When you get a good pre workout in your life your gym sessions will be on fire. You’ll feel invincible as you smash rep after rep, and your training partner just won’t be able to keep up. You’ll be bursting with energy, crush your PRs and experience insane pumps.
But get the wrong supplements and not only will you miss out on these benefits, some can be bad for your health too.
There are lots of options out there, and one compound that’s talked about as a pre workout is ephedrine. But what is ephedrine and is it safe?
In this article you will learn:
- What is ephedrine?
- How does it work?
- Why is it unsafe?
- Is it legal?
- Is there a safer, more effective alternative?
What is Ephedrine?
Ephedrine is a bioactive component of the ephedra plant. It is classed as an ephedrine alkaloid based on its chemical composition.
Native to Central Asia, ephedra is an evergreen plant often referred to as Ma-Huang and has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years.
Clinically, it has been used to treat asthma, obesity, low blood pressure and nasal decongestant.
Ephedrine has also previously been used as a stimulant too; particularly as a pre workout supplement.
How Does Ephedrine Work?
As a component of the ephedra plant, ephedrine works as a sympathomimetic – it stimulates the central nervous system and mimics the action of epinephrine.
It does this by converting to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine – the chemical messenger cousin of epinephrine.
Ephedrine as a fat burner
Because it mimics the action of epinephrine, ephedrine has previously been used to promote weight loss as a ‘fat burner’ supplement.
It increases metabolic rate by acting directly on fat cells. It also has a hot pipe effect too in that it can increase vascular thermogenesis – essentially dilating the arteries, heart rate, blood pressure and contractile force of the heart . It also elevates your breathing rate helping you deliver more oxygen to the working muscles.
It’s worth pointing out through that even though ephedrine acts directly on fat cells, it has only modest benefits at best .
Ephedrine as a pre workout
Stimulants have been used by athletes and bodybuilders for years. When you choose the right supplement they can boost everything from power and strength, to endurance and fat loss.
Because ephedrine is a sympathomimetic, it acts on your adrenergic receptors, resulting in not only a release of epinephrine, but also dilation of your arteries and bronchi. This is why it elevates your heart and breathing rate.
Manufacturers of pre workouts soon realized that this could help make workouts more productive, because dilation of the arteries and lungs can result in more blood flow to your muscles and elevated oxygen consumption. This in theory could ramp up your power output, physical endurance and overall strength.
And whilst a limited number of studies sort of backed this up, one thing became quite apparent – there can be numerous side effects to ephedrine too.
Why is Ephedrine Unsafe?: The Side Effects
Although once popular, ephedrine has become increasingly linked to a number of severe side effects and adverse reactions.
A primary care report was released in 2004  that detailed the case study of a woman in her late twenties.
She had been found by police demonstrating bizarre behavior, looking disheveled. When examined, she had elevated blood pressure and a fast heart rate. She hadn’t slept for three days and showed signs of severe paranoia and psychosis.
Her toxicology report showed that she had ingested sympathomimetics in the form of herbal pills. And after completing her medical checks was found to have ephedrine-induced psychosis.
Another case study reported a 39-year old man who was admitted to the emergency room after complaining of breathing difficulties . After he was examined by staff, it was found that he was suffering from a heart condition called myocarditis.
He had been taking an ephedrine supplement for 3 months.
Ephedrine is a dangerous drug
All in all, there are a number of side effects associated with ephedra alkaloids. These include:
- Allergic reactions
- Chest pain
- Rapid breathing
- Headaches, dizziness and seizures
- Sweating, high temperatures and flushing
- Vomiting, stomach upset and nausea
According to hospital statistics, products containing ephedra alkaloids represent over 60% of all side effects and adverse reactions to herbal supplements in the US. But bizarrely, they only account for less than 1% of annual sales .
So to answer the question, ‘is ephedrine a safe pre workout’?…
The answer is a resounding… no.
It’s Also Illegal
Not only are ephedra alkalines unsafe, they are also illegal.
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the sale of supplements, pre workouts and fat burners containing ephedrine. The ingredient was considered to have a significant and unreasonable risk to safety .
It’s also on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 2016 list of prohibited drugs, so if you’re a competing athlete you need to stay well clear of ephedrine supplements or risk a life time ban from competition.
There’s also a risk you aren’t getting what you think you are
So let’s say that even though you know the risks, you take the plunge and decide to purchase some ephedrine anyway. You pluck up the courage to find (what you think) is a reputable internet site and you click on the buy button.
How do you know what you’re buying is actually what you’re after?
A report published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy  found that when 20 ephedra products were analyzed in a laboratory, many had ephedrine alkaloid content that differed significantly from what was presented on the ingredients label.
Buying non-FDA approved supplements from manufacturers that aren’t transparent in their supplement contents will always be a risky business.
Is There a Safer Option?
4 Gauge is an exhaustively researched pre workout containing only natural ingredients.
Fueled to the brim with explosive nutrients, this powerful supplement has the ability to:
Elevate explosive power –Trigger your nervous system and switch on more muscle fibers
Focus with laser precision – Tune in, concentrate and crush your PRs
Ramp up your endurance – Burst with energy, stamina and relentless motivation
Incredible muscle pumps – Feel the blood pumping to your muscles; gain size, strength and tightness
Supercharged with nutrients such as citrulline malate, caffeine and red beet, 4 Gauge will give you a workout boost like never before.
- Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus; 2002
- Astrup, A et al. Pharmacological and clinical studies of ephedrine and other thermogenic agonists [review]. Obes Res 1995; 3 (Suppl 4): 537S–40S
- Kim, TJ et al. Banned, butnot forgetton: a case of ephedrine-induced psychosis. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004; 6(3): 136-137
- Zaacks, SM et al. Hypersensitivity myocarditis associated with ephedra use. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1999; 37(4): 485-9
- Bent, S et al. The Relative Safety of Ephedra Compared with Other Herbal Products. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2003; 138(6): 468-471
- Food and Drug Administration, HHS. Final rule declaring dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids adulterated because they present an unreasonable risk. Fed Regist. 2004;68:6787–6854
- Gurley, BJ et al. Content versus label claims in ephedra-containing dietary supplements. Am J Health-Syst Pharm; 57 May 15, 2000