Finding the Right Pre-Workout for Your Goals



Finding the right supplement is a lot like being in the dating scene: big claims are rarely true and you have to deal with a lot of disappointments before you find a good one.

I’ve been a personal trainer for more than 12 years and one of the questions that I get asked the most by clients is, “Do you recommend pre-workout supplements?” I’m definitely an advocate for pre-workouts but it’s not easy to only say yes and not follow up with an explanation of what I look for in a pre-workout.

Pre-Workout Must-Haves

Anyone can add flavoring to caffeine powder and call it a pre-workout so the important thing is to find a brand that really goes above and beyond with their ingredient list.

I look for scientifically shown and user-tested ingredients when I am on a supplement hunt. For a pre-workout supplement, here are my top five must-have ingredients:

  • Caffeine
  • Theacrine
  • Beta alanine
  • Creatine
  • AAKG (Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate)

My Thoughts on C4 Original

Cellucor C4 Original was one of the first supplements to pop-up when searching for my favored top five ingredients. It contains 150mg of caffeine, which I believe is the ideal serving size. It’s not overkill and you’re not getting short-changed. I like having a pre-workout that I can use early in the day for a workout and again in the afternoon for when I’m writing articles, creating programs, or reading studies.

Right next to caffeine, I prefer to have theacrine. I like to think of it as caffeine’s significant other. Both are energy boosters but I find that theacrine helps me to avoid the jitters and anxiousness that I may ordinarily get from taking a big dose of straight caffeine.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I love that famous flushing and tingling feeling from beta alanine. I’m a big advocate of beta alanine because the research on the benefits of this amino acid has been consistently positive for years. It has been suggested to promote strength and performance while aiding in recovery.

I'm a big supporter of using creatine. Again, the studies have been consistent on what creatine can do for you. It provides a usable form of energy for muscle activation, it boosts your intra-workout performance, and it supports recovery. C4 Original contains creatine nitrate, which is suggested to have a higher rate of absorbability. I’m happy with creatine monohydrate so any upgrades are a welcome addition.

AAKG (Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate) is an ingredient that I’ve come around to liking in my pre-workouts because of the pump that I’m able to achieve with it. Sure, it definitely helps to have several nitric oxide boosters in one shot but AAKG does a decent job on its own. What’s more, I feel that my recovery is more on point when I’m supplementing with AAKG. 

My Workout with C4 Original

When I use a pre-workout, I will typically consume 75% about 20 minutes before I begin to exercise. I’ll refill the shaker with water and sip on the remaining 25% during the workout. 

I used C4 Original during a standard full-body workout of split squats, Romanian deadlifts, barbell rows, and incline chest presses. It was during the split squats that I could really feel the difference with C4 Original. I always use the heaviest weights on the first exercise of my workout so I need to be in the zone and as engaged as possible. C4 definitely provided the focus and extra push that I needed to crank out those extra repetitions with intensity. 

As the workout progressed, that initial spike in energy did gradually come down and level-out but it didn’t crash. I was able to move through the workout without needing another boost.

After the workout, I was impressed at how my attention and focus stayed elevated. I’ve used certain pre-workouts that resulted in nap-time once I returned home from the gym so it was nice to be able to get home and continue being productive.

On the days that I plan on using more than 85% of my one-repetition maximum, I would probably consider trying the next level up, which is C4 Ultimate. This is because C4 Ultimate contains the higher dosages of certain ingredients like caffeine and beta-alanine.

Would I Recommend C4 Original?

C4 Original is a solid pre-workout that I would definitely recommend for anyone who needs that extra boost before a workout or throughout the day.

References 

  1. Acheson KJ, Zahorska-Markiewicz B, Pittet P, Anantharaman K, Jéquier E. Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 May;33(5):989-97.

 

  1. Daniel Borota, Elizabeth Murray, Gizem Keceli, Allen Chang, Joseph M Watabe, Maria Ly, John P Toscano, & Michael A Yassa. Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature Neuroscience 17, 201–203 (2014) doi:10.1038/nn.3623.

 

  1. David Furman, Junlei Chang, Lydia Lartigue, et al. Expression of specific inflammasome gene modules stratifies older individuals into two extreme clinical and immunological states. Nature Medicine 23, 174–184 (2017) doi:10.1038/nm.4267.

 

  1. Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):25-37. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z. Epub 2012 Jan 24.

 

  1. Artioli GG, Gualano B, Smith A, Stout J, Lancha AH Jr. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1162-73. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c74e38.

 

  1. Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. (2006) Effect of Creatine and Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Performance and Endocrine Responses in Strength/Power Athletes. IJSNEM, 16(4).

 

  1. Willoughby DS, Boucher T, Reid J, Skelton G, Clark M. Effects of 7 days of arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate supplementation on blood flow, plasma L-arginine, nitric oxide metabolites, and asymmetric dimethyl arginine after resistance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Aug;21(4):291-9.

 

  1. K. Hnia, J. Gayraud, G. Hugon, M. Ramonatxo, S. De La Porte, S. Matecki, et al. L-Arginine Decreases Inflammation and Modulates The Nuclear Factor-Κb/Matrix Metalloproteinase Cascade In Mdx Muscle Fibers. Am J Pathol, 172 (6) (2008), pp. 1509-1519.

 

  1. B.I. Campbell, P.M. La Bounty, M. Roberts. The Ergogenic Potential of Arginine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 1 (2) (2004), pp. 35-38.



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Alpha Amino BCAA

Alpha Amino is the ultimate performance, hydration and recovery sports drink powder. Its premium formula is built on the power of amino acids and formulated with ingredients that promote healthy fluid balance. Alpha Amino has 14 Amino Acids including a well-studied 2:1:1 BCAA ratio. These Amino Acids support the body’s ability to fuel skeletal muscles, preserve muscle glycogen stores and reduce protein breakdown.

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  • Zero Stimulants & Zero Sugar
C4 Sport

C4 Sport! If you are a collegiate athlete or play sports competitively, C4 Sport is the perfect pre-workout for you because it is NSF Certified for Sport. C4 will help you tackle your training in the gym and on the field.

  • Boosts energy + focus
  • Enhances muscular endurance
  • 135mg of caffeine
  • Contains CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine, an amino acid, patented and clinically studied form of beta-alanine that has been shown to support muscular endurance
  • NSF certification is trusted by the MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAA, and everyday athletes alike
C4 Original

C4 Original! This is our best-selling pre-workout with more than 1.3 billion servings sold! C4 Original is perfect for you if you are new to the pre-workout game or you are seeking a lower stimulant C4.

  • Perfect for energy, focus and pumps
  • Good if you’re at the start your fitness journey/want to step up your workouts
  • 150mg of caffeine

Pro tip: If you are just starting out on a pre-workout, take half a scoop to assess tolerance level.*

Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

C4 Ripped

C4 Ripped! If your goal is to lose weight, C4 Ripped is the perfect pre-workout for you.

  • Helps you train harder while supporting your body’s ability to burn fat
  • Creatine-free
  • Includes ingredients like Green Coffee Bean Extract to support weight loss
  • 150mg of caffeine
  • L-Carnitine Tartrate

Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

C4 Extreme Energy

C4 Extreme! If you love energy drinks and are always on the hunt for higher caffeine levels, C4 Extreme is for you.

  • C4 Extreme is the most stimulating C4 pre-workout
  • 2x as much caffeine than C4 Original
  • 2x as much CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine (tingles) than C4 Original
  • 300mg of caffeine
C4 Ultimate

C4 Ultimate! If you’re a seasoned gym goer who loves pre-workouts and you’re looking for a fully-loaded, high-impact pre-workout, C4 Ultimate has what you need.

  • The most powerful C4 created
  • Per scoop: 300mg caffeine, 6g Citrulline Malate, 3.2g of CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine, 1.5g Nitrosigine®, 1.5g Creatine Nitrate, plus a powerful blend of nootropics
  • Fully-loaded formula packs a heavy punch of ingredients for focus, endurance, and pumps to help push you to your ultimate limit
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Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

BCAA Sport

BCAA Sport! If you are a collegiate athlete – or play sports competitively, BCAA Sport is a perfect stimulant-free option for you, because it is NSF® Certified for Sport®! BCAA Sport supports all day hydration & recovery, to maximize your workout results

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  • Zero Stimulants & Zero Sugar
  • 4G BCAA’s, 2.25G Added Amino Acids, 2G Added Glutamine, and Added Electrolytes
  • NSF® Certified for Sport®
CN3

CN3&trad; combines 3 forms of Creatine into a stimulant-free 3-in-1 Creatine complex! Providing 6.25 total grams consisting of micronized Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Nitrate, and Creatine Hydrochloride. CN3&trad; is an amazing product to be taken before, during, or after a workout. Looking to amplify Strength & Pumps? CN3&trad; has got you covered!

  • Strength & Pump Amplifier
  • Stimulant free
  • Includes Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Nitrate, and Creatine HCL
  • Unflavored or flavored
CLK

Cellucor CLK® is a stimulant free toning and sculpting supplement built on the power of four all-star weight loss ingredients: CLA, Raspberry Ketones, Carnitine, and the latest in diet support; Slimpro®.

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  • Can be taken standalone, or paired with C4 Ripped (C4 Ripped contains stimulants)
  • Raspberry flavored softgels

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