If you have ever tried to lose weight, or if you have ever had a single conversation with a body builder, you have probably heard of an ephedra stack. Ephedra contains ephedrine, a very powerful stimulant found in the Ma Huang plant and in the heartleaf plant known as Sida cordifolia. The “stack” in an ephedra stack usually consists of a dose of caffeine and a dose of aspirin.
Caffeine, as we all know, is also a strong stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and most soft drinks. If you see a weight loss supplement that indicates it boosts energy and increased fat loss, there is a very good chance it’s got caffeine in it. When caffeine is stacked with ephedra, it increases the effects of the ephedrine and causes a thermogenic effect thus speeding up the metabolism and helping you burn fat and lose weight.
Aspirin is another ingredient usually included in the ephedra stack, however it is optional. Aspirin is generally used to balance the effects of the caffeine and ephedrine. Also, there is some indication that aspirin reduces the loss of ephedrine through urinary secretion allowing it to remain in the blood for a longer period and prolonging its effects. Once again, this is optional. Recently, more and more products are dropping the aspirin from their formulas.
The ECA stack (ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin) has many effects on your body. By stimulating the nervous system through an increase in neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, a stress response is triggered. This response increases the heart rate and blood pressure, expands airways and increases the resting metabolic rate. It may increase energy and alertness and reduce feelings of fatigue. Additionally, this ephedra stack will suppress your appetite. This has both positive and negative ramifications. On the up side, eating less usually increases weight loss. However, if you are maintaining a workout schedule, it is vitally important to eat several small meals a day. If your body does not receive proper nutrition, it cannot heal itself after a hard workout. Make sure that you are eating 5 or 6 small meals per day. Even if you don’t feel like it, proper nutrition can make or break your weight loss regimen. Also, feeding your body several times a day helps keep your metabolism up. If you don’t eat your metabolism slows down. After a couple of weeks, you will negate the use of the ephedra stack by countering its effects on your metabolism.
There are risks to the ephedra stack that should be considered before adding it to your weight loss regimen.
- Ephedrine will speed up your heart rate and when combined with caffeine, can cause serious injury to those with a heart condition and high blood pressure.
- If you do not maintain a proper regimen of diet and exercise, ephedrine will not only burn fat, it will also burn muscle. As mentioned above, maintaining a proper diet and exercise routine will only add to the weight loss effects of the ephedra stack.
- Some people have experienced insomnia, nervousness, headaches, seizures, heart attacks, strokes and in a few rare cases, death from the use of ephedrine. It is important to follow the dosing instructions listed on the products you take and follow your doctor’s recommendations on taking an ephedra stack.
- Avoid the ephedra stack in you have heart disease, thyroid disease, depression, difficulty urinating, enlarged prostate or a seizure disorder. Also avoid use if you take an MAOI or any over the counter product containing ephedrine.
- Some athletic associations have banned the use of ephedra products including the NCAA. Athletes should be cognizant of their particular sports association rules to avoid disqualification from events.
- Because caffeine is a diuretic, it is important to get enough water to avoid dehydration. Shoot for at 1 ½ ounces per lean body weight.
The ephedra stack can work to help you lose weight. In fact, for the first two weeks or so, you may believe you have discovered a magic formula that melts fat away with no effort from you. Do not be fooled. To maintain any consistent weight loss and help keep your weight under control, you must include diet and exercise. Make sure you know your tolerance to ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin before you take an ephedra stack because person responds differently to these products.