Is Ephedrine a Steroid? Cutting Cycle Effects, Mechanisms & Results
Is ephedrine a steroid, and does it behave in much the same way? Why do bodybuilders commonly refer to an ephedrine steroid cycle if they’re not the same thing?
Ephedrine is not considered an anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS), although it may be combined with steroids for enhancing athletic performance, or for bodybuilders preparing for competition.
It is a stimulant with thermogenic properties that can activate beta-adrenergic receptors in fat and muscle cells to promote a greater metabolic rate. This can increase the breakdown of stored fat and it may be moderately anti-catabolic (protecting muscle tissue while losing fat).
Ephedrine is not anabolic, which means it does not interact with the same androgenic receptors that are acted upon by steroid drugs or testosterone. It has a very different mechanism of action and cannot cause growth of muscle tissue.
Bodybuilders may combine ephedra and ephedrine with illegal steroids, growth hormone, prohormone or SARMs in a cutting cycle much the same was as clenbuterol is used to promote fat loss. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Ephedrine Vs. Steroids
What is the difference between they way that ephedrine works and how steroids work?
Some evidence suggests that ephedrine has muscle-preserving properties and can preferentially result in fat loss instead of muscle mass loss. Does it interact with steroid receptors in the body?
The answer is no. This substance only works on beta-adrenergic receptors and not on the androgenic receptors that are affected by anabolic agents or steroid medications.
Ephedrine is defined as an alkaloid as well as a stimulant similar in mechanism of action to adrenaline. Ephedrine can directly and indirectly trigger certain activities of the central nervous system.
Ephedrine is also classified as a sympathomimetic amine. A sympathomimetic amine stimulates functions of the sympathetic or autonomic nervous system. This system regulates body functions and controls such as:
- Respiratory rate
- Heart rate
- Constrict blood vessels
As a stimulant, ephedrine can provide a body with an increased sense of energy, alertness, a faster heart rate, and accelerated respirations.
Such functions, when stimulated by endogenous hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) are commonly linked to the body’s fight or flight response.
Steroids are a broad term for a number of organic compounds. They’re considered to be synthetic hormones that replicate testosterone, which promote development of male characteristics. Anabolic steroids and androgenic steroids are the most well-known to bodybuilders and athletes.
Synthetic anabolic steroids mimic the effect of testosterone, the primary male hormone responsible for male characteristics including:
- Muscle development
- Facial or body hair, overall physique (height versus weight versus fat ratios)
- Mood, attitude, and for some, have an influence on aggression
Anabolic steroids are commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders to stimulate muscle growth. Often, anabolic/androgenic steroids are classified as steroidal androgens that are well tolerated in males because males produce these hormones anyway.
Basic difference: ephedrine is a stimulant while steroids are synthetic forms of testosterone.
While they’re not the same thing, they are sometimes used for similar goals such as muscle preservation during a cutting cycle, greater workout intensity and fat loss. For this reason, many athletes and bodybuilders will use an ephedrine steroid cycle to promote not only bigger muscles, but increased stamina.
Ephedrine Steroid Cycles
Ephedrine steroid cycles are used by bodybuilders in the cutting phase. This is the period of their regimen where they try to cut fat and develop greater muscle tone while still preserving strength and lean muscle mass.
Ephedrine alkaloids were banned by the US FDA in 2004 as an ingredient in dietary supplements. You will not see any ephedrine pre-workout supplements or bodybuilding formulations with this ingredient.
However, they are still considered FDA approved for use in drugs in the treatment of certain medical conditions as a component to a number of asthma medications, cough and cold remedies, and allergy pills.
The primary mechanism of action of ephedrine is its ability to stimulate beta-2 adrenergic receptors found in the airways of the lungs. This function dilates those airways and sinus passages, enabling greater intake of oxygen.
Ephedrine also acts on alpha adrenergic receptors in the blood vessels, triggering the construction of those vessels and increasing blood pressure.
When using a steroid cutting cycle, the body is going to undergo a number of changes: increased heart rate and blood pressure, producing more energy, which in turn increases heat production (thermogenesis).
This stimulation has not only the potential to aid in some weight loss, but increases blood flow and oxygen and nutrient delivery to the muscles.
Anabolic steroids used in a fat loss cycle can increase oxygen and nutrient retention, improving stamina as well as stimulating growth of muscle cells.
The combined effects of an ephedrine steroid cycle can be impressive for some, depending on dosages and frequency of dosage.
However, results for weight loss will be short-term and there is a significant high risk of side effects. Some of the adverse effects can last a lifetime and without proper use put your health and well-being at considerable risk.
Side Effects of Ephedrine Cycles
There is no such thing as a safe range for dosages of an ephedrine steroid cycle. There are, however, dosages and practices that can minimize the risk of side effects.
Sources of ephedrine and the types of steroid used widely differ with bodybuilders and athletes. A number of “recipes” for developing an ephedrine steroid cycle are prevalently found online, some definitely not recommended for beginners.
Many side effects are associated with both ephedrine as well as steroid usage. Negative effects associated with ephedrine are generally caused by overstimulation of the central nervous system. Side effects can include:
- High blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Jitteriness, most commonly observed his hand tremors
- Increased sense of anxiety or nervousness
Side effects associated with anabolic steroids run the gamut from imbalanced hormone levels to potential disruption of male reproductive system activities. It also has psychological side effects which can include increased aggression.
Depending on dosage and frequency of use, a negative influence on liver function can occur. Less severe side effects associated with anabolic steroid use include:
- Disruptive hormone balances
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood changes
- Hair loss
- Sexual dysfunction
Before considering an ephedrine steroid cycle, conduct some research and understand how each of these two very different components behave in the body. It is important to get the appropriate health tests performed and to monitor yourself under doctor supervision when using these compounds.
Used separately, they both cause a number of changes that may prove beneficial for athletes and bodybuilders, but not without risk of side effects.
Combining ephedrine with other components including steroids, other stimulants, or growth hormone and so forth can severely disrupt normal endocrine/hormonal balances in the body as well as influence neurotransmitters that may trigger severe adverse events.
A recent study determined that the combination of a number of performance and image enhancing drugs is not only common, but fairly prevalent among athletes. The most common stacks taken by bodybuilders today include but not limited to:
- Anabolic androgenic steroids
- Caffeine (various forms)
- Thermogenic-producing substances
A study noted that those who often combine such ingredients not only display higher levels of activity, but higher levels of caffeine consumption as well as psychotropic medications.
Such individuals may have a tendency to experience increased risk of general anxiety disorders, body dysmorphic disorders, and psychiatric disorders.  
This is not to suggest that everyone using ephedrine or steroids will develop such effects, but to use caution when developing an ephedrine steroid cycle.
- Piacentino D, et al. Body Image and Eating Disorders are Common among Professional and Amateur Athletes Using Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2017 Nov-Dec;49(5):373-384. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2017.1359708. Epub 2017 Aug 4.
- Piacentino, et al. Anabolic-androgenic steroid use and psychopathology in athletes. A systemic review. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015 Jan;13(1):101-21. doi: 10.2174/1570159X13666141210222725.