ECA Stack: 3 Alternatives and a Warning

Imagine you are sitting down to begin a day of work. Although you felt slightly groggy only hours before, you are now more focused and “in the zone” than ever before. Work is not only easy, but it is actually enjoyable.

Although this is a common side effect of the ECA stack, it is temporary and riddled with problems and dangers. As Tim Ferriss said “...the ECA stack is not a free ride…” [1]

At the same time, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the ECA stack works. The objective for you and I is to find a way to make the ECA stack work better or in less harmful ways. Let’s begin by understanding what ECA stands for in the first place:

  1. Ephedrine – this extract from the ephedra plant is highly stimulatory. So much so that it is regulated and illegal in many countries. Most evidence suggests it can quickly burn fat and increase metabolism as well [2].
  2. Caffeine – alkaloid from coffee with stimulatory properties.
  3. Aspirin – common painkiller

The ECA stack (comprised of these three ingredients) has been tested in a research setting on many occasions, but the small tweaks and improvements we will show you below come from online communities like Reddit and Longecity.

Brief Primer on ECA Stack for Fat Loss

At Nootropedia our main priority is the brain. While there is a strong brain-body connection (i.e: they’re one and the same), we don’t dedicate much time to fat or weight loss. But, we would be flawed to overlook it in this case.

The ECA stack is primarily used for fat loss and this is where most of the research focuses. The combination of ephedrine and caffeine work better than either of them alone [3]. Even Tim Ferriss lauded the ECA combination as helping him to help “…produce veins on my abdomen for the first time in my life, all in less than eight weeks.”

The verdict is in and the ECA stack works for fat loss.

The only question is: at what cost?

ECA Stack for Focus and Concentration

We’ll talk a little bit more about the cost of long-term ECA stack usage, but first understand the nootropic effects of the ECA stack (or lack thereof).

As with any stimulant, there are psychostimulatory effects on the brain, which can help increase focus, concentration and mood. Caffeine is a potent stimulant, ephedrine is even more powerful in some respects, and the combination of the two is both intense and helpful to some people in the short-term.

Most of the focus and concentration benefits of the ECA stack are in the “periphery” meaning that because the compounds don’t cross the blood-brain barrier, it isn’t something super mentally impactful.

However, some people see amazing results. The positive effects can be summed up in the words of one Redditor:

It’s like a less intense, longer-lasting version of Adderall – with little to no side effects over a long period of time (look up the studies). Intense focus, limitless energy. The ephedrine lasts for 5 hours and I have tried as much as twice a day so far. I’ve taken it for 4 days and its effects haven’t waned. It is also AMAZING for social situations. It gives increased focus, confidence, and enthusiasm without the jitters of too much caffeine.” [4]

While there may be benefits for focus and concentration (in the short-term), it is clear all cognitive effects are purely stimulatory. There are no “nootropic” or cognitive enhancing effects of the ECA stack as summed up by moderator and expert MisterYouAreSoDumb:

Just as a PSA, Adderall is NOT a nootropic, and it’s use should not be taken lightly. The same can be said for the ECA stack. It’s a stimulant, and has tolerance and side effects.” [5]

Ephedrine in the ECA Stack

Ephedrine is a powerful stimulant and alkaloid within the human body. Although the effects are quite different (and less potent) than methamphetamine, the chemical structure of the two is telling. Ephedrine and methamphetamine is chemically different via only one oxygen atom! This is one of the main reasons it is used as a precursor for the latter, illegal drug.

eca stack

That fun fact aside, the chemical compound is highly regulated and illegal in many places. In the United States, it’s no longer possible to buy ephedrine over the counter. Instead, people are using Bronkaid cough syrup [6] or buying ephedrine HCl from Canadian / other online pharmacies.

First, Bronkaid (or any ephedrine product) is now filled with a host of other ingredients. In this case, namely guaifenesin, which is not healthy and has many short and long-term side effects. The straight ephedrine HCl option may be safer, but it is also illegal and not recommended.

While it would seem ephedrine helps burn fat alone and may be stimulatory, it does not seem safe or worthwhile.

Caffeine in the ECA Stack

There is no doubt caffeine is stimulating for the brain and the body, but the ECA stack creates a host of new problems. Firstly, people consume caffeine in doses of 200 mg x 3 per day, which totals 600 mg. This is quite a high dose, which will assuredly increase heart rate and blood pressure.

Aside from that, caffeine tolerance will build quickly rendering the mental stimulation affects virtually none. Anyone doing this for the long term will see side effects as well.

Aspirin in the ECA Stack

For whatever the benefits of aspirin, it is almost universally substituted because of the negative side effects (which include organ bleeding). Enough said.

Selected Community Experiences

While we showed some positive, rave reviews of the ECA stack, it is only fair to also portray the aftermath as discussed by other community members:

You’re gonna have a lot more problems with the ECA stack in the long run though. I tried this last year and felt amazing the first few weeks. Completely clear-headed and focused, and feeling confident all the time. But after 3 weeks, I began to develop tolerance and had high blood pressure issues from the ephedrine. Later on this led to anxiety and low-level depression.” [7] – eebsamk

Also, you really shouldn’t be using that much caffeine in the first place anyway. None of this “200mg 3 times per day” crap; if you went to a psychiatrist’s office taking that much of it you‘d rightly get diagnosed with caffeinism. Forget the aspirin. If you want to add something to increase the effectiveness of the fat loss, add green tea extract, about 200-400mg of catechins twice per day.” jadamgo

ECA Stack Alternatives

When writing and researching this piece, it was my plan to create a “Cleaning Up the ECA Stack” section where you could make tweaks to your existing regimen to create a safer and perhaps more sustainable stack.

The truth is, there is no tweaking or cleaning up the ECA stack. The only thing you can do is replace it entirely.

Even though one study concludes that “The side effects are minor and transient and no withdrawal symptoms have been found.” [8], I disagree and would find many others with the same opinion.

Here are a couple of fat loss alternatives:

Green Tea Extract – There are four molecules that comprise green tea catechins (including EGCG). Green tea extract has some evidence to suggest it can help burn fat and reduce weight [9]. While it is not as notable as ephedrine, it will probably still help and has many supportive benefits for the brain as a side benefit.

L-Carnitine – This basic amino acid has numerous cognitive (and physical) effects including reducing fat mass [10]. More study on healthy adults is needed, but this may be a generally safe option for fat burning with scientific evidence. L-Carnitine or acetyl-L-carnitine would probably be effective.

Here are a couple of stimulation alternatives for focus and concentration:

Modafinil – While consideration as a “cognitive enhancer” may be up for debate, modafinil is a powerful stimulant nonetheless. By providing the brain with more dopamine and adrenaline, modafinil can increase concentration and attention, but without the likelihood of addiction or euphoria [11].

Phenylpiracetam – Although part of the racetam family, phenylpiracetam is particularly stimulating especially in the dose range of 1 – 300 mg (some even go up to 500 mg). The only problem with this drug are the tolerance effects, which is even more quick than other stimulants.

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //fourhourworkweek.com/pagg/
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12672771
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1318281
  4. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/1k1x25/ephedrine_caffeine_adderall/
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. //www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/1vjbzn/caffein_vs_eca_stack/
  8. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8384186
  9. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19680234
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18065594
  11. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17712350

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