If you search the web about the weight loss properties of caffeine, you will be amazed by the number of contradictory results. We will not detail the arguments of both sides, as many are outdated information or lack serious support of medical research. Some articles even publish wrong assessments such as: “The effect of caffeine on blood sugar is unhealthy and the type of problem that leads to insulin resistance – a precursor to type 2 diabetes“. This is proved wrong by the current medical research, as you can see in our in-depth analysis here, or directly through the abstract of the related studies   .
Weight loss effects of coffee alone
Fortunately there are also reliable medical sources of information online, including us 😉 and usually their position regarding the fat burning effect of coffee alone is more balanced:
- Coffee alone can help losing fat moderately, as found in this randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind parallel clinical trial: “High caffeine intake was associated with weight loss through thermogenesis and fat oxidation and with suppressed leptin in women. In habitual low caffeine consumers, the green tea-caffeine mixture improved WM, partly through thermogenesis and fat oxidation“. By the way we take this opportunity to remind you that not all medical studies are equal, here we refer to a RCT study that belongs to the interventional type as opposed to observational studies, as explained graphically in our previous post about decaffeinated coffee. In a nutshell: interventional studies give evidence when observational studies measure the probability of risk factors.
- When we speak about the benefits of coffee for weight loss, we mean black coffee only, not these special drinks with cream or syrups which can easily exceed the average calorie intake of a lunch or dinner.
- There has been a buzz about green coffee beans which may help losing weight at higher dosage (700 to 1,050 mg of extract), as found in a recent study presented in March 2012 at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. This findings are interesting but a bit out of our topic (coffee, caffeine and ephedrine) and for sure they deserve further research by the medical community.
- The current consensus is that overweight people should not rely on coffee alone to lose weight: a moderate consumption will bring many health benefits, but when it comes to cut fat permanently, a few cups of coffee will not do the trick alone, there are other ways that are much more effective to lose weight and keep it off permanently.
Weight loss effects of ephedrine alone
The fat burning properties of ephedrine are well-known, in case you need a refresher you can have a look at our description here. In two words, ephedrine stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the activity of noradrenaline on adrenergic receptors and the result is a kind of adrenaline rush. The main physiological consequences are an increase of your BMR (basal metabolic rate), blood pressure, thermogenesis, fat oxidation, energy level and athletic performance, and a reduced appetite.
How many pounds can you shred within a reasonable period of time? It depends on individual factors, as genes play a big role in the way your body stores and burns fat, but a good indication is given by this official meta-analysis  of the “efficacy and safety of ephedra and ephedrine alkaloids for weight loss” that we will just quote here: “Ephedrine was associated with a statistically significant weight loss of 1.3 pounds/month more than was associated with placebo for up to 4 months of use“.
This official meta-analysis had raised many comments by the scientific community, due to the controversy around the FDA ban at this time. For instance the selection of 20 trials out of 44 controlled trials seemed to be not really in favor of ephedrine. We discussed this point several times with friends and our conclusion is that at least these studies are valid, they are RCTs with unquestionable evidence so we take them as they are: proven facts. Thus our conclusion is that ephedrine alone has modest weight loss results. In the next section we will see that it is due to a reaction of your body that limits the effects of ephedrine and that there is a way to circumvent this limit factor.
Weight loss effects of ephedrine and caffeine (EC stack)
This circumventing way of cutting pounds more effectively is to combine caffeine with ephedrine, the so-called EC stack. Before going any further, we would like to remind you that ephedrine has been banned in the USA and some other countries for the usage as dietary supplement: it is still legal to buy ephedrine under a certain limit per month because it is one of the most effective medications for cold, flu, allergy and asthma, but companies are not allowed to promote ephedrine for weight loss.
The legality in Canada is less restrictive, for instance you can legally buy ephedrine with a limit of 8 milligrams per tab, but it is not permitted to sell EC stacks in one package, you have to purchase ephedrine and caffeine separately. By the way, if you decide to get an EC stack, our strong recommendation is to buy Kaizen Ephedrine HCL 8 mg which is the best for us.
But enough digression: you have all details about the legal aspects of ephedrine in our dedicated blog category. Here we want to focus on the weight loss that can be achieved with an EC stack. Based on medical evidence, ephedrine will have better results than caffeine, but will be less effective alone than associated to caffeine in an EC stack: in fact these two alkaloids will develop a synergy together.
Basically, caffeine acts as an inhibitor of adenosine, which is an antagonist of norepiphedrine, which is the chemical agent that triggers the physiological effects of ephedrine. It sounds a bit weird, but it is easy to get it when said in plain words:
- ephedrine acts on the nervous system because it increases the release of norepiphedrine.
- but your brain has a moderating function which sees that norepiphedrine has been released and in order to balance it, another chemical agent is released: adenosine. That’s why we say that adenosine is an antagonist of norepiphedrine.
- The smart idea is: if we can reduce the effect of adenosine, norepiphedrine will not be blocked and thus it will give its full outcome.
- This is achieved by caffeine, which limits the effects of adenosine and thus maximizes the physiological reaction to ephedrine.
- In conclusion, caffeine and ephedrine are synergistic products: the weight loss results when both are used in an EC stack is greater than the sum of the results obtained by caffeine alone and ephedrine alone.
The effectiveness of EC stacks or ECA stacks (EC stack plus aspirin, not recommended) has been measured by so many medical studies that the difficulty for us is to select one of them. We have picked up a 9-month, double-blind, randomized control study comparing the efficacy and safety of ephedrine and caffeine versus placebo . Here are the results: “The treatment group lost significantly more body weight (-7.18 kg) and body fat (-5.33 kg) than the control group (-2.25 and -0.99 kg, respectively)“. And the conclusion of the researchers: “A low potency ephedra/caffeine mixture appeared safe and effective in causing loss of weight and body fat, and improving several metabolic parameters, including insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles when tested under physician supervision“.
To sum it up, we will repeat a part of the conclusion of this medical trial: EC stacks are “safe and effective in causing loss of weight and body fat“. We have not much to add, except this crucial point: this is true only at normal doses. Make sure to read our recommendation of pages, EC stacks safe dosage and EC stacks standard dosage.
This will be it for this article, because there is still a lot to say: believe it or not , there are other ways even more effective for your weight loss than an EC stack! And also based on synergistic effects.
Stay tuned until we tell you more in our next article. Meanwhile don’t hesitate to email to tell us what you think about our cliffhanger: lame? Be honest, but not too much 😉
1. Salazar-Martinez E, Willett WC, et al. “Coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus“. Ann Intern Med. 2004 Jan 6;140(1):1-8.
2. van Dam RM, Willett WC, et al. “Coffee, caffeine, and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study in younger and middle-aged U.S. women“. Diabetes Care. 2006 Feb;29(2):398-403.
3. Huxley R, Lee CM, et al. “Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review with meta-analysis“. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Dec 14;169(22):2053-63.
4. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lejeune MP, Kovacs EM. “Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation“. Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1195-204.
5. Shekelle PG, Hardy ML, et al. “Efficacy and safety of ephedra and ephedrine for weight loss and athletic performance. A meta-analysis“. JAMA 289:1537-1545, 2003.
6. Hackman RM, Havel PJ, et al. “Multinutrient supplement containing ephedra and caffeine causes weight loss and improves metabolic risk factors in obese women: a randomized controlled trial“. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Oct;30(10):1545-56.
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