When it comes to supplements, you can make an argument that pre workouts dominate the industry. Protein powders are definitely a huge industry, but when it comes to an actual performance formula for pros and amateurs, pre workouts are just the big fish in this small pond.
And because the pre workout industry is so huge, there are more than a handful of big companies that pretty much control what’s on the shelves or what’s on sale online. One of the biggest companies ever is Cellucor. And one of the biggest names in pre workouts is Cellucor C4 Original.
Yes, they actually had to rename it from the simple “C4 Pre Workout” to C4 Original because they made quite a handful of modifications to cater to specific markets. They are C4 Ultimate, C4 Sport, C4 Extreme, C4 Extreme Energy, and C4 Ripped.
But before we get to the alternative pre workouts, let’s first focus on the one that started them all: C4 Original.
How good is C4 Original? Read on to find out.
- Premium ingredients
- Conservative dosing
- Great for beginners
- May not be great for seasoned athletes.
- 1 About C4 Original Pre-Workout
- 2 C4 Original Pre-Workout: Supplement Facts
- 3 C4 Original Pre-Workout: Ingredient List
- 4 Who is C4 Original Pre-Workout made for?
- 5 What are C4 Original Pre-Workout benefits?
- 6 C4 Original Pre-Workout: Side Effects
- 7 C4 Original Pre-Workout: pros and cons
- 8 Is C4 Original Pre Workout FDA Approved?
- 9 Is C4 Original Pre Workout Safe?
- 10 Pricing info
- 11 C4 Original Pre-Workout: Summary
- 12 Alternatives to C4 Original
About C4 Original Pre-Workout
C4 Original Pre-Workout is described as a pre-workout that can provide explosive energy, laser focus, and a formula that can motivate the beast in you to take on any lift or challenge. They say C4 Original Pre-Workout was specifically designed to help anyone from beginners all the way to the elite competitors.
We also have to say that C4 Original Pre-Workout was also the one product that made Cellucor “America’s #1 selling pre workout since 2014.” We’re saying this with quotations as we don’t have the marketing data to fact check this, but for now we’ll take their word for it.
As for the formula itself, here are some of the things we noticed:
- Semi-Transparent formula: Having a transparent formulation means you’re not afraid to show us your stuff when it comes to what makes your supplement work. C4 Original Pre-Workout has a fair share of dosage reveals, but also a prop blend for their evergreen “Explosive Energy Blend.” We say evergreen, because this one blend is in almost every pre workout they have, regardless of whether they’re part of the C4 Series or not.
- Familiar ingredients: We like how almost every one of the ingredients are known to us and were previously cited in other reviews as bonafide premiums and must-haves. We don’t mind the usual extracts and herbals, but you can’t go wrong with traditional ingredients.
- Lots of flavors: That’s A LOT of flavors. This goes to show just how much Cellucor values their vast market and tries to appeal to every individual’s palate.
C4 Original Pre-Workout: Supplement Facts
Other Ingredients: Citric Acid, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Silicon Dioxide, Calcium Silicate, Malic Acid, Beet Juice (color), Sucralose, Polydextrose, Acesulfame Potassium.
Directions: Take one serving (1 level scoop) of C4® Original, mixed with 6 fl. oz of water 20-30 minutes before training. Some individuals may experience a harmless tingling sensation, which is attributed to beta alanine. USE ONLY AS DIRECTED.
Thinking about ordering C4 Original? We've put in the research so that you don't have to!
C4 Original Pre-Workout: Ingredient List
The serving size we have for C4 Original Pre-Workout is set at six grams. Six grams in a pre workout is not exactly something that makes us feel confident, especially as pre workout ingredients are notorious for requiring a lot of dose for them to be considered effective or at least synergistic. Hopefully, the six gram dose pans out.
- Vitamins and Minerals: The vitamins and minerals portion aren’t anything too fancy. We have Vitamin C, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, and these are pretty standard as far as pre workouts and supplements in general are concerned.
- CarnoSyn Beta Alanine: This ingredient is a bonafide star when it comes to pre workout formulas. Beta alanine is known to lend users a good advantage when it comes to performance, endurance, and most importantly, recovery. The problem is, beta alanine can cause a tingling sensation. This tingling is due to how beta alanine molecules are grazing your nerve endings as they circulate your system.
“β-alanine elicited itch-associated behavior that requires MrgprD, a G-protein-coupled receptor expressed by a subpopulation of primary sensory neurons. These neurons exclusively innervate the skin, respond to β-alanine, heat, and mechanical noxious stimuli...”It’s a side effect for sure, but some users prefer to feel this tingling sensation and take it as a sign that beta alanine is working. Regardless, CarnoSyn is a branded form of beta alanine known to reduce the tingling effects of beta alanine while also guaranteeing purity. That is all good, but the dose is wanting. Most pre workouts readily add 3.2 grams of beta alanine per serving, but C4 Original Pre-Workout only makes use of half that.
- Creatine Nitrate (NO3-T): This is said to be the best of both worlds when it comes to pump and recovery. However, we've only seen only one study has claimed that. And the angle on creatine nitrate being the better compared to good ‘ol creatine monohydrate is greatly overshadowed by its one gram dosage.
- Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate: This is more of a nitric oxide booster that supports a superior nitric oxide booster like citrulline or the top tier citrulline malate. The dosage is unsurprisingly low even for a support ingredient, however, and the formula doesn’t exactly have a high dose nitric oxide booster to begin with.
- Explosive Energy Blend
Let us just say that C4 Original Pre-Workout must really love this blend as this has been featured in just about every reincarnation of the C4 Original Pre-Workout formula. We have no glaring issues with the blend at all, but the fact that it’s in a prop blend is kind of a turn off for a supplement leader.
- N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine: Also known as NALT, this compound is a premium choice when it comes to putting a ton of focus on your formula as well as helping reduce the stress associated with heavy workouts. We have no real insight on the dosage, so we’re hoping that C4 Original Pre-Workout got this one right.
- Caffeine as caffeine anhydrous: This is the only ingredient in this blend with a dose, and it’s not that bad at 150 mg. It’s around 1.5 cups of brewed coffee, give or take. We say it’s not bad, but we also wish it was better, especially as 1.5 cups of coffee doesn’t really do much if you’re a regular stim user or caffeine drinker, much less if you’ve been using pre workouts for years and suddenly given a lower dosage. However, what we can say is great about this dosage is how it’s non-habit forming and it takes a while (if at all) to build tolerance.
- Velvet Bean: The angle used on velvet bean seems to be for the mood benefits, because the other known benefit is the testosterone boost it provides. Because of what it’s supposed to do, we feel velvet bean is a bit out of place in a pre workout blend.
- Theacrine as TeaCrine: Theacrine is a compound known to have the effects of both caffeine and theanine in one blend. What it does is, it provides a sustainable energy boost that also helps reduce the side effects associated with caffeine use.
“These findings support the clinical safety and non-habituating neuro-energetic effects of TeaCrine® supplementation over 8 weeks of daily use (up to 300 mg/day). Moreover, there was no evidence of a tachyphylactic response that is typical of neuroactive agents such as caffeine and other stimulants.”
Tachyphylactic means a compound builds tolerance over time and loses potency unless you “up” the dose. You can say theacrine is the best alternative to caffeine if you don’t like the crash of jitters. The problem is, the dose seems too low given that it’s the last one on the entire list, and whatever stim-canceling benefits it may have could be rendered useless by poor dosing.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, C4 Original Pre-Workout is a rather “mild” pre workout given today’s “extreme” and “max dose” industry. This would also be a good time to mention that there’s a difference between mild and weak, with the latter just being poorly formulated overall and done without thought.
C4 Original Pre-Workout still had synergy in mind despite the mild dosages, so we’re not shooting it down as a bad pre workout. Rather, we’re holding it to the standards set by some of the best pre workouts we’ve reviewed in the past.
Who is C4 Original Pre-Workout made for?
C4 Original Pre-Workout is definitely marketed towards fans of the C4 brand as well as users who don’t really like high dose ingredients, thinking that their bodies may not be able to handle them. This is especially true for stimulants, as everyone likes the energy, but not the jitters and crashes. The caffeine dosage we have here is “okay,” and not that bad to say the least.
What are C4 Original Pre-Workout benefits?
C4 Original Pre-Workout’s benefits include an overall energy boost with a bit of pump on the side. There’s also something to be said about its mood boosting benefits, but we don’t know the exact doses to confirm this as true.
C4 Original Pre-Workout: Side Effects
The main sources of side effects will likely come from either beta alanine or caffeine.
As we mentioned, Beta alanine can cause you to feel itchy or tingly, but this is temporary and not that much of a side effect as much as it is a mild annoyance or a peculiar feeling when you workout.
Caffeine at 150 mg is not too high. In fact, teens probably take more caffeine via energy drinks and fancy lattes than the serving we get here. If you’re a coffee drinker, 150 mg could be too low as it’s only 1.5 cups of coffee’s worth.
C4 Original Pre-Workout: pros and cons
- Premium ingredients: The premium ingredients are passed around like it’s normal.
- Classic revamp: They modernized their first pre workout to be relevant to what we have today.
- Safe dosing: Hey, at least we’re not getting anything too high which could legit do more harm than good.
- Not good dosing: Most would call this under-dosing.
- Modest energy: 150 mg may not be good enough for everyone.
Is C4 Original Pre Workout FDA Approved?
The FDA is the de facto organization that decides whether a food or cosmetic item is safe for public consumption. They decide the fate of common snack foods, beverages, and everything in-between as to whether these products are allowed to have commercials that would attract adults and minors or if they’re allowed to make health claims. As such, supplements as a whole are not FDA approved, even if it's a supplement like C4 Original Pre Workout that is sold by one of the biggest supplement companies in the world with plenty of safety certifications and whatnot. It doesn’t mean C4 Original Pre Workout is or is not safe for human consumption; it just sometimes means the FDA does not want to be liable if something bad were to happen if someone consumed a dietary supplement.
It’s because unlike drugs, supplements are not permitted to be marketed for anything related to diseases such as preventing, curing, or diagnosing. It’s why any supplement with claims like “lowers cholesterol” are a huge red flag, as the amount of paperwork you need to prove your supplement can do that can be horrifying and expensive.
Supplement companies CAN apply for FDA approval, but it’s impractical given formulations change every year and the FDA (as well as other health organizations) adjust their “ingredient ban list.” This means what is FDA approved today may be unfit for human consumption tomorrow.
Is C4 Original Pre Workout Banned in Sports?
We did the research and found that while C4 Original Pre Workout is not banned per se, it’s not certified for sport by the Informed Choice and the NSF. What we do have are other C4 brands that passed the “sport” certifications.
Based on what we also found, it seems Cellucor makes sure that their product is allowed for professional sports by putting “Sport” in the brand names (as you will see later).
How long does C4 Original Pre Workout last?
Based on what we found with Beta alanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, and Caffeine (three ingredients with “stimulatory” effects), the average would be 2-3 hours after ingestion based on half-life. Half-life is the time it takes to reduce 50% of the ingredient or compound.
Specifically, Beta alanine has a half-life that’s reported to be 25 minutes. N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine has a 3 hour half-life. Caffeine has a half life of about 5 hours. These would all be depending on your body type and the energy demands your body has after ingestion, so your mileage may vary.
Is C4 Original Pre Workout Safe?
As with anything supplement related, there are always more than a handful of precautions, especially when it comes to your body’s condition i.e. being pregnant, taking prescription drugs, or if you have any health conditions that make consumption of stimulants dangerous or harmful.
Assuming you are a healthy person with no allergies to any of the ingredients listed, the supplement may be safe enough if you follow the serving suggestion. Don't take this as advice though. If you are genuinely concerned about the safety of this product, see a doctor and ask them.
- 1 Container (30-Day Supply): $29.99; 20% off + free shipping with subscriptions
- Available online and in retail
- Flavors: Pink Lemonade, Orange Burst, Fruit Punch, Strawberry Margarita, Cherry Limeade, Icy Blue Razz, Watermelon
C4 Original Pre-Workout: Summary
C4 Original is one of the best-selling pre workouts on the planet, and with good reason. Relative to some of the newer products we see, C4 Original Pre-Workout may not be the strongest or “best” among them, but the formula is synergistic and easy to get into even if you’re new to pre workouts.
Still, we do have to comment on how the formula just isn’t as innovative as some of the new ones we’ve reviewed before. The dosages need some tweaking and the use of prop blends just has to go.
What we do like about C4 Original Pre-Workout is how it’s great as a base for those who like to build their own pre workout stack. What if you fancy something that is better or fine tuned to your needs, but still bear the highly-praised C4 name? This is where the alternatives come in.
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Alternatives to C4 Original
Because of how big Cellucor is as a supplement company, they’re able to expand their reach to different markets by formulating pre-workouts designed for specific users in mind. From athletes who want to beat their personal records to the average Joe who just wants to lose some weight, Cellucor’s got you covered.
C4 Ultimate Pre Workout
As the name implies, this is Cellucor’s top tier supplement when it comes to function and versatility. It’s quite literally the best in terms of formulation among the C4 brands. If you’re looking for something that covers all bases, this is your product.
Who is it made for?
This one is made for those who don’t want to build a stack and just want a powder that they can mix and drink for maximum performance and energy.
- Premium ingredients
- Good dosing
- Energy and pumps
- Too many ingredients
- Complicated formula
C4 Sport Pre Workout
This is C4’s pre workout for those who plan on competing in pro sports or plan on becoming a pro. It removes a lot of the controversial ingredients and makes use of the safer and conventional ones.
Who is it made for?
This is made for users who don’t want to sound any alarms after taking a drug test. We also think this is the best option for those who aspire to be one of the pros we see on TV. What it isn’t made for are people who want extreme anything, as the dosing is not as high as some of the ones on this list.
- Simple formula
- Good price
- “Too safe” dosages
C4 Extreme Pre Workout
This is C4’s answer to those who’ve been clamoring for a stronger formula than C4 Original. It has something for energy, focus, and performance like the original, but turned up a notch.
Who is it made for?
This product is for those who are fond of using C4 Original, but want something “stronger” relative to the original formula. So, nothing too hard; just more of a straight upgrade.
- Plenty of flavors
- Simple formula
- “Better” dosing than C4 Original
- Not enough for the true “extreme” market
- Too many other ingredients.
- A bit pricey
C4 Extreme Energy Pre Workout
When you want a good hit of energy, you take this. This is Cellucor’s own version of a pre workout that was meant to stimulate the senses. It has enough energy to last you through your workout and more.
Who is it made for?
It was definitely formulated for users who need to “feel” the energy running through their veins. This is definitely not made for those who don’t take caffeine well or just aren’t fond of coffee in general.
- Quality ingredients
- Lots of energy
- Synergistic formula
- Okay price
- Dose for pumps is lacking
- Use of prop blend
C4 Ripped Pre Workout
This is actually more of a fat burner than a pre workout, with only two ingredients that qualify it in the pre workout category. This product is Cellucor’s answer for those who want a pre workout specifically to help people lose weight. They also did the unthinkable and omit creatine. In fact, in all the formulas we have here, only C4 Ripped has zero creatine.
Creatine does increase water retention, which could then lead to unwanted numbers on the scale, so the logic is definitely sound.
Who is it made for?
This is for users who want to buy a C4 brand that not just boosts energy and performance, but also helps them burn more fat in the process.
- Organized with three blends
- Decent burn all in all
- Burn fat for energy
- The pre workout part needs tweaking
- Use of prop blends
- 150 mg caffeine is a bit weak for a semi fat burner
Regardless of what Cellucor product you choose, they’re all made with premium ingredients and formulated specifically to anyone’s fitness needs, be it performance or thermogenic.
If you enjoyed this C4 pre-workout review, be sure to take a look at some of our other reviews on the site!