Question: Hello! I have purchased your RFL handbook about 6 months ago. And have also been taking the ECA stack for about 5 months now. I really just want to know how long is safe to run an ECA stack!?? I have only taken two doses a day instead of the suggested three. this is what it looks like : 25mg Ephedrine HCI , 200mg Caffeine, 162mg Aspirin once in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Answer: Since I appear to be officially out of ideas for things to write about (cut me some slack, I’ve got 500 posts on the site), I’m doing another Q&A this week. For those unfamiliar with the acronyms, RFL is my own Rapid Fat Loss Handbook and ECA is a combination of Ephedrine Caffeine and Aspirin. I don’t recall offhand when it really came into use but it was at least in the 90’s when it was found that the combination of ephedrine and caffeine were thermogenics (meaning that they increase energy expenditure), suppressed appetite, mobilized fat and had many other potential benefits for fat loss on a diet (other thermogenics such as green tea, capsaicin and nicotine were also studied).
Aspirin was sometimes added as well (for once I’ll spare you the mechanisms involved here) but, outside of the obese, didn’t really have any benefit. It was also never clear if low-dose aspirin (81 mg) would have the same benefit as the full 300 mg used in the studies and honestly, if someone is going to use EC (often just called the stack), I don’t recommend the aspirin.
In any case, back to the question, how long should EC be used? And the answer sort of depends on your perspective.
One thing worth mentioning is this: EC is unusual (and possibly unique) among fat loss compounds in that chronic use actually makes it work more effectively. I do mean that this is unusual in that most drugs lose, or at least appear to lose, their effect over time (it’s a little more complicated than this but I’ll save my explanation of this statement for next week or something). Ephedrine becomes more effective over time (and the idea that it must be cycled to avoid a loss of effect is not only wrong but exactly backwards). The thing is, nobody is quite sure how this might happen.
Early ideas revolved around Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) and the idea that ephedrine might increase it. But humans don’t actually have much BAT (we have beige/brite fat and I discussed this, along with how to impact and increase it in my Stubborn Fat Solution 1.1 Patch). But the only study I’m aware of in humans shows that, if anything, EC decreases the amounts of BAT.
So, honestly, I have no idea why EC becomes more effective with regular use. But it does and that would tend to suggest chronic use is better. But that still doesn’t answer how long. In addition, the side effects of the EC stack, which include things like increased heart rate, blood pressure and general stimulation decrease with regular use. EC gets more effective and safer over time. In that sense, it could conceivably be used forever.
On the one hand, EC is really a dieting/fat loss supplement. It’s effects are small but do add up and it has been shown to have the benefits I listed above during a diet as well as others. By increasing the use of fat, it can spare the loss of skeletal muscle/LBM, for example. As well, although it’s overall metabolic effects are moderate (increasing energy expenditure by 5-10%), this helps to offset the normal diet related decreases in energy expenditure. And in that sense, only using it until the diet period ends is sort of a logical conclusion. It’s a diet compound, use it while dieting. It’s fairly logical although we might quibble over how long a diet should actually be before taking a break.
But there’s also another way of looking at this issue. At the end of a diet, a host of adaptations have occurred in an attempt to facilitate fat regain. Appetite and hunger are both up (and people show more attention to high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat foods) and various components of energy expenditure are decreased along with the body being utterly primed to store fat at an accelerated rate. There are a huge number of factors that go into this. Leptin is down, ghrelin is up, the other hunger hormones such as CCK, PYY, etc. are decreased and this all adds up to an integrated signal to the hypothalamus that decreases thyroid output (this is along with a decrease in conversion of inactive to active thyroid in the liver) and decreased nervous system output. And it’s that last one that is relevant here.
Getting off-topic slightly, early ideas suggested that obese individuals became obese due to low sympathetic activity. This was called the MONA LISA hypothesis which stood for Most Obesities kNown Are Low In Sympathetic Activity. Ha ha. But other work clearly shows that there is elevated sympathetic activity in the obese. What may be happening is that low sympathetic activity predisposes people towards obesity and then this normalizes and then overcompensates when a person becomes obese. Regardless.
My point being that at the end of a diet, this same type of low sympathetic nervous system activity is present. And ephedrine and caffeine helps to offset this even after the diet is over. That is to say that continuing to use EC past the actual duration of the diet may help weight long-term weight maintenance as it helps to offset the normal diet/fat loss generated reduction in energy expenditure (at least through this one mechanism) that occurs. This assumes that it is well tolerated and effectively this is saying that EC would be a permanent part of someone’s daily intake.
And I imagine this might concern some readers (and I’m not exactly suggesting this, just commenting that it is possible). Clearly long-term weight maintenance is the big issue when it comes to fat loss; everybody can lose some amount of fat. It’s keeping it off that is the issue (though the often cited value of 90-95% failure is completely incorrect, just for the record). The post-obese body is in a state of lowered energy expenditure and increased potential fat storage; combined with the modern environment where endless food cues promote eating, this is a real problem. And there is increasing interest in the idea that obesity should be treated as a chronic relapsing disease. And if long-term medication is required to prevent relapse….
Continuous use of the EC stack at least ameliorates some of the decrease in energy expenditure. Other compounds have also been tested here including green tea (and caffeine) and capsaican (and caffeine, because caffeine makes everything better) and it would certainly be possible to switch out EC for potentially less, what’s a good word here, let’s say controversial compounds. Doses for green tea or capsaican can be found here. As well, there are other approaches, such as increasing activity levels that can effectively accomplish the same thing. We’ve known for a while that exercise has it’s largest effect on weight maintenance (rather than increasing total weight loss per se) although it takes quite a bit. And a big part of this is that by increasing exercise related energy expenditure, the other aspects of metabolic rate decrease can be offset. This allows more food to be eaten (critical for long-term hunger control) without fat being gained.
Which is all a very long way of saying what I could have written in three sentences which is
- Ephedrine works better with long-term use and there is no need to cycle it at a fundamental level
- In one sense, ephedrine is a dieting aid and should be used during the active dieting phase
- Except that continuing to use ephedrine after the diet is over might help to offset some of the adaptations that occur in response to fat loss that tend to promote fat regain. This can be accomplished through other methods such as increased activity.
Which probably doesn’t really answer the original question that directly but maybe answers something?