Using ephedrine and caffeine together can produce both beneficial and detrimental effects ranging from extra stamina to cardiac arrest. Studies of athletes using these substances show that the mix can elevate the heart rate, increase hypertension, and damage heart tissue. Other negative side effects of using ephedrine include muscle damage, nerve damage, and strokes. Some users of ephedrine have also reported a loss in memory.
On the positive side, studies show the combination of ephedrine and caffeine can ease asthma and cold and flu symptoms. In addition, it can increase athletic prowess not only by enabling more exertion and endurance, but also by improving a person’s psychological response to working out. Psychologically, the mix can make a person believe the physical activity is not demanding; this staves off both mental and physical fatigue, researchers claim.
In terms of physiology, the use of ephedrine and caffeine together results in higher blood levels of two types of sugar: lactate and glucose. These sugary byproducts, which feed the muscles during workouts, are one of the reasons a person using the combination feels fueled during exertion. The tendency toward high blood glucose, however, can make the combination of caffeine and ephedrine dangerous for diabetics.
People looking for extreme results, such as athletes and people seeking to lose weight, are the main users of ephedrine and caffeine. Ephedrine mixed with caffeinated substances has been touted as a weight-loss aid because studies suggest the high energy from this ingredient mix is accompanied by an elevated metabolic rate, allowing the body to burn more calories and body fat. Doctors often warn dieters against using ephedrine with caffeine in excess. Also, some sports competitions ban the use of ephedrine, a Chinese herb, out of fairness and concern for safety.
Most of the ephedrine-caffeine effects can usually be reaped in small measure by using ephedrine alone because it is naturally a stimulant. Consuming ephedrine and caffeine together by using teas, coffee, soft drinks or chocolate, however, can create a cocktail that exponentially increases the effects, doctors say. Both user anecdotes and medical studies show that mixing the two ingredients leads to a greater payoff in terms of physical performance and weight loss, but also creates a greater risk for heart damage — especially when used with prescription medications.
Ephedrine can be purchased in pills or in loose-leaf form from many vitamin stores and drugstores. Buyers do not need prescriptions for most products with ephedrine. As a substitute for the ephedrine-caffeine combination, some users are mixing ephedrine with aspirin, which many doctors consider to be a safe alternative that still results in increased weight loss and better energy.