Is C4 Pre-Workout Good?

“America’s #1 selling pre-workout since 2014” is packaged in a big, bulky container designed to instantly and effectively evoke images of strength and masculinity, but does Cellucor’s C4 pre-workout range do what it says on the tin? That is, does C4 pre-workout give you explosive energy, heightened focus, and an overwhelming urge to tackle any challenge? 

In short, is C4 pre-workout any good, and does it actually offer benefits that an extra-strong double espresso can’t, or is this popular pre-workout all marketing and very little content?

Also, you’re not crazy, there ARE a million variants of this “OG” pre-workout that have been brought to market over the years. While some have been discontinued there are still 7 or so variations of the original C4 blend available out there and we break down the primary differences between those as well.

C4 Preworkouts compared

What Is C4 Pre-Workout?

Any fitness enthusiast will tell you that maximizing your performance at the gym depends on so much more than the time you actually spend working out. To boost your strength and endurance and exceed your personal fitness goals, working out has to become not an activity, but a lifestyle. That starts before you hit the gym and stays with you all through the day. 

Healthy and targeted nutrition is one of the key parts of getting results at the gym, and pre-workout supplements have become an integral part of helping serious athletes boost their energy, strength, focus, and endurance — and making the recovery period smoother, too.

C4 pre-workout, designed by Cellucor, is undoubtedly one of the biggest, meanest, dogs in the pre-workout game. The company’s success was largely fueled by a single product, which used to simply be called “C4 Pre Workout”. As Cellucor expanded its product range, this pre-workout, still among the most popular, was renamed to C4 Original.

This C4 Original was joined by a whole selection of other C4 products that cater to specific demographics, which we’ll take a closer look at in a sec. Know, though, that any time you hear someone talk about “C4” or “C4 pre-workout”, they’re probably referring to the OG pre-workout formula. 

So, Is C4 Pre-Workout Any Good?

Spoiler alert: C4 might have an elite marketing department on its side, but it isn’t the best pre-workout supplement on the market today.

To elaborate, we’ll have to take an in-depth look at C4 Original’s ingredient list. Cellucor doesn’t make this easy, because its claims to have created a “proprietary blend” means that the company can get around the transparency most athletes would prefer. We do know that C4 Original contains, in every scoop:

  • 1.5 grams of beta-alanine.
  • 1 gram of creatine nitrate.
  • 1 gram of arginine AKG.
  • A whopping 741 mg of an undefined explosive energy blend — all we know for sure is that vitamin C is the most prominent part of this blend, though nobody can say for sure how much of this mix is simply vitamin C.
  • 150 mg of caffeine, or nearly half of the upper daily limit for safe consumption, but still much less than most other pre-workouts.
  • An undefined amount of teacrine, a natural substance to boost concentration.

If you are looking for more efficaciously dosed pre-workouts we recommend the following articles:

What does C4 Original offer you? Yes, it’s going to boost your performance and energy levels — but any serious athlete who’s tried both C4 and other premium products will tell you that this pre-workout is mediocre at best. Some go so far as to call it awful… in decidedly less polite terms. 

The Different Members of the C4 Workout Range: Which Might Be Best for You?

As well as the original C4 pre-workout formula, C4 now manufactures a range of products. Folks who are wondering which C4 is “best” should know that there’s no such thing. There’s only “best for you”. So let’s take a look at your options:

  • C4 Original is, at its core, designed for two sets of people: fitness beginners who are just experimenting with pre-workouts and who’ve fallen for the marketing hype, and hobby athletes who want a little bit of a boost, but nothing too strong.
  • C4 Ripped is best for people whose primary goal at the gym is fat burning.
  • C4 Ultimate is a more potent version of C4 original, and the best of the range for athletes who need a stronger dose for better performance. This pre-workout comes closest to the other premium choices in the industry.
  • C4 Sport is designed for competitive players who won’t be able to use all common pre-workout ingredients without getting into trouble. Like the original C4 Sport, C4 Ripped Sport offers the additional benefit of conjugated linoleic acid for extra fat burning, as well as additional energy boosters.
  • C4 Ultimate Shred contains ingredients to boost fat burning.
  • C4 Extreme is another stronger option. 
  • C4 Gummies are one of the most innovative delivery systems and a wonderful idea because having the ability to mix a powdered PWO with cold water in a cup/shaker is not always convenient. We wish more companies would develop different creative options like these gummies, which everywhere we check seem to be sold out or maybe even discontinued. We will check back if we see these re-released because they’re probably the coolest C4 product to come out in a while..
benefits of caffeine on workout

What Are the Best Alternatives to C4 Pre-Workout?

Looking for something a little more balanced and with more effective quantities of active ingredients? Congratulations, you’re ready to graduate to the world of big-boy/big-girl PWOs..

C4 pre-workout might give you the extra push you’re after if you’re a beginner. More serious athletes or bodybuilders will almost certainly crave a stronger pre-workout formula, though, and two of the best on the market are:

GAT Sport NITRAFLEX is a mighty pre-workout formula that offers 300 mg of caffeine per serving, much higher doses of L-citrulline, nitrosigine, and beta-alanine than you’ll find it many other products, and uniquely, boron citrate to boost your testosterone levels. NITRAFLEX is a bodybuilder favorite for good reason, and it’s available in multiple flavors as well as in single-serve bottles. From first hand experience this is one of the most intense PWOs we’ve tried.

Bucked Up - Woke - HIGH STIM Pre Workout - Best Tasting - Focus Nootropic, Pump, Strength and Growth, 30 Servings (Strawberry Kiwi)
  • HIGH STIM FORMULA - 333mg of Caffeine (About 4 Cups of Coffee) to Boost Energy and Maximize your Workout. 2 Additional Stimulants: Theobromine (Jumpstart your Brain & Improve Motivation) Huperzine A (Next-Level Focus). 3.2 Grams of Beta Alanine to reduce...

Bucked Up WOKE is a relatively new comer to the preworkout space but has quickly developed a pretty passionate and loyal following, no doubt in part to their very generous dosages of all the key ingredients that bodybuilders love including a whopping 333mg of caffeine (equal to 4 cups of coffee), a solid 6,000mg of Citrulline Malate in a 2:1 ratio, 3,200mg of that itch-inducing beta-alanine, with some theobromine, alpha GPC, Tuarine, AstraGin, ActiGin, and Huperzine A thrown in for good measure.

Genius Pre Workout Powder, Grape Limeade - All-Natural Nootropic Pre-workout & Caffeine-Free Nitric Oxide Booster Supplement with Beta Alanine & Alpha GPC - No Artificial Flavors, Sweeteners, or Dyes
  • Mind-to-Muscle Pre-Workout: Genius Pre by The Genius Brand is a stimulant-free, nootropics-based pre- workout. Get your muscles into pump mode, support your endurance, and reduce muscle soreness after exercise with clean, scientifically-backed...

Genius Nootropic Pre Workout is one of our favorite pre-workouts because unlike many other properly dosed PWOs this one swaps the caffeine bast for a kick in the brain a-la taurine, HICA, theobromine, Huperzine A, and Rhodiola Rosea. That’s all on top of 6g of citulline malate, 2g of beta-alanine, and 2g of betaine anhydrous. In our experience it’s usually priced noticeably cheaper than many similarly dosed PWOs of similar caliber.

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Transparent Labs Stim-Free is the only transparent labelled caffeine free PWO that can compete with the above mentioned Genius nootropic PWO. The Transparent Labs offering is noticeably more expensive but includes 4g of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio, 4g of beta-alanine, and 2.5g of Betaine Anhydrous. There’s also some relatively unique additions in the form of choline bitartrate, elevATP, mucuna pruriens (I-dopa), and l-norvaline. We love what Transparent Labs is doing in going all in as the leader of transparent labelled PWOs with truly unique ingredient profiles.

Old School Labs Ultimate 2 Stage Pre Workout for Explosive Energy, Massive Pumps & Laser Focus - Preworkout for Men & Women - Pre Workout Powder with Amino Acids - Natural Ingredients & 250mg Caffeine
  • Dual-Stage Drive Without The Crash: Elevate your workout intensity and consistency by experiencing the innovation of our two-stage caffeine-release preworkout. Timed caffeine release propels your workout drive and promotes continuous energy while ensuring...

Vintage Blast 2-Stage PWO is the king-kong when it comes to fully loaded PWOs with transparent labelling. There’s a deep vitamin/mineral portion including niacin, B vitamins, magnesium, sodium, and potassium to fuel your workout through it’s entirety, as well as “Stage 1” ingredients like 5g of citrulline malate, 1g of beta alanine, and 1g of L-argnine. Stage 2 allows you to power through particularly long and intense workouts with 2g of DAA, 250mg of L-tyrosine, and and additional 100mg of “microencapsulated caffeine”. Buyers be warned there is a cost to pay for all this but you’re essentially getting a stimulant, a pre-workout, a pump enhancer, and ZMA all in one supplement making it kind of a swiss-army knife value proposition.

The bottom line is that C4 is a mediocre pre-workout formula that will still really help beginners boost their performance. That doesn’t make C4 bad, but calling in explosive can’t in good faith be said to be anything but a clever marketing ploy. 

The only real C4 PWO variant that can compete with the above list of transparent labelled products is the limited edition C4 Dynasty MMXX, a “small-batch” limited edition product that packs in a rather impressive 350mg of caffeine, 6.4g beta alanine, 3g L-citrulline, 6g citrulline malate, 1g citrulline nitrate, 3g creatine, 1g Con-crete creatine HCI, and 1g creatine nitrate. If you like creatine in many different forms this is the one for you sonny!

Want to take your performance to the next level with a carefully-balanced set of powerful ingredients, made by a manufacturer that’s transparent about the dosing? Then, we’re afraid, you’ll have to look elsewhere — and NITRAFLEX, Genius, Vintage Blast and the like are great places to start. 

Frequently Asked Questions About C4 PWOs

Is C4 Pre Workout Good?

Good is vague and subjective. While the flavors are good and some formulas are moderately competitive there are still alternatives with more generous dosages of key active ingredients.

Does C4 have creatine?

Most of the C4 formulas do include creatine, some of them like C4 Dynasty MXXX as much as 5 grams! If you do not want creatine you are limited to the C4 Ripped formula.

Is C4 Pre Workout Bad For You?

The ingredients in C4 are pretty standard for pre-workouts and therefor should not be bad for you when used in moderation. If you are sensitive to caffeine or have health conditions you should consult with your doctor before consideration of ANY pre workouts.

Is C4 Good For You?

If caffeine, pump enhancers and endurance supporting ingredients and effects are what you seek then yes, it’s good for you when used as instructed.

Does C4 Pre Workout Have Side Effects?

There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about C4’s blends but if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients you may experience specific side effects. One of the most common side effects with pre workouts containing beta-alanine is an itchy sensation and tingling in extremities. Another side effect of caffeine abuse is decreased quality of sleep. It is thus important to follow the manufacturers suggested use instructions.

Last update on 2024-06-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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