Cellucor C4 is the most popular pre workout in the supplement world without question. It is the first pre workout everyone tries when they begin an exercise routine, and very frequently, other pre workout supplements are reviewed in comparison by the question “how many scoops of C4 is it equivalent to,” Simply because everyone can use that as a general reference to a pre workouts strength. With all of the new products, brands and even scams being released to the public, it seems almost daily a new pre workout is introduced. But how can you tell if C4 or one of the many offshoots are going to help you reach your goal, especially when many ingredient labels aren’t disclosed? With the process of deductive reasoning, we can’t exactly quantify the exact amount of each ingredient, but with some guidelines and research, it is possible to determine whether it is even possible the ingredients are going to have an effect for what they claim and are intended to do.
I do not want to mislead anyone. I do not intend to bash any company, or persuade you to buy, or not buy this product. This is an educational piece on how much thought should go into each product purchased, and a simplified way to help someone decide if a pre workout supplement is a quality product that is even worth trying. It is also a simple breakdown process that can be used for any other products in question with a little research to see if a product will have the benefits you need to achieve a certain outcome. I will be as unbiased as possible, so that you can receive information that is reliable, and can form your own opinion.
The best place to get an idea of the efficacy of a product is from the “Supplement Facts” panel. It is important for everyone to understand this- Anything that is NOT part of the “Supplement Facts”, or DIRECTLY under the “Supplement Facts” labeled as “Ingredients”, is just marketing. The product, on the front can say it is “Pump Enhancing”, the top can have a sticker saying “Warning: Only For Serious Lifters” and the back have a detailed paragraph basically telling you the product causes you to go into a psychotic rage and that if you use the product enough you are a true iron warrior (or some glorified nonsense to make you feel like a winner). This is all just noise. it is basically there to distract you from what really matters, and having a shiny chrome bottle is just to catch your eye when it is on the shelf. Marketing is only effective to an uneducated consumer. Remember that. So the best way to analyze a product, in our case Cellucors’ C4 Ripped, is to take all those crazy claims, colorful labels, friends’ suggestions, reviews, and prices, and throw them out the window for a moment to make a fair and accurate assessment… So Let’s Do Just That…
Cellucor C4 Ripped Supplement Facts
Quantity of Ingredients vs. Serving Size
Lets start with the basics. Add up the the total ingredients amounts on the right. In this case, a mix of vitamins and minerals are included which are always separate from the rest of the ingredients such as caffeine, beta alanine, etc., and are always above the line in the middle of the supplement facts panel. To save some time, the math adds up to 4,260.785mg, or approximately 4.3 grams. The serving size is 6g, which means the active ingredients make up less than 75% of the whole serving. So one fourth of this already small dose is used to create the taste and add flavoring, to create the coloring of the powder, to prevent the powder from clumping/maintaining consistency throughout the product, and to preserve the shelf-life of the powder. These ingredients can range from harmful preservatives to natural flavors (which is listed) which can actually be just as harmful as artificial flavoring, but we will save that for another article. These numbers are more important in other supplements such as protein powders, but nonetheless, its still important to consider. Just know that a quarter of what you buy in each tub, is just flavoring, preservatives and chemicals.
Efficacy of Individual Ingredients
Every ingredient is meant to serve a purpose. However, for the ingredient to have some type of effect, it would need to be in a particular range reffered to as the clinical dose. This is also known as the dosage efficacy. We can start from the top and begin with their open disclosure ingredient of their Beta Alanine. It is at 1.6g, which is slightly below the minimum recommendation of 2-5g per day. Beta Alanine is known to increase endurance and to a minor extent, increase lean muscle mass, when used at proper dosing. For an inexperienced user, 1.6g will be enough for the first week or so to cause parathesia, which is the tingling sensation C4 is known for. However at this dose, the benefits are unlikely to be noticeable, at least when using only 1 scoop.
Arginine AKG, or Arginine Alpha Keto-Glutarate is the next, and last, fully disclosed ingredient. Arginine is added to cause vasodilation through increasing nitric oxide levels in the blood. Studies have shown Arginine to be ineffective at causing any significant difference between the Arginine AKG group and the placebo(1) when hemodynamics (changes in blood measurements) are calculated. More effective compounds that increase blood flow and are proven to have an effect are Agmatine and Citrulline. Agmatine is a derivative of Arginine, which has many other benefits and functions also as a neurotransmitter. Citrulline converts into Arginine in the body but is much higher in bioavailability through oral ingestion, so is more effective at increasing nitric oxide levels in the blood compared to Arginine.
As we go further, it becomes more difficult to interpret and analyze. Next is a group of individual ingredients that are combined into one category, used to protect the exact amounts used in the product. This is known as a proprietary blend. Typically, proprietary blends are comprised of ingredients that could possibly be beneficial, however range from effective doses to completely ineffective dosages. The most common reason for this is to hide the under dosed quantities of each ingredient from a consumer. It is impossible to do research on a single ingredients efficacy when the dose is unknown. They call this blend the “C4 Ripped Blend.” There is 1 gram combined of the following ingredients: L-Carnitine Tartrate Green Coffee Bean Extract (standardized for Chlorogenic Acids) Capsimax® Cayenne fruit extract Coleus Forskohlii root extract
This is where deductive reasoning can be applied. Deductive reasoning can be used to approximate the quantities to help determine if it is even possible that the ingredient could be in the effective range. The lowest dose for L-Carnitine Tartrate to have an effect on weight loss is 750mg. Since the Carnitine is the first ingredient, and since we know the first ingredient has the largest dose inside that particular blend, there is a possibility of this ingredient being at an efficacious dosage. This is to have the smallest effect possible, and needs to be taken consistently, sometimes twice a day, typically for 100 days in a row for the muscle to become saturated, and to maximize the effect. Nonetheless, it is possible the Carnitine is in an effective range.
The next ingredient of Green Coffee Bean Extract, could be slightly misleading to some consumers. The percentages are commonly 10% or 20%. The Green Coffee Bean Extract is standardized to Chlorogenic Acid, which is the actual active compound. Only a percentage of the extract is effective, and again, the exact standardization of the extract is not disclosed, so it can be assumed that it is not of the highest quality. Chlorogenic Acid is known to block the absorption of carbohydrates, decrease blood pressure, decrease blood sugar (possiby due to blocking carb absorption), elevated mood, along with other benefits. According to a study on the effects of Green Coffee consumption, over the course of 12 weeks, participants lost an average of 5.4kg of mass with just 200mg daily.(2) So 200mg is the amount we are hoping to be in this product as well.
Capsimax® is a registered ingredient which is known to be effective in burning fat through reducing blood glucose. Its active chemical is known as a group called capsaicinoids, which directly increase both metabolism, which is the heat the body produces, and lipolysis, which is the release of stored fat to be burned for energy. Be aware that this ingredient also has a direct effect on the reduction of metabolism of other compounds, through the inhibition of liver enzyme CYP3A4. While this may be beneficial in fat loss as well as increasing effectiveness of ingredients, this liver enzyme is extremely important for metabolizing many pharmaceuticals, and can potentiate (strengthen) the effects of many prescription medications. Capsimax® is typically between 50-100mg, and concentrated to 2%. So we can hope that this ingredient is somewhere in that effective range.
Coleus Forskohlii root extract is more commonly known as Forskolin. It is proven that Forskolin has a direct effect on reducing weight gain, with an additional benefit of boosting testosterone. The dosage across the board is almost always 250mg at a 10% standardization, twice a day, which in this situation is clearly impossible. (It is impossible because of there being 4 ingredients in the blend, and this being the last one listed.) Being the last ingredient in this “ripped blend”, and with quality Coleus Forskohlii being a bit expensive, it can be assumed that this is not the highest quality available in the supplement industry.
So, finally, lets use all of that information to look into the blend as whole. We have a 1 gram, or 1000 milligrams, to play with to see if all ingredients in the proprietary blend could even POSSIBLY be at a proper level to have an effect. **Keep in mind, this is all hypothetical. The Carnitine could in reality be 997mg, and each of the other ingredients be only 1mg, and the Supplement Facts would not look any different** Carnitine needs a minimum of 750mg, Green Coffee Bean Extract needs a minimum of 200mg, Capsimax® is commonly 50-100mg, and Coleus Forskohlii needs a minimum of 250mg. Since the Coleus Forskohlii comes after the Capsimax® it must be less weight, so even if Capsimax® was at the upper range dose of 100mg, the most Coleus Forskohlii could be is 100mg. That would have to take weight away from the most logical place, which would be the Carnitine, which would be brought down to 600mg. With that, the most preferable breakdown of this blend (again, all hypothetical) would be:
L-Carnitine Tartrate – 600mg Green Coffee Bean Extract – 200mg Capsimax® – 100mg Coleus Forskohlii – 100mg
(Isn’t this fun!?)
So this is an analysis of just one of two proprietary blends in the Cellucor pre workout C4 Ripped. As you can see, a tremendous amount of time and research is required on the part of the consumer to analyze and interpret a possible combination of how the products would most effectively be dosed. From our findings, it is clear that in the best case scenario the blends ingredients must be slightly under the clinical dose or best case scenario on the lower end of effectiveness. And the worst part of it all? There is no guarantee that the breakdown even comes close to this. This would only be the preferred dosing based on the numbers and ingredients provided. This is the major issue with companies using proprietary blends. Not to mention that if an individual ingredient is dosed too highly, the consumer cannot determine whether using 2 scoops would put an ingredient at a dangerous level when combined with either a prescription medication or another supplement in their stack. Most exercise enthusiasts just increase their dose on their pre workout when their tolerance gets higher, not taking into account the other ingredients effects as well. Remember this when choosing a brand or product to give your money to, and always be careful when raising the dose of ANY product, since you are not only raising the stimulants, but also every other ingredient that is in the product as well, even the ingredients that do not have a psychological effect. It may be safer and more effective, not to mention cost effective to find a stronger stimulant pre workout, instead of increasing the dose next time. Just food for thought. Be safe and analyze what your best option is when looking at products!
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1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ 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.-Willoughby DS1, Boucher T, Reid J, Skelton G, Clark M
2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18035001 The effect of chlorogenic acid enriched coffee on glucose absorption in healthy volunteers and its effect on body mass when used long-term in overweight and obese people.-Thom E
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