C4 Energy Drink Review (The Real Deal)

A can of C4 energy drink

What can you expect when a sports nutrition company, Nutrabolt decides to enter the energy drink space? 

Why, an extensive product range of pre-workout energy drinks under the brand name of C4, of course.

The company, which is based in Texas and was established in 2002, is no stranger to the health and fitness market. It has developed some of America’s best-selling pre-workout brands under the brands of Cellucor, C4, and XTEND. 

With regards to the C4 energy product line, it was first launched in 2011 in the form of powder-based drinks. 

It was only in 2018 that On The Go C4 Carbonated Energy Drink was released.

This ready-to-drink version of C4 comes in four versions: Original, Smart Energy, Ultimate, and Natural Zero. 

All of these four product ranges are available as 16 fl.oz cans. 

However, there are also 12 fl.oz can sizes available for Natural Zero as well as certain flavours of Original and Smart Energy come in.

You can also get certain flavours of C4 Original and Ultimate in bottled On The Go versions which have a serving size of 11.7 fl.oz.

What Are The Ingredients In C4 Energy Drinks?

C4 “Smart Energy” Carbonated

Ingredients

One serving of 16 fl.oz has:

  • 200mg caffeine
  • 0 calories
  • 0g total fat
  • 0g total carbohydrate
  • 0g total sugar
  • 0g protein
  • 0mg sodium
  • 30mg niacin
  • 6mcg vitamin B12

Other ingredients in the drink include:

  • Carbonated water
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Cognizin citicoline
  • Potassium benzoate
  • Sucralose
  • InnovaTea green tea leaf extract
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Natural flavors
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • Sodium citrate

There is no sugar, artificial colors or dyes in this drink.

Flavors

  • Freedom Ice
  • Electric Sour
  • Cotton Candy
  • Peach Mango Nectar

C4 “Ultimate” Carbonated

Ingredients

One can of 16 fl.oz contains:

  • 0 calories
  • 0g total carbohydrates
  • 0g total sugars
  • 1g taurine
  • 500mcg folic acid
  • 110mg potassium
  • 70mcg vitamin B12
  • 1mg vitamin B6
  • 60mg niacin
  • 3.2g CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine
  • 2g Betapower betaine anhydrous
  • 6g citrulline malate
  • 1g Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate

This drink has 708g C4 Ultimate Energy & Focus Blend which consists of:

  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • 300mg caffeine anhydrous
  • Alphasize A-GPC (Alpha-Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline)
  • Zembrin (Sceletium Tortuosum) aerial parts extract
  • Rauwoflia Vomitoria root extract
  • Huperzine A (from Toothed Clubmoss/Huperzia Serrata aerial parts extract)

There are also trace amounts of:

  • Water
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Natural flavors
  • Artificial flavors
  • Sucralose (sweetener)
  • Acesulfame potassium (sweetener)
  • FD&C Yellow #6 (coloring)

Flavors

  • Sparkling Arctic Snow Cone
  • Sour Batch Bros
  • Sparkling Tropical Blast

C4 “Energy Natural Zero” Carbonated

Ingredients

A can of 12 fl.oz drink has:

  • 0 calories
  • 120mg natural caffeine from CoffeeBerry
  • 0g total carbohydrates
  • 0g total sugars
  • 0g total fat
  • 0g protein
  • 250mg cognizin citicoline
  • 1g taurine
  • 0.5g tyrosine

It also has trace amounts of:

  • Carbonated water
  • Natural flavors
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Stevia leaf extract
  • Coffeeberry Energy fruit extract

Flavors

  • Cherry Lime
  • Strawberry Coconut
  • Blueberry Lemonade

Many of the ingredients may be unfamiliar to you, but that’s to be expected, honestly.

You might find it helpful to check out my other post about energy drink ingredients so you have a better understanding of what they’re there for.

Two C4 energy drink cans: Cotton Candy and Purple Frost flavors.
C4 has plenty of flavors and product variants to offer you. Seen here is the Cotton Candy and Purple Frost C4 Original flavors.

C4 “Smart Energy” Carbonated

Ingredients

One serving of 16 fl.oz has:

  • 200mg caffeine
  • 0 calories
  • 0g total fat
  • 0g total carbohydrate
  • 0g total sugar
  • 0g protein
  • 0mg sodium
  • 30mg niacin
  • 6mcg vitamin B12

Other ingredients in the drink include:

  • Carbonated water
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Cognizin citicoline
  • Potassium benzoate
  • Sucralose
  • InnovaTea green tea leaf extract
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Natural flavors
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • Sodium citrate

There is no sugar, artificial colors or dyes in this drink.

Flavors

  • Freedom Ice
  • Electric Sour
  • Cotton Candy
  • Peach Mango Nectar

C4 “Ultimate” Carbonated

Ingredients

One can of 16 fl.oz contains:

  • 0 calories
  • 0g total carbohydrates
  • 0g total sugars
  • 1g taurine
  • 500mcg folic acid
  • 110mg potassium
  • 70mcg vitamin B12
  • 1mg vitamin B6
  • 60mg niacin
  • 3.2g CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine
  • 2g Betapower betaine anhydrous
  • 6g citrulline malate
  • 1g Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate

This drink has 708g C4 Ultimate Energy & Focus Blend which consists of:

  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine
  • 300mg caffeine anhydrous
  • Alphasize A-GPC (Alpha-Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline)
  • Zembrin (Sceletium Tortuosum) aerial parts extract
  • Rauwoflia Vomitoria root extract
  • Huperzine A (from Toothed Clubmoss/Huperzia Serrata aerial parts extract)

There are also trace amounts of:

  • Water
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Natural flavors
  • Artificial flavors
  • Sucralose (sweetener)
  • Acesulfame potassium (sweetener)
  • FD&C Yellow #6 (coloring)

Flavors

  • Sparkling Arctic Snow Cone
  • Sour Batch Bros
  • Sparkling Tropical Blast

C4 “Energy Natural Zero” Carbonated

Ingredients

A can of 12 fl.oz drink has:

  • 0 calories
  • 120mg natural caffeine from CoffeeBerry
  • 0g total carbohydrates
  • 0g total sugars
  • 0g total fat
  • 0g protein
  • 250mg cognizin citicoline
  • 1g taurine
  • 0.5g tyrosine

It also has trace amounts of:

  • Carbonated water
  • Natural flavors
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Stevia leaf extract
  • Coffeeberry Energy fruit extract

Flavors

  • Cherry Lime
  • Strawberry Coconut
  • Blueberry Lemonade
Familiarise yourself with the C4 energy drink flavors through this product video review.

Many of the ingredients may be unfamiliar to you, but that’s to be expected, honestly. You might find it helpful to check out my other post about energy drink ingredients so you have a better understanding of what they’re there for.

What’s The Caffeine Content In C4 Energy Drinks?

The caffeine content in C4 Energy Drinks range from 120mg to 300mg, depending on which product you’re looking at.

For your reference, you can scroll up to see the caffeine content for each product as I had listed it in the previous section. 

And now it’s time to address the elephant in the room. 

By that, I mean the MASSIVE caffeine content of 300mg that you’ll find in a C4 Ultimate. This is one thing that the drink has in common with Bang, one of the strongest beverages in the energy drink market today.

You can definitely expect an intense kick from just one can of the drink alone. It’s meant to get you through the most gruelling workout sessions in the gym, but I’d definitely NOT recommend it as a light pick-me-up before chores, a pre-workout drink for occasional gym-goers, or an energizer before yoga class.

Meanwhile, C4’s Smart Energy and Original variants aren’t really far behind on the scale either, with 200mg of caffeine per serving. 

Personally, I think any energy drink that contains between 200mg to 300mg of caffeine per serving is going to potentially trigger some side effects.

That would certainly apply in the case of C4 energy drinks. It seems to have been designed with hardcore athletes in mind. 

But what if you’re not into sports? Well, that’s not really a problem. You won’t believe how well the drink actually energized me to successfully revamp my entire backyard. Seeing how much trimming, weeding and mowing I managed to plough through, I’m really not surprised if two cans of C4 will get you through a 10k marathon!

But, I’m going to be totally honest and say  that the adrenaline pump that it gave my body left me with buzzing sensations and a much unwanted crash by the end of the day.

For a C4 drink with 120mg of caffeine like Natural Zero, you might be able skip the jitters. But the effect you’ll be getting from the caffeine might not feel that strong compared to other C4 products. 

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily caffeine intake for an average healthy adult should not exceed 400mg.

This includes all your other caffeine sources besides energy drinks. Foods and drinks like chocolate, tea, soda drinks, protein bars, and many more should be taken into account when tracking your caffeine intake.

Plus, you need to have an idea of what your caffeine sensitivity is like.

You can tell that you have high caffeine sensitivity if you experience the following after consuming caffeine:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Headache
  • jitters
  • Nervousness or anxiousness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Increase in urination
  • Upset stomach
  • Intense adrenaline rush

The symptoms might last up to several hours if your body takes a longer time to metabolize caffeine.

C4 energy drink product label.
C4 Original energy drink comes with 200mg of caffeine and 5mg of a special Explosive Energy Blend.

If you go overboard with the amount of caffeine that you consume in a day, you might face some serious health risks like:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Heartburn
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Slower fetal growth during pregnancy
  • Miscarriages
  • Death due to convulsions (In rare cases)

How Much Sugar Will I Find In A C4 Energy Drink?

You won’t find any sugar in C4 energy drinks as they are sweetened by low-calorie sugar substitutes, sucralose and acesulfame potassium (also known as ace-K). 

Compared to sugar, these artificial sweeteners are kinder to your health, although they do pose health risks of their own. 

Sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter than sugar, can increase your risk of: 

  • High blood glucose and insulin levels
  • Leukemia
  • Cancer

As for ace-K, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar, certain research findings have found that it has the potential to cause the following issues

  • Cancer
  • Impacts the development of a baby during pregnancy

However, both of these artificial sweeteners have been approved by the FDA for use in food manufacturing so as long as you’re drinking C4 in moderate amounts, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. 

Just remember to stay within the FDA’s recommended acceptable daily intake (ADI) for these non-nutritive sweeteners. 

The ADI for sucralose is 5mg per kg of body weight whereas for ace-K, the ADI limit is 15mg per kg of body weight. 

So if you weigh 50kg (about 110 pounds), for example, you should only take 250mg of sucralose and 750mg of ace-K in a day.

C4 vs. Other Energy Drinks

BrandVolume (fl.oz)Caffeine (mg)Sugar (g)Price ($)
C416120 – 30002.50 – 3
Red Bull8.480272
Bang1630002.10
REIZE8.4 (in liquid)5001
A detailed comparison of several energy drink brands.

C4 vs. Red Bull

Caffeine

C4 energy drinks contain 120mg to 300mg of caffeine, depending on the product variant. Red Bull has only 80mg of caffeine per 8.4 fl.oz.

Red Bull comes up to only half the average amount of caffeine in C4 drinks. You can reason that on the fact that Red Bull comes in a smaller can, as compared to the 12fl.oz and 16fl.oz servings in C4.

It takes about 4 cans of Red Bull to get the caffeine content you’d find in C4 Ultimate which has 300mg of caffeine. But drinking that amount would mean you’ll end up bloated with massive quantities of fluids.

Sugar

C4 energy drinks contain zero sugar while a regular can of Red Bull contains 27g of sugar/8.4 fl.oz. 

Please note, however, that Red Bull does have sugar-free varieties too (Red Bull Zero and Red Bull Sugarfree).

While C4 drinks are light on sugar, that doesn’t mean the fluids aren’t sweet to the tastebuds. In fact, all drinks still have artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium, except for C4 Energy Natural Zero.

I can only imagine the dosage of sweeteners that are required to cover every fluid ounces of C4 drinks with high liquid volumes.

A regular can of Red Bull, however, has no artificial sweeteners. In exchange, it contains trace amounts of sucrose and glucose in each serving.

But if you take a sugar-free version of Red Bull, you’ll find ace-K and sucralose used in Red Bull Zero, and aspartame and ace-K present in Red Bull Sugarfree.

Price

C4 energy drinks cost between $2.50 to $3, depending on the product and serving size that you choose to buy. A Red Bull costs about $2 per 8.4 fl.oz can.

Since C4 has bigger serving sizes you can say the pricing is reasonable. Nutrabolt tned puts out its products in larger volumes like this, making them slightly pricier than most top products in the energy drink industry.

In that sense, C4 products may have a bit of an advantage over Red Bull. At least amongst folks that prefer quantity over quality, that is

a handheld can of Red Bull energy drink.
A regular can of Red Bull has 27g of sugar.

C4 vs. Bang

Caffeine

C4 energy drinks have between 120mg to 300mg of caffeine, which vary according to the version of products. Bang contains 300mg of caffeine per 16 fl.oz (about roughly 150mg per 8.4 fl.oz).

A can of C4 Ultimate (the strongest one of the lot) is equivalent to a can of Bang in terms of the caffeine content. So, any precaution you’ll take when you consume Bang should be practised with this C4 drink too.

As for the rest of the C4 carbonated drinks, they don’t stand a chance next to the energy kick that Bang offers.

Sugar

Both C4 and Bang energy drinks are sugar-free.

If the two brands of energy drinks have one thing in common, it’s the artificial sweeteners that are present in both. Sucralose and ace-K that are responsible for sweetening the drinks minus the high calories that you’d get from sugar.

A word of precaution: Sweeteners have their own set of side effects too so remember to consume in moderation!

Price

On average, it will cost you between $2.50 to $3 for any of the C4 energy drinks. Meanwhile, a can of Bang is priced at $2.10.

For a fair comparison, one can of C4 Ultimate is $2.50 whereas Bang is just $2.10. And mind you, that’s for the same volume of 16 fl.oz.

Although you could say there isn’t really a big difference in price, Bang seems to have the upper hand in terms of popularity votes. 

C4 carbonated energy drinks are a little new to the US energy drink scene so a higher price in comparison to Bang may not be in its favour.

A can of Bang energy drink.
C4 Ultimate is your alternative for Bang as both have the same caffeine content.

C4 vs. REIZE

Caffeine

C4 energy drinks have between 120mg to 300mg of caffeine that are relative to serving sizes. In comparison, REIZE has 50mg of caffeine in each 4g sachet.

A sachet of REIZE will make you an  8.4 fl.oz drink. With just 50mg of caffeine in it, you can say it’s a very lightly caffeinated energy drink.

However, it does contain a blend of stimulating ingredients that boosts the effects of the caffeine and this includes ginseng, 1000mg of taurine, and a selection of B Vitamins.

Hence, you’ll get to enjoy an energizing drink while staying far from exceeding the daily caffeine limit advised by the FDA.

Sugar

C4 energy drinks have zero sugar, and REIZE is sugar-free too.

These drinks contain one sweetener in common though, and that’s ace-K. 

However, both brands also rely on a second artificial sweetener to round off their taste. 

REIZE makes use of aspartame, which is the same ingredient you’ll find used in Coke Zero Sugar and many other processed food and drinks out there.

Meanwhile, C4 depends on sucralose instead.

Price

On average, C4 energy drinks are priced within the range of $2.50 to $3 depending on which serving size you’re going for. REIZE is only available in a single size 4g sachet which roughly comes up to $1 per sachet inclusive of shipping.

REIZE is certainly the cheaper option here. But of course, if variety is what you’re looking for, C4 has more to offer you.

C4 Energy Drink Review

Taste

It’s not a secret that Cellucor is big on flavors. Well, that’s because it’s a good way to keep the consumers coming back to the same brand for more.

I wasn’t able to try all the flavors on the list, but I did get to experiment with two from the Original line: Purple Frost and Cotton Candy.

Cans of C4 energy drinks
C4’s generous selection of flavors will ensure you don’t have to face flavor fatigue.

Purple Frost might sound all posh and all, but it’s just a grape-flavored carbonated drink, really. I must say it left a pleasant aftertaste in my mouth without a strong hint of sucralose. The sweetness of the blend is just about right, in my opinion.

It might even stand a chance against Purple Haze by Bang, I think. But that could be just me. 

Anyway, if you’re looking for an alternative drink with less caffeine content than what you find in a can of Bang, then this one is worth a shot.

C4 Original Cotton Candy gives me all the fun-fair vibes. True to its name, the drink hits you with its strong sweet flavor. It’s not really for me since I’m not a big fan of sweet stuff.

However, if you’re someone who is always keen on trying out new flavors, this might be a good drink to start with. 

Inevitably, I was reminded of Bang’s Cotton Candy drink, which in my opinion has more intense sweetness than what I found here in C4.

Effect

The special blend in C4 Original goes by the name of Explosive Energy Blend. It really packs a punch, if you asked me. I would place it in the same category as any of the strongest energy drink giants in the industry.

If you ever taken the C4 pre-workout powder as a dietary supplement, then you might be able to imagine the kind of effect the Explosive Energy Blend would have on you. In fact, I felt this energy drink was a little stronger in its impact than its powder counterpart.

It definitely gave me the energy boost I needed to kickstart to my workout session with 200mg of caffeine in the formula. 

So you can just imagine how much more forceful the effects would be if I had taken a can of C4 Ultimate instead, as it has 300mg of caffeine in its 708g of Energy & Focus Blend.

Price

The variety of serving sizes that you find in C4 energy drinks is really nifty. Not to mention its many flavo choices.

On average, you can get a 16 fl.oz can of C4 for around $2.50 each and it’s about $2 for a 12 fl.oz variant. 

If you prefer C4’s 11.7 fl.oz On-The-Go bottles instead, then you will be looking at paying around $3 for it.

These prices are roughly the same, be it for C4 Original, Ultimate, Smart Energy or Natural Zero products. But of course, you should expect there may be changes to this as time goes on.

Final Roundup

Cellucor has put in a lot of effort into the flavors for all the C4 drinks. That might be a great thing if you ever find yourself wanting to switch flavors on a daily basis as you’ll be able to avoid some serious flavor fatigue.

I’ve nothing to complain about the energy that I’m getting from a serving of C4 Original. If you’re the kind who reaches for a morning boost, you’ll be glad to know the effects of this drink will probably last you the whole day.

Meanwhile, I can’t deny that C4 Ultimate had me rather concerned. It’s definitely a little too strong for anyone with caffeine sensitivities.

Price-wise, I feel the amount you’re paying for C4 is reasonable.

Alternatives To C4 Energy Drink

There are loads of other good energy drinks in the market which you can try out too, if you’re keen. Here are some suggestions. 

Ready-to-drink cans:

Powder-based energy drinks:

Vivarin caffeine pills are another alternative if you are looking for something quick and easy to take.  Make It Mio might also help fulfill your energy needs.

REIZE Energy Drink

At 50mg of caffeine, REIZE energizes you as well as any drinks in the C4 product range. 

With the likes of taurine, ginseng, and a handful of B Vitamins blended in as part of its ingredients, each 4g REIZE sachet provides you with a power-packed supplement so you’re all set to maximise your day.

A sachet of REIZE next to a glass of a ready-made drink.
REIZE is all about versatile and convenience in one sachet.

REIZE gives you a great deal of versatility and convenience. Simply mix it into any beverage of your choice, be it soda, tea, juice or even water and you’ll have your energy drink ready in just seconds. Sold in 4g sachets, REIZE is also easy to bring with you no matter where you’re headed. 

Since it’s sugar-free, you won’t have to worry about calories or facing the after-effects of a sugar crash later in the day. In fact, you’ll only find 11 calories in each serving of REIZE. 

Priced at just $1 per sachet, you can have REIZE delivered right up to your doorstep at no additional shipping cost. Give REIZE a go today. You might find that you prefer it over C4 energy drinks in the end.

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Marty Spargo

I started my own energy drink brand in 2014 and am passionate about educating people about energy drinks so that they can properly understand the ingredients, benefits and risks without being influenced by the marketing messages put out by some brands. You can read my full bio here.

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