Through sponsorships and advertisements, energy drinks have become associated with extreme sports such as ultimate fighting leagues, racing, and motocross, but research from the University of Akron suggests some men believe too much in the macho-hype around the drinks.
According to the American Psychological Association, energy drinks have increased in popularity over the last several years, particularly among young men, who are the target of adrenaline-pumping advertising campaigns that portray the beverages as part of an extreme masculine lifestyle. But researchers at the University of Akron in Ohio have put the mentality that motivates men to consume energy drinks to the test in order to discover why men drink them and if the caffeine-filled beverages have any negative side effects on health.
"While most men who buy energy drinks aren't martial arts champions or race car drivers, these marketing campaigns can make some men feel as though drinking energy drinks is a way to feel closer to, or associated with, these ultra-masculine sports," said Dr. Ronald F. Levant, a professor of psychology at The University of Akron.
Levant and his research team collected survey data from 467 adult men to determine attitudes toward energy drinks. The surveys included statements like, "Men should not be too quick to tell others that they care about them," and "I think a young man should try to be physically tough, even if he's not" or "If I consume energy drinks, I will be more willing to take risks," and "If I consume energy drinks, I will perform better."
According to Levant, the study found associations between beliefs in traditional masculinity, beliefs in the efficacy of energy drinks, energy drink consumption, and sleep disturbances with a few notable exceptions.
"Older men were, more or less, exempt from the trend, and non-white men who endorsed traditional masculinity believed in the efficacy of energy drinks, but this belief didn't translate into actual use,” he said.
However, for young white men in the sample, the associations were clear.
"The link between masculinity ideology and energy drink use suggests that energy drink use may be a means of performing masculinity... as a way to raise masculine capital," Levant said, noting that this performance could be a way of "demonstrating that one is consuming products that are associated with the engagement in extreme sports or an otherwise active and competitive lifestyle."
The study also argues that this link could have negative effects on men's health. Many energy drinks have high caffeine content, and when consumed in excess, caffeine can accelerate the heart rate, increase anxiety, and contribute to insomnia.
“Energy drinks contain very large amounts of caffeine, and the Food and Drug Administration does not require caffeine quantities to be displayed on beverage labels," Levant said. "Because of this, some people may drink more caffeine through energy drinks than they might have intended to throughout a day, and drinking large amounts can cause problems — especially with sleep."
The study suggests men who perceive energy drinks as 'magic potions' for performance enhancement are better served moderating their consumption.
The findings from the study were published in the November 2015 issue of Health Psychology.