One scoop won’t last through an entire football game. One scoop won’t even make it to halftime. This is South. This is a rivalry. Better make it two scoops. But it might not work this time. It might wear off in the middle of a goal line stand. It might not be enough to beat the bigger guy on the other side of the line. Three scoops should do it. Then again, this could be the last game of the season; the last game of a career. Win at all costs. Senior football player Connor Carollo dumps scoop after scoop after scoop into the bottle before taking to the field. Three and a half servings of C4.
C4 is a powerful, new pre-workout supplement containing Creatine Nitrate, Beta Alanine, Arginine AKG and a mixture of caffeine and vitamins. This extreme supplement has proven to yield powerful results, but its risks are equally potent. In the past year, many East football players have overlooked these risks and turned to C4 for an added boost in the weight room, or even games. Carollo had heard of its potent effects and hoped to put on weight for his senior football season.
“Going into this last year I weighed 205 and I knew I would need to get to at least 230 because we were undersized going up against just about anybody,” Carollo said. “I wouldn’t be able to compete with those guys weighing about 280-290 if I didn’t put on weight.”
Carollo’s bench max increased by 20 pounds upon his first use of C4. He felt an entirely new sensation of focus and strength.
“A lot of guys have described [C4] as adderall for working out. It’s a type of thing where it makes you want to lift and gets rid of sluggishness,” he said.
Carollo hoped to transfer this energy to the football field and began taking C4 before games and during halftime. However, he believes this in-game usage may have actually been detrimental to his performance.
“I would start to feel a little sluggish as it wore off,” Carollo said. “And I was definitely more level-headed without it—during the South game, I jumped offsides twice.”
Competitive athletes have always looked for ways to get an edge over their opponents. Coach Sherman has witnessed the supplement revolution first-hand.
“When I first started [coaching] in the late 70’s, people basically got their nutrition from food—supplements weren’t real big,” Sherman said.
Research led to a rise in more pure forms of protein and amino acids, which help promote growth and recovery in muscles. These early forms of supplements are derived from naturally occurring elements in the body and are widely regarded as safe. But controversy arose with the introduction of creatine—a nitrogenous acid which supplies energy to the muscles—and a key ingredient in C4. Sherman always erred on the side of caution whenever players approached him with questions.
“If they asked me about one of the more controversial [supplements], I would tell them ‘no’. Hold off until there are more studies done, and no matter what, always see a doctor,” Sherman said.
Since all bodies are different, there’s no telling what kind of effect these supplements will have. Senior Logan Rose, for instance, weighed about 75 pounds less than Carollo when he began using C4, and had a very different experience. Rose felt extreme effects upon his first time using the supplement.
“It was crazy. I started itching and I could feel my heart rate go way up. I felt like I could lift a house if I needed to—it was almost scary,” Rose said.
But he could never quite recreate the results he felt from his first time on C4. His performance tapered off with each use.
“Our bodies adapt to things like caffeine and they become less effective,” explains Greg Justice, a personal trainer for AYC Fitness. “But I don’t ever recommend upping the dosage, as that’s when a lot of people see side effects like headaches, diarrhea and other complications.”
However, Rose became concerned when he no longer felt the C4 working and resorted to doubling up on the serving size. He quickly realized the importance of abiding by the serving size.
“I got terrible cramps and realized I had to stop. It felt like my calf was going to pop out of my leg,” he said.
Rose enjoyed the rapid muscle gain, but in the back of his mind, he felt that there was something unsafe about C4. He quit using it after a few weeks before the football season, not wanting to risk his health.
“I didn’t want heart problems or anything, so I got off it after awhile. If you can’t motivate yourself to work hard, then you shouldn’t make up for it with supplements,” Rose said.
Sherman agrees that hard work and motivation are the most rewarding paths to success. He has always found a healthy diet and good work ethic to be sufficient, without the help of any supplements.
“To me, it was never worth it. I just say, work out naturally and if that’s as big as you’re going to be, that’s as big as you should be,” Sherman said. “If you do too much artificial stuff, the body can suffer because it knows what it’s supposed to be like. Not everybody is supposed to be real big.”
Sherman believes it is best to learn what the body is capable of from a young age – for years, he has been running a middle school weightlifting program for future football players. Most Shawnee Mission schools do not offer this kind of program, but young players still have the option to work with a personal trainer, like Justice.
“I’m a huge advocate of beginning strength programs in middle school, as I believe it gives the young athlete a more solid base from which to build through high school, college and beyond,” Justice said. “It also develops healthy habits that will hopefully continue throughout their life.”
Indeed, many players who receive this early education see little need for supplements. Senior Alex Beahm began lifting with a personal trainer when he was in middle school and relies solely on white meats like chicken and turkey for nutrition. Beahm had a head start on his teammates coming into high school and has continued to grow stronger each year, without any help from supplements.
“I had already been on my system for so long and didn’t see any reason to stop that and use supplements,” Beahm said.
Though he is only 5’8”, Beahm has compensated for his lack of size with great strength. With the aid of his natural methods and impressive work ethic, Beahm has obtained nothing but positive results – all the muscle mass without the itchy skin, accelerated heart rate, diarrhea and muscle cramps.
Carollo made it through the South game. He made holes for Adam Lowe to run through. He gave Dakota Collins ample time in the pocket. And he pressured South’s quarterback all night long. The senior fought his way to a victory and helped to extend the Lancers’ season by two games. It may have paid off, but Carollo took a risk in consuming the 4500 milligrams of Beta Alanine, 3000 milligrams of Creatine Nitrate, 3000 milligrams of Arginine AKG and 2100 milligrams of caffeine-blend to play a game that he could have won without any additional help.
“Your own motivation is more important than supplements. They aren’t something you need,” Carollo said.