Posts Tagged ‘ECA’

Here’s an email I got one from one of our pros recently wondering about the use of thermogenics.

Hi Chris,
Whats up brother?  I am down in the states playing in *******.  One more grueling month left in the season…14 games in 25 days and than the playoffs.  I have a question for you.  There are a bunch of guys on my team taking those Thermogenics before the game and I have tried them and have felt quite good….really good legs and stamina.  I just wanted your opinion on them…positive and negative. Maybe this could be one of your next blogs.  I hope all is well and look forward to catching up as soon as I head back to Kelowna.

What a great question! This  is exactly the kind of things I want to be able to help hockey players with.

Is this something that is going to give me an advantage?

Is it safe/legal to do so?

How does it accomplish this?

Let’s take a little time and answer these 3 questions about thermogenics.

We’ll start first with what a thermogenic is.

Thermogenics can literally be broken down into 2 parts: thermo referring to heat and genics referring to the creation of something. So a thermogenic is a compound that generates heat.

But how does it generate heat?

Thermogenics contain a stimulant, or sometimes more than one, which act on the nervous system, in this case the sympathetic nervous system. Stimulation of the nervous system results in increased heart rate, respiration and overall metabolic activity. The energy produced as a result of the higher activity level is disipated as heat.

Because of the effectiveness of thermogenics in raising metabolic rate and thus burning more calories you’ll understand the popularity of thermogenic supplements in the fat/weight loss industry.

But are they safe?

Here’s where it gets tricky. Prior to 2004 a common thermogenic ‘stack’ was ECA which involved ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin. Since 2004 ephedrine has been banned by the FDA for all dietary usage.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Belcher is one of many athletes whose deaths has been linked to the use of ephedrine.

Are there any other ingredients in common thermogenics?

Besides ephedra aka ephedrine or ma huang you may also come across the following:

Caffeine – This can be an effective ergogenic aid. It has been shown to aid in glycogen replenishment post-workout. There is the potential for disrupted sleep if over consumed.

Citrus aurantium (bitter orange or synephrine) - This fruit contains stimulant properties and has become more popular since the ban on ephedrine. As the research can sometimes follow real world activity by 5-10 years there isn’t a lot of data on bitter orange. Those with heart conditions or high  blood pressure would be best to stay away.

Willow bark – This is what the Chinese used for aspirin and would chew on the bark of the tree to relieve pain and inflammation. As this was an original component of the ECA stack it has remained popular as ephedra use has been made illegal. One reason this may be popular with hockey players is the analgesic effect it may have on skeletal muscles thereby impairing the physical discomfort of intense exercise.

Guarana – Similar to coffee in that it containts caffeine the difference is in the slower release which prevents the subsequent crash sometime associated with caffeine use. The same cautions with caffeine use should be applied here as well.

Specific cautions

As I’ve already mentioned those with heart conditions should avoid the use of thermogenics. Included with this would be those who have high blood pressure. If you are someone who has difficulty sleeping caffeine and guarana will only make this more difficult. Lastly, aspirin has anti-clotting properties and will prevent blood clotting should you become cut during a game or practice.

Final word on thermogenics

Because the research is years behind the actual practice of supplementation I would be reluctant to give our hockey players an ‘all clear’ when it comes to thermogenics.

Additionally as many supplements are not classified as drugs they do not have the same scrutiny or DIN associated with them. There is the possibility of cross contamination or excessive levels which could be dangerous or result in a positive drug test.

If you do decide to take a thermogenic make sure you speak to your doctor first. Be aware of all the side and be clear of your family history as it relates to cardiovascular health and hypertension.