According to a recent tweet by CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell, one of the best follows on Twitter, Americans will spend more money on energy drinks than bottled water for the first time in 2012. You could practically hear the eyes rolling over this development, doctors, health nuts and general haters scoffing at the notion that our nation has gone so far astray in terms of its beverage preferences.
If this shift indeed is a problem, then I’m a part of it. I’ve had roughly two energy drinks today and there’s another dozen – an assortment of Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, NOS, Venom and the locally grown Shogun – in my fridge just waiting to be hammered.
But before you judge me, take note of what I am not: a meth addict, morbidly obese, an action-sports star, a Jersey Shore cast member or Paris Hilton. Did I miss any other stereotypes of energy drinkers?
What I am is a 32-year-old college grad with a wife, multiple kids (I’ve lost count), a mortgage, a 24-hour-a-day job, a workout addiction and a side blog. Also, I run a daddy daycare 3-4 days a week, keeping tabs of a recovering micro-preemie with extra medical needs. And if that doesn’t justify my caffeine crutch, I also have a mild case of narcolepsy, probably the result of extended sleep deprivation. (Of course, I’m hardly alone on that front – a recent study showed that South Dakotans are among the worst in the country when it comes to getting enough rest.)
In other words, I don’t drink this stuff to get hyped up, to flip BMX bikes or to fist pump to techno music – I do it to survive. So, yes, it might be more important to my daily routine than bottled water, especially when I can get tap water for free.
Certainly, I could switch to coffee, but I’m just not a coffee guy aside from the occasional mocha or latte. I’m not a huge fan of the taste, it’s less convenient and – unlike the sugar-free versions of energy drinks – I’m not certain of the caloric values. And I’ve done the diet soda thing (note the use of “soda” rather than “pop” – I’m hoping to start a movement) to little avail. Caffeine seems akin to crack cocaine (or so I’m told) in that you build up an immunity, eventually needing larger quantities to get the desired effect. I’m not looking to get high – I just want to stay vertical.
This is the part of the pep-talk where you say, ‘But aren’t empty calories less damaging than whatever is in an energy drink?’ Yes. Probably. Maybe. I’m not sure. My wife and oldest daughter are convinced this is a dangerous habit, although I think some of their concerns stem from the exploding-heart jokes I make. (Funny, right?) To this point, there have been no obvious side effects aside from the occasional jitters, which can range from “that guy looks anxious” to “does he have Parkinson’s?” I’m basically hoping they’re not terrible for me, purposely avoiding doing too much reading on the topic for fear of bad news. All I know is that they’re crammed full of life-giving caffeine, (especially NOS), a substance that my youngest daughter received via IV when in the NICU. If I had a nickel for every time I considered suckling from the teat of that plastic bag …
Rationalizations aside, I’m admitting that excessive caffeinating (if that’s a word) is a form of self-medicating. Odds are it’s not good for me – if not outright damaging. But it’s become part of my lifestyle, a necessity in the smartphone era, a performance-enhancing drug for the Average Joe.
And I’m not alone in fitting into that demographic, assuming Mr. Rovell has his facts straight.