Energy drinks and what they mean for the space we make for women and fitness

I was idly scrolling through my news feeds when a dramatic headline caught my eye: My Teen’s Energy Drink Habit Led Me To Learn Of Their Dangers For Kids. The author described the development of her child’s caffeine habit from imbibing an energy drink.

Image shows a water bottle with lemon slices, ice and water. There’s a skipping rope in the background. Photo by quokkabottles on Unsplash

Notoriously high in stimulants, energy drinks aren’t meant to be drunk by kids. However, like coolers and spritzers, brightly coloured (blue, purple and hot pink!) energy drinks look more like funky sodas and are popular with younger teens.

It got me wondering, what is the consumption of energy drinks among adults, especially women? First, though, the content of energy drinks made me stop in my tracks. An average 8oz cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine while your average energy drink contains about five times as much, about 500 mg.

There’s no real risk to women and people with uteruses, except when pregnant. Then the recommended amount of caffeine should be less than 200 mg a day. However, teens generally should avoid energy drinks because of the risk for high blood pressure, poor sleep, upset stomach, and increased irritability and jittery nerves.

There’s no real difference in the numbers of male and female persons who consume energy drinks. It’s just shy of 30% each. But men are over-represented in the purchasing of such drinks at almost 60%.

Here are some other interesting numbers about energy drink consumption:

  • Gen Zers are 238% more likely to consume energy drinks than Boomers, with only 8% of that demo report consuming energy drinks.
  • Exercise is the number one energy drink usage occasion at 37.3%; followed by sports at 24.7%; household chores at 20.2%; and studying at 17.1%.
  • 41.2% of males consume energy drinks for exercise in comparison to the 31.5% of females, whilst only 15.5% of men consume energy drinks for household chores compared to 27.2% of women.

Energy drinks are primarily marketed towards men. A feature article about the industry noted there was only one female CEO leading an energy drink company. Back in 2011, there was an energy drink developed and marketed for women. Called Rockstar Pink, and packaged in a very intense pink-coloured can, this drink’s prime selling feature was the fact it was less than 10 calories per serving.

I don’t care for either energy or sports drinks as I prefer to drink my caffeine as a latte, preferably in the morning with a book and a cozy couch and not chugging it back in a gym.

However, I do recognize that some sports drinks or solutions offer some value in replacing electrolytes and stabilizing blood sugar levels during particularly challenging workouts. That said, is there a need for monster claws, large kapow stars, or giant letters on a can, all pointing out that in your hands you hold A Very Important Drink?

I wasn’t all that surprised to learn that sports/energy drinks are now something you consume outside of the gym, and the industry would like you to serve such drinks at your next social gathering, pending pandemic guidelines, of course. Mind you, if you intend to dance all night long, an energy-boosting beverage is probably going to go over well, especially with the younger clientele now taking up the largest market share.

Nor was I surprised to learn energy drinks are replacing soda as the beverage of choice among millennials, especially female millennials. I was surprised by this quote: “While millennial men typically are the face of energy and sports drinks products, the category is gaining momentum with other consumers. Women, in general, are less likely to consume sports drinks, but millennial women consume sports drinks at levels that exceed their male counterparts. Similarly, women aged 50 and older also exceed males in consumption of energy drinks.” (emphasis added)

I honestly thought I was going to find research showing the increased consumption of energy drinks was connected to increased physical activity, but I was wrong.

Actual physical exercise definitely helps relieve stress and boosts energy. But do we actually have time for fitness in lives full of work demands, parenting labour and family responsibilities? For women, the answer is no. According to a UN Women Count study, women’s unpaid workload has increased to the point that women are contributing as much as a full day of unpaid labour weekly compared to men.

The fact is more women than men are reporting higher rates of burnout, and the pandemic isn’t helping. A recent American survey asked for ideas on alleviating burnout and they got a number of suggestions: “additional paid time off (22%), a condensed four-day workweek (22%), schedule flexibility (17%), remote work options (13%), company-wide mental health days (13%) and a lighter workload (12%).”

So the next time you pass a rack of energy drinks, think about what it really means in terms of time and fitness. Because when it comes to women, it seems the reason we need the energy boost is not because of a hard session in the gym.

MarthaFitat55 enjoys powerlifting, trail walking, swimming and yoga when she can find the time.