By Alexander Perkins (@alexanderperkins)

So the new C4 has hit Australian shores and the following reaction from punters has become pretty consistent, “same product, new label”.  The reaction isn’t without merit.  Upon first look the ingredients list looks unchanged, and even when you delve deeper things haven’t exactly been flipped upside down and inside out.  Perhaps there’s reason for this though?

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

It’s cliché and over-used but still rings very true.  C4 has become the “gold standard” of pre-workout powders purely because it’s been kept simple but efficacious; with therapeutic doses of a few select, scientifically proven ingredients.  If you’re going to reformulate something that has gained so much success through providing quality power, endurance and energy to the majority of users, then there’s no reason to make great alterations.

What Cellucor have done is made slight adjustments using new knowledge of particular compounds that may address common issues of the last edition.  What was the main issue? Reduced caffeine sensitivity over time leading to decreased “buzz” and the need for more scoops.  How have they addressed it? Theacrine (1,3,7-9-tetramethyluric acid).

Theacrine

Theacrine is very similar to caffeine in structure but differs in the amount of methyl groups it contains (as their scientific names suggest; trimethyl vs tetramethyl).  Like caffeine, it is a purine alkaloid molecule.  In fact, research has shown that theacrine is created in plants via caffeine, from adenosine.  Given these similarities, it is no wonder theacrine has a stimulatory effect in mammals at therapeutic doses.

However its biological effect differs from caffeine in two fairly notable ways: firstly, early research suggests that theacrine does not cause a tolerance response in the body, and secondly, it has a sedative effect at low doses**.  It’s the former of these differences that have prompted Cellucor to add it to the new edition of C4; addressing the key problem of caffeine tolerance over time.  The hope here being that users who have a great experience from 2 scoops on their first go, will still experience that same feeling from two scoops at the end of the tub.

Any other changes?

Not many, hence the recent comments about “same product, new labelling”.  The beta-alanine dosage has been increased by 100mg meaning a 2 scoop serving has the full 3200mg therapeutic dose.  Vitamin B6 has been increased, which won’t really pull at the heart-strings of most gym goers wanting a big buzz.  It obviously has importance though, as it’s a crucial cofactor for a range of metabolic processes.  The L-Tyrosine dosage may have also been altered but we don’t know by how much; they’ve only disclosed that the L-tyrosine and theacrine make up a total of 161mg combined in the new formula.  It begs the question “why haven’t they disclosed it?” though; everything else is fully disclosed after all.  Other than that, they’ve just removed the bitter orange (citrus aurantium).  This was only included in a small amount in the last edition anyway so no big change there.

Summary

C4 was the “gold standard” in a saturated pre-workout market.  Why?  It was simple but contained solid doses of scientifically backed ingredients; creatine for power, beta-alanine for anaerobic endurance; B-vitamins for energy and caffeine for stimulation and focus.  It provided sustained energy and ergogenic benefits for the vast majority of users, the only issue was some people were losing the buzz as they got through their tub.  Theacrine, the “cousin” of caffeine that – in early research – appears not to cause a tolerance build up, is Cellucor’s answer to this problem.  Other changes have been made, but these are relatively minor.  What you can expect from the new C4 is the same powerful, sustained workout experience as the previous edition, hopefully now from the first scoop to the end of your tub.

*We don’t know exactly how much L-tyrosine and theacrine are in the new edition.  Cellucor have listed their weight combined as 161mg per scoop.  Assuming L-tyrosine would have only been dropped to 100mg we’ve listed the theacrine dose as 61mg per scoop, however this could be wrong.  It is an estimation only.

**Whilst theacrine can have a sedative effect at low doses, we’re assuming that Cellucor have added enough theacrine to illicit a stimulatory effect akin to that of caffeine (with the additional benefits outlined above).