The First Choice

Thermogenics. It sounds technical, perhaps innocuous. It’s anything but.

Dr. Andrew Weil says "Stay Away!" Every supplement company is the world has a product that they say is "the best" and "promotes weight loss." Certainly the truth is somewhere in between. Essentially, a thermogenic agent is a simple low-grade stimulant that, at least theoretically, amps up the metabolism. Current thermogenics range from  the very simple (caffeine or ephedra) to the complex (multiple substance formulations such as "sclaremax, A-7E, and guggulsterones", which make up the active ingredients in the popular Hot Rox supplement.)

You may have noticed a word in  there that you thought was gone – ephedra. The substance that once was banned, in large part due to the death of Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, is back. The FDA ban of the substance was relaxed by a Federal judge, though they insist the ban is still in place. Ephedra is now limited to 10mg per dose. Prior to the ban, 25mg was a common dosing. Besides some intriguing legal questions that the decision holds in both directions, ephedra is back in stores. It’s important, however, to remember that it remains on the MLB prohibited list, making it forbidden in this process for now.

I stopped in to my local supplement store (I reject the term "health food store" completely) after some research. You’d think with as much coffee as I drink (averaging about 10 cups a day) that adding to that isn’t necessary, but to kick start the diet portion of this exercise, a thermogenic isn’t a bad idea. Maintaining proper dosings (too many think if one is good, ten are better) and hydration are key. I decided on Cellucor’s product due to their strict controls on the product’s manufacture and distribution. Called "D4", the substance comes in both ephedra and ephedra-free. The ephedra-free uses a compound called "Ampacor" which purports to effect adrenal output.

There have been numerous discussions of this and other products on some of the bodybuilding forums I began frequenting when I started researching "The Juice." While I’m going to add in some supplements from Avant, Ergopharm, Muscletech, and ALRI in the future, for now, this is it (and a multivitamin to make sure that my reduced caloric intake doesn’t affect my nutrition.)

I’m easing in the changes and this is a solid step. I know there’s some disagreement about the use of thermogenics in the medical world, but in the world of "body hackers" — more on this term in the near future — it’s so accepted that it’s barely a consideration.

(Note: None of the products discussed in this or any other entry are endorsed by myself and certainly not by MLB or by Baseball Prospectus. Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.)

(Note Two: You’re on your own for research. My local supplement store was manned by a guy who introduced himself as a pre-med student. He then proceeded to get nearly every fact wrong. He recommended creatine monohydrate over a creatine esther because "less bloating." The opposite is true. He recommended "stacking" two different formulations of thermogenic, something that’s patently dangerous. He stated that the FDA "approved Cellucor’s formulation of ephedra." That’s just silly. Make sure you buy your products from a reputable source, a reputable manufacturer, and — just to be sure — save a few pills from each bottle and mark them. If you test positive, you’ll be able to submit what you took.)

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