This article applies to many supplement companies, but I will be focusing on the one that is the basis for writing this article, Cellucor. While I think Cellucor makes some excellent products such as C4, which I have used in the past, I think they are poorly aligned as a sponsor for Tough Mudder. The $100k prize purse for a team hitting 100 miles is impressive and may be great for our sport, but has little to do with their actual products. Cellucor provides excellent products for weight training athletes, but not the endurance required to complete a Tough Mudder with ease. Specifically I am focusing on three of their products:


  • CLK (fat burner): When Tough Mudder initially announced their partnership with Cellucor, I thought it was an odd choice. After all, World’s Toughest Mudder abides by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) standards, which include listing DHEA or 7-Keto-DHEA as a banned anabolic substance. CLK, Cellucor’s fat burner, contained this banned substance from 2012 through 2014. I was slightly concerned that the company would be giving out banned substances at their events. Luckily, Cellucor changed their formula for CLK the same year it started sponsoring Tough Mudder, and it is now free of any banned substances (as far as I am tracking). I believe fat burners are a bad idea, but that is a topic for a different article. I also have not seen them give samples of CLK at any of Tough Mudder events. Overall, disaster avoided, so at least the now the new CLK will not make you fail a drug test.


  • C4 Ready To Drink Pre-workout: During the warm-up area for Tough Mudder events, they give out free bottles of the Ready to Drink (RTD) C4 pre-workout drink. C4 is designed for anaerobic workouts that are more associated with bodybuilding and Olympic lifting than 10+ miles of endurance running and obstacles. The RTD contains two servings of C4, which is estimated to have a total of 300mg of caffeine in a relatively small container. That is the caffeine equivalent of slamming three 8.4 oz cans of Red Bull drinks and then only drinking ¾ of your fourth can. (Good job showing some restraint on the final can.) This is a terrible idea for multiple reasons. Besides the diuretic effect of caffeine, that quantity is going to unnaturally elevate your heart rate making running feel uncomfortable. The extra energy will make you start out running too fast exceeding your aerobic zone, a problem most racers already have, and C4 is compounding that problem.


C4 RTDs are great for getting the crowd going in the warm up zone but are a terrible idea for an aerobic activity. If you stood on the start line drinking four cans of Red Bull, I guarantee someone would say something, but because people are unfamiliar with the caffeine content of C4, no one sees that as a problem. Seeing heavy Tough Mudder participants chug a C4 and then line up makes me concerned for their health since it is adding unnecessary amounts of stress to an already taxed system.


At most drink 1/3 of the bottle for a pick me up before your race or if you are a multi-lapper swing through for 1/3 of a bottle between laps to help lower your rate of perceived exertion.


  • Alpha Amino: Again, we have an excellent product but often used inappropriately. Alpha Amino is an amino acid supplement with some electrolytes but no carbohydrates. These electrolyte supplements are great to help prevent cramping, but it will not make you feel better nor will it provide fuel to continue running. When amino acids are taken mid-race, they can help prevent using muscle for fuel, as demonstrated by bodybuilders using amino acids to try to preserve muscle and burn fat. Aminos are also good post-exercise if you want to build muscle but limit caloric intake. However, the most important part of a mid-race supplement is carbohydrates. This drink has 0g of carbohydrates, which means it is essentially giving you no fuel for your body. There is a reason that endurance supplements are loaded with carbohydrates. Nutrition companies designed for endurance athletes provide fuel for endurance activities and are designed primarily for endurance exercise. So feel free to take some Alpha Amino mid-race but understand what they are providing for you and what they are lacking. The bottom line is that you may need to carry your own gels or carbohydrate drink to ensure your body has fuel for the day.


The major lesson you should learn from this article is just because a company is providing you with a product, does not mean it is ideal for performance at that specific event. Cellucor has excellent products for anaerobic training, but the fact that they are given out during Tough Mudders is at best misguided and at worst harmful. Make sure you do some research on your own and talk to a trusted professional before ingesting supplements. To be clear, the guy at GNC is not a trusted professional since his goal is to sell you as many products as possible. I recommend talking to an experienced athlete in endurance sports and someone with a certification from a respectable organization.

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