Cardio Cuts is essentially a pre-workout, fat-burner, and post-workout recovery supplement in one. Unfortunately, in trying to accomplish this, NDS may have under-dosed a few key ingredients quite significantly…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID:
Conjugated Linoleic Acid is a term which refers to a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (loosely referred to as ‘good fats’). In recent years, CLA has gained a reputation in the supplement industry as a fat burner. The theorized mechanism of action at work here is CLA’s alleged ability to bind to the Peroxisome Proliferator activated Receptor (PPAR) which, when activated, may directly induce fat loss. However, despite the encouraging results of animal studies, human studies have been inconsistent and lackluster at best. One possible theory for the discrepancy is that rodents are more responsive to PPAR activation, but regardless of the reason, CLA certainly has not proven to be the miracle fat burner it is touted to be (in humans that is). That being said, it is not completely useless, and may contribute (a little) to the overall fat loss when combined with certain other compounds. So, while we wouldn’t recommend CLA supplementation alone as an effective way to burn fat, it most likely doesn’t hurt to include it in a weight loss blend.
MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES:
You may be familiar with the terms saturated and unsatured as they refer to fatty acids. However, there is also a second way of classifying fatty acids, relating to the length of the carbon atoms that form their chemical structure. Using this secondary method of classification, there are short chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids, and long chain fatty acids. Triglyceride is simply an alternative term for fatty acid. Medium Chain Triglycerides, commonly found in Coconut Oil, have been under investigation for potential fat loss effects for quite some time. It does appear that MCT are more easily oxidized than long chain triglycerides (LCT), resulting in greater fat loss when substituted (emphasis on ‘substituted’). Studies that have compared the two have simply noted that MCT are more easily oxidized than LCT, meaning if you replaced all the LCTs in your diet with MCTs, (holding all else constant) more fat would be oxidized. A 2000 study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that MCTs appeared to increase oxidation of long chain saturated fatty acids in obese women. So, it does appear as though MCTs may have some sort of added benefit, but more studies are needed to determine the degree of this effect.
L-Carnitine, in various forms, has been touted as a weight loss supplement by dozens of supplement companies over the years. It is well established that carnitine is involved in fatty acid metabolism (burning fat for fuel), but human studies have failed to prove that supplemental carnitine has any effect on weight loss. There are certain theoretical mechanisms of action by which carnitine supplementation could/should result in weight loss, but just isn’t any evidence to back these claims up. Several studies involving rats have come up short, as well as a 2000 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition which found that carnitine supplementation had no weight loss effect in moderately obese women. So, while there is too much doubt surrounding Carnitine as a weight loss supplement, several studies have shown that Carnitine can reduce muscle damage and thus speed up recovery from exercise.
The direct weight loss applications for kelp are much less clear than perhaps some of the other ingredients. However, considering that Kelp is listed under the “Thyro-support blend”, we can assume the inclusion of kelp is due to the iodine that is generally found in kelp. Iodine supplementation is a popular treatment for those suffering from hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) caused by iodine deficiency. However, iodine deficiency is rare in developed countries (most table salt is iodized these days), and even if you are deficient you should consult a medical professional before taking anything. Yes, thyroid problems have been associated with weight gain in certain individuals, but that does not mean that iodine supplementation can result in weight loss in healthy individuals. The amount of iodine present in the Cardio Cuts formula is most likely insignificant compared to what would be needed to correct a thyroid condition, but this is getting into doctor territory so we’ll call it quits here.
While Tyrosine has been included in many supplements for a variety of different reason, its inclusion in the Cardio Cuts formula appears to be thyroid-related. The Thyroid gland combines tyrosine and iodine to form the thyroid hormone. Therefore, it is possible that people suffering from hypothyroidism as a result of tyrosine and/or iodine deficiency may benefit from supplementation. However, as stated above, if you actually think you have a thyroid problem, you need to consult a physician before taking anything for it.
Guggul contains what are known as guggulsterone, which have been investigated in regards to thyroid function and weight loss. In rats, supplementation at about 10mg/kg has been shown to increase iodine uptake and increase thyroid function. However, no human studies have confirmed these effects. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the connection between thyroid function and weight loss is much more complex than supplement companies would have you believe. Manipulation your thyroid function without properly understanding the potential consequences is risky to say the least.
Beta Alanine is the precursor to the amino acid Carnosine which is created by the combination of Beta-Alanine and Histidine. Higher Carnosine levels inside the muscle have been linked to better workout performance in multiple studies. It is generally believed that the rate limiting factor in muscle carnosine levels is the amount of Beta Alanine available for synthesis. For this reason, supplementation of Beta Alanine has been shown to increase muscle Carnosine levels significantly, and therefore improve workout performance. Despite the overwhelming amount of studies showing the effectiveness of both Beta Alanine supplementation increasing muscle Carnosine concentration, and muscle Carnosine concentration being positively correlated with workout performance, the exact mechanism of action remains somewhat of a mystery. The theory with the most scientific support is that higher carnosine levels stop muscle cell pH from dropping by acting as a buffer against hydrogen ions which tend to rise during exercise. Low pH interferes with ATP production and thus, decreases the amount of cellular energy available in the muscle cells. Regardless of the mechanism of action, it is quite clear that Beta Alanine is very beneficial as a performance enhancer. One thing to keep in mind is that most studies demonstrating the effectiveness were/are done using amount between 3000mg-5000mg. One serving of Cardio Cuts contains 1000mg of Beta Alanine.
Considered a beta-amino acid, Taurine plays a variety of roles in the body. It is most concentrated in the brain and liver, but is found in some amount virtually everywhere in the body. What makes Taurine so interesting is that it possesses antioxidant properties. In a 2011 study, Taurine was shown to significantly decrease oxidative stress in skeletal muscle following exercise. Prior to that, a 2004 study showed that Taurine may decrease exercise induced DNA damage, as well as “enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties”. It’s unfortunate that Taurine has developed a sort of stigma because of its inclusion in energy drinks. While Taurine does not provide “energy” in the way that caffeine does, several studies have shown its effectiveness as an antioxidant with exercise-enhancing properties. The mechanism of action here is pretty simple. It is widely believed that, while exercise fatigue general results from a multitude of factors, oxidative stress contributes considerably. By decreasing oxidative stress as it occurs, Taurine may very well ward off fatigue. That’s not to say that you will last forever in the gym by supplementing with Taurine, but to most athletes, even one more rep is appreciated.
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid (your body can make it) that is required for several bodily functions, from immune health, to providing an alternative fuel-source for the brain. However, if you’re a regular at the gym (we assume you are if you’re reading this), you have probably heard of glutamine as it relates to working out. You may have also realized that glutamine, despite being one of the most widely used supplements, is also one of the most debated. It is true that some of the alleged effects of this amino acid are not quite as grounded in science as some supplement companies might have you think, but to say that it’s completely useless is a misconception. Because glutamine is an amino acid, some people assume that it may have a muscle sparing effect. However, these claims are far from substantiated, and while we won’t dispute them, we can’t believe them. So what is glutamine really good for? Glutamine has shown a lot of promise when it comes to fighting exercise induced immune system suppression. While it is true that our immune systems ultimately benefit from regular exercise, in the short-term, exercise actually temporarily lowers our immune defenses, thus making us more susceptible to infection during that time-frame. This temporary compromise of the immune system has been proven to correlate with lower levels of glutamine. For this reason, it is suggested that increased uptake of glutamine may help keep the immune system strong post-exercise. In addition, lower glutamine levels have been recorded in over-trained athletes, suggesting that higher levels of glutamine may help to prevent overtraining.
Histidine is one of the 9 essential amino acids that make up complete proteins. As mentioned in the Beta-Alanine section above, Histidine is required (along with beta alanine) for the synthesis of carnosine (see Beta-Alanine section for implications of carnosine). However, while Beta-Alanine supplementation increases carnosine synthesis, histidine supplementation does not. If you are histidine deficient, it is possible to benefit from histidine supplementation, but that would mean you are protein deficient since Histidine is just another amino acid found in protein.
Leucine is an amino acid that belongs to the group known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). If you have ever purchased a BCAA product, you may have noticed that it contains more leucine than the other two BCAAs (isoleucine and valine). The ratio is generally something along the lines of 2:1:1, but we’ve seen as much as 8:1:1 in favor of leucine. The BCAA ratio found in Cardio Cuts is unknown, but given that Isoleucine is listed first, we know there is not more leucine than isoleucine. While no study has ever proved that there is an “optimal ratio”, several studies have confirmed that leucine is the most important BCAA in regards to muscle protein synthesis. Supplemental leucine has been shown to increase protein synthesis in rats as well as humans in dozens of studies. Most recently, a 2012 study found that supplementation with 12 g of L-leucine per day resulted in improved protein synthesis in elderly males consuming a low protein diet. However, leucine has been shown to be effective at dosages ranging from 2-5 grams. Leucine is the most frequently studied of the three BCAAs and several studies now have demonstrated that leucines primary mechanism of action is via activation of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) which is a protein that signals the body to synthesize protein. Leucine signals mTOR which in turn stimulates protein synthesis. The amount of leucine found in Cardio Cuts is far less than the dose used in the available literature, but a marginal benefit is possible even at this low dose.
ISOLEUCINE AND VALINE:
While Leucine does appear to be more important in regards to muscle protein synthesis, isoleucine’s importance for athletes/bodybuilders pertains more to its ability to induce glucose uptake by (muscle) cells. Valine does not appear to have any unique benefits aside from helping to build proteins (as do all amino acids), but is generally grouped in because it shares the same ‘branched chain’ structure as the other two. A 2004 study conducted by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences found that BCAA requirement was significantly increased by exercise and that supplementation had “beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis”. A second study, published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, found that, while BCAA intake did not seem to affect amino acid concentration during exercise, it did have a protein-sparing effect during recovery. If you consume a diet rich in complete proteins, then you already receive enough dietary BCAAs to fulfill all normal physiological functions. However, this does not mean you cannot derive benefit from supplementing with BCAAs. Given the litany of studies proving the muscular/exercise-related benefits of BCAA supplementation in non-protein deficient humans, we conclude that BCAAs are among the most scientifically validated ingredients currently marketed as exercise supplements (second perhaps to creatine). However, as with Leucine, the levels of Isoleucine and Valine found in Cardio Cuts are far less than those used in the available studies and therefore any benefits would likely be marginal at best.
Glycerol is a colorless, odorless, syrup-like substance found in such household products as soap, cough syrup, and hair care products. Glycerol is also used by athletes to counter dehydration due to its propensity for cellular water retention. Originally, Glycerol was purported to enhance athletic/exercise performance. However, while several studies have demonstrated increase water retention as a result of pre-exercise Glycerol consumption, none have demonstrated a clear performance enhancing effect. We fail to see how glycerol directly relates to a fat-loss supplement. In fact, water retention would likely result in less of a “cut” look, which is what users of Cardio Cuts are after.
BIS PICOLONATO OXO VANADIUM:
Vanadium is a chemical element which has been referred to as the “iron of the sea”, because it plays a similar role in sea creatures as iron plays in humans. For decades, bodybuilders have taken vanadium (in forms such as vanadyl sulfate) for its alleged glucose regulating effects. Preliminary research has shown that vanadium may very well act as an insulin mimetic (really it prolongs the signaling of insulin), by suppressing the action protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), which signals the degredation of insulin. Though much of the studies conducted were done with rats, the evidence certainly suggests that vanadium may be useful for those looking to control blood glucose.
Arginine is a non-essential amino acid that is acts as a precursor to nitric oxide. Supplement manufactures claim that, because arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, supplemental arginine may boost nitric oxide levels, resulting in vasodilation. However, recent studies have found that arginine isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The human body is complex and, unfortunately for supplement companies, ingesting a precursor to a substance doesn’t necessarily increase the levels of that substance. There are rate limiting factors, and competition for pathways to keep in mind. A 2012 study published in Nutrition and Metabolism found that Acute (one-time) L-Arginine supplementation with 6 grams did not increase plasma (blood) levels of nitric oxide in people with normal asymmetric dimethylarginine levels. Asymmetric dimethylarginine is a compound that is chemically related to arginine and directly interferes with the production of nitric oxide. Furthermore, recent studies have questioned whether arginine may in fact be counter-productive during exercise. A 2011, placebo controlled study, found that subjects performed worse after receiving 3700mg of Arginine alpha ketoglutarate prior to resistance training. Due to the size of this study, it cannot be considered conclusive, but it certainly should warrant further studies. While most studies have failed to prove that L-Arginine supplementation increases strength, a 2012 double-blind placebo controlled study, found that supplementation with 6 grams of L-Arginine increased muscle blood volume post-workout, but did not increase intra-workout strength. While this may be disappointing for those looking to increase strength through supplementation, Arginine’s real benefits may lie in post-workout recovery, rather than intra-workout performance. More blood in the muscle’s after a workout means more nutrients to the muscle cells.
Ribose is a monosaccharide (simple sugar) which has been alleged to restore ATP post-exercise. However, a 2001 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that supplementation with 4 grams of Ribose did nothing in the way of restoring post exercise ATP in human subjects. Furthermore, a 2003 study published in the International Jouranl of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that supplementation with 10 grams/day had no effect on anaerobic exercise capacity in healthy adult males. A 2004 study concluded that the availability of ribose does appear to be a rate-limiting factor the re-synthesis of ATP post-exercise. However, the same study also found that reduction of ATP does not appear to limit high-intensity exercise. Overall, while ribose is needed for ATP production, there is no evidence to suggest that increasing your ribose intake will directly affect strength or stamina. In fact, there is only evidence to the contrary.
Cysteine is a sulfur containing amino acid that, in addition to building proteins, acts as one of the precursors to Glutathione (the body’s most powerful antioxidant) which is formed when Cysteine is combined with Glycine and Glutamic Acid. The N-Acetyl form of L-Cysteine is considered more bioavailable than just the L-form alone. A 1994 study showed that subjects treated with 150mg/kg of NAC improved exercise performance and increased time to fatigue. However, it’s worth noting that 150/kg translates to a 175 lb. person taking 11 grams, as opposed whatever lesser amount is present in the Cardio Cuts formula. It is hypothesized that oxidative stress may be a contributing factor to fatigue during exercise, and that consuming enough cysteine before exercise ensures that the body will produce enough glutathione to prevent a significant amount of oxidative stress. More studies are needed to validate the preliminary evidence.
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID:
Alpha Lipoic Acid is a truly amazing substance that, despite possessing a vast amount of proven and potential benefits, remains relatively unknown to most people. Among these potential benefits are: improved glucose utilization, regeneration of other antioxidants (Vitamins C and E), induction of glutathione (your bodies ‘master antioxidant’) synthesis, and improved cognitive function. R-ALA’s inclusion in the Cardio Cuts formula stems from its powerful antioxidant properties. R-ALA supplementation has been shown to defend against exercise induced oxidative stress, so it sometimes pops up in recovery supplements. It is important to understand that not all forms of Alpha Lipoic Acid are equal. Without getting into complicated chemistry, the R-form is the bioavailable form that the body can effectively metabolize. Unfortunately, due to the effort required to derive R-ALA, many companies just use ALA. Supplements labeled ALA are really 50% R-ALA (the natural bioavailable form) and 50% S-ALA (a synthetic byproduct of ALA which results from the production process). So, what you’re really getting from your ALA supplement is 50% of the good stuff and 50% of the useless stuff. It appears Cardio Cuts contains ALA.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant compound that has been under investigation for several potential benefits. CoQ10 possesses general antioxidant properties which may decrease overall oxidative stress resulting from exercise. There is preliminary evidence to suggest that Coenzyme Q10 may increase time to fatigue (resulting from oxidation), but these effects would most likely be negligible in the average athlete. Overall, CoQ10 is definitely not a bad addition to an antioxidant exercise blend, but to say that it is highly effective for reducing fatigue/increasing exercise capacity would be an exaggeration.
Resveratrol has earned a reputation in the supplement industry as a whole for its long list of alleged benefits, including increasing lifespan, improving cardio-vascular health, and increasing blood flow. The majority of the studies that showed encouraging results for these applications have been done on rats, and therefore warrant further human studies before any conclusions can be drawn. However, at the very least, resveratrol appears to be a relatively potent antioxidant that may very well decrease the amount of exercise induced oxidative stress. Whether this has any direct effect on exercise capacity remains to be proven.
GRAPE SEED EXTRACT:
Grape Seed Extract is becoming quite pervasive in the supplement industry these days. While there are those companies that claim some seemingly incredible (and literally unbelievable) benefits of supplementing with Grape Seed Extract, one thing is for sure: it certainly has antioxidant benefits. Grape Seed Extract contains high levels of a group of polyphenols called proanthocyanidins which have been demonstrated to possess powerful free-radical scavenging properties. This is what gives Grape Seed Extract its edge over some other antioxidants. Research shows that Grape Seed Extract may not only defend against exercise induced oxidative stress, but also reduce muscle fatigue post workout.
Caffeine is central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. A CNS stimulant is any compound that speeds up mental or physical (or both) processes in the body. It is a popular belief that caffeine increases fat oxidation. However, several studies have shown that this is not the case. No scientific studies have found that caffeine, by itself, increases fat oxidation. Several studies have examined the effects of green tea extract on fat oxidation and found a correlation, but most have concluded this is due to the other compounds (perhaps EGCG) which are present in green tea, not caffeine. Caffeine may also act as a slight appetite suppressant (like most stimulants). Without exercise, the weight loss effects of caffeine supplementation would be negligible. However, since caffeine acts as a stimulant, it has also been shown to increase exercise capacity and endurance. Keeping all other variables constant, working out longer and harder will definitely result in weight loss over a sustained period of time.
Rasberry Ketone has become a popular weight-loss additive in dietary supplements. However, the evidence for raspberry ketone as a fat-burning ingredient is extremely limited and there is actually no direct evidence the ingredient is effective in oral, supplemental doses. In vitro studies using very high concentrations have shown positive results, but human studies are non-existent. The only human study that exists grouped RK in with several other popular weight loss ingredients so the effects cannot be attributed to raspberry ketone. Even in rat studies, RK fails to show any significant fat-burning effects. The overall consensus of the scientific community is that raspberry ketone is nothing more than industry hype.
Emblica officinalis (A.K.A. Indian Gooseberry/Amla) is touted by the herbal medicine community to have a variety of benefits in humans. NDS makes no specific claims regarding the inclusion of amla, but we have seen amla in the Super HD formula, which Cellucor claimed was to “support mental energy and memory” in the absence of carbs. The claims stem from the fact that Amla does possess antioxidant properties (although less than plenty of other available compounds), which may have a neuro-protective effect. However, there are no human studies demonstrating any significant degree of neuro-protection and for that reason, the inclusion of this ingredient seems based on anecdotal evidence, not science.
ADVNTRA Z (SYNEPHRINE):
Advantra Z is a trademarked form of Bitter Orange Extract, which contains the compound Synephrine. Syneprhine gained popularity in the supplement community after the FDA banned Ephedra, due to its similar chemical properties. While Synephrine has been touted as a replacement for ephedra, it is important to understand that it is much less potent (which is why it is not banned also). However, that’s not to say it is completely useless. Synephrine acts as a CNS stimulant, as well as an appetite suppressant to some degree. While Synephrine itself has been around for almost 100 years, studies regarding its fat burning abilities are scarce and those that have been conducted generally combine synephrine with other stimulants such as caffeine. For that reason, it is difficult to examine the efficacy of the supplement for weight loss alone. At the very least Synephrine may offer increased energy levels and a slight decrease in appetite.
There is a vast amount of scientific evidence in favor of phosphatidylserine as an effective cortisol blocker, especially in regards to post-exercise. Cortisol, for those who are unfamiliar, is a hormone that the body produces when exposed to both physical and mental stress. Among the many unfriendly side effects of cortisol are: decreased water excretion, decreased amino acid uptake (by muscle cells), inhibition of protein synthesis, and reduced bone formation. The evolutionary function of cortisol is basically to help us survive tough spots. All of these negative effects actually become the lesser of two evils, when compared to death. However, as humans have evolved, cortisol has gone from something that saved our lives at one point, to something that is just irritating. Physical stress (i.e. intense physical activity) release cortisol which immediately starts to eat away at muscle protein, making it the number one enemy of body builders or athletes looking to gain muscle through training. However, PS has been shown to exert this anti-cortisol effect only in doses of at least 600 mg, far exceeding the dose that could possibly be present in the Cardio Cuts formula.
Guarana is a plant native to the Amazon, the fruit of which contains caffeine. Although guarana is touted as being a sort of “slow-release” form of caffeine, a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology showed that there was no difference in absorption rates in rats. Human studies have yet to be confirmed, but there is certainly no reason to think that guarana is any different (in terms of absorption) than regular caffeine.
GREEN TEA EXTRACT:
Green Tea Extract appears to be able to induce fat-loss. Although this effect was originally thought to be related to caffeine content, more recent research has pointed to a green tea catechin known as Epigallocatechin gallata as the compound primarily responsible for these effects. Epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG) is an antioxidant found in green tea, and is a member of the group of antioxidants known as catechins. In addition to these antioxidant properties, EGCG has demonstrated the ability to induce fat –loss. While the exact mechanism of action is debated, there are two primary theories. One, EGCG actually increases fat oxidation. Two, EGCG reduces energy (calorie) absorption from food, as evidenced in a 2005 study in which the feces energy content of rats who had been fed EGCG was higher than those who had been fed a similar diet with no EGCG. Either way, the evidence does support EGCG as a weight loss supplement.
Vinpocetine is a compound derived from Periwinkle and has become popular, specifically as a nootropic. This popularity stems from vinpocetine’s ability to increase cerebral blood flow. While studies confirm this effect, there are currently no studies regarding the effects of this increased blood flow on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. By increasing blood-flow to the brain, Vinpocetine indirectly increases oxygenation in the brain. However, there are no direct effects on oxygenation in the blood, so this effect is just secondary to increased blood flow in general.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
While NDS is clearly going for an all in one type product (includes BCAAs, Beta Alanine, and potential weight loss ingredients), most of the doses of these ingredients are far lower than what has been shown to be effective. To reach its full potential, Cardio Cuts would likely have to be taken in double doses (or twice a day) meaning there would only be 20 servings per container. On that basis alone, we can’t recommend it.
Not sure which pre-workout is right for you?
The Pre-Workout category is one of the most saturated and arguably one of the most difficult to navigate. With every product claiming the be the absolute best, selecting the right one can be extremely difficult. Thats why we created this list…Top 10 Pre-Workout Supplements
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