Long before Red Bull was introduced to America in 1987 (and the plethora of energy drinks that followed,) caffeine had become the most widely used stimulant in the world. Over 90% of Americans drink coffee and slightly over half average three cups each day. Caffeine is now added to soft drinks, bottled water, gum, and even potato chips. And a busy pastor often uses energy drinks to keep up. But should we? Are they good or bad?
I don’t like coffee or tea and don’t drink them. And Red Bull and similar energy drinks give me the jitters. I’ve found, however, that 5-Hour Energy works well to boost my concentration. For the record, I don’t work for the makers of 5-Hour Energy. Also, when I study McDonalds, I get a caffeinated diet drink that I refill often when I get tired.
Since we pastors are busy people, to what degree should we rely on legal stimulants to give us a mental edge?
As I researched this blog, I found these statistics about caffeine quite interesting.
- Brewed coffee has three times more caffeine than instant.
- Caffeine in a hot drink is absorbed more quickly than from a cold drink.
- 15-20 minutes after your drink a caffeinated drink, the caffeine reaches it’s highest peak in your blood stream.
- Caffeine increases the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine, in our brain. About five minutes after I drink a 5-Hour Energy, I feel a nice motivation and optimism boost. Perhaps this comes from the high levels of B-vitamins more than from the caffeine.
- Neurologically, caffeine makes us more alert and focused because it blocks a neurotransmitter called adenosine that causes sleepiness.
On the other hand, scientists have discovered that over-use of caffeine causes some negative effects as well.
- It can impair long-term memory.
- It can increase anxiety, especially to anxious prone people. I call this the jitters.
- We can become addicted, especially if we use it more frequently when we feel stressed.
When I was in college I would occasionally pull an all-nighter. Since I didn’t drink coffee, I’d use a caffeine tablet to keep me awake. Each time I did I got some serious jitters and stomach problems. And I usually got a cold as well, probably because I skipped a night’s sleep.
As a pastor, I’m careful not to become legalistic about what I put into my body, unless I know it will clearly harm it. But, with energy drinks becoming so popular, should we give some thought about how we use them?
As you consider your views on legal stimulants found in coffee and energy drinks, I’ve suggested a few thought provoking questions below.
- Are you addicted to caffeine? Can you go a day or two without drinking several cups of coffee, a Red Bull, or a 5-Hour Energy?
- Are you masking deep tiredness? By drinking an energy drink are you ignoring that your body may be telling you it’s exhausted and needs more rest and sleep?
- Do you practice Sabbath keeping by taking a day off each week to rest, relax, and recover?
- Have you considered taking a short nap each day to give you an energy boost? Michael Hyatt wrote a great blog on 5 Reasons You Should Take a Nap each Day as did Helen Sanders at Health Ambition here.
- Can you use caffeine/energy drinks to God’s glory? That is, without being legalistic, does your consumption give you those occasional needed bursts of energy/focus so that you can minister more effectively? Or are you relying more on them than His power and good body care habits?
- Are you using energy drinks as a replacement for sleep?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.