How to Take an ECA Stack [BEST Dosage Schedule + Ratio]
What is the right way to take an ECA stack for weight loss? An ECA stack refers to a combination of ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin.
This stack has been a favorite of bodybuilders who take it to burn fat, increase energy and get ripped. It is typically used in a cutting cycle with calorie restriction.
The ECA stack works because it contains several synergistic ingredients. Use of caffeine and aspirin makes ephedrine more effective at raising metabolism and boosting athletic performance.
Do you need all three of these components to make this fat burning stack work? Is an ECA stack safe to take and how can you minimize potential side effects?
This article will review how to take an ECA stack to maximize benefits while preventing adverse effects. We will discuss the science behind how it works, research results as well as options for buying the stack today. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
ECA Stack Ingredients
An ECA stack mixes together ephedrine/ephedra with caffeine and aspirin. In dietary supplements white willow bark is commonly substituted for the aspirin because it is a herbal source of salicin.
The ECA stack cycle is a reliable and effective weight loss aid. It is used by bodybuilders and athletes for physical performance enhancement, dieting or cutting prior to a competition. It will also be taken outside of a cutting cycle as a pre-workout energy booster.
In the 1990’s dieters and everyday people began using the ECA fat burning supplements to help them achieve fitness goals and to heighten energy, motivation and concentration.
In research studies, ephedrine HCl has been shown to work for weight loss when used alone. However, stronger results are reported when combining it with caffeine. These substances have a synergistic effect, meaning that they potentiate one another.
Aspirin enhances the efficacy of this stack by increasing prostaglandin inhibition. It may also reduce cardiovascular side effects by preventing blood clotting. However, many decide to forego aspirin and use an EC stack instead (sometimes with fish oil).
The purported benefits of taking an ECA stack include:
- Increased thermogenesis and calorie expenditure
- Suppression or reduction of appetite
- Significant increase in energy and locomotor activity
- Muscle-sparing benefits while targeting fat metabolism
Making an ECA stack at home was also fairly cheap, which may be the main reason it became popular with bodybuilders. Prior to 2004, Ephedrine HCL was also easy to acquire in the USA without a prescription.
Regardless of your reasons for taking an ECA stack, it is important to learn about optimal dosage ratios, effects, benefits and safety.
Guide to Using an ECA Stack
In 2004, ephedrine and other ephedra alkaloids were banned from dietary supplements. Prior to this time, ECA stacks were some of the most popular weight loss pills sold internationally.
According to industry documents, ephedra supplements had been used by 12 million people. Some of the top-rated brands included Hydroxycut, Xenadrine RFA-1, Metabolife 356, Ripped Fuel, Thermadrene, Ultimate Orange, Beta-Lean, and Stacker2.
Under the terms of the 2004 FDA ban, this supplement can no longer be sold for fat loss, energy, appetite control or as an herbal mood booster. The ephedrine alkaloid has been declared an adulterant, which means it cannot occur in any amount in products sold as nutritional supplements.
Many of the supplements mentioned above were recalled and removed from store shelves, never to be sold again. Some were reformulated using ephedra extract with the ephedrine alkaloids removed, an ingredient which is still legal in the USA.
However, without the ephedrine alkaloids, these supplements do not work in the same way as the original ECA stacks. There are legal alternatives, but none as potent as real ephedra sinica.
Supplements containing ephedrine may be banned in the USA, but you can still find this drug in other sources such as bronchodilators and some cold and flu medications. Many bodybuilders make own ECA stack with Bronkaid, which is an over-the-counter drug intended to treat intermittent asthma symptoms.
Bronkaid tablets contain 25 mg ephedrine sulfate along with 400 mg guaifenesin. The ephedrine sulfate in this product acts as a bronchodilator, while the guaifenesin is an expectorant.
This product can be purchased in many US states at a low price and does not require a prescription. However, it contains 8x more guaifenesin than ephedrine and is not ideal as a fat loss aid. Guaifenesin is a muscle relaxant and counteracts some of the stimulant effects of the ECA stack.
Another drug that is commonly used is oral Primatene tablets. This product contains 12.5 mg ephedrine with 200 mg of guaifenesin, making it unsuitable as well. Other products combine ephedrine with ibuprofen and other pharmaceutical ingredients designed to relieve coughs and colds.
Unless you live in Canada, it is very difficult to buy pure ephedrine HCl to make an ECA stack. Consumers should be aware of this when considering their alternatives.
How Does it Really Work?
Taking an ECA stack is designed to make the effects of ephedrine more potent. The stack is formulated with two ingredients that amplify results of this stimulant.
Ephedrine is known as sympathomimetic agent, often linked to adrenaline (epinephrine). It activates alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors in different parts of the body, causing greater activation of the sympathetic nervous system and increased release of norepinephrine in the brain.
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating the fight-or-flight response. It helps to mobilize more stored energy to burn for fuel, increases arousal and alertness, inhibits appetite and affects changes in the circulatory and respiratory systems.
Some of the effects of norepinephrine include stimulating blood vessels to constrict in parts of the body. This increases blood pressure, which forces blood back to the heart at a faster rate.
Ephedrine also increases heart contractility or the force of the pumping function. It further promotes dilation of lung airways and nasal passages. This increases oxygenation and flow of nutrients to muscles and vital organs.
These factors can increase cellular respiration and metabolic activity. Ephedrine causes your body to burn more calories and expend more energy. Some of that energy goes towards heat production or thermogenesis.
It can also contribute to weight loss by controlling the appetite, increasing motivation to work out and boosting stamina and focus. However, there are ways to make ephedrine more effective as a fat burner.
Adding caffeine has been shown to synergistically enhance the weight loss results with ephedrine. Caffeine is also a stimulant that can increase metabolism, alertness, appetite suppression and motivation.
Together, these compounds increase the release of stored fat to be broken down and burned for energy. Combining a caffeine source can double the increase in metabolism attributed to ephedrine alone.
Aspirin is a controversial member of this stack and not everyone elects to use it. According to the theory behind this stack, Aspirin enables the ephedrine and caffeine to work longer in the body by preventing a feedback mechanism that can reduce calorie expenditure.
The effects of Aspirin on weight loss are not well-documented. While many swear by the inclusion of this drug in the stack, it may not be necessary to achieve positive results.
Aspirin can cause side effects and may be contraindicated for people with certain health conditions or using other drugs. In dietary supplements, white willow bark is used instead because it is an herbal source of salicin.
ECA stacks can also be taken with other supplements. Yohimbine is an alkaloid from the Yohimbe bark extract that is sometimes added to this stack. It is an alpha-2 agonist and some have raised safety concerns about use of the ECY Stack.
ECA Stack Dosage Cycle
What is the best ECA stack dosage for weight loss? In research trials, doses of 20-24 mg ephedrine with 150-200 mg caffeine have been most effective for promoting body fat reduction.
This dose is typically used in a cycle for 4 to 8 weeks, although some studies have used the product for 4-6 months (with medical supervision).
ECA stack doses should always be tapered up and tapered down. This means that users should start at the lowest effective dose of ephedrine to determine initial sensitivity and allow the body to adjust.
When users are ready to discontinue the stack, doses are tapered down to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Stopping the cycle without tapering can produce side effects similar to caffeine withdrawal.
If you are creating your own ECA stack, you can experiment with different dosage charts and ratios. The most common stack ratio is 1:8:3 which is:
- 25 mg Ephedrine HCL
- 200 mg Caffeine
- With or without 81 mg aspirin
The above-mentioned dosages are taken two to three times per day, at an interval of four to six hours to account for the half-life of these substances. Users will typically take it with food or before a meal.
If using an ECA supplement as a pre-workout stack, consume 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to working out. It is not recommended to take any dosages after three or four o’clock in the afternoon however, as doing so may detrimentally affect sleep and cause insomnia.
Some sources recommend only using 27 mg aspirin per serving. To accomplish this, split an 81 mg baby aspirin into thirds.
One ECA stack dosage chart describes a cycle that lasts 25 days, followed by a two to four-week off period. This schedule uses a taper from 8 mg to 24 mg ephedrine with three doses daily:
Day 1 – 4 – Take 8 mg ephedrine and 100 mg caffeine
Day 4 – 9 – Increase ephedrine to 16 mg and caffeine to 200 mg
Day 10 – 25 – Increase ephedrine to 24 mg and continue taking 200 mg caffeine
At the maximum daily dose, your total daily consumption would be:
- 72-75 mg ephedrine
- 600 mg caffeine
- 81 mg aspirin
This dosage may be too high for some users. If you experience unwanted adverse effects, reduce the dose to a level you are able to tolerate. Age, body weight, health status, fitness level, use of other supplements and many other factors can affect the optimal dose for you to take.
Some beginners prefer to start with a dose of 4mg ephedra to gauge tolerance. You may only want to take a single 8mg ephedrine HCl pill per dose to minimize adverse effects.
Tips for Best Results
Avoid drinking other sources of caffeine when taking this stack. A dose of 150 to 200 mg equates to 2 to 3 cups of coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Combining this stack with other stimulants will not necessarily make it more effective and could worsen negative reactions.
Before adding other supplements to this stack, make sure you are able to tolerate the effects of ephedrine and caffeine on their own. Many ECA supplements sold today do not disclose dosages for individual ingredients, which makes it difficult to evaluate safety.
Do not use extra-strength or high-dose Aspirin pills, especially if repeating the dose multiple times in a day. It is recommended to use 81 mg Baby Aspirin tablets.
For some, Aspirin can cause stomach upset, heartburn or acid reflux. If you are sensitive to this drug, white willow bark can be used instead of aspirin. You can also decide to omit this ingredient and take Fish Oil or another product with anti-coagulant properties.
White willow bark acts as a natural analgesic and pain reliever. In the ECA stack, it is reputed to bring down body temperature and make it easier to tolerate the thermogenic effects of ephedrine. It may also reduce some of the cardiovascular risk factors with using adrenergic agonists.
Do You Need to Cycle this Stack?
The ECA stack is commonly used in a cutting cycle by bodybuilders. While some research suggests that ephedrine does not need to be cycled to maintain efficacy, caffeine does.
The body quickly develops a tolerance to the effects of caffeine. This means that it gradually becomes less effective with continued use. Cycle breaks are required to reset tolerance.
The fat-burning effects of ephedrine are reportedly not subject to developing a tolerance. However, some of the psychological and physiological effects are prone to receptor down-regulation.
This is another reason why the stack should be started at a low dose and gradually increased. This practice allows the body to form a tolerance to some of the adverse effects.
It is recommended to avoid using this stack for long periods of time. While some research studies have administered it for up to 6 months at a time, long-term use could increase the risk of adverse effects.
Do not take ephedrine for more than two consecutive months without first consulting with a doctor.
What Is the Best ECA Stack Alternative?
It is now significantly harder to buy ephedrine to make your own cheap ECA stack for weight loss. In addition to the prohibited status of ephedrine alkaloids in dietary supplements, there are increasing regulations and restrictions on the sale of OTC drugs that contain this ingredient.
Bodybuilders and dieters looking for an alternative to ephedrine will find many supplements advertised as legal substitutes. Synephrine, dendrobium, yohimbe, acacia rigidula and hordenine are four ingredients touted as having similar effects.
A number of ECA stack supplements sold today are made with ephedra extract with the ephedrine alkaloids removed. Ephedra is legal in dietary supplements if it does not contain the banned alkaloids.
Supplements sold in the US at present contain anywhere from 10 to 60 mg of ephedra extract per serving. Some high-dose products contain up to 150 mg extract per serving. Many products do not specify the species that the ephedra comes from or which parts of the plant are used.
This extract can be made using species of the ephedra plant that naturally do not contain alkaloids or bulk powder that has been processed to remove the alkaloids. These products are technically ECA combinations since they use a type of ephedra plant, but they do not have the same effects as real ephedra.
Prior to the 2004 ban in the USA, Ephedra Sinica (Chinese Ma Huang) was the species of this plant commonly used in ECA stack diet pills. This version of the plant has the highest known alkaloid content.
At the other end of the spectrum is the American species of ephedra, including E. viridis or E. nevadensis. These plants contain little to no ephedrine or pseudoephedrine alkaloids.
They can legally be used in weight loss supplements, but will not work as well due to their lack of ephedrine content. Some of these ephedra extract supplements may promote weight loss and increased energy, however it will not be the presence of ephedra that drives fat loss results.
Other ingredients are added to promote the following benefits:
- Appetite suppression
- Energy enhancement
- Lipolysis (fat burning)
- Focus and concentration
- Muscle sparing
- Metabolism boost
One effective component in ephedra weight loss pills is citrus aurantium, otherwise known as Bitter Orange. This plant contains p-synephrine, which is an alkaloid similar not only in chemical structure, but in behavior to ephedrine. It acts like a stimulant to the central nervous system.
ECA Fat Burner Reviews
A number of ECA fat burners have become popular among those who prefer to use pre-made stacks. Brand names like ECA Xtreme, ECA Elite, Lipodrene, Hellfire EPH 150 and Black Mamba Hyperrush have become popular among gym-goers.
If you do decide to buy an ECA stack supplement with ephedra extract, be sure to carefully review ingredients and dosages used. Many supplements contain banned or synthetic ingredients and individual dosages are often not disclosed through the use of proprietary formulations.
Green Stinger is an ECA stack that combines 27 mg ephedra extract, 300 mg White Willow Bark extract, Kola nut extract, and Guarana extract yielding 200 mg of caffeine
The product also contains 170 mg Bitter Orange, Yerba Mate, Green Tea extract and Phenethylamine. Some find the product to be too stimulating while others say that it works well for them.
Positive reviews claim it is effective in curbing appetite and supporting moderate weight loss Negative reviews complained of excessive sweating, jitters, and gastrointestinal side effects.
Another popular ECA stack is Stimamine Black, containing 50 mg of ephedra viridis aerial extract. This product also contains a blend of green tea extract, green coffee extract, theobromine, synephrine, and other herbal stimulants.
Not all of these ECA stack fat burners are safe. Some products have been sold containing up to 600 mg of caffeine in a single dose. These products may be taken multiple times a day as well.
This is an excessively high dose of caffeine and above the maximum amount recommended by the Mayo Clinic for daily consumption. According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals should not take more than 400 mg of this ingredient per day.
Eide effects such as jitters, heart palpitations, headaches, restlessness, chest pain and changes in mood may appear. When mixing caffeine with stimulatory substances, the potential for dangerous side effects and adverse reactions increase.
Bitter orange is widely considered by researchers as a safer alternative to ephedrine because it promotes less vasopressor activity. While less potent for weight loss, it also has a lower risk of increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
However, even synephrine can be dangerous if taken in high doses. It affects the alpha and beta-2 receptors that mediate ephedrine’s mechanism of action. The FDA has increased scrutiny of Bitter Orange claiming potential for negative effects on the central nervous system and cardiovascular function.
Side Effects and Dangers
Combining ephedrine and caffeine together can contribute to a number of side effects. Some of these adverse reactions are mild and subside with continued use. Other side effects are more serious and require discontinuation of the stack or medical attention.
Below is a description of some of the most common adverse effects and how to prevent or reduce them:
Headaches. Headaches can sometimes be quite severe, with some individuals complaining migraines. This is because ephedrine triggers the constriction of blood vessels in the scalp and brain.
Many experience a headache shortly after consuming ephedrine or other stimulants. For some, the headache lasts an hour, while for others it can last multiple hours.
Consuming Aspirin or white willow bark in your stack may reduce this adverse effect. Drinking lots of water may also help. If you experience headaches or migraines on an on-going basis, it may be necessary to discontinue use.
Heart palpitations. This symptom is sometimes described as a “thumpy” heart rate. It may feel like your heart is skipping a beat, beating too fast or too slow.
Ephedrine interacts with beta-one adrenergic receptors found in the heart muscle. When these receptors are stimulated, they initiate a faster and more forceful heartbeat.
Some experience this as short-term heart palpitations. While not dangerous for most people if this symptom is only temporary, it can be more concerning if the effect lasts for long periods of time.
Users may also experience a racing heart (tachycardia) or feeling their heart racing one minute, slowing down, then speeding up again. This condition is known as an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.
If you experience this side effect, it may be recommended to reduce your dosage or discontinue using. If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition affecting your cardiovascular system, consult with your doctor before using again.
Nausea. Ephedrine can affect gastric emptying, which is the rate food leaves your stomach after eating. It can also affect other factors related to digestion and intestinal function.
In some cases, it can make users feel sick to their stomach. Some people experience vomiting, diarrhea or sensations like heartburn. To avoid nausea or gastrointestinal discomfort, consume the ECA stack with a meal and lots of water.
More serious side effects are possible and can include:
- Chest tightness
- Dry mouth
- Changes in mood
- Inability to focus
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Excessive perspiration
- Heart attack
- Stroke (Heat stroke)
Ephedrine was banned from dietary supplements by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2004, due to concerns about side effects. When misused, overused or abused, this stimulant could have several negative effects on health.
The same is true for caffeine which can cause toxicity and overdose symptoms when consumed in excessively high doses.
Additional side effects are possible due to the Aspirin component in this stack. While this ingredient is well-tolerated by the majority of users, it can contribute to increased risk of bleeding and digestive problems for some.
Before taking an ECA stack or any fat burner supplement alternative, consult with a doctor to learn about the risks and contraindications. This stack may not be appropriate for all users and can interact with certain medications.
When creating your own ECA stack dosage schedule, it is best to start with low doses to determine your individual sensitivity. Only gradually increase the doses to maximize benefits without the side effects.