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Pre-Workout Supplements for Beginners Guide

Maybe you’re looking for energy and focus to get off the couch and into the gym. Maybe you’re looking to take your gym session, workout class, or at-home training to the next level.

What if there were something out there that could help you crush your workouts no matter what your training level or goal?

There is. It's a pre-workout supplement.

What Does Pre-Workout Do?

A pre-workout supplement is a combination of ingredients designed to help increase training intensity, output, and volume to get more from each workout session. In time, those extra reps, sets, and minutes spent add up to major gains.

Pre-workouts support a wide range of fitness goals, including: 

  • Increased energy
  • Endurance
  • Fighting fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Muscle Building & Strength

Types of Pre-Workouts

Caffeine-based pre-workouts: These contain caffeine as the main ingredient. Research on caffeine supplementation has shown it to increase energy, focus, and alertness. Caffeine based pre-workouts are ideal for individuals looking to boost their energy levels. 

Creatine-based pre-workouts: These contain creatine, a molecule that helps the body produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Creatine supplementation can help enhance athletic performance and increase muscle mass. Individuals focused on athletic performance would be interested in creatine-based per-workouts. 

Nitric oxide boosters: These pre-workouts aim to support increased nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide contributes to a process known as vasodilation, where blood vessels widen leading to increased blood flow, which results in increased oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles. People looking to increase blood flow during their workouts would be interested in pre-workouts with nitric oxide boosting ingredients.  

It's important to note that pre-workout supplements will often contain varying amounts of these ingredients. So, it’s important to read the product labels carefully and understand what ingredients help support your individual goals. 

Ingredients in Your Pre-Workout

Before purchasing a pre-workout, you want to examine the label and look for clinically-studied ingredients that support your fitness journey.


Caffeine is the classic ingredient found in your morning pick-me-up to get you energized before your workout. Your C4 pre-workout supplement can have anywhere from 135mg-350mg per serving compared to a standard coffee, which falls within the 80mg-100mg range.

After oral ingestion, caffeine is 99% absorbed within 45 minutes by the gastrointestinal tract, according to a review in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. For this reason, research on caffeine’s effect on athletic performance has primarily been in the areas of running and cycling.

Specifically, a 2010 Journal of Sports Sciences study found that 3mg of caffeine per kilogram of body mass improved cycling performance compared to a placebo.

Another study found experienced cyclists were able to ride faster for 60 minutes at 75% of peak power output in 95 degrees Fahrenheit compared to cyclists that weren’t stimulated.

Other studies have found improved reaction time, mental clarity, and focus. This improved alertness can also come with better tolerance for pain.

CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine

Your muscles are made up of proteins, and amino acids are the foundations of those proteins. CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine is a patented amino acid used to help your muscles endure a tough workout. 

Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid (meaning our bodies can produce it) but it can also be found in protein-packed foods like beef, chicken, pork, and fish.

Beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine, which buffers hydrogen ions within muscle cells. The buffering of beta-alanine results in a fatigue-fighting effect since the muscles are able to contract for longer/more efficiently.

According to a 2014 review in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, there are studies that found beta-alanine may increase power output and working capacity, decrease the feeling of fatigue and exhaustion, and have a positive effect on body composition and carnosine content.

Beta-alanine is one of the few ingredients in any C4 product that elicits a physical feeling—if you feel a tingling sensation in your lips, face, or even fingertips, it’s a harmless effect of beta-alanine to tell you "hey, I'm working".

Beta-alanine works best where large muscles are contracting quickly, like when running sprints, wrestling, high-intensity cycling (yes, spin class), and Olympic weightlifting.

Creatine Nitrate

Creatine can be found naturally in bone and certain foods and helps to build strength and lean muscle. Creatine monohydrate is the most widely researched and widely used form of creatine as a dietary supplement. It is taken to improve athletic performance, increase muscle strength and power, and enhance recovery.

Creatine nitrate is a university studied, advanced, and more soluble form of creatine that helps with "pumps". C4 uses the only patented, legally-licensed form of creatine nitrate: NO3-T.

Using the trademarked NO3-T ensures quality and consistency with each dose, allowing you to experience the power and performance-boosting benefits of nitrates each and every time you consume the product.

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid that is converted by the body into another amino acid called arginine. Arginine plays a role in nitric oxide production. Supplemental citrulline has been shown to raise plasma arginine levels greater than supplementing with arginine itself because arginine gets metabolized into other components. Citrulline is one of the most popular ingredients in nitric oxide focused pump pre-workouts. 


Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate

Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate is a precursor to nitric oxide, which promotes nitric oxide production in the body. Ultimately, this helps in achieving pumps.

Arginine is an amino acid found in eggs, chicken, nuts, dairy, pork, and other foods. The body converts arginine to nitric oxide in a complex reaction.

Arginine is also used in the urea cycle which is the natural process in which ammonia is detoxified through its metabolism into urea.

Although arginine may improve blood flow and circulation, there is no conclusive evidence that the arginine-nitric oxide relationship results in improved performance.

TeaCrine® (Tetramethyluric acid/Theacrine):

TeaCrine® is a non-stimulant source of energy and focus, and it is structurally similar to caffeine. Preliminary human studies indicate that the body does not adapt to it as quickly as it does to caffeine, therefore prolonging the tolerance buildup.


N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is a more soluble form of L-Tyrosine, which supports the production of noradrenaline and dopamine, in turn supporting mental and cognitive health during stressful activities – such as physical training.

According to a 2010 European Journal of Applied Physiology study, oral supplementation with tyrosine improves cycling performance in the heat.

Moderately trained athletes were able to cycle longer compared to a placebo after taking 150mg of tyrosine per kg of body weight. Tyrosine plays a role in providing a better mood, which may result in getting more out of your workouts.

How to Use Your Pre-Workout

Traditionally, pre-workouts have had a reputation for being exclusive to the advanced audience, whose sole focus is to get as muscular as possible.

The truth is pre-workout supplements can support all fitness levels – from beginner to intermediate to advanced. If you're looking for energy, endurance, or cognitive focus for physical or mental performance, then you could benefit from pre-workouts.

When combined with the proper training regimen and nutrition program, taking a pre-workout can offer that extra push

Tips for Choosing a Pre-Workout

Determine your goals: Before choosing a pre-workout, be sure you understand your fitness goals. Are you looking to lose weight or put on muscle? If you’re trying to put on weight, then a pre-workout with thermogenic ingredients that support increased calorie burning likely wouldn’t help you out. Once you know your goals you can narrow your focus to pre-workouts that meet your specific needs. 

Read the label: Look at the ingredients list and check for key ingredients that align with your goals. Make sure you're aware of the amount of each ingredient in each serving. 

Understand your tolerance: Knowing your sensitivity to ingredients like caffeine (as well as your overall daily intake) can help guide you. If you’re more sensitive to caffeine or consuming high amounts from other products, you may want to avoid it or choose a pre-workout that has a lower amount. Similarly, if you later in the day and have trouble sleeping when you have caffeine in the afternoons, this would be something to take into consideration. 

Consider customer reviews: Read customer reviews on the pre-workouts you’re considering, seeing what others have experienced when using it. This can give you an idea of the effects other people have felt from using the product, as well as an idea of what people think it tastes like. 

Pre-Workout FAQ

What is the best pre-workout supplement?

C4 is America’s #1 selling pre-workout brand, based on sales of all C4 brand products in the U.S.A. from 2014 to the present, having sold over 2.5 billion servings of C4. And we do not skimp on quality and our formulations include patented, clinically studied ingredients at doses that yield the best possible products for your goals. For these reasons, C4 is the best pre-workout supplement.

How Long Does it Take Pre-Workout to Kick in?

Typically, you take pre-workouts 20-30 minutes before your training session. It's best to refer to each product's 'Suggested Use' for specific directions.

For those less sensitive to stimulants, the average individual can expect to feel the full effects within 45 minutes and last for 3-6 hours. For those more sensitive to stimulants, the effects will likely be felt faster and last closer to 6 hours. 

However, the overall effects of pre-workout will depend on your sensitivity to caffeine and the other ingredients discussed.

Is Pre-Workout Bad For You?

Only use pre-workout as directed on each product's label. For example, but not limited to, pre-workout is only intended for healthy adults, 18 years of age or older. And do not use if pregnant or nursing.

Our C4 Sport Series have been NSF® Certified for Sport. The NSF® certification mark on our products helps athletes of all levels buy our supplements with confidence. Certified supplements must meet rigorous standards that include comprehensive lab testing and extensive evaluation of the manufacturing process to ensure contaminated substances or hidden ingredients are not added to a product.

The NSF Certified for Sport® Program helps athletes, coaches, and trainers make more informed decisions when choosing sports supplements. The program is recognized by the NFL, NFL Players Association, MLB, MLB Players Association, PGA, LPGA, and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports.

Is pre-workout necessary?

A pre-workout is not necessary but it will help you to unlock energy, endurance, and focus for unmatched physical and mental performance to achieve the task at hand.

How much water should I drink pre workout?

Mix your serving of pre-workout with between 6-12 fl. oz. of water 20-30 minutes before training.

During your workout, it is recommended that you drink plenty of water. Refer to each product's 'Suggested Use' for specific directions. 

Coffee vs Pre Workout?

Both coffee and pre-workouts have their place in an active lifestyle.

But it's important to note: while you do get an energy boost from a cup of coffee, pre-workouts offer additional performance benefits with tailored formulas that enhance physical output for a variety of activities.

In other words, pre-workouts combine specific ingredients in specific doses to give you the biggest bang for your buck by maximizing the time and effort you put into your workouts.

Over time, you will reap the benefits of taking pre-workouts consistently, with increased muscle, strength, and power, along with better endurance performance.

And when you’re ready to progress to the next level, we’ll be right there for you with a C4 pre-workout for your goals.

How to Stack Your Pre-Workout

While you can stack other supplements with your pre-workout powder, you want to make sure you do not exceed your nitrate threshold or double up on stimulatory products, such as pre-workout and weight loss products. One stimulant based product should be used at a time.

Products with higher concentrations of nitrate-based ingredients such as C4 Original and NO3 Chrome, for example, are not recommended to be used together.

A good rule of thumb when stacking products: take a pre-workout, an intra-workout (Alpha Amino to support hydration and recovery), and post-workout (a protein powder like COR-Performance Whey).

Pre-Workout Formulas for Your Goals

Whether you want an increase in energy and endurance, fighting fatigue and weight loss, or building strength and lean muscle, the C4 pre-workout family has a solution to support any or all of your goals. 

C4 Original - Pre-Workout for Enhanced Energy

Iconic and essential, C4 Original is our foundational explosive pre-workout. Available in an amazing array of flavors, C4 Original is built with explosive energy, endurance, pumps, and a performance formula that delivers 150mg of caffeine for consumers of all levels.

C4 Ripped - Fat-Burning Pre-Workout

Building on C4 Original, C4 Ripped supports energy, pumps, and performance with 150mg of caffeine, but also features a powerful cutting formula with l-carnitine, Capsimax® cayenne extract, and additional ingredients to help support your fat-loss goals.

C4 Ultimate - High Stim Pre-Workout

Our most advanced and comprehensive pre-workout experience, C4 Ultimate is fully loaded with 300mg of caffeine, 6g citrulline malate, 3.2g CarnoSyn® Beta-Alanine, and an array of additional supporting ingredients to deliver the ultimate in explosive energy, pumps, performance, and focus. 

C4 Sport - NSF Certified for Athletes

C4 Sport supports explosive energy, performance, and endurance for workouts of all stripes and trainees of all types. The NSF Certified for Sport® formula is trusted by competitive athletes, contains 135mg caffeine, and forms the base of our 1-2-3 Sport Series System.

C4 SuperSport - NSF Certified Pre-Workout

C4 SuperSport is proudly NSF Certified – the independent certification trusted by athletes and major sporting bodies worldwide. So, whether you’re an elite competitor or just starting your fitness journey, you can trust C4 SuperSport to supercharge your performance.

C4 Ripped SuperSport - NSF Certified Fat Burning Pre-Workout

C4 Ripped SuperSport is supercharged to help drive performance & fat burning. With ingredients to support energy, fat burning, hydration, and increased metabolic rate, C4 Ripped SuperSport™ helps you reach your goals.

C4 Extreme - Pre-Workout for Endurance

The first product of Project Clear Evolution, C4 Extreme is fully transparent, made without artificial flavors or dyes, and contains an innovative formula with 25% more energy (200mg caffeine) and endurance than C4 Original, plus 2x the nitrates, to deliver enhanced energy, pumps, focus, and performance. 

Date November 15, 2017
Category Nutrition