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Cellucor C4 Original proudly proclaims itself as the “Original Explosive Preworkout”. While it has been on the market for over 10 years and meets the criteria of being one of the original pre-workout supplements, the “explosive” claim leaves a lot to be desired.
- Cellucor C4 comes at an incredible value, costing around $0.66 per serving, which is well below the market average of $1.61 per serving.
- Despite its great value, C4 contains doses below those that have been clinically proven effective for all of its ingredients. It will give a decent energy boost from the caffeine (150mg), but a single scoop won’t provide additional benefits.
- C4 Original is a great option for people who are brand new to pre-workout. However, for anybody looking for full, clinical doses of key performance-enhancing ingredients, C4 will likely be underwhelming.
- If you’ve already decided C4 doesn’t fit your use case, then check out my review of Transparent Labs Bulk for a pre-workout that is great “bang for your buck”, which includes clinical doses of all performance-enhancing ingredients.
Overall Rating: 3.3/5
What Is Cellucor C4?
C4 is one of the most popular and recognized pre-workout supplements of all time.
Launching in 2011, the yellow and chrome bottles have been a staple of supplement store shelves for over a decade.
While it advertises itself as the “Original Explosive Pre-Workout”, aside from the name, the reality is that there isn’t much explosive about it.
C4 Original features 150mg of caffeine, about the same amount as a small Dunkin Donuts coffee.
It contains patented ingredients that have been clinically proven to increase energy and endurance and delay fatigue like Carnosyn® Beta-alanine and TeaCrine®, however the doses found in C4 Original fall well below those that were used in research trials.
Cellucor has come out with more formulas in the last few years like C4 Ultimate and C4 Dynasty, which have clinical doses of key performance enhancing ingredients like creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, and citrulline.
One thing that’s also important to know when shopping for C4 is that there are dozens of products and variations available.
Aside from the two formulas mentioned above, C4 also comes in variations called C4 Sport, C4 SuperSport, C4 Ripped, C4 Ripped Sport, C4 Ripped SuperSport, C4 Ultimate Shred, C4 Smart Energy, and C4 Extreme.
Not only are there nearly a dozen variations, but the same product can have different formulas depending on which country you are in.
To avoid confusion, here are the product label and ingredient label for the product that I tested specifically.
Claims vs Reality: How I Felt After Taking C4 Original?
Despite having an ingredient list that is 11 ingredients long, the full scoop serving of C4 measures only 6.5g.
This product does what I call “dusting”, which is where they add very small amounts of ingredients for the sake of saying they have them, but the doses aren’t high enough to actually have a noticeable performance benefit.
For example, C4 can boast and advertise that it uses TeaCrine ®, which has been showing to increase energy without jitter, increase motivation, and improve mental clarity. However, these benefits have been seen with doses of 125mg of TeaCrine ® or higher. C4 only uses 12.5mg.
Due to it being lower in total stimulants, I found that I was able to take this for evening workouts (around 6pm) and still fall asleep without issue (around 11pm). This experience may be different for you if you are more sensitive to caffeine.
Because it contains a low dose of beta-alanine, the paresthesia (i.e. skin tingling) effect is quite mild.
Ultimately, even a 2 scoop serving falls short of having clinically effective doses of the majority of ingredients, so this product doesn’t provide much athletic benefit aside from an energy boost due to the caffeine.
I want to clarify here that I do think the product has merit for increasing energy, I just think the doses of other ingredients like beta-alanine, arginine, and creatine are too low to elicit any substantial benefit.
I am also coming at this product with a bit of a bias, since I just finished reviewing some very high-dosed pre-workouts like Pre-Kaged Elite and Huge Supps Wrecked, with serving sizes nearly 5 times bigger than Cellucor C4 and full clinical doses of most ingredients.
I still consider C4 Original a suitable option for anyone who has never taken pre-workout before and wants something without significant side effects. C4 provides a good amount of energy for cheaper than buying a coffee or energy drink.
C4 Original Pre Workout
Cellucor C4 comes at an incredible value, costing around $0.66 per serving, which is well below the market average of $1.61 per serving.
Cellucor C4 Ingredients (Per 1 scoop)
|Ingredient||Dose||Clinical Effective Dose||Meeds Clinical Standards|
|Creatine HCl||750 mg||750 mg per kg of bodyweight||X|
|L-Arginine||655 mg||0.15g per kg of bodyweight||X|
|Vitamin C||250 mg||n/a||n/a|
|N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine||200 mg||100-150mg per kg of body weight||X|
|Caffeine Anhydrous||150 mg||n/a||n/a|
|TeaCrine ®||12.5 mg||125-275 mg||X|
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that plays a role in creatine carnosine in the body.
Supplementing with additional beta-alanine can increase muscle carnosine levels by 15-85%.
Carnosine acts as a buffer in the body, buffering the hydrogen ions that can build up and cause fatigue in the muscles.
As a result, supplementing with beta-alanine to increase muscle carnosine levels can result in delayed fatigue, allowing you to exercise at higher intensities for longer periods of time.
For optimal results, beta-alanine should be taken daily over the long term (longer than 2 weeks). A dose of 3-6g daily for 4-10 weeks is recommended with a maintenance dose of 1.2g daily afterwards.
C4 has 1.6g of beta-alanine per scoop which is not enough to use as an initial loading phase, but can be sufficient for maintenance if you have already been supplementing with beta-alanine for 4 weeks or more.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most thoroughly studied sports supplements available and has been proven to increase muscle performance during high-intensity exercises like weightlifting and sprinting.
Importantly, most of the research around creatine has been that specific type of creatine: creatine monohydrate.
Creatine HCl has been modified to be connected to an HCl molecule. This alteration is said to make the creatine more digestible and bioavailable, meaning you can get similar results to creatine monohydrate with smaller doses.
Some sources cite that an adequate dose of creatine HCl is to take 750mg per 100lbs of bodyweight.
Other sources say it should be dosed like creatine monohydrate at a maintenance dose of 3-5g per day.
Regardless of which method you use, with a dose of 750mg exactly, C4 will be underdosed for many adult individuals, requiring you to supplement with extra creatine daily.
Arginine is an amino acid that acts as a vasodilator, opening the body’s blood vessels to allow blood to pass more easily through the body.
Arginine is most commonly studied and proven effective in the realms of cardiovascular health and erectile dysfunction.
Because arginine has a role in muscle protein synthesis and increased blood flow, there is potential for L-arginine to increase workout performance and increase lean body mass.
So far, the studies that have looked at l-arginine as a supplement for improving athletic performance have had mixed results as best.
The optimal dose appears to be 0.15g/kg of body weight taken about an hour before exercise. For someone weighing 175lb, this works out to be around 12g of arginine.
With 655mg of l-arginine, C4 Original contains a clinical dose for individuals weighing 95lbs or less. This is going to fall below clinical dosing standards for many adult individuals.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is commonly added to pre-workout supplements because it can provide an appealing sour taste.
Functionally, since vitamin C is an antioxidant it has potential for reducing muscle damage during workouts.
There is not a lot of scientific evidence yet to confirm or deny the functional use of Vitamin C prior to working out, and the doses used were around 1000mg.
C4 contains 250mg of Vitamin C per serving and while this can support overall antioxidant help, it is not a sufficient amount to prevent muscle damage.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning our body already makes tyrosine in sufficient amounts and it is not necessary for us to obtain tyrosine through the diet.
There could be potential benefits, however, to supplementing with additional tyrosine.
When taken prior to exercise, tyrosine shows potential for delaying fatigue, allowing users to workout at higher intensities for longer periods of time.
The dose typically used in studies looking at tyrosine and exercise performance use a dose of 100-150mg per kg of body weight. This translates to between 9 and 13.5g for a 200lb individual.
You will not find doses this high in pre-workout supplements. Typical doses of tyrosine in pre-workouts range between 500 and 2000mg taken 30-60 minutes prior to exercise.
Though this technically doesn’t meet the clinical dose standard, there is a lot of anecdotal support in favor of taking smaller doses of tyrosine to support the stimulatory effects of caffeine.
C4 contains 200 mg of tyrosine per scoop, well below what is commonly used for pre-workout enhancement.
This may still be an acceptable dose, however, since the specific form found in C4 (acetyl-l-tyrosine) has better absorption and a stronger brain boosting effect than pure l-tyrosine.
Caffeine is a compound found naturally in plants like tea, coffee beans, and cacao pods.
It is a stimulant that speeds up the central nervous system which can increase alertness and mood and delay exhaustion.
There is no set clinical dose of caffeine that is accepted since individual reactions to caffeine vary greatly.
C4 contains 150mg of caffeine per scoop, the same amount as approximately 1 small commercially bought coffee.
This is one of the only ingredients found in C4 that actually comes at a reasonable dose.
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
Niacinamide is derived from Niacin, or Vitamin B3.
Vitamin B3 plays a host of roles in the body, including improving circulation and converting nutrients into energy, and supporting cellular health.
Niacinamide does not have the same vasodilating properties as niacin, and therefore won’t be as beneficial at enhancing blood flow but this also means that it won’t cause a negative side effect known as a niacin flush.
The niacin flush is a tingling or warming sensation usually around the face and ears caused by high doses of niacin, typically 50mg or more.
The research around niacinamide pre-workout is mixed at best, with one study even finding that niacinamide supplementation decreased exercise performance.
There is no established dose of niacinamide for increasing exercise performance. However, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of niacin is 16mg for men and 14mg for women.
With 30 mg of niacinamide per scoop, C4 does at least contain enough niacinamide to support overall health, though it might not provide substantial workout benefits.
TeaCrine ® is a patented form of theacrine, which is a naturally occurring chemical similar to caffeine that is found in tea and coffee.
Studies looking specifically at TeaCrine® pre workout have shown increases in energy without causing jitteriness or irritability, increases in motivation, decreased feelings of fatigue, and increases in mental energy.
All of the researching looking at TeaCrine® and exercise performance have used doses ranging from 125 mg to 275 mg.
C4 contains 12.5mg of TeaCrine® per scoop, which is at least 10x less than what has been proven effective.
I find it unlikely that users will notice any substantial benefit from the small amount of TeaCrine® found in C4.
Highlights: What I Like About Cellucor C4 Original
Lower in Caffeine
C4 contains the same amount of caffeine as a small cup of commercially available coffee, at 150mg per scoop. This is enough to get a sufficient energy boost, but not so much that it will have a significant impact on sleep quality if taken later in the day.
Of course, if you tend to be very sensitive to caffeine, I still recommend not taking this within 5 hours of bed time.
The lower caffeine content also makes this an appealing option for anyone who wants to consume other sources of caffeine in their day like fat burners, coffee, or energy drinks.
The FDA recommends a safe upper limit of 400 mg of caffeine per day. The 150 mg of caffeine found in C4 leaves wiggle room for additional caffeine at other times throughout your day.
Good Taste and Mixability
C4 Original comes in a variety of juice-like flavors that dissolve almost entirely, giving a drinking experience similar to pre-mixed drinks like Gatorade.
Oftentimes, the negative tastes associated with pre-workout are because the raw ingredients have very sour or bitter tastes to them.
Since C4 does not contain very high quantities of those raw ingredients, it provides a nicer drinking experience.
This is a good option for people who are very sensitive to taste and texture.
At only $0.66 per serving, C4 comes at a remarkable value. The low cost is definitely a result of not having a large amount of ingredients. Even still, it makes a good option for someone with a modest supplement budget who is only looking for an energy boost.
Drawbacks What I Did Not Like About Cellucor C4 Original
Does Not Have Substantial Doses of Any Ingredients
The biggest drawback of C4 is that aside from the caffeine and B-vitamins, C4 does not contain high enough doses of any ingredients to provide a significant boost to performance or recovery.
While it calls itself an “explosive” pre-workout, the reality is it is quite a mild formula that is best suited for people who are new to taking pre-workout or are looking just for a mild energy boost.
If you want a product that still comes at a relatively decent price, but provides clinical doses of ingredients to support strength and recovery, try Transparent Labs Bulk.
See my full review of Transparent Labs Bulk here.
Use of Artificial Coloring
C4 uses artificial dyes like FD&C Blue #1 and FD&C Red #40, Blue Dye #1, which has been linked to adverse side effects.
One of the first things I noticed when shaking up C4 fruit punch flavor was how aggressively red-colored it was, which made me immediately think to check the label and see what non-medicinal ingredients they used.
Regardless of whether or not you are sensitive to food dyes, they’re an ingredient that I find a wasted addition to supplements like pre-workouts, and many companies are now advertising that they don’t use artificial dyes.
Like this screenshot from the Transparent Labs website for their pre-workout, Bulk, advertising the fact that they use no artificial sweeteners or colors.
Functionally, they provide zero benefit and since most pre-workouts are consumed quickly in colored shaker cups, whether your product is a pale pink or vibrant red provides little to no sensory benefit to the consumer.
How Does Cellucor C4 Stack Up Against Our Criteria For Pre Workouts
Our rating: 5/5
The redeeming characteristic of Cellucor C4 Original is that it comes at a bargain price of only $0.66 per serving.
With the average cost of pre-workout being around $1.60 per scoop, and some products going as high as $3.00 per serving, C4 comes in at a great price.
As mentioned pretty extensively already, the bargain price comes at the expense of having clinical doses guaranteed to boost performance.
Our rating: 5/5
C4 Original comes in a variety of juice-like flavors including fruit punch, icy blue razz, pink lemonade, and cherry limeade.
I have also found some more unique flavors around my local supplement stores including strawberry watermelon, nectarine guava and wild blackberry.
Because the scoop size of C4 is so small, it can be easily mixed into a small amount of water without having an overpowering taste, and can be easily diluted for anyone who doesn’t want a strong taste.
Our rating: 5/5
C4 mixes up easily with virtually no residue or gritty texture which makes it an appealing option for anyone who considers themselves to be sensitive to gritty textures.
In the same way that the low amount of ingredients helps make for a better taste, the low doses of ingredients help make for a product that mixes better.
Some ingredients like creatine or citrulline are notorious for not dissolving entirely, creating an experience that is grittier.
Our rating: 3/5
C4 Original contains 150mg of caffeine and 200mg of acetyl-l-tyrosine which will work together to provide reasonable energy and good mental focus.
C4 Original falls perfectly in the middle between products that are uncaffeinated and products that are considered high-stim which have 300mg of caffeine or more.
This makes it a great stepping stone for people who do want a caffeinated product, but want to try to avoid the negative side effects associated with high-stimulant pre-workouts like jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations, or insomnia.
Our rating: 1/5
With only a small dose of l-arginine, Cellucor C4 Original does not contain any clinical doses of ingredients to support increased pump and blood flow.
Even the form of niacin used, niacinamide, is the type that does not enhance vascularity. C4 is not the product to use if you are looking for a significant muscle pump.
Our rating: 1/5
Cellucor C4 Original does contain some ingredients to support strength like beta-alanine and creatine. Unfortunately these doses are so low that they are not sufficient enough for eliciting a significant benefit.
To clarify, the amount of creatine HCl and beta-alanine can be sufficient for a maintenance dose, at least for individuals weighing around 100lbs.
This means that if you have already been taking creatine and beta-alanine for several weeks (4 weeks or more), then the doses found in C4 Original can be enough to maintain the saturation levels in your body.
For individuals who weigh considerably more than 100lbs, or who haven’t already done a loading phase of creatine and beta-alanine, you will have to supplement with these products daily.
Who Should Take Cellucor C4?
Cellucor C4 is for:
- People who are new to pre-workout and want a product that is lighter with fewer potential side effects
- People who have a very strict supplement budget
- People who only want an energy boost from their pre-workout, and aren’t concerned with strength or pump
Who Should Not Take Cellucor C4?
I would not recommend Cellucor C4 for:
- Anyone looking for a high stim pre-workout
- Anyone who is sensitive to food dyes or wants to avoid artificial flavors and colors
- Anyone who wants their pre-workout to provide significant boosts to strength, pump and endurance
What Are Other Customers Saying About Cellucor C4 ?
It’s a bit tricky to try to navigate the actual reviews for C4 Original, since they’ve recently reformulated slightly and have different formulas in different countries.
For instance, this formula of C4 Original has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating based on over 25,000 reviews, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive for C4.
Alternatively, this version of C4 Original which accurately matches the product I tested has only 1,400 reviews. It still has a 4.5/5 star rating though, so regardless of which formula you have the reviews are pretty consistent.
The Cellucor website review section has a sliding scale where users can rate the taste of the product from Bad to Good to Excellent, or on a scale of 1-5. Nearly every single review gives the product a 4 or 5 out of 5 for flavor, which mimics my experience.
Across all three websites, the feedback is pretty consistent. Almost every single review mentions the great taste and a lot of people are praising the product for its “tremendous energy”.
Quite a few reviews mention feeling the beta-alanine tingles, so if you haven’t been using pre-workout with beta-alanine for a while there is a good chance that you will experience the paresthesia side effect.
I was surprised to read a lot of reviewers also praising C4 Original for its pump effects (this was not my experience).
One user even commented:
“I love C4, it’s weird because I know the science behind going with citrulline malate over arginine but for some reason this produces a far better pump every single time and it’s been many years its had the same effect while the huge blends with 6g of citrulline malate simply cannot keep up”
While browsing through the negative comments, most complaints are about shipping concerns or products arriving damaged (which was also my experience). There seem to be a lot of issues with the seal not being effective which is definitely a company/manufacturing concern, but not necessarily a problem with the supplement itself.
Photos of how my product arrived damaged/with a broken seal.
Cellucor C4 Alternatives
C4 Ultimate is the pre-workout offered by Cellucor that offers higher doses of key performance ingredients, as well as slightly more caffeine.
This is the pre-workout for people who want to use Cellucor products, but want a product that delivers a more intense experience than the Original C4 formula. 4
C4 Ultimate offers clinical doses of both citrulline (6g) and beta-alanine (3.2g) which will deliver a more substantial pump and endurance benefit.
It also features 2 total grams of creatine, which does still fall a bit shy of the clinical dose which would be 3-5g but it does come much closer than C4 Original’s 0.75g of creatine.
With 1g of taurine, 300g of caffeine, 200mg of AlphaSize ®, 62.mg of TeaCrine®, and the addition of huperzine, C4 Ultimate will deliver a much more noticeable energy and mental focus boost compared to C4 Original.
C4 Ultimate also comes at a more premium price, costing $2.25 per serving.
It’s available in 4 flavors including Strawberry Watermelon, Arctic Snow Cone, Icy Blue Razz, and Orange Mango.
Transparent Labs Bulk
If you like the appeal of a product that offers higher clinical doses, but you want to stay a little bit lower in caffeine and find a middle ground price-wise, Transparent Labs Bulk offers a nice middle ground.
At $1.66 per serving, it falls almost perfectly between the cost of C4 Original and C4 Ultimate.
Transparent Labs Bulk has a full clinical doses of nearly all of its ingredients, including citrulline (8g), beta-alanine (4g), betaine (2.5g), and Alpha-GPC (300mg).
This makes the doses found in Transparent Labs Bulk even higher than those found in C4 Ultimate, at a fraction of the cost.
With the addition of theanine, Transparent Labs Bulk also helps to reduce side effects like jitteriness and anxiety and will decrease the likelihood of experiencing a crash afterwards.
Transparent Labs Bulk contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. It is available in 7 flavors including Strawberry Kiwi, Pina Colada, Black Cherry, Sour Grape, and Tropical Punch.
Are There Any Promos or Discounts For Cellucor C4
Cellucor offers a very aggressive Subscribe and Save promotion on their website, offering a 30% discount on your first order and 20% off subsequent orders with free shipping.
You can choose a delivery frequency of every 2, 4, 6, or 8 weeks. You can change the frequency or cancel your subscription at any time.
Cellucor has a Special Programs Discount Page on their website where they offer discounts for military personnel, doctors and first responders, and university students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Cellucor C4 The Best Pre Workout?
C4 Original is underdosed on many performance enhancing ingredients, but it makes an appealing option for anyone who is new to pre-workout. With a moderate caffeine level and very low cost, it’s great for anyone who is prioritizing energy and is on a tight budget.
Is Cellucor C4 Third Party Tested?
C4 Original does not advertise as being third party tested. Some pre-workouts offered by Cellucor, like C4 Sport, are NSF Certified and rigorously third party tested for purity.
Is Cellucor C4 Good For Weight Loss?
C4 Original contains caffeine and can increase feelings of energy, which can help you workout harder and longer. This can indirectly support weight loss, but the majority of your results will come from diet and lifestyle factors, not this pre-workout.
Is Cellucor C4 Safe For Women?
C4 Original is safe for use by women, but should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding.
How Much Caffeine Does Cellucor C4 Have?
Cellucor C4 Original has 150mg of caffeine, as much as a small commercially available cup of coffee.
Does Cellucor C4 Have Creatine?
Cellucor C4 contains 750mg of creatine HCl, which falls well below the doses that have been used in clinical research (1500-5000mg). To really see benefits from creatine, you will have to supplement with additional creatine alongside C4.
How Long Does Cellucor C4 Last For?
The energizing effects of Cellucor C4 Original last for approximately 45-90 minutes.
Does Cellucor C4 Need To Be Cycled?
C4 Original does not necessarily need to be cycled. Because it contains caffeine, it’s recommended that you either don’t use it every single day or you take 1-2 weeks off of pre-workout every 4-8 weeks to avoid building up a tolerance to the caffeine.
Will Cellucor C4 Make Me Jittery?
Cellucor C4 contains a relatively low amount of caffeine and is unlikely to cause any extreme jitteriness or anxiety. Every individual will react differently to caffeine, however, so always start with a half scoop serving to assess your individual tolerance.
What Flavors Are Available For Cellucor C4?
C4 Original is available on the Cellucor website in 6 flavors: Cherry Limeade, Strawberry Watermelon, Grape, Watermelon, Frozen Bombsicle, Icy Blue Razz, and Fruit Punch. Flavor selection and formula varies slightly depending on which country or online retailer you order from.
Where Is Cellucor C4 Made?
Cellucor is an American brand owned by Nutrabolt who operates out of Austin, Texas. C4 Original is made in the United States from domestic and imported ingredients.
What Is Cellucor’s Shipping Policy?
Shipping is free on orders greater than $55, otherwise shipping is a flat rate of $8. Ground shipping may take 5-10 days for processing and delivery. Orders placed through the Cellucor website can only ship within the United States. For international orders, see their partners here.
What Is Cellucor’s Return Policy?
Cellucor offers a 90-day full money back guarantee. If you are unsatisfied with your Cellucor product you can request a refund or replacement. This is only applicable on orders placed through the Cellucor website or through one of Nutrabolt’s authorized sellers. Refunds may take 3-5 business days to process.
How To Contact Cellucor?
For general inquiries or customer service, you can reach Cellucor at 866-927-9686 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
C4 Original Pre Workout
Cellucor C4 comes at an incredible value, costing around $0.66 per serving, which is well below the market average of $1.61 per serving.
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About The Author
Jennifer Vibert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Nutrition Coach, and supplement store manager. She has a Bachelor of Kinesiology with a major in Fitness and Lifestyle and a minor in Psychology from the University of Regina. She is a Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition, with a passion for helping clients learn the fundamentals of nutrition and supplementation in order to build healthy, sustainable habits.