In our never ending quest to look younger, feel better, have a slimmer waist and better hair, exercise has been tabbed as one of the essential ingredients to happiness. At least that’s what the studies say and that’s what the media has bought into. Despite Oprah’s focus on feeling good about yourself, even if you’re a “plus” size, thin is in.
For guys, it wouldn’t be exactly thin, but ripped might be a better word. Gyms are full, self-help magazines are everywhere, and sweat is a fashionable scent. Working out hard is also fashionable, and pushing to the limits is where everybody seems to be going. “Can’t I get there without all of this work?” is the question many people are asking. And American ingenuity is answering yes. “Just take this pill, and you’ll be on your way,” is what the supplement industry has tried to say for years. Supplements that raise your metabolism at rest and let you work out harder in the gym are all the rage. Ephedrine in it’s over-the-counter form Ephedra, has been the main supplement of choice for weight loss and “super” workouts.
I believe in the theory that there are two kinds of bodies in this world: those who feel better in motion and those who feel better at rest. I like to be in motion and, like anybody else, have looked for an edge, even a shortcut in the past. Looking for that edge, I talked with a supplement representative about how to get “leaner.” They immediately pointed me to a product that had multiple pills of varying colors and said, “these will give you energy, super-size your workouts and lean you out.” The box was well marked, had official looking descriptive words and charts on it outlining what was contained inside. I took it, and immediately knew something was up. I couldn’t sleep, I was agitated, my heart was racing and I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than a couple of seconds. It made me feel weird, so I went back to the salesman who said, “Oh, just take half of this brown pill and you’ll be fine.” “What’s in there,?” I asked. “Just some Ephedra, small amounts that will keep you ‘juiced,’ your body will get used to it,” was the blase response. So I took half the pill, felt the same, and went to work investigating.
Ephedrine has been a popular product in Asia for centuries, a derivative of a root that’s been chewed, cooked, boiled and served in just about every form. It’s promise is anything from more masculinity to cures for sickness. Sounds like a drug that we should know more about. But it’s not a drug, it’s a supplement. If it was a drug, it would be regulated, and the amounts doled out would be regulated. As a supplement though, it doesn’t come under any jurisdiction and therefore is a wild card when it comes to its use.
Professional athletes are looking for an edge all the time, so their use of performance enhancing products is a regular happening. Most teams even have a deal with one of the supplement companies to supply product. In the past year, two high profile deaths in pro sports, Korey Stringer and Steve Belcher, have been linked to supplement products containing Ephedra. Numerous other college, high school and amateur athletes have suffered serious injury and even death without the fanfare associated with the coverage on the pro scene. The NFL and the NCAA have banned Ephedra, and baseball is considering it, (and they don’t ban anything.)
Ephedra is bad stuff.
When you take it, you don’t know how much is in that little pill. Is it a lot? Is it enough? The combination of Ephedra and exercise at the highest level is deadly. (The mind set, of course, is that if Ephedra is good and exercise is good, then combining the two would be better.) You can walk into any convenience store and buy and Ephedra based product hanging next to the register with the jerky and the laser pointers. Perhaps if regulated, Ephedra could be helpful to some people who’s bodies can handle it, and they’d know just what they’re getting. But that’s not going to happen. Hopefully, we’ll have enough educated decision-making that Ephedra makers and distributors won’t have anybody to sell to. It’s bad news. Don’t take it.