Guarana

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW


Summary

Guarana is basically an herbal form of caffeine. The surprising truth about guarana is that while it may be a valuable aid for temporarily increasing energy levels (which is usually needed before an intense workout or first thing in the morning as a “pick-me-up”), its ability to break down and mobilize fat and use it for energy makes it a “natural” choice for fat loss. Guarana is typically found combined with other “stimulating” herbs to further compound its properties and increase its “fat-burning” effects.

Other names for Guarana

guaranine, Paullinia cupana, (caffeine)

Where to find Guarana

Guarana is a climbing evergreen vine native to the Amazon rainforest regions and is mainly grown in Brazil.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Guarana

Caffeine, the active chemical in guarana, has been shown to improve performance, increasing strength output and available energy. Its stimulatory effects improve focus, concentration, and energy levels. This may be especially beneficial prior to an athletic competition or a workout.

Because caffeine suppresses appetite and aids in the use of fats for fuel, it’s almost a standard ingredient in fat-loss products. Sure, like anything, you can get too much of a good thing, but used with reason, it is safe and no more addicting than picking up lint.

Ways that Guarana can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Increase the mobilization (use of) fatty acids as a source of fuel for the body, enabling “fat loss”
Ways that Guarana can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Temporarily enhance “energy” and mental clarity by stimulating adrenaline activity and blood flow
  • Stimulate the cardiovascular system and the central nervous system, which may help relieve or overcome bouts of fatigue

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Guarana deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Guarana

Research indicates that Guarana may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Obesity
  • Migraine and other types of headaches
  • Low libido (sex drive)
  • Depression (mild)
  • Arthritis
  • Diarrhea

DISCUSSION

More about Guarana

Guarana is an herb that grows within the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. It contains significant amounts of guaranine (the active constituent that’s virtually identical to caffeine) and has thus been used for centuries by indigenous tribes to help reduce hunger, relieve fatigue, and treat diarrhea — it was even said to have been used for treating hangover symptoms from alcohol abuse; namely, headaches.

Still being used to produce temporary energy bursts, it’s gaining worldwide recognition not only for its “stimulating” effects but, in fact, more for its “fat-burning” properties. Since guarana is practically interchangeable with caffeine, it produces similar metabolic effects as that powerful stimulant, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, adrenal activity, and mental alertness.

Guarana has been shown to be a safe, effective central nervous stimulant, thermogenic agent, and weight-loss aid. Studies show that guarana helps increase the release of fatty acids within our blood to be mobilized as energy. Simply stated, this means our bodies use fat for fuel.

How it works

Like caffeine, guarana works by stimulating the adrenal glands to release the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline), and dopamine, which in turn enhance fat loss, energy, and endurance as well as mental clarity. Contrary to popular (and limiting!) belief, these effects can be obtained seemingly without the often-proclaimed negative side effects. Nevertheless, guarana does have dehydrating effects, so increasing water intake is very important with use of this herb.

A potent “stimulant” cocktail

Because of recent research, guarana is often used with ephedra and aspirin (sometimes referred to as the E/C/A stack or ephedra, caffeine, and aspirin stack) to optimize its fat-burning and stimulant effects. Most studies show combining 200 mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to about 900 mg of guarana, with about 300 mg of ma huang (standardized for 6% to 8% or at least 20 mg of ephedrine) and adding in 60 to 75 mg of white willow bark (an herbal form of aspirin) to be effective. Watch out, though, as many who have tried it will contend, this combination pulls a “power-packed” punch. In other words, it will “kick you in the butt,” but it may certainly help boost your energy levels and help you shed fat.

The popular combination of ephedra, guarana, and aspirin can be found in many of today’s energy-spiked sports nutrition drinks. But more typically, it is found in most “fat-burning,” “metabolic-enhancing,” and weight-loss products because of the scientifically documented synergistic effects of combining it in a 10 to 1 ratio. This potent combination is reported to increase metabolic rate and increase the mobilization (loss) of fat. While it has been shown to help people lose fat, contrary to marketing copy, it isn’t really primarily because it raises the base metabolic rate — instead it stimulates the adrenal glands and suppresses appetite.

One caveat: when using these products together, many experts report that it’s best to use them only temporarily — for no more than four weeks at a time before taking one to two weeks off because the body tends to become resistant to its effects after a short period of time. Plus, it can be pretty hard on the body to be stimulated for long periods of time. Consider it along the lines of supplement-induced stress.

More good news

In addition to its potential fat-loss benefits, guarana’s been shown to enhance sex drive in men and women, improve a sense of well-being, and actually decrease the tendency toward suicide. Who can ignore that?! And, guarana has some additional benefits that it doesn’t share with its cousin caffeine. For one, because guarana contains tannins, it may help soothe the digestive system and even prevent diarrhea.

In conclusion

Now of course, a dose of common sense is very important when using guarana, caffeine, or any other type of stimulant. Overdoing it can make you irritable, jittery, and anxious. Nonetheless, the simple truth about guarana is that while it may be a valuable aid for temporarily increasing energy levels (which is usually needed before going to the gym or first thing in the morning as a “pick-me-up”), its ability to break down fat and use it for energy makes it a stimulatingly “natural” choice among supplements.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount
  • Reports of use range anywhere from 500 to 1,000 mg, taken up to 3 times per day.
  • Guarana should be standardized for 22% caffeine — more simply put, to equal 200 mg of caffeine, about 900 mg of guarana would need to be consumed.
Important note

Because each person’s reaction to “stimulants” may differ, some experimentation is needed to determine the “best” or optimal amount to consume. It may be worth starting with 500 mg of guarana, which is about as potent as a strong cup of coffee, and then determining if more is needed to produce the desired “stimulatory” effects.

A tea can also be made by adding 1 to 2 grams of the crushed seeds to one cup of water and boiling for 10 minutes. Each cup of tea reportedly contains 50 mg and can be drunk up to 3 times a day.

Timing

The “best” times to supplement with guarana or other caffeine-containing supplements are at least 30 minutes before a workout or anytime during the day when feeling fatigued. As with most caffeine-containing products, it is not advised to take guarana before bedtime, as it may cause irritability, anxiousness, and even insomnia.

Synergists of Guarana

Evidence has shown that guarana is synergistic in its stimulating and appetite-suppressant effects when combined with ma huang (the herbal form of ephedrine) and white willow bark (the herbal form of aspirin). This powerful combination has been used widely in the fight against fat, but contrary to popular belief, instead of being a true thermogenic combination, it does more to stimulate the body (especially the adrenal glands) and suppress appetite than increase base metabolic rate.

In one recent study, guarana was combined with the herb Yerba mate and was found to significantly increase weight loss as well as delay gastric emptying (yielding a feeling of fullness longer after eating meals).

In animal studies, the combination of guarana with CLA was shown to reduce fat cells by an incredible 50%.


Safety of Guarana

Overuse or abuse of guarana (or any caffeine-containing substance, for that matter) can cause jitteriness, irritability, insomnia, and can compete for nutrients entering the body (such as calcium and iron). However, these effects are usually short-lived.

Because guarana is considered a mild diuretic (it naturally dehydrates the body), it’s very important to increase water intake to counteract this effect.

Guarana should be avoided by pregnant or lactating women, those who don’t tolerate stimulants well, and those with preexisting heart conditions or peptic ulcers.

Guarana does, in fact, contain caffeine, so use caution if you are using other sources of caffeine, such as coffee or tea.

If you are using or considering using prescription drugs, please consult with your health practitioner about possible contraindications with this herb.

Toxicity of Guarana

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

Guarana is not banned but overuse is. The legal amount not to exceed is 12 mcg/ml of caffeine in the urine. (This would be equivalent to six strong cups of coffee.) Because guarana and other caffeine-containing products are considered stimulants, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) prohibits/bans the use of it among its competing athletes.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Andersen, T., and Fogh, J., “Weight Loss and Delayed Gastric Emptying Following a South American Herbal Preparation in Overweight Patients,” J Hum Nutr Diet. , Jun;14.3 (2001) : 243-50.
  • Bempong, D.K., and Houghton, P.J., “Dissolution and Absorption of Caffeine from Guarana,” J Pharm Pharmacol 44.9 (1992) : 769-71.
  • Benoni, H., “Studies on the Essential Oil from Guarana,” Z Lebensm Unters Forsch 203.1 (1996) : 95-8.
  • Galdur’oz, J.C., and Carlini, E.A., “The Effects of Long-Term Administration of Guarana on the Cognition of Normal, Elderly Volunteers,” Rev Paul Med 114.1 (1996) : 1073-8.
  • Morton, J.F., “Widespread Tannin Intake Via Stimulants and Masticatories, Especially Guarana, Kola Nut, Betel Vine, and Accessories,” Basic Life Sci 59 (1992) : 739-65.