C4 Pre-Workout Reviews 2023: Benefits, Side Effects & Who Is It Best For?

Reviewed by Dr. Drew Sutton, MD

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C4 Pre-Workout Reviews

About The Brand

Cellucor is an American sports nutrition supplement company that originated in 2002, but has now established itself all over the globe.By 2009 Cellucor supplements had reached all major GNC stores. Within 2 years from this time, Cellucor released their first original C4 pre-workout, as a competitor of other leading pre workout supplements like N.O Xplode by BSN.

Some of the most talked about pre workouts that Cellucor released from 2012 to 2022 include: 

  • C4 Ripped Sports Preworkout 
  • C4 Ultimate Shred Preworkout 
  • C4 Ultimate Preworkout Performance Powder 
  • C4 Natural Zero Preworkout 

Cellucor has certainly earned its stripes over the years, with awards like: 

  • ‘Best New Brand’ (2010)
  • ‘GNC Best Vendor of the Year’ (2011–2014)
  • ‘Best Product Innovation’ (2012) 
  • ‘Bodybuilding.com Fat Loss Supplement of the Year’  (2012)
  • ‘GNC Best product of the Year–P6 Black’ (2013)
  • ‘Best Pre-Workout of the Year–C4 Extreme’ (2014) 
  • ‘Bodybuilding.com New product of the year–C4 Ripped’ (2015)

Cellucor has been very versatile with sponsored athletes, from the lights of:

  • Scott Mathison 
  • Ron Everline 
  • Sadik Hadzovic
  • Demi Bagby
  • Britanny Ann

What Is C4 Pre-Workout?

The C4 pre-workout is a powder mix with a variety of ingredients that are proposed to modify exercise and sports performance.

Does It Really Work?

The short answer is YES! 

The C4 pre-workout can effectively be used as an acute sport performance. Does this mean that the supplement does not come with limitations? Unfortunately no, it has many limitations that we will explore in upcoming sections of this review.


Feature Product & Coupon

Cellucor C4 Original Pre-Workout

Best Reputation

C4 Original Pre-Workout

  • Contains caffeine – stimulant effect

C4 Pre-Workout Ingredients


In my opinion, caffeine is the most essential ingredient that should be included in a pre-workout supplement. Once a sufficient dose of caffeine has been ingested, it is taken up to the bloodstream where it inhibits the adenosine receptors of the brain.The adenosine receptors are responsible for slowing neural activity, making us feel relaxed. Once these receptors have been ‘blocked off’ the central nervous system is stimulated, thus increasing sport and exercise performance[1].

What Is An Effective Dose Of Caffeine As A Pre-Workout?

For decades, research and practice have continued to suggest that a single dose of 3-6 mg/kg[2] of body weight may be effective in modifying; 

  • Strength 
  • Power
  • Maximal speed
  • Chronic increase in muscle mass 
  • Endurance Capacity
  • Time to exhaustion 
  • Reaction time 
  • Skill execution 
  • Cognitive functions 

Let’s put this into perspective. 

For the ‘average Joe’ weighing 75 kg, who wants that extra ‘boost’ in the weights room, a 225 mg single dose of caffeine should do the trick (3×75=225). 

Does The C4 Pre-Workout Have Enough Caffeine?

The C4 pre-workout contains around 150mg of caffeine per serving, in relation to the research, I am prepared to say this is low. For this reason, a serving of C4 may only be useful to individuals weighing up to 50 kg (110 lb). So perhaps a small man or a woman?

Personally, this low caffeine content is enough to make the verdict not to purchase the C4 pre-workout, unless I was double scooping (2 servings). 


Arginine is supposedly a ‘pump agent’ that is converted into nitric oxide (N.O) within the bloodstream. Elevated N.O molecules may promote vasodilation and increase oxygen uptake. In theory, this response should modify muscle fatigue resistance. So in other words, you may be able to exercise for longer without getting tired. 

Sounds good right? Perhaps perform more reps in the weights room? Or run further distances? Generally, arginine has shown to modify aerobic and anaerobic performance with a single dose of 0.15g/kg/pd[3]. So for the average 75kg ‘Joe’ we are looking at arginine doses of up to 11.25 g.

Here’s The Problem

Arginine is notorious for poor gut interactions, causing less ‘absorption’ compared to other alternatives. A better alternative may be L-Citrulline, which takes the route of converting into arginine via the kidneys. For this reason, L-Citrulline may promote an even greater arginine, nitric oxide production and blood flow contrary to what may seem intuitive. 

Putting aside the scientific stuff, my expert opinion is that L-Citrulline works better than arginine overall. 

Does The C4 Pre-Workout Have Enough Arginine?

Foremost, arginine is not the best ‘pump agent’. Secondly, Cellucor has only included 1g of arginine alpha ketoglutarate (AKKG), which is an amalgamation of L-Arginine and L-Gluterate[4]. Therefore, I would be lying if I claimed the C4 pre-workout has enough arginine. 

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is an energy substrate for the creatine phosphate system (powerful movement). Hence, why creatine supplementation has been proposed to modify strength and power[5].

Creatine monohydrate (CM) is made up of 3 amino acids; methionine, arginine, and glycine. CM is NOT the most important ingredient in a pre-workout, as it does not modify exercise performance acutely. Some would argue that it should be taken post-workout. Nevertheless, my current viewpoint on CM in a pre-workout is that it is a plus and improves overall quality. A daily 3-5g dose of CM[6] may saturate the muscle cells within 28 days. The modifications in athletic performance could have long term benefits on lean muscle mass. 

Does The C4 Pre-Workout Have Enough Creatine?

Unfortunately, C4 falls short with a CM dose of 1.5g. Nevertheless, let us look at the bright side, as this may contribute towards a total daily intake of the required 3-5g. Three to four servings of meat and/or fish may be able to yield the additional 1.5-2g of creatine[7]. I admire that the C4 pre workout supplement has included monohydrate opposed to creatine nitrate. 


Another non-essential amino acid that can help optimise performance. Once beta alanine is consumed, it combines with another available amino called histidine. This amalgamation creates muscle carnosine[8], which acts as a buffer of lactate and reduces muscle fatigue.  

You might be asking why this would boost performance? Lactic acid is the byproduct of anaerobic exercise (i.e., resistance training and endurance training). If you have ever participated in anaerobic exercise, you very well know how uncomfortable and debilitating lactate can be. As beta-alanine ‘washes out’ lactate, you could expect more muscle endurance with a better performance. In the long term, this outcome will help you work towards your fitness goals.

Does The C4 Pre-Workout Have Enough Creatine?

With only 1.6g of beta-alanine, the C4 pre-workout falls far below the optimal 4-6g daily dose[9]. The beta-alanine in C4 may help towards total daily beta-alanine intake, but not significantly.

C4 Pre-Workout Review: What Do Real Users Say?

‘Very good, taste is there but make sure to mix it well, results are there at the gym especially on those days where you feel like doing nothing’ 

Joey. A

‘C4 pre-workout is a great product available for a great price!’

Kevin. K

Alternatives To C4 Pre-Workout

NameTransparent Labs BulkBucked UpAlani Nu Pre-Workout
ProsOutstanding nutrition profile per serving (Ticks all of my boxes) 
Transparent brand with a lots of good reviews 
Available in 4 unique flavours 
Explosive energy blend
Highly rated 
5 flavours 
Offer free samples and shaker to test it out (USA)
Reasonably priced, and the Rainbow candy flavour is currently discounted by $10 ($29.99 on 14/11/22)
12 unique flavours 
Includes L-theanine to eliminate caffeine crash
Caffeine extracted from coffee beans (Possible cardiovascular benefits)
ConsExpensive compared to industry averagePoor nutrition profile, insufficient caffeine, Beta-Alanine and no creatine 
Expensive compared to industry average
Not vegan friendly (Contains deer extracts)
Limited target audience hence lower caffeine content
Limited nutrient content, would be better to include some more micronutrients
Full reviewTransparent Labs Review Bucked Up Review Alani Nu Review

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Health Benefits Of C4 Pre-Workout

The C4 pre-workout contains some crucial micronutrients like vitamin b12, which may help prevent deficiency and the subsequent negative effects (glossitis and paraesthesia). This is especially useful for vegans who are known to struggle with b12 intake, due to eliminating animal proteins. Not to mention, this pre workout supplement contains other micronutrients such as folic acid and vitamin c. 

Moreover, C4 may promote an effective exercise session, which in the long term may help maintain a healthy body weight and muscle size. This chronic outcome may prevent major ailments like; obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes. 

Potential Side Effects

Insomnia/Sleep Disturbances

As C4 may ‘block off’ the brain’s adenosine receptors (sleep signaller), it should not come as a surprise that there is an increased risk of sleep disturbances and insomnia. To promote a good restful night of sleep, it is crucial that most of the caffeine is eliminated from the body. The caffeine ‘washout’ period is around 12hr, with a 6hrs half-life[10]. So, I would strongly suggest C4 is NOT taken after the 6hr window before bed.

Anxiety/Panic Attacks

For those who are at risk of behavioral disorders, the sensations induced by C4 may evoke a bout of anxiety or panic. 

Some sensations you could expect with C4 include:

  • Tingling skin (Beta-alanine)
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate (Caffeine)
  • Rush of energy (Caffeine)
  • Restlessness and shaking (Caffeine)


  • Reasonable price – Excluding shipping, the current official price is $29.99 for 30 servings (14/11/22)
  • Transparent brand – Reasonable reviews and sponsored athletes/public figures (May have a great placebo effect) 
  • Easily accessible product – Sold in most supplements providers 


  • Underdosed compared to other pre workout supplements – Serving is insufficient for most 

Where To Buy C4 Pre-Workout?

For an authentic C4 product with lower risk of being tampered with, it is best to buy from the official site[11]

Other stores include:

  • Amazon (Global) 
  • Walmart (USA)
  • Costco (UK & USA)
  • Holland & Barrets (UK)
  • The Vitaminshoppe (USA) 

How To Use C4 Pre-Workout?

To put together the pre-workout, some pre work is needed, non pun intended. 

The general recommendation for C4 is to mix a 1 scoop serving with 170ml of water to make a pre workout drink, taken 30 minutes before exercise. Personally, I would take a larger serving. For my 95kg frame, 2 scoops with 340 ml of water may be sufficient. This double serving would yield 300mg of caffeine and 3g of creatine, and 3.2g of beta-alanine. 

Who Is C4 Pre-Workout Best For?

The C4 pre-workout is best for the adult population (18+) looking for a boost in exercise performance. Mainly ‘gym goers’ and recreational sport participants. 

Moreover, C4 is not restricted to any genders, but may work better in women and smaller men.

C4 Pre-Workout Reviews

C4 Ripped Sport Pre Workout Powder

This pre-workout is similar to the C4 Original, but with added micronutrients, citrulline, and at a lower price.

  • Official price is currently lower than the price of C4 original – $27.99 for 30 servings (2022)
  • Low calories – 5Kcal per serving
  • Low dosing similar to C4 Original
  • Nothing significant to increase energy expenditure for fat loss
  • Added micronutrients/aminos – magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, citrulline

Real User Review

‘I would choose this over the original’

Dato. M

C4 Ultimate Shred Pre Workout Powder

C4 shred is probably not worth the price tag, but it is certainly a top tier pre-workout to boost exercise performance.

  • 300mg of caffeine
  • More than enough pump agent (citrulline)
  • Reasonable amount of beta-alanine
  • Highly rated – 4.5/5
  • Contains B vitamins
  • Overpriced, costing $54.99 (2022)
  • Low servings, with 20 per container
  • No significant fat loss agents as claimed, it may burn 50Kcal more than C4 original due to the caffeine content

Real User Review

‘I have had the best and longest workouts using this product. I always feel pumped and the amount and rapidity that I have been able to make gains is incredible. Would definitely recommend this product’

Ramiro. V

C4 Ultimate Pre Workout Performance Powder

For me the C4 Ultimate pre-workout takes #1 for quality, reputation, and price amongst the Cellucor pre-workout selection. It definitely wins a place in my shopping basket.

  • Best pre-workout by Cellucor
  • 300mg caffeine
  • 3.2g beta-alanine
  • Amalgamation of citrulline variations (pump agent)
  • Currently, $10 Cheaper than C4 Ultimate Shred
  • May be a suitable formula to support muscle building
  • Some ingredients are not necessary i.e., 1g of creatine
  • Low servings (20 per container)

Real User Review

‘C4 Ultimate provides the perfect amount of energy and strength to push through my most rigorous workouts! Love this stuff!’


C4 Sport Natural Zero Pre Workout Powder

With all due respect, I would not use this pre-workout or recommend it to most. Poor quality!

  • Cheap ($19.99)
  • Reasonable servings (25 per container)
  • Natural ingredients
  • Proprietary blend (not dosed effectively)
  • Low caffeine dose of 135 mg per serving
  • Lowest rated 3.5/5
  • Poor flavour selection

Real User Review

I have tried many different flavors of C4 and this is the worst one out of all of them. I will stick to fruit punch. Get rid of this flavor – I ended up throwing it in the trash after 2 days.


Final Thought

Some Cellucor pre-workout products are outstanding that could help you reach your health and fitness goals, but the C4 Original pre-workout is not worth the price tag for most. You are better off opting for a strong cup of black coffee.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important ingredient in a pre-workout?

Caffeine for its ergogenic effect and energy metabolism.

I’m a woman, relatively new to the gym, and have never used a pre-workout, which Cellucor product best suits me?

Perhaps the C4 Original or the C4 sports Natural Zero, as these two variations have a low caffeine content which may work for smaller people.

+ 11 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2021). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4 [Accessed 12 Jan. 2023].
  2. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2021). International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4 [Accessed 12 Jan. 2023].
  3. Viribay, A., Burgos, J., Fernández-Landa, J., Seco-Calvo, J. and Mielgo-Ayuso, J. (2020). Effects of Arginine Supplementation on Athletic Performance Based on Energy Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, [online] 12(5), p.1300. doi:10.3390/nu12051300.
  4. Viribay, A., Burgos, J., Fernández-Landa, J., Seco-Calvo, J. and Mielgo-Ayuso, J. (2020). Effects of Arginine Supplementation on Athletic Performance Based on Energy Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, [online] 12(5), p.1300. doi:10.3390/nu12051300.
  5. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2022). Effect of 28 days of creatine ingestion on muscle metabolism and performance of a simulated cycling road race. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/1550-2783-7-26?scroll=top&needAccess=true [Accessed 12 Jan. 2023].
  6. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2022). Effect of 28 days of creatine ingestion on muscle metabolism and performance of a simulated cycling road race. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/1550-2783-7-26?scroll=top&needAccess=true [Accessed 12 Jan. 2023].
  7. Brosnan, M.E. and Brosnan, J.T. (2016). The role of dietary creatine. Amino Acids, [online] 48(8), pp.1785–1791. doi:10.1007/s00726-016-2188-1.
  8. Woitas, L.R. and Ribas, J.W. (2022). Major clinical findings of β-alanine in sports performance: a systematic review. International Journal of Nutrology, [online] 15(2). doi:10.54448/ijn22205.
  9. Woitas, L.R. and Ribas, J.W. (2022). Major clinical findings of β-alanine in sports performance: a systematic review. International Journal of Nutrology, [online] 15(2). doi:10.54448/ijn22205.
  10. Pavithra V (2021). Review Article on Caffeine Activity. Journal of Nanotechnology Research, [online] 3(1), pp.1–5. Available at: https://www.fortuneonline.org/articles/review-article-on-caffeine-activity.html [Accessed 12 Jan. 2023].
  11. Cellucor. (2022). C4® Original Pre Workout Powder. [online] Available at: https://cellucor.com/products/c4-original?queryID=87ad7cd295f09b3f4e3115d0dba58347 [Accessed 12 Jan. 2023].


Zaakir Shakoor, Nutritionist
Nutrition, Exercise & Health Specialist/Writer
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Middlesex University. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2022, he authored a book called 'The 'Good' Coach Weight Loss Solution.


Drew is a retired ENT doctor who now lives in the Southeastern US. He was a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and an MD degree. He completed his internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and practiced for almost 30 years in all aspects of ENT, including a specialization in disorders of the ear and skull base. Drew is passionate about communicating his clinical experiences and making his knowledge more accessible to the general public by medical writing.

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