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December 3, 2015 8:06 PM   Subscribe

The beverages are consumed regularly by thirty-one per cent of kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen, and by thirty-four per cent of those aged eighteen to twenty-four. U.S. sales for energy drinks and shots now total more than twelve and a half billion dollars—a number that the market-research firm Packaged Facts predicts will grow by another nine billion dollars by 2017. A new study [note: behind paywall] , published in the November issue of Health Psychology, suggests that appeals by energy-drink companies to the thrill-thirsty male id are coming at a psychological and physical cost, however. -- Rachel Giese, How Energy-Drink Companies Prey on Male Insecurities
posted by Room 641-A (42 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not the main point of the article, but that "soothing hot teas" are marketed to women is something I noticed, but never sunk in before. The idea that you need "soothing" presupposes that women are anxious or "high-strung."

I don't know what, exactly, I think about that yet, but in an inchoate way it really disturbs me.
posted by bswinburn at 8:22 PM on December 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


Haha, definitely as a female college student with some confusing gender identity issues and chronic insomnia, part of how I self-medicated was by overindulgence in energy drinks. It's sort of cringe-inducingly amusing that actual men with penises and suchlike are doing the same since looking back I'm just profoundly embarrassed by all the stuff I did to feel secure in my masculinity.

I remember at one point I was in a lecture hall and smelled someone else's Redbull from the row behind him and felt my salivary glands start their engines. I was like, huh, given that I used to think Redbull was a disgusting medicinal flavor, maybe I need to cut back on the caffeine. This can't be healthy.
posted by town of cats at 8:27 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not the main point of the article, but that "soothing hot teas" are marketed to women is something I noticed, but never sunk in before. The idea that you need "soothing" presupposes that women are anxious or "high-strung."

I dunno. I always took it to suggest women lead busy, stressful lives, rather than being "high strung".

I guess I'm just not the target demo for energy drinks. I've never so much as tasted one and honestly have no interest in them.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:03 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you ever want to feel uncomfortable, read the copy on the back of a Monster energy drink. There's a lot more there than you'd think, and you will cringe.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:37 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've known and mentored younger male engineers who have complained both about disrupted sleep and insomnia AND have guzzled these giant cans of Monster multiple times a day. I admit to having more of a coffee addiction than I'd like, but these drinks creep me out. The sheer volume of the cans, the amounts of caffeine and sugar, are really troubling.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:39 PM on December 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Somewhere out there are Blindsight-type aliens who think it's absolutely hilarious that we believe the ability to recognize ourselves in a mirror is some sort of useful or virtuous mental capacity, whereas in reality it's basically the Chinese finger trap of cognition.
posted by XMLicious at 9:41 PM on December 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is all a little patronizing, isn't it? Couldn't people actually like them for what they are? Coffee has just as much caffeine, but nobody tries to insinuate that coffee drinkers really think a burro hauled those beans over a mountain or something.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:44 PM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Joke's on you, aliens! /wings.
posted by notyou at 9:45 PM on December 3, 2015


I also thought the soothing elements of tea implied relief from a world of pain. That's why I drink them anyway
posted by biffa at 9:57 PM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


In ten years, we should have plenty of data indicating significant developmental impairment or damage from "energy" drinks/chemicals. I see teens pound these beverages constantly with terrible results and adults just seem more concerned about the kids never having their feelings hurt rather than controlling their intake.
We already have information about how diet soda is actually worse than regular but it will take time for people to absorb this information.
Besides, I only drink Brawndo, The Thirst Mutilator.
posted by Muncle at 10:03 PM on December 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


The sports tie-in is a bit of a stretch because there is just as much marketing saying that athletes should eat a clean and healthy diet (Pinty's commercials come to mind).

But for gaming, the caffeine and sugar probably are the perfect fuel for an extended gaming session. The two activities complement each other: gaming increases desire for energy drinks, and energy drinks increase desire to keep playing. As if video games needed anything to make them more addictive!

I wonder if people think about time-of-day with energy drinks the same way they do with coffee: don't drink them in the evening onwards and maybe not even in the afternoon.
posted by mantecol at 11:19 PM on December 3, 2015


I wonder if people think about time-of-day with energy drinks the same way they do with coffee: don't drink them in the evening onwards and maybe not even in the afternoon.

I work in a LAN center and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that, no, people don't really consider time of day. Indeed, a significant portion of our regular customers will come in the mornings or early afternoons and stay until we close (12:30 am), and basically won't go outside during that period, so they may not even be aware of what time it is for most of the day.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 11:25 PM on December 3, 2015


Muncle: " We already have information about how diet soda is actually worse than regular but it will take time for people to absorb this information."

can you share some links for an interested party?
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:26 AM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Those energy drinks with all that sugar are just awful.

/sips 600 calorie coffee from Starbucks.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:50 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Panic about the caffeine always seems odd because as someone already said you can get just as much from coffee no problem. Too many ounces of either ain't great for you but it's the sugar that comes with the energy drinks that's alarming.

Red bull actually tastes pretty good but I put in the soda category not the daily wakefulness category.
posted by atoxyl at 2:07 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I drink the sugar free ones, I can't taste any difference after years of diet soda (or if I can it's positive.)
posted by Drinky Die at 2:18 AM on December 4, 2015


Most of my life I couldn't stand the taste of artificial sweeteners at all, I'd be at a friend's house and nearly asphyxiate choking on a confection she'd offered me and she'd do the Folger's switch thing saying, "I made it with Splenda! Can you even tell? So good!"

In the interest of health, about five years ago I started making lemonade with a greater and greater proportion of stevia until it's now no-sugar, same deal with dark chocolate made from unsweetened chocolate and stevia. I've branched out into Splenda™/sucralose and now I actually prefer it to stevia for most things; their flavors have definitely drifted closer to that of real sugar the more of each I've used but aspartame and saccharine still taste like shit to me.

I do wish there were more sugar alcohol products and ingredients on the market in the stores near me, since I do find sugar alcohol's flavor indistinguishable from real sugar. But with sugar alcohol there's all the same calories as sugar itself, and if you eat too much at once your bowels will vehemently protest... the benefit really is only to us diabetics.
posted by XMLicious at 3:50 AM on December 4, 2015


I actually find that these things give me more of a boost than coffee, and also don't stimulate my bowels the way coffee does. The stimulant effect feels "cleaner" somehow, less jangly and with more of a physical component as well as the mental one. I know they're basically just caffeine, but I suspect some of the other vitamins and stuff in there are doing something as well.

They're expensive and gross-tasting, but I'll pick up a sugar-free Red Bull in the middle of the day if I'm feeling tired and I happen to be where they are sold. They're also good for hangovers, I've found. Red Bull is the only one I can stand though, the others are truly disgusting.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:40 AM on December 4, 2015


I work in a LAN center and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that, no, people don't really consider time of day. Indeed, a significant portion of our regular customers will come in the mornings or early afternoons and stay until we close (12:30 am), and basically won't go outside during that period, so they may not even be aware of what time it is for most of the day.

Looking at the website of a LAN center, their food menu consists entirely of pepperoni sticks, candy bars, soda, and energy drinks. I can smell the air in there from here.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:44 AM on December 4, 2015


In ten years, we should have plenty of data indicating significant developmental impairment or damage from "energy" drinks/chemicals. I see teens pound these beverages constantly with terrible results and adults just seem more concerned about the kids never having their feelings hurt rather than controlling their intake.


Hahahahaha. Diet Coke has been around for decades and has been the focus of an incredible amount of research the majority of which has shown nothing. NOTHING. And yet there persists a constant cultural delusion and insistence that they must somehow be wrong because it goes against the puritan notions of a punitive natural order.

So basically you don't need the research. Just believe whatever you want to believe because you probably are going to anyway.
posted by srboisvert at 5:11 AM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


On the Monster Energy drink home page they now have a caffeine free variety.

I believe we have reached peak Monster.
posted by bukvich at 5:12 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


People 'pounding' more than 1 energy drink in a day kinda frightened me back when I was in college and working part time in retail. I'd keep it to 1 outside of coffee, and it was typically Monster's Khaos or M-80, which had 70 and 80 percent fruit juice respectively.

These days, I don't have those anymore, but if I am on a long road trip for vacation or whatever, their teas are excellent. At most 2, but often just 1 a day.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:36 AM on December 4, 2015


Man, and here I am being a loser because after about noon I have to get a half-caf if I want a warm coffee beverage, otherwise I will be WIRED. But then again, I am just a wimpy giiiiiiirl. Heh.


I knew several of these dudebros in college who were so PROUD of the fact that they drank Four Loko. Or - and really, you can't get more insecurely masculine than this - the weekend-long gaming sessions fueled by Bawls.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:28 AM on December 4, 2015


At the gas station they have these little 300 ml bottles of "vitamin energy drink" stuff (multiple names, but they all have the same ingredients). Lots of sugar, a substantial hit of salt and 1200mg of caffeine. So I don't think comparisons with Starbucks really work (I have seen someone order a vente whatever with five extra shots, but only once).

Every time I see them I think, "Drink Slurm!"
posted by sneebler at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The mere idea of pounding multiple energy drinks makes my heart hurt.
posted by Kitteh at 6:44 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not just the caffeine and the sugar and the possible sleep disturbances, it's all that plus all the escalating hyper-masculine marketing they are being exposed to. Women are constantly bombarded with the equivalent hyper-feminine marketing. Some women respond to the message that they are not thin or pretty enough by developing eating disorders. It's not a huge leap to wonder if the way some men -- with the added effects of the drinks -- might respond to this message by acting out in the super-aggro way we've been seeing. I'm all for anything that might help find a way decrease this behavior.

But then again, I am just a wimpy giiiiiiirl. Heh.

Don't.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:46 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing that the article didn't touch on was the popularity of energy drinks in the military. Go on just about any military forum and vets talk about "dip and Rip-Its", i.e. chewing tobacco and this energy drink that markets specifically to the military.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:58 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


At college, the library would open for 24 hours a day during reading week and finals week. A group of people would set up the "stim table" in the lobby. Energy drinks, sketchy energy shots bought at little Asian stores with no english on the label (rumors insisted that one of them had bovine gonads in it), yerba mate, tea, coffee, etc. I grabbed a can of Rockstar from the table once, trying to stay awake. I have never tasted pig urine, I have no desire to taste pig urine, but if pig urine with extra sugar tastes different than Rockstar energy drink, I would be incredibly surprised.

Also, does anyone remember Surge? It's back, now packaged like an energy drink. I think of it as the proto-energy drink, one that was created when Coke realized that people were drinking Mountain Dew for the caffeine, and wanted in on the action. Both Mountain Dew and Surge are associated in my mind with the beginning of the X-Games type events.
posted by Hactar at 7:02 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


My son asked if he could have a Monster now that he turned 13. My response was "oh, hell no. Also, no Axe. Not even kidding." There are many parts of a young man coming to age that I am prepared to handle, but kids hopped up on a pot of espresso and smelling of failed backseat Lothario, is not a thing up with which I will put.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


Failed Backset Lothario is the name of my new band. It's also my new sock puppet, pet's name, baby's name, and business name.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:16 AM on December 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


Room, that's a remarkably simplistic understanding of how eating disorders develop.

I wonder what's the research on the sugar-free varieties of these. A lot of the pearl-clutching appears to be because of the joint nature of sugar and caffeine. I drink them occasionally if I've forgotten my thermos of coffee, because they're cheaper in my area, miligram-for-milligram, and take me a lot longer to drink. Sometimes I dilute them with lemonade to try and make them taste a bit better. Basically I'm a caffeine fiend.
posted by Braeburn at 7:37 AM on December 4, 2015


Coffee has just as much caffeine, but nobody tries to insinuate that coffee drinkers really think a burro hauled those beans over a mountain or something.

Have you heard people argue about coffee?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:53 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


What if I just like caffeine, but not usually hot/drying drinks and even when I do most coffee around here is shit?
posted by cmoj at 8:40 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Find a drink you like and just add caffeine.

In a completely unrelated note, back when I had a car it had a bumper sticker that had the molecular model of caffeine and the caption 'My Favorite Alkaloid'. I don't drink nearly as much coffee now, and I don't really miss my car, but I loved that bumper sticker.
posted by eclectist at 9:26 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I actually find that these things give me more of a boost than coffee, and also don't stimulate my bowels the way coffee does. The stimulant effect feels "cleaner" somehow, less jangly and with more of a physical component as well as the mental one. I know they're basically just caffeine, but I suspect some of the other vitamins and stuff in there are doing something as well.

+1 to this. I started drinking energy drinks for the masculinity reasons I cited above, but I got dependent on Redbull for awhile in no small part because it gave me the high other people talk about from coffee. I always drank the diet version too so there was no appreciable sugar crash. I don't drink them any more but I sometimes still miss them. For awhile in college I was pretty much living on diet Redbull and Luna bars. I lost 10 pounds, taking me from "slightly chubby" to "sort of skeletal", and felt brilliant and intense all the time. And getting drunk on Redbull-centric mixed drinks feels like how I imagine cocaine to feel. I like coffee as a flavor and a ritual, but energy drinks really feel like a drug drug to me and my particular body chemistry.
posted by town of cats at 11:22 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


>>We already have information about how diet soda is actually worse than regular but it will take time for people to absorb this information.

> can you share some links for an interested party?


Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

Those researchers found
that the microbial populations that thrived on artificial sweeteners were the very same ones shown—by other researchers—to be particularly abundant in the guts of genetically obese mice.

Jeffrey Gordon, a physician and biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, has done research showing that this relation between bacteria and obesity is more than a coincidence. Gordon notes that more than 90 percent of the bacterial species in the gut come from just two subgroups—Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Gordon and his team found several years ago that genetically obese mice (the animals lacked the ability to make leptin, a hormone that limits appetite) had 50 percent fewer Bacteroidetes bacteria and 50 percent more Firmicutes bacteria than normal mice did. When they transferred a sample of the Firmicutes bacterial population from the obese mice into normal-weight ones, the normal mice became fatter. The reason for this response, Gordon says, was twofold: Firmicutes bacteria transplanted from the fat mice produced more of the enzymes that helped the animals extract more energy from their food, and the bacteria also manipulated the genes of the normal mice in ways that triggered the storage of fat rather than its breakdown for energy.

Gordon believes something similar occurs in obese humans. He found that the proportion of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes bacteria increases as fat people lose weight through either a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet.
posted by morganw at 12:31 PM on December 4, 2015


I knew several of these dudebros in college who were so PROUD of the fact that they drank Four Loko

I once saw a girl at a party drink three Four Lokos (still only three quarters of the way to the coveted Sixteen Loko achievement) and throw up in the can. This story is apropos of nothing at all I'm just telling it because it's completely disgusting.
posted by atoxyl at 12:46 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I knew of, even in middle school right after 9/11, several guys who had to go to the ER due to arrhythmia or just suddenly collapsing from the effects of too many energy drinks. Anecdotally, i've heard way more similar tales from friends and acquaintances.

I once saw a girl at a party drink three Four Lokos (still only three quarters of the way to the coveted Sixteen Loko achievement) and throw up in the can.

Friend of a friend had some sort of heart attack/stroke from drinking four of them. Everyone in that group of friends called them "fourstoko" after that, including her. She was totally healthy otherwise and the doctors were apparently shocked.

I seriously don't understand how these drinks are less regulated. And i just mean energy drinks, not the now long gone boozy ones. Is there a strong political lobbing machine backing them up the way there is with cigarettes or Big Beer or whatever?
posted by emptythought at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2015


Regulating them would sure be inconvenient for Starbuck's...
posted by LogicalDash at 9:24 PM on December 4, 2015


Yeah, it's all fun and games until you go one caffeine beverage over your body's limit and suddenly your heart is racing and you're sweating and nauseated for the next two hours while you metabolize some of it out.

"Five-Hour Energy" strikes me as weird and a little creepy, but at least it's clear that you're only supposed to have ONE of them for FIVE HOURS. Not one every hour. The way people slam back Red Bulls one after another makes me very nervous for them.

And I say this as a person with a serious, recurrent Diet Coke problem, who has definitely crossed that "made myself sick with caffeine" line, which is hard with Diet Coke because it's so much less caffeinated than coffee but I AM AN OVERACHIEVER.

It is also fascinating to me how very few women you ever see drinking Red Bull; caffeine is not an inherently gendered product, but the advertising is just sooooo toxically masculine that it has never even entered my head that I might want to buy it, because its advertising is so incredibly offputting to me as a woman.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:28 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't see why people can't just drink simple, reliable, delicious classic cocktails instead of pounding that 4 Loko stuff to get a buzz.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:24 PM on December 4, 2015


I did some quick math about that poor kid who developed kidney failure from too much energy-drinking during a game. I don't know what brand he had in Norway, but by volume, he drank the equivalent of eight and a half cans of Monster. I can't handle a whole can of Amp.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:19 AM on December 5, 2015


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