In one corner we have Jocko Willink, poster of the black-and-white, hairy-armed workout watch selfies at 4:04 a.m. or 4:32 a.m. or 3:47 a.m. or some other ungodly hour. He of the sweat-stained, inkwell filtered Instagram shots of chalk-covered mitts and mats loaded with maces and kettle bells and barbells. Willink, the decorated Navy SEAL-turned CEO turned-New York Times bestselling author and podcaster has now set his sights on a new goal: energy drink domination.
As Willink elbows his way onto shelves at convenience stores and nutrition shops around the country, his main competition isn’t necessarily the old standby Red Bull. Rather, it’s the Brahma Bull himself, Dwayne Johnson.
Johnson, the über-movie star, potential future president, Ford spokesman, Teramana Tequila, founder and destroyer of cheat days has, like Willink, recently added a new energy drink to his portfolio: ZOA.
The similarities of the men are striking.
Both were extremely successful and inspiring in their first careers. Willink earned the Silver Star and Bronze Star for his service as the commander of SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser in the war in Iraq. Johnson played football at the University of Miami and then became a 10-time WWE champion and one of the most charismatic wrestlers of all time.
Both men pride themselves on their unwavering commitment to the iron at any hour. Willink is famous for his dedication to Jiu-Jitsu and his home gym, post-workout photos of exercise mats or pull-up bars or deadlift set-ups tagged “aftermath.” The Rock has literally created his own “Iron Paradise” (several, actually) and has his own set of catchphrases and hashtags, from “clangin’ and bangin’” to “hardest worker in the room” to #madenotborn.
They’ve each got clothing lines, with The Rock’s made and distributed by Under Armour, replete with his Brahma Bull logo and all of his slogans. Jocko’s gear has his sayings written in the army typeface with his mantras on the front and back: “Discipline Equals Freedom,” “Get After It,” and “Stand By to Get Some.”
Until now their brands have maintained a respectful distance from each other, content to fulfill the desires of their own ecosystem and legions of fans. Jocko has his Troopers. The Rock has, well, everybody else.
The two drinks are named perfectly for their owners.
The Rock’s drink, Zoa, uses a section of one of his tattoos as the logo on the can and pays homage to his Samoan ancestry. The drink’s mission statement wraps up with three words: Mana. Gratitude. Zoa.
Jocko’s Go uses the same military typeface that is on all his gear, his podcast, and his website. The name is short but direct, perfectly fitting in with his no-BS leadership and life philosophy. It’s a play on another one of his phrases: “good,” which he often deploys in an “Obstacle is the Way” mantra. It means, “Whatever happens, good. It’s a new learning experience or hurdle to overcome to get stronger.”
But none of this matters if the drinks taste like stale movie theater 7-Up or if they don’t give you the kick you need to conquer a set of dips with 80-pound chains draped over your shoulders at 2:40 a.m.
Zoa has two versions, a zero-sugar option and one with 100 calories, which has 23 grams of sugar. It comes in four flavors: Original, Lemon Lime, Wild Orange, Pineapple Coconut and Super Berry. I’ve personally tried Original and Lemon Lime and they both tasted solid. Neither gave you the full-on, fake-flavor rush of a Mountain Dew or that extreme fruity soda flavor that some of the other brands have, which I think is a good thing.
The ingredients are also unique: You’ve got a full day’s vitamin C from Camu Camu, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and choline. You also get 250mg BCAAs, potassium, magnesium, along with 160mg of caffeine from green tea extract and green coffee.
Jocko’s Go bills itself as a physical and cognitive force multiplier, and who doesn’t want their force multiplied? I sure as hell do. The flavors for Go are battle-themed and kind of awesome. You’ve got Citrus Psycho, Dak Savage, POM’R, Sour Apple Sniper and Tropic Thunder. The POM’R is a play on the Arnold Palmer drink that mixes lemonade and iced tea, which is well played. I haven’t tasted it yet personally, but I look forward to it. The only ‘Go’ flavor I’ve had is Sour Apple Sniper and it tasted like a sour apple gummy bear. Delicious.
The ingredients list varies from Zoa in a few ways. While it also has B vitamins, magnesium and potassium, Go touts itself as a nootropic drink as well and contains acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-GPC, L-theanine, theobromine and bacopa monnieri whole-herb extract. It also has slightly less caffeine, at only 95g per serving.
Now you’re all wondering, who wins? The Rock or Jocko? Zoa or Go?
Clearly, if you want/need more caffeine and BCAAs, then Zoa is for you. If you’re looking for more of a focus on, you know, focus, then maybe you roll with Go. Flavorwise, from what I’ve tried, they’re both good and much better than the carnival-like candy flavors of the other brands.
As for me, I’m aiming for the best of both worlds. Rather than pick one, I’m going to grab a giant pitcher, fill it with ice and pour myself a full Go and a full Zoa to create a hybrid super drink called GOA.
Then I’m going to chug it and dominate the whole damned universe.
Feel free to join me.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @Jon_Finkel