Many Americans will reach for energy drinks, but perhaps no more so than men. Since men are the main consumers of these highly caffeinated, fizzy beverages, a team of scientists led by Dr. Ronald F. Levant, a professor of psychology at The University of Akron, was curious to see if there was a link between energy drinks and masculinity. The scientists also examined the effects energy drinks had on sleep and how drink expectations influenced consumption.

Oftentimes, energy drinks are marketed in a way that highlights masculinity. Commercials may feature men engaged in adrenaline-pumping, risky activities, like snowboarding or skydiving. Many brands of energy drinks sponsor sporting events as well, including ultimate fighting leagues, motocross, and racing.

"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 Levant in a press release.

Levant and his team first had 467 adult men take the Male Role Norms Inventory short form (MRNI-SF) designed by Levant. The survey attempts to measure a person's agreement with traditional masculine attitudes, such as "I think a young man should try to be physically tough, even if he's not," and, "Men should not be too quick to tell others that they care about them."

The second survey men took measured expectations about the effects of energy drinks, and included statements like, "If I consume energy drinks, I will be more willing to take risks," and, "If I consume energy drinks, I will perform better."

The final survey involved in the study was focused on sleep in order to compare disturbances in men's sleep patterns to a standard sleep quality index. It looked at things like how often the men had to get up to use the bathroom, plus how much trouble they had falling asleep.

The researchers found associations between energy drink consumption and beliefs in traditional masculinity, the efficacy of energy drinks, and sleep disturbances with a couple 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," they said.

For younger, white men in the sample, the link was much clearer.

"The link between masculinity ideology and energy drink use suggests that energy drinks use may be means of performing masculinity…as a way to raise masculine capital," Levant said. He added the performance could be a way of showing off that one is consuming products associated with a competitive lifestyle.

The study suggests this association could have a negative effect on men's health. Excessive consumption of caffeine can accelerate heart rate and increase anxiety, along with contributing to insomnia.

"Energy drinks contain very large amounts of caffeine, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require caffeine quantities to be displayed on beverage labels," said Levant. "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 for sleep."

Source: Levant R, Parent M, McCurdy E, Bradstreet T. Moderated mediation of the relationships between masculinity ideology, outcome expectations, and energy drink use. Health Psychology. 2015.