Let sports leagues, lawyers and regulators ponder action on ephedra, the dietary supplement that may have contributed to the death of Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. For you, the advice is clear: Don't fool with it. For those seeking more energy, higher metabolism and weight loss, here are five smarter ideas:

1Lift weights. Muscle burns more calories than fat; the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn in daily life. There's also evidence that weight lifting keeps metabolism revved after you work out, sustaining the burn for about 24 hours.

2Use safe energy boosters. Drink water and other fluids. (Even partial dehydration can sap energy). Sleep enough. (Its restorative powers help overcome fatigue from chronic sleep deprivation.) Work out or walk (a proven energy booster). Caffeine is widely used, well studied and safe for most people.

3 Suppress appetite with high-volume, not high-calorie, food and drink. Soups and stews, puffed cereal and air-filled beverages such as smoothies can help fool the stomach and brain into feeling full.

4 If you insist on an herb, consider Asian (not Siberian) ginseng. A 2000 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said some studies found improved muscular strength, oxygen uptake, work capacity, heart rate, visual and auditory reaction times and alertness in those using Asian ginseng.

5 Do the math. There are about 3,500 calories per pound of body weight. To lose a pound a week, each day you either need to burn 500 calories more or eat 500 calories less (or use a combination). In 10 weeks, you're down 10 pounds.

-- Sally Squires