If you workout at the gym for long enough, you are going to start thinking about supplements. I’ve briefly written about them before, in particular protein shakes and was somewhat positive about their use. However I had never used a pre-workout until now so it was time to take the plunge. What follows is the background, results and general thoughts about the curious substance in the rather flash packaging.
Why use a Pre Workout?
(Bro Science http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmmZULPUEkQ)
The reasons to use a pre workout powder are all pretty important and well established:
- You know they exist
- You are curious about how good they work
- It is something to do, so why the heck not?
So based on this, you are pretty much going to try one as soon as you hit #1. Given I had already reached that point, it was only natural I would research online and eventually hit ebay to order a tub.
Also technically they are supposed to give you more energy and cause you to have the strongest and most focused workouts of your lif- Yeah they are a source of a shitload of caffeine which can help your endurance and energy levels under certain conditions.
Why C4 Extreme?
Long rambling intro aside, it is time to talk about C4 Extreme. There are a lot of options on the market, so why did I choose this particular one? Well, it was well reviewed and near the top of many a recommendation list. Of course given 99% of fitness reviews are complete bullshit I was still quite dubious, but this was at least a good start. It also contained beta alanine, which seems to be a quite controversial ingredient. A lot of people seem to hate it while other people like the “tingly” feeling it gives. Gimmick or not, I figured if I was going to try one of these things, I might as well go all out and see what the big deal is with that as well.
What did attract me was the promise of less “crash” compared to Jack3d and the fact that all the ingredients were listed out clearly and not hidden behind a proprietary blend. It also came with a sports towel… So why not, right? (see reason #3).
Fears and Expectations
After purchasing C4 I actually put it in the cupboard and didn’t use it straight away. To be honest, this was because I was a little intimidated and wasn’t sure exactly how to use it.
The fears were based on the following concerns:
- I would crash after and lack energy or get cranky.
- I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I would be too stimulated.
- The dreaded beta alanine would make me itch like crazy, it would be unpleasant or at worst I would have some sort of reaction.
All of the above are valid concerns and are often associated with pre-workouts. Especially given I didn’t really believe it would help much, it was a lot to overcome.
The other concern was related to timing. The package recommends taking it 20 minutes before your workout. But then what? Was it a slow build up to amazing energy level or does it hit you in a wave?
I imagined it was similar to taking viagra. Not that I ever … did. But if I needed it, which I don’t, when exactly are you meant to take it? What if you take it in advance but the phone rings or your partner is not in the mood? Similarly I didn’t want to be completed jacked up on stimulants, get to the gym and discover all the benches were already used. In that situation (which can happen sometimes) I’d just be sitting there with a raging boner and no way to get rid of it. Well no good way anyway but …
Hang on, let me focus here (takes a pre-workout…). So I was concerned about getting it “right” especially if I was planning on writing a review. I also didn’t want my first experience to be a night time, in case I was kept up all night after. This left me waiting until the safety of the weekend, when the gym is relatively empty and I could visit during the day.
As mentioned, I had pretty low expectations. Energy drinks contain much the same stuff and while I get and enjoy the buzz, I’m under no illusion about how much it actually helps you lift. If you can only curl 30lbs a Red Bull isn’t going to suddenly let you do 45. As such, I expected to have the “warm fuzzy” feeling of caffeine, but thought that it would make no real difference to what I was doing. My body knows how much it can lift and no matter how keen I am to do better, that is exactly what I am going to do (+ or – a few kg).
After much worrying about it, I finally decided to stop pussy-footing around and mixed up a nice glass. Because I’m a lot tougher than most guys, I chose the pineapple flavour because I figured it had a good chance of not tasting disgusting.
The mixing all went well with the stir of a spoon and indeed it tasted pretty nice. It is basically like any old cordial, perhaps just a little sweet for my taste (Not that many would notice, I just don’t like sweet tasting things). But it is perfectly drinkable and it went down easily.
Most importantly, it passed the first test… I didn’t go blind.
Following this daring show of bravery, I then picked up my gym bag and proceeded to walk the 5-6 minutes uphill to my local gym. All along the way I was waiting for something to happen, but I didn’t feel a thing, which admittedly was in line with the product’s prediction.
Once inside, I set up for a combined back/biceps workout. You know the stuff, some deadlifts, pull ups, curls etc. A quick warm-up came and went and I still wasn’t fully pumped, so I started my workout and waited for the tingly/itchy/awesomeness to kick in.
Then something remarkable happened…. which was nothing at all. That is right, after all the build up, all the worries and concerns about what this stuff would do to me and how effective it would be; I got… absolutely nothing.
Maybe I sweated a little bit more than usual but that is hard to measure. It was also a reasonable warm day (early autumn in Australia) and the gym isn’t exactly well air-conditioned so that might have explained that. Otherwise I felt a tiny caffeine buzz but that was about it. All through my workout (about an hour and a bit) I waited for some sort of focus or itchiness or “something” besides some old fashioned hard work and my usual lifts.
Sad to say the pre-workout had failed me. C4 Extreme was a dud.
Encouragingly, I didn’t have any bad effects later. There was no sleep deprivation, no crash or strange coloured bowel movements (drink a lot of energy drinks… you’ll know what I mean). So what was going on here. Am I just tolerant to pre-workouts? Is C4 Extreme just a poor product?
Well the only way to know for sure was to try it again, so I did so, this time going for a double scoop dose. Of course straight away this messes with the promised 30 serves, so factor that in when you are comparing brands and prices. But once again the result was far from spectacular. This time I could tell I had taken something, it felt like I’d downed two Red Bulls before a workout and I was really feeling the caffeine.
But I also could have just drunk two Red Bulls. Besides being relatively cheaper, it didn’t do anything special for me (chest lifts this time). I didn’t workout any harder or feel more focused. It was just a non-event.
While it might be quite disappointing to take so long to get to an anti-climatic result, I hope the description of events is at least helpful to somebody. My advice if you are considering a pre-workout is to make sure you are not tolerant at all to caffeine (have never drunk a coffee or energy drink in your life). The thing is, who are these people that will react strongly to something like C4 in a modern world? If a coke gets you buzzing this might be the right thing for you, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother.
Can you just take like 6 scoops? Well sure, and I can see that helping you get more out of the supplement. But the more important question is do you really want to do so? Besides keeping you up later at night, it isn’t exactly going to increase performance. If you are having trouble getting motivated for the gym, you can probably try attacking that problem first from a different angle (more sleep, new workouts, going at the same time as that hot girl with the amazing … more rest).
So there it is, C4 Extreme is … not so magical. If you have any recommendations for a better product, drop a comment below or let me know. I’m not going to swear off a complete product line because of one failure, but I can’t say I’m any less dubious.