Hey brah, what’s your favorite energy drink? Red Bull? Monster? Rock Star? Male Gaze? Do you embrace your guy friends while maintaining an arm-wrestle-like hand-clasp between your bodies? Do you enjoy infusing your body with guarana before doing some reps and contemplating the precariousness of manhood?
If so, you might be one of the gentlebros described in a totally epic recent study by researchers at the University of Akron and Texas Tech University. It found that men who subscribed most to stereotypically masculine beliefs were also more likely to believe that energy drinks work wonders, which, in turn, leads to drinking more of the robot-pee-flavored beverages.
The researchers were interested in this connection because the rise of energy drinks has brought an attendant increase in emergency-room visits due to caffeine toxicity. Furthermore, they write, “ads for energy drinks typically feature young white men engaged in extreme sports, and portrayed as attractive to and attracted by women.” Rather than simply walk around campus sniffing for Axe body spray, the authors of the study, published in Health Psychology, recruited 467 men from Craigslist and psychology classes and gave them a series of surveys.
First, they asked them how much they agreed with statements like, “Men should not be too quick to tell others that they care about them,” “A man should prefer watching action movies to reading romantic novels,” “A man should always be ready for sex,” and “A man should always be the boss.” (Alas, they did not ask them, “Do you even lift?”)
Then, they asked them how much they think energy drinks would generate positive outcomes that affirm their masculinity, using statements such as, “If I consume energy drinks, I will be more willing to take risks” or “If I consume energy drinks, I will perform better.” They also asked the participants how often they drank energy drinks and whether they have trouble sleeping.
They found that the man’s man—you know, the one who “rallies,” adores fantasy football, and prioritizes the needs of his homosocial companions above that of hos—is more likely to believe that Red Bull gives you wings. In other words, those who adhered most to masculine beliefs had significantly higher energy-drink outcome expectations.
Put yet another way, the study affirmed the Powerthirst theory of energy beverages:
The association between masculinity and energy drinks hinged on demographics. For the younger men in the study, masculinity ideology was significantly correlated with energy drink outcome expectations, but that wasn’t the case for men who were older than about 32. And for the white men, but not men of color, higher energy drink outcome expectations were associated with greater energy-drink consumption.
The authors hypothesize that the path works something like this: Adherence to masculinity ideology influences energy-drink expectations, which in turn influence energy-drink consumption, which can cause sleep disturbances.
“Masculinity affects energy-drink use indirectly by affecting young men's expectations of what energy drinks will do for them,” said the University of Akron psychology professor and study co-author Ronald Levant. “These young men believe that is the way men should be, want to be that, and believe that energy drinks will make them be that way.”
Gender is widely understood to be a construct, which can be way harsh. Thus, the authors write, “The link between masculinity ideology and energy drink use suggests that energy drink use may be a means of performing masculinity (i.e., demonstrating that one is consuming products that are associated with the engagement in extreme sports or an otherwise active and competitive lifestyle).” Previous studies have similarly found that men whose masculinity was threatened consumed more energy drinks in a taste test.
Lest my homies feel gender-policed, know that Levant is only looking out for the health of his dawgs. A small recent study found that even one 16-ounce energy drink can boost blood pressure and stress-hormone responses in young, healthy adults.
“These kids don't know what they're drinking,” Levant said. “There should be some requirement that the caffeine content be included on the label. Caffeine in higher doses can be a diuretic, and that can be a problem if you're participating in a sport.”