A lot of the adverse press on energy drinks is unsubstantiated, but the sheer quantity of stories cannot be denied. Recently, there has been a strong association between energy drinks and gaming, with many brands sponsoring big gaming events. Traditional energy drink brands are also now following the trend with new ranges such as Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Monster Energy Gaming and Nintendo Power Up Energy Drink.

The majority of these ‘gamer’ energy drinks have a higher caffeine and lower sugar content than that of Red Bull and Monster. A concern would be that, while something like Red Bull has less caffeine, the consumer is expelling the aftereffects with physical exercise. Consuming more caffeine and subsequently playing a video game sedentarily seems more like a solution for sleep prevention. X-Gamer claims to be ‘formulated exclusively for e-sports’ and despite G Fuel mentioning alternative consumption motives, it states its formula ‘owes its birth to gamers’.

Many brands first marketed their products for sports and fitness purposes. Studies have shown that, while energy is not increased, consuming an energy drink prior to a workout or sport can help performance.

The well-established gaming related energy drinks brands G Fuel and X-Gamer have products with 150mg and 200mg of caffeine per serving respectively. The Food Standards Agency advises 400mg of caffeine per day for an adult and any more than this can cause mild to severe caffeine overdose symptoms. As I am sure you’d expect the same could occur in children but from a much smaller amount of caffeine.

Both X-Gamer and G Fuel are packaged in similar HDPE tubs the same as many protein powders, with X-Gamer also offering an X-Shotz sachet. I think this has been very intentional, as they wish to draw on the sport/fitness connotations of protein powder.

A lot of people will see energy drinks as harmless and similar to other less demonised caffeinated products. Although caffeine content varies and the likes of Red Bull are even comparable to a cup of coffee, the marketing couldn’t be more different.

Drinks that contain caffeine at a level over 150mg per litre are legally required to declare ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children, or pregnant or breast-feeding women’ as well as the exact caffeine content in mg per 100ml on the label. With these products, the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) also operate a voluntary code of practice which suggests the phrase ‘consume moderately’ (or similar wording) should be stated on labels, and that marketing should not be targeted at those under 16 years of age.

Whilst the regulations are valid, the marketing stipulations and the ‘consume moderately’ caution are both voluntary. Ofcom’s ban on targeting under 16s with junk food advertising is statutory due to the health implications so, when some consider the effects of caffeine to be a psychoactive stimulant and drug-like, should a ban on this be implemented too? The fact that the BSDA has put forward this voluntary practice means there is a reason children should not consume energy drinks and that everyone consumes the products in moderation. Whether seen as a drug or not, caffeine has many proven negative effects which vary by dose and by tolerance levels.