With so many supplement choices out there, it is important to know what supplements work best for different goals. Today, we’re going to compare a competitor’s product, C4, with our pre-workout of choice, RedLeaf. Of course, we are biased toward RedLeaf. But any honest company will tell you their product isn’t perfect for every single person. So, who should use RedLeaf, and who should use C4?
When you are deciding between two pre-workout supplements, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, what are your goals and what ingredients support those goals? Second, are there any specific ingredients you need to stay away from? For example, maybe stevia or sucralose upset your stomach, and you need to focus on something without one or the other. Third, consider the rest of your diet into which this supplement is fitting. Do you like to drink coffee during your day? Overall caffeine intake is important for your overall health.
Both C4 and RedLeaf contain various BCAA’s and caffeine. Beyond that, there are a few differences. Let’s compare the two and find out which drink is better for which population.
BCAA’s and beta alanine
BCAA’s are important because they can help you reduce muscle breakdown, especially in a caloric deficit. There are three branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) – valine, leucine, and isoleucine. RedLeaf contains 1000mg of BCAA’s, while C4 does not list these on their ingredient list.
We also want to consider beta alanine and its presence in a pre-workout. The basic understanding of beta alanine is it allows your muscles to go harder for longer. This is a good thing. C4 has 1.6 grams of beta alanine (in a proprietary formula) while RedLeaf clocks in at 1.0 grams per serving.
Who should use which? BCAA’s are not particularly important if you are eating in a caloric surplus AND consuming adequate protein (0.8-1.0 grams/pound body weight). Additionally, the extra beta alanine in C4 is nice for performance athletes looking for a slight edge. Some studies show no difference after 1.0 grams, but there is no downside to having a little bit more in the mix.
Athletes looking for peak performance and eating to gain muscle mass: C4
Athletes looking to lose body fat and maintain muscle mass: RedLeaf
After considering the amino acid profile of a pre-workout drink, let’s take a look at caffeine content. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you should not consume more than 400mg of caffeine per day. However, it is important to note this is not an individual number. If you notice three to four cups of coffee (that’s about 400mg of caffeine) makes you jittery, or doesn’t allow you to sleep well at night you will want to cut back on your caffeine intake.
The benefits of caffeine are wide-ranging, but for workout purposes it can do two things: 1) increase alertness thereby improving your motor control and coordination, and 2) reduce the perceived discomfort in a workout. No one knows exactly how much is needed to make these effects happen. For some, it comes with a small dosage of caffeine. Others need a bit more. RedLeaf has 40mg of caffeine per serving (approximately 1/2 cup of coffee) while C4 has 150mg of caffeine per serving (approximately 2 cups of coffee).
Neither amount is right or wrong. Decide for yourself how much you need. Our recommendation is that if you’re going to drink more than one cup of coffee throughout the day, you will want to error toward the lower amount of caffeine in a pre-workout.
Just like there shouldn’t be a bunch of added sugar in something simple like the bread you buy at the grocery store, you don’t need a bunch of extra ingredients in your pre-workout. Essentially, you should see the BCAA’s and other aminos in your pre-workout, as well as the sweetener being used, and caffeine. Outside of that, the rest of the ingredients may be a beneficial cherry on top, or they could be reducing the overall quality of your pre-workout.
RedLeaf lists natural flavors (same things you have in La Croix and other seltzer waters) malic acid, and beet juice as its added ingredients. C4 contains acesulfame potassium, silicon dioxide, natural flavors, calcium silicate, citric acid, and red food coloring as its additional ingredients. Both use sucralose (in the case of RedLeaf Cranberry Lime) as their sweetener.
We’ll let you be the judge here for whether or not the additives matter to you. For some, it is very important (count us among that group) others care less. Here is an article about acesulfame potassium, in case you’re curious about what it is / does.