ECA Stack – Ephedrine, Caffeine and Aspirin – Thermogenic Effects

I am going to file this one under fad diets and throw in a word of caution. Ephedrine is a powerful drug and can have some serious side effects. Read and use this information at your own risk. I am posting this information because I’ve noticed a lot of my automatically generated Google adds are trying to lure you into buying different weight loss supplements and this is the only one with any sort of legitimate science to back it up.

I have used an ECA stack in the past but like Dumbo’s Feather (which if you remember helped him to fly) I think it had more of a placebo effect. Yes, I lost weight but I would attribute most of it to a good clean diet and an insane amount of grueling physical exercise. I am not advocating this method, nor am I using it myself. The FDA considered Ephedra dangerous enough to ban its sale as a supplement. It is still legal to buy over the counter for relief of asthma symptoms.  Anyway, on to how and why it works.

The following abstract is from an article by Nadir Yehya from the University of California, Los Angeles.

The field of obesity management is coming to appreciate the efficacy of pharmacological
treatments. For the past twenty years the thermogenic effects of sympathetic stimulation have been known and described. Recent studies have demonstrated that treating patients with a
drug combination including the sympathomimetic ephedrine, the stimulant caffeine, and the analgesic aspirin (ECA combination) will stimulate thermogenesis and result in lowered weight but maintained muscle mass. This protein-sparing lipolysis has been attributed to the elevated levels of cAMP generated by the ECA combination. In rat studies, the mechanism of action has been well characterized in vitro and although there is some discrepancy in humans, a similar mechanism seems to be active. Randomized placebo-controlled trials have demonstrated the short-term efficacy of the ECA combination, but long-term studies are lacking. Most studies have also demonstrated the incidence of short-term side effects associated with excessive sympathetic stimulation, and have shown them to be transient and mild. Future studies should focus on the long-term efficacy of the ECA combination, and the effects of stopping treatment on the maintenance of fat loss.

This research concludes that the ECA combination provides protein sparing lipolysis which translates to keeping muscle while burning fat. To lose wieght the body must break down and use fat. Typically, this catabolic activity burns both muscle and fat. Weight is lost but losing both fat and muscle is a bad thing. The ECA stack spares the protein or muscle in favor of fat.

So, the ECA stack burns fat and spares muscle. Let’s check the wiki to see how it works.

From a Wikipedia article:

The effects of the ECA stack in weight loss are primarily due to the ephedrine component. Ephedrine acts both as a beta agonist and stimulates the release of norepinephrine. Increased circulating norepinephrine in the body then acts on white adipose tissue by increasing cAMP levels. This causes a thermogenic effect, raising body temperature and increasing the user’s metabolism in conjunction with the rest of the stack.

However, the body’s negative feedback system then activates to normalize the metabolism. This is done via the production of phosphodiesterase inside the cells, and prostaglandins outside the cell, which both lower cAMP levels within the cell.

Caffeine inhibits the production of phosphodiesterase inside the cell and therefore slows cAMP breakdown. It also binds with and competitively inhibits adenosine receptors in the brain, triggering the release of epinephrine and increasing cAMP levels further.

Aspirin inhibits prostaglandin production outside of the cells, which, in conjunction with caffeine, greatly prolongs the thermogenic effects and increased metabolism by sustaining elevated cAMP levels.

Ephedrine also has an anorectic, or appetite-suppressing, effect. However, these effects only last for about two weeks if the stack is not cycled, as the body becomes tolerant to ephedrine to some degree. It is estimated that 60%–75% of the weight loss from using the ECA stack comes from the anorectic effect, and the remainder from thermogenesis.

The final component in weight loss of the ECA stack is that of a simple stimulant; the higher epinephrine and norepinephrine levels result in increased aerobic exercise performance and less fatigue.

Basically, the Ephedrine increases your metabolism and has a anorectic effect making you less hungry. The caffiene and asprin keep these effects going by blocking the body’s ability to compensate for these effects naturally.

Typically the ECA stack is consumed two or three times per day in a 1:10:10 or 1:10:15 ratio of ephedrine:caffeine:Aspirin. This translates to approximately 25 mg of ephedrine, 200 mg of caffeine and 325 mg of Aspirin for a single dose.

Once again, there are risks involved in taking this and it should be used with caution.