with mild to moderate sexual dysfunction. Obviously sexual performance, sport performance and exercise are areas of great interest in a large proportion of the population globally.

The fact that these supplements also reduce blood pressure, prevent heart disease, improve digestive health, boost immune system function, improve memory function and help to manage symptoms of arthritis, also increases their popularity.

Nitric oxide is an invisible odorless gas that is produced in almost every cell in the body. One of its roles in the body is to relax muscles and the inner muscles of the blood vessels.

This helps the blood vessels to dilate freely, enabling blood to move freely, bringing much-needed oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body.

With every cell in the body functioning well, every organ and part of the body functions optimally. Nitric oxide also reduces inflammation, a condition that affects many parts of the body in many people.

When something interferes with your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide, you can tell by the way your sexual function is affected.

Sexual dysfunction is the first indicator that you have insufficient NO, because the muscles and blood vessels in the sexual organs are not sufficiently relaxed to become engorged with blood.

Other indicators which follow are the gradual increase in blood pressure and episodes of forgetfulness. With time, more serious problems develop such as heart disease, diabetes, memory loss, more serious sexual dysfunction, arthritis, poor immune function and development of other chronic diseases.

These conditions can be reversed by deliberately increasing the production of nitric oxide in the body.

How citrulline and arginine boost nitric oxide levels

You can improve the production of nitric oxide in the body by taking supplements that contain the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. You can achieve the same effects by eating protein foods such as dairy products, red meat, turkey, nuts, watermelon, fish, chicken, and soya beans. These foods contain either L-citrulline or L-arginine or both.

One of the ways in which the body produces nitric oxide is a process known as the L-arginine-NO pathway in which it produces L-citrulline as a by-product. It also produces nitric oxide indirectly by changing L-citrulline into L-arginine and nitric oxide in the kidneys.

From there, a cycle develops in which the L-arginine is re-used to make nitric oxide and L-citrulline, and the L-citrulline is recycled to make nitric oxide and L-arginine.

Benefits of boosting nitric oxide levels

As we mentioned above, L-arginine and L-citrulline supplements have become very popular because they improve sport performance. That is because when they are taken, they help to increase the production of nitric oxide all over the body.

Increased nitric oxide relaxes muscles and blood vessels, enables blood vessels to dilate, and enables blood to flow properly. Increased blood in the muscles enables the muscles to work more efficiently, improving sports performance.

L-citrulline has been proven effective in this regard but L-arginine hasn’t been found to be that effective, maybe because it is metabolized before it gets into the bloodstream.

In athletes and gym enthusiasts, muscle soreness is common 24-72 hours after strenuous exercise. Luckily, citrulline malate, a form of L-citrulline, increases nitric oxide production and effectively decreases muscle soreness, enabling sports people to recover fast.

L-citrulline has been found to increase sexual performance by increasing nitric oxide production which then increases blood flow into the sexual organs. This enables women to be aroused enough to perform sexual intercourse. It also enables men to have a firm erection and maintain it long enough to complete the sexual act.

For people with memory problems, increased production of nitric oxide in the brain improves the flow of blood into the brain. This awakens the memory center. By taking the supplements, people have managed to remember facts, people and events more.

For people in arthritis, increased production of nitric oxide relieves the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.

For people with low immunity, L-arginine and L-citrulline increase production of nitric oxide, and the nitric oxide increases the ability of the body to fight off infections and destroy cancer cells. The actual mechanism in which the nitric oxide works is not easy to explain. What is important is that it works.

In people with type 2 diabetes, L-citrulline and L-arginine are used by the body to increase production of citric oxide. The nitric oxide increases insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. This can reverse or prevent type 2 diabetes.

In people with high blood pressure, L-arginine and L-citrulline increase nitric oxide production. The increased NO relaxes blood vessels, prevents white blood cells from sticking to the walls of the blood vessels and prevents blood platelets from clumping together.

This effectively reduces blood pressure and prevents plaque formation. The lower blood pressure and the improved carotid artery blood flow together effectively improve heart health. Even pregnant women with high blood pressure can reduce their blood pressure by taking L-arginine.

In people with digestive health problems, L-arginine and L-citrulline protect the gut from damage normally caused by NSAIDs, help ulcers to heal and reduce inflammation.

Boost nitric oxide levels with citrulline and arginine

L-arginine and L-citrulline are amino acids that are produced in the body. In case of shortage, they are available in many foods. If all is well, you would be wise to eat some of these foods regularly.

However, if you have a health problem, you can take these amino acids in the form of supplements. Whether taken through food or supplements, the amino acids are used by the body to produce nitric oxide.

Then the nitric oxide will reverse your current health problem and benefit in many other ways.




1. Citrulline converts to Arginine in the body: When ingested, Citrulline is converted into Arginine in the kidneys, which then increases the overall availability of Arginine for nitric oxide production.

2. Arginine is a precursor for nitric oxide synthesis: Arginine is the primary substrate used by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS) to produce nitric oxide, a potent vasodilator.

3. Increased blood flow from vasodilation: The production of nitric oxide from Arginine leads to the relaxation of blood vessels, increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles and organs.

4. Improved exercise performance: Increased nitric oxide levels have been linked to enhanced exercise performance, as better blood flow allows for more efficient oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles.

5. Synergistic effects of Citrulline and Arginine supplementation: Combining both Citrulline and Arginine supplements may lead to more significant increases in nitric oxide levels, as they work together in the production process.

6. Enhanced nutrient absorption: Higher nitric oxide levels can improve the absorption of nutrients and amino acids, promoting muscle growth and recovery.

7. Reduced muscle fatigue: Increased nitric oxide levels help to reduce muscle fatigue by enhancing blood flow and oxygen delivery, allowing muscles to work more efficiently during exercise.

8. Improved cardiovascular health: Nitric oxide has been shown to have positive effects on cardiovascular health, as it helps to relax blood vessels, reduce blood pressure, and decrease arterial plaque.

9. Enhanced sexual function: Increased nitric oxide levels have been linked to improved erectile function, as nitric oxide plays a crucial role in the dilation of blood vessels necessary for erections.

10. Improved immune system function: Nitric oxide has antimicrobial properties and helps to regulate the immune system, enhancing the body's ability to fight off infections and maintain overall health.

Nitric Oxide Information

For more everything you need to know about nitric oxide and the role it plays in the human body, check out our comprehensive information page here.

Nitric Oxide Information

Nitric Oxide

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Ron Goedeke MD, BSc Hons MBChB, FNZCAM

Dr. Ron Goedeke, an expert in the domain of functional medicine, dedicates his practice to uncovering the root causes of health issues by focusing on nutrition and supplement-based healing and health optimisation strategies. An esteemed founding member of the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine, Dr. Goedeke's professional journey has always been aligned with cutting-edge health concepts.

Having been actively involved with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 1999, he brings over two decades of knowledge and experience in the field of anti-aging medicine, making him an eminent figure in this evolving realm of healthcare. Throughout his career, Dr. Goedeke has been steadfast in his commitment to leverage appropriate nutritional guidance and supplementation to encourage optimal health.

This has allowed him to ascend as one of the most trusted authorities in the arena of nutritional medicine in New Zealand. His expertise in the intricate relationship between diet, nutritional supplements, and overall health forms the backbone of his treatment approach, allowing patients to benefit from a balanced and sustainable pathway to improved wellbeing.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your health. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have heard or read on this website.

Last updated on the 1st of May 2023

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