C4 Original was the first pre-workout I tried back in 2014 and thought it was the best thing ever.

Now, nearly a decade later, I’m aware that C4 definitely isn’t the best thing ever, but alas, C4 Original is still the best-selling pre-workout product on the market by a large margin.

Naturally, I wanted to see why is that still the case.

So, for the past three weeks, I’ve been using C4 Original before every workout, and now I’m ready to offer you the most comprehensive C4 pre-workout review you’ll ever see.

Pros

  • One of the most budget-friendly products
  • Extensive selection of flavors
  • Available in a 60-serving container
  • Safe to double-scoop

Cons

  • Badly formulated product
  • Severely underdosed ingredients
  • Use of proprietary blends
  • Use of artificial colorants

C4 Pre-Workout Review

C4 Orginal is not a good product despite its remarkable popularity. Apart from caffeine, every other active ingredient in C4 Original is present in quantities far below the minimum clinically proven dose, essentially reducing its impact to that of a basic caffeine pill.

While I knew all of this coming into this C4 pre-workout review, I genuinely wanted to go through the whole experience again, but now that I have, I can confidently say that the only genuinely good things about C4 pre-workout are its 60-serving container price and flavor.

C4 Original Pre-Workout

C4 Original Pre-Workout

Ingredients

2.5

Effectiveness

3.5

Price

4.0


Overall Rating

3.3

My Ratings Explained

Rating the C4 Original was arguably the hardest part of this C4 pre-workout review, but here it goes.

A 2.5 out of 5 was the best I could do for ingredients at these particular dosages, and even that’s generous. Creatine’s obsolete at this dose, citrulline even more so, and there’s just enough beta-alanine in here to get you to scratch.

On the other hand, 150 mg of caffeine should be enough to get a beginner in the mood for lifting. Also, some folks find beta-alanine tingles motivating, which is why I went ahead and gave C4 a 3.5 out of 5 in this category.

Finally, the price point is really good at less than $1 per serving, which I believe is the main reason people love C4. Also, 60-serving containers can go on massive sales from time to time, putting the price-per-serving at around $0.6, which is beyond great. So, overall, a 4 out of 5.

Key Details

Servings Per Container

30-60

Price Per Serving

$1.00 / $0.58

Unit Count (Ounces)

6.56 / 12.7 oz

Flavors

9

Calories (Per Serving)

5

Carbohydrates (Per Serving)

<1g

Calcium (Per Serving)

n/a

Sodium (Per Serving)

n/a

Potassium (Per Serving)

n/a

Will My Performance Increase?

My performance increased a bit when I took C4 Original during my C4 pre-workout review testing period. It wasn’t an all-around improvement, but rather in a few categories.

C4 Original Pre-Workout Performance Graph

Namely, I felt a mild but noticeable boost in my energy levels and focus, which allowed me to enter my workouts with a certain degree of vigor. Nothing too crazy that would help me set a PR, but enough to get me going on blue days.

However, there were no noticeable differences in endurance, strength, or pumps - especially compared to something like C4 Ultimate pre-workout, but also my base levels.

So, if you’re a beginner looking to test the water with pre-workouts, this might help you out, but if you’re someone who has used more potent pre-workouts before, the performance increase will likely be negligible.

How Will I Feel Post-Workout?

Most of the pre-workout effects would be gone by the time I finished training, and this has happened every single time during the testing phase for the C4 pre-workout review.

The only thing that would stay with me for a while is this feeling of enhanced concentration, or at least the absence of mind fogginess, which can sometimes happen after you destroy a workout.

On a more bright note, this also means that crashing after taking C4 pre-workout is virtually impossible unless you double-scoop before training.

What Are The Possible Side Effects

Considering that C4 Original is a mildly stimulatory pre-workout formula, the possible side effects are very rare. Even if they do occur, if you’re an otherwise healthy adult, they should be quite short-lived and mild.

For me, the only side-effect was beta-alanine tingles that would last about 15-20 minutes. However, I’m very prone to these, and that may not be the case for you.

But, just so you’re fully aware of what could happen, some of the potential side effects of C4 Original pre-workout are:

  • Beta-alanine tingles: Those sensitive to beta-alanine might experience prickly sensations in their hands, arms, neck, ears, and other areas of the body.
  • Jitterines: It’s not common, but those with stimulant sensitivities could experience a jittery feeling upon ingesting C4 pre-workout.
  • Upset stomach: Also rare, but those with a sensitive stomach or underlying stomach issues could experience nausea or diarrhea.
  • Cardiovascular issues: Individuals with underlying heart issues could experience palpitations, elevated blood pressure, or heart rate.  Note: If you do have cardiovascular issues, I suggest you talk to your doctor before trying out any pre-workout supplement, including C4 Original.
C4 Pre-Workout Flavors

What Flavors Are Available And How Do They Taste?

C4 Original comes in 10 different flavors on Amazon and Cellucor C4 website:

C4 is generally considered to be one of the more delicious pre-workouts on the market, and I have to agree.

I’ve tried well over 60 different products to this day, and C4 is certainly in my top 5 most delicious pre-workouts.

This time around, I went with Cherry Limeade, as I didn’t want to go back to Blue Razz, as I knew that one was delicious. And let me tell you, Cherry Limeade didn’t disappoint. It was tart, sour, and sweet - ideally balanced, in my opinion.

C4 Original also dissolved nicely in a glass of water, leaving no traces at the bottom of the glass, which is what I expected to be honest.

One thing I will say is I don’t like the fact that Cellucor uses artificial colors and dyes for C4. 

Those things are likely to be banned in the next few years (California has already passed a bill for one) as there’s a ton of data suggesting they’re carcinogenic, and let’s be real - who cares whether their pre-workout is colorful?

Is It A Fair Price?

C4 Original is quite budget-friendly, but I just can’t bring myself to call it a fairly priced product.

Let me explain.

As previously stated, the only thing that’s genuinely effective in the C4 Original pre-workout formula is caffeine.

With that in mind, what’s stopping you from taking caffeine pills? 150 mg of pure caffeine in the form of a pill would set you back around 3 cents per serving.

In other words, you could get 33 servings of pure caffeine for the price of a single C4 pre-workout serving.

Note:

The prices can drop by 20-30% if you subscribe to the Cellucor website and make recurring purchases. 

Who Is It Best For?

C4 Original is, according to many, the best choice for those who are just getting started with pre-workouts. The reasoning behind this is that C4 pre-workout is a cost-effective, mildly stimulatory pre-workout powder.

I wholeheartedly disagree. 

C4 Original shouldn’t be the best option for anyone.

There are much better formulas than C4 Original out there that you can half-scoop to save money and assess your tolerance while ingesting significantly higher doses of the other active pre-workout ingredients.

For instance, half-scooping C4 Ultimate would cost about as much as C4 Original, but you’d get 300% more L-citrulline.

Who Is It Not Good For?

In terms of which kind of gym-goer C4 Original pre-workout isn’t good for, I’d say - any kind of gym-goer looking for an effectively dosed pre-workout supplement.

On the other hand, any pre-workout, including the C4 Original pre-workout, likely isn’t suitable for pregnant women and individuals suffering from underlying health conditions such as:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, or high blood pressure issues could be exacerbated by caffeine.
  • Liver or Kidney Disorders: While generally easy to process, those with moderate to severe liver or kidney issues might have a hard time metabolizing pre-workout ingredients.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Stimulants found in pre-workouts are known to cause GI distress.
  • Anxiety or Mental Health Issues: High doses of stimulants like caffeine in pre-workouts can exacerbate anxiety or other mental health issues.

Other Online Reviews

Online Store

Star Rating

Number Of Reviews

Amazon

4.6/5

25.500+

Brand Website

4.7/5

600+

Average Online Rating

4.6/5

26.000+

Tips For Increasing Performance Using C4 Pre-Workout

If there’s one thing I learned from doing this C4 pre-workout review, it’s that double-scooping C4 Original helps make a difference performance-wise. That said, I wouldn’t suggest you do that.

The best tip I can give you to increase your performance while using C4 Original is to use something better.

Even if you double-scoop C4 Original, you’re only getting a potent dose of caffeine and a half-decent dose of beta-alanine, but you’re still greatly missing out on citrulline - all while spending $2 for a pre-workout serving.

Once again, for about as much money, you can take a single scoop of C4 Ultimate pre-workout and get a lot more.

Ingredients - Effectiveness & Amount

Key Ingredient

Dosage/Serving

Clinically Effective Dose

Effectiveness

Caffeine per serve

150 mg

3-6 mg/kg

Effective

Citrulline Malate per serve

1 g

6-8 g

Highly unlikely

L-Tyrosine

0 mg

500-2000 mg


L-Theanine

0 mg

100-200 mg


Caffeine

Caffeine (anhydrous or otherwise) is a central nervous system stimulant found in various plants, but mainly in coffee. 

Its main function is the inhibition of adenosine receptors in the brain, which in turn prevents drowsiness and enhances alertness. It also stimulates the production of cortisol and catecholamines.

In a pre-workout setting, caffeine leads to increased:

  • Strength and Power Output
  • Endurance and Training Volume
  • Fat Utilization and Oxidation
  • Memory and Reaction Times
  • Rate of Perceived Exertion

At 150 mg, most of the above-mentioned effects can be observed, although individual differences will play a role. 

Nevertheless, a study titled “The effects of different doses of caffeine on endurance cycling time trial performance” showed a significant 4.2% difference in overall aerobic exercise performance, thus proving caffeine’s effects on strength, power output, endurance, and perceived exertion.[1]

Citrulline Malate

L-citrulline is a non-essential amino acid that plays a crucial role in the body's nitric oxide production, a key factor in vasodilation. Citrulline malate (CM), on the other hand, is a more bioavailable compound composed of chemically bonded citrulline and malic acid.

A clinically effective dose for both citrulline and CM is typically around 6-8 grams daily, which could improve:

  • Muscle pumps
  • Vasodilation
  • Power Output
  • Muscular Enduranc
  • Time to Exhaustion

While mostly known for its pump-inducing effects, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggested that citrulline can effectively and substantially improve endurance and power output during physical activity.[2]

One thing worth noting is that citrulline malate used in supplements is often just a mixture of citrulline and malic acid, not a genuine chemically bonded compound, meaning the enhanced bioavailability is off the table.

Stimulants

Stimulant

Included

Clinically Effective Dose

Effectiveness

Theobromine

No

250-500 mg


Theacrine

Yes, unknown

50-300 mg

Highly unlikely

Synephrine/Bitter Orange Extract

No

10-20 mg t.i.d.


DMAE

No

100-300 mg


C4 Original also contains TeaCrine®, a brand-name theacrine compound found in the Explosive Energy blend. 

Theacrine is an alkaloid found in certain tea leaves, primarily the Camellia kucha plant. It is chemically similar to caffeine but is known for its unique properties, such as providing energy and mental alertness without typical caffeine-related side effects like jitteriness or tolerance build-up, as shown by scientific data.[3]

As for the dose, at absolute best, we’re looking at 32 mg of theacrine in the Explosive Energy blend. Realistically, the dose is either 25 or 20 mg.

Boosters

Booster

Included

Clinically Effective Dose

Effectiveness

CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine

1g

3.2-6.4 g/day

Highly unlikely

L-Arginine

No

3-6 g


Nitrosigine

No

1.5 g


Agmatine

No

1.6-6.4 mg/kg


5-HTP

No

300-500 mg


Alpha-GPC

No

300–600 mg


Huperzine A

No

50-200 mcg


Choline Bitartrate

No

500-3000 mg


NO3-T® Creatine Nitrate

1g

3-5 g/day

Highly unlikely

Taurine

No

1-10 g


Piperine

No

5-10 mg


Carnitine

No

500-2000 mg


Betaine

No

3-6 g


Yohimbine

No

0.2mg/kg


Alpha-Yohimbine/Rauwolscine

No

0.2mg/kg


C4 Original Pre-Workout Supplement Facts

As you can see, the rest of the C4 Original formula is as useful as a lifting belt when doing biceps curls, but just for the sake of it, let’s briefly explore what those ingredients are.

CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine

What it is: A non-essential amino acid, the building block of carnosine.

Why it’s used: Enhance endurance and reduce muscle fatigue during extended bouts of physical training.

NO3-T® Creatine Nitrate

What it is: Water-soluble version of creatine bound to a nitrate group.

Why it’s used: Improve exercise performance and muscle strength and size.

Velvet Bean seed extract

What it is: Mucuna pruriens plant extract used in Ayurvedic medicine containing high concentrations of L-Dopa (dopamine precursor).[4]

Why it’s used: Mood elevation and testosterone-boosting.

How I Felt When I Took C4 Pre-Workout

I wish I could say my experience on C4 Original was comparable to the one I had nearly a decade ago. However, it is not.

Here’s how I felt during the three weeks I was conducting the C4 pre-workout review.

Within 15 Minutes

The first 15 to 30 minutes after taking C4 pre-workout were always the same - itchy and otherwise uneventful.

As usual, beta-alanine would get me itchy 15-20 minutes after taking it. Paresthesia would usually manifest itself in my neck and hands, but the feeling would usually pass in less than 20 minutes.

Other than that, I wouldn’t really feel anything else. Once the tingles would wear off, I would realize that I am a bit more energetic and eager to lift, but I could really feel the buzz coming 

Now, when I was double-scooping (just for the sake of trying it), the feelings were different.

The double-scoop tingles would be a bit more noticeable, nothing too drastic, but I would definitely feel the energy ramping up. In this scenario, I’d feel the difference as fast as 10-15 minutes in, and I’d feel like I’m buzzing from head to toe in about 25-30 minutes max.

Within 60 Minutes

An hour in, I’d feel pretty solid. I would be a couple of exercises in, usually three or four, with quite a bit of fuel left in my tank.

I wouldn’t really go as far as “I felt as I did at the beginning,” but I certainly didn’t feel as if I was halfway through a session.

What I also liked was the focus I had. It wasn’t a tunnel-vision-like concentration, but I was less easily distracted. 

I usually train with my friend, who’s an ISSA-certified trainer and nutritionist, and more often than not, we crack a ton of jokes, which can be distracting. 

However, I was able to tune all of that out when it was time to lift. I could really feel my muscles contracting, and I was very aware of my form, range, depth, etc.

After 6+ Hours

After 6+ hours, I felt like I hadn’t taken anything. Truth be told, I felt like I hadn’t taken anything after two, two-and-a-half hours following my C4 pre-workout shake.

And that’s a lovely thing. I’d just feel like I’d feel any other day. My mood was unaffected, my energy levels were normal, my mind was clear, and most importantly, I wasn’t run down.

Now, when I was double-scooping, it was a bit different. I’d feel better immediately after working out, as I was still quite energetic, but once it all began to wear off, I’d kind of feel the side effects.

I can’t say I crashed because I didn’t, but I did feel a bit “empty,” if you catch my drift. Everything was kind of flat, and I didn't have any issues sleeping.

How Does It Compare To Other Pre-Workouts?

Cellucor C4 Vs C4 Sport

C4 Original may be the most well-known C4 pre-workout, but C4 Sport is currently the best-selling C4 pre-workout on Amazon, and for a very good reason. C4 Sport is often priced at around $18 for 30 servings, which is incredibly tempting.

However, the C4 Sport pre-workout is honestly a lackluster product that’s arguably worse than the Original. It has less caffeine per serving, no citrulline (but rather utterly ineffective arginine), and the entire thing is one big proprietary blend, so no one has any idea of actual dosages.

In fact, if you take a look at the C4 Sport Performance Blend, you’ll see that it goes “Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Chloride, Dipotassium Phosphate,” which, if you look at the mineral breakdown above, shouldn’t be the order these go into.

Anyway, C4 Original takes the victory over its “budget-friendlier” counterpart, C4 Sport pre-workout.

Recommended

C4 Original

  • Caffeine - 150 mg
  • Beta-alanine - 1 g
  • Citrulline malate - 1 g

C4 Sport

  • Caffeine - 135 mg
  • Beta-alanine - n/a
  • Citrulline malate - 0 g

Cellucor C4 Vs C4 Ultimate

Right off the bat, you can see that the C4 Ultimate pre-workout is actually a respectable product. It completely wipes the floor with the Original in every way imaginable.

Ultimate has double the caffeine, six times the citrulline, and twice as much creatine and beta-alanine compared to the Original. It also contains taurine and Alpha GPC (although quite modestly dosed).

All in all, while I can’t say Ultimate pre-workout is the GOAT of all pre-workouts, it is definitely something you could use and feel and tell the difference, and compared to Original, it is brilliant.

So, Ultimate takes the victory.

Recommended

C4 Ultimate

  • Caffeine - 300 mg
  • Citrulline blend - 6 g
  • Beta-alanine - 3.2 g

C4 Original

  • Caffeine - 150 mg
  • Citrulline malate - 1 g
  • Beta-alanine - 1 g

What We Have Taken Into Consideration For Giving You A Final Verdict

Let me tell you a few things about me.

My Expertise In Supplements

First of all, I spent more hours than I’d care to admit scrutinizing research papers and staying up-to-date on the latest developments in the field, only so I could “devise the most optimal supplement stack.”

This form of self-education has provided me with a deep understanding of the nuanced world of dietary and performance-enhancing supplements, allowing me to effectively sift through the hype and realize only a handful of these actually work.

In addition, my expertise, if I may call it that, is backed up by my close collaboration with various experts in the fields of sport, science, and medicine. While I never graduated, I also studied pharmacology, so I gained a ton of knowledge during those years, too.

Over the years, I was lucky enough to meet, work, and learn alongside several professionals, and I must admit, their insights and expertise have provided me with invaluable perspectives and a network of trusted resources.

Finally, a few months ago, I became a certified sports nutritionist, which has, I believe, added an academically recognized dimension to my knowledge.

Reviewing Other Products

In order to weed out the BS, I've tested countless products over the past decade, from pre-workouts to fat burners. 

At first, I just tried them out because I wanted to see what the fuss was about, but as time went by, I decided to do it for another reason, which is to help others. As I said, most of them are not worth your time or money, and I’d like for you to know that.

So, with all this said, believe me when I say none of my verdicts are merely theoretical - they are also rooted in real-world applications.

Frequently Asked Cellucor C4 Questions

When should I take C4 pre-workouts?

You should take C4 pre-workout approximately 30 minutes before your workout for the best results.

How long does the C4 pre-workout last?

The effects of C4 pre-workout typically last for about 2 hours, but keep in mind that caffeine’s half-life is 5 to 6 hours, so don’t take it too close to bedtime.

See Our Complete Guide - How Long Does C4 Pre-Workout Last?

Can you stack the C4 pre-workout supplements?

In theory, you could stack C4 pre-workout supplements with one another as their stimulant doses are quite low. However, I wouldn't suggest you do that because it isn't cost-effective, nor will it lead to significant performance differences.

Is Cellucor C4 pre-workout considered a steroid?

No, Cellucor C4 pre-workout is not a steroid. C4 pre-workout is a dietary supplement designed to enhance workout performance.

Final Verdict

The final verdict for my C4 pre-workout review is that you should probably look for a different entry-level, budget-friendly pre-workout supplement. 

C4 Original pre-workout is simply mediocre in more ways than one, and I’d hate for you to waste your money on something that’s essentially a flavored caffeine powder.

If you’d like to remain in the Cellucor C4 family, C4 Ultimate does seem to be a solid, well-formulated, and well-dosed pre-workout supplement if you don’t mind paying a little premium.

recommended pre-workout!

Cellucor C4 Ultimate Pre Workout Benefits

Ingredients

4.7

Effectiveness

4.8

Price

4.5


Overall Rating

4.7

References: 

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22142020/
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26023227/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8768451/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942911/

Last Updated on October 29, 2023

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.