Critical Cuts by Applied Nutrition presents an interesting approach to the ideas we have about supplements. It’s not a single pill, but a collection of different, colour-coded capsules that are meant to be taken together to create a ‘complete cutting stack’.
This isn’t what we’re used to in a supplement – and what it brings in variety and specific roles, it must balance against the risk of missing out on the effectiveness of individual ingredients.
We’re going to look at this product and its many facets, how it deals with these challenges and – ultimately – what it might do for you…
About Applied Nutrition Critical Cuts
When we look at what this product is and does, it’s important to separate out the individual capsules and then look at them in combination.
There are seven different capsules in Critical Cuts, so there are a lot of things you need to pay attention to.
Here’s a quick list of what each capsule sets out to do:
- Thermogenic complex
- Metabolic complex
- Thyroid complex
- Diuretic complex
- Nootropic complex
- Cortisol inhibiting complex
- Bioavailability complex
The breakdown of each complex is as follows:
All clearly have their own deliberate roles in the product and attempt to form a coherent whole. We’re going to start by looking at each of these in detail when it comes to asking if this product works…
The 7 Capsules of Applied Nutrition Critical Cuts
- Thermogenic complex
Thermogenic compounds are those that increase the heat of the body – and often, as a mechanism, burn up more calories. This is a great way of increasing the overall calorie spend you experience in a day and this is how it might help you to lose weight.
Unfortunately, the ingredients in this thermogenic capsule are very hit and miss. For example, caffeine is a good choice since it is the classic metabolic and psychological anti-fatigue compound, with metabolic effects.
On the other hand, raspberry ketone is a totally useless compound at this dosage (40mg). Likewise, coleus forskholii – ‘a promising ingredient for testosterone and fat loss, particularly in men’ (Examine.com) – is way underdosed at just 20mg. For comparison purposes, a recommended dose is 250mg.
Some compounds like Guarana sit in the middle of this spectrum between useful and useless. Guarana, for example, is useful for combatting feelings of tiredness associated with weight-loss and calorie deficit.
Overall, this is a lacklustre complex for fat loss by itself, but perhaps other compounds in the product will offer some good synergists…
This is a combination of various forms of tea and coffee bean extract. The combination of magnesium and these various teas is a great place to start since it offers some cool support to the catecholamine processes that are responsible for mobilising fat for burning as energy.
The coffee bean extract is a two-fold ingredient. First, it contains the caffeine that you might expect from a coffee bean, but it also has great antioxidant action. This is great for general health and wellbeing, and this makes for an interesting combination with the tea and its GABA/EGCG.
This is decent but remember that it’s just a combination of tea and coffee extracts. These are relatively basic, but they do provide some positive benefits…
This complex is primarily a mixture of Tyrosine and Olive leaf extract. The tyrosine is a great inclusion for several reasons, while most of the other ingredients like olive leaf and Salvia aren’t particularly useful for the metabolism.
Tyrosine is one of our favourite amino acids when combined with caffeine because it improves the best effects and limits the side-effects. It improves awareness and alertness, while also reducing the risk of headaches and the like.
Again, there’s no clear implication that this complex actually improves thyroid. If that was the case, we’d be looking for iodine and chromium, primarily. Tyrosine is cool, but we’re still not convinced that this product is more than caffeine, tea extract, and tyrosine.
Those are great ingredients but we’re 3/7th of the way through and – so far- it’s just a fancy tea and coffee powder.
We are sceptical of anything that even aims to be a diuretic since diuretics are a tremendously unhealthy class of drugs.
Fortunately, most of the compounds in this complex are relatively innocuous. They may increase urine production modestly, but they’re not going to do enough to either cause you serious damage or have significant effect on your bodyweight.
The magnesium stearate that is found in every single one of these capsules, for example, is likely to have more of a benefit to healthy water retention levels. The diuretic complex is very weak, which is both the best and worst thing about it!
It’s also important to note that any weight you lose from diuretic effects won’t be fat loss, but water loss. This isn’t great since it isn’t sustainable and – as far as we’re concerned – most of the time, better diet and hydration habits will solve water retention!
There are three key compounds in this complex: DMAE, Theacrine, and Huperzine. Let’s take a quick look at each of these individually.
DMAE is a general mental performance compound but is primarily protective in nature. While it does share some chemical similarities with choline, it doesn’t seem to boost choline levels, or the brain benefits associated with it.
This is a cool mental support compound but doesn’t seem to combine as well with Huperzine as something simple like choline citrate or alpha-GPC might. It’s a good compound but not as much of an all-rounder as we’d like to see in this complex.
Theacrine is a compound that has some similarities to caffeine, but it doesn’t interact with the tolerance you might build up to caffeine. It thus has a different flavour when we think about the ‘buzz’ that comes with it.
Theacrine is a cool little compound but seems like another way of leaning on stimulants for mental and metabolic benefits. It’s a good compound but we’re not sure that there’s much benefit when compared to something like Dicaffeine malate, which might be a better choice.
Huperzine is a cool compound that supports mood and memory, while combatting fatigue. It’s an anti-acetylcholinesterase, which is a bit of a mouthful. It basically reduces the breakdown of an important brain chemical called acetylcholine, which makes it a great combo with choline.
Sadly, there’s no choline support in this product so it’s a little underpowered, which feels like a missed opportunity. We’d like to see a better choline level, but Huperzine alone might not be the whole answer.
Overall, this complex doesn’t win us over, but it does have some interesting applications. It’s another complex that makes this whole product feel like it’s more concerned with stimulants and mental performance than helping lose bodyfat.
Cortisol inhibiting complex
Cortisol is widely understood to be the stress hormone. It’s not specifically bad for you, but chronically elevated cortisol is one of the worst things for your wellbeing. Keeping cortisol down is protective against mood disorders such as depression.
Keeping cortisol low is also a great goal for supporting better recovery and performance during exercise. Cortisol suppresses positive changes like muscular recovery and exercise performance.
The Phosphatidic acid in this compound is pretty great, but it’s underdosed compared to what we’d like to see. Equally, ashwagandha is a relatively under-researched compound for the cortisol-dampening effects that are claimed.
Equally, Rhodiola isn’t shown to reliably reduce cortisol. This reliance on under-studied and unreliable compounds does raise some questions. This product overall could contribute to reducing cortisol but – if it is – the tea is going to be the best compound for this!
This is a kind of focus we like to see in a supplement. Absorption is one of the keys to better performance and synergists and absorption-boosters are great additions to any positive compound.
The main compound here is Piperine – it’s the king of absorption compounds and we love it, so that’s a big win for Applied Nutrition.
The other compounds here aren’t strictly for absorption but do seem beneficial. Ginger extract, for example, is an anti-inflammatory compound and supports digestive wellbeing. This is a benefit, but not a direct way of supporting the absorption of other key nutrients.
Equally, capsaicin form cayenne peppers are great for thermogenics and antioxidant effects. We’d much rather see this compound in the thermogenic complex, since it’s not really an absorption-boosting compound.
The result is a compound that has other benefits while supporting bioavailability through Piperine. In many ways, this is the most well-rounded and effective complex in this product despite – nominally – not being aimed at weight loss!
Formula Analysis: Does it Work?
This product attempts to do many things but even the names of the complexes are deceiving. This could be a marketing thing of trying to cram in buzzwords, but there doesn’t seem to be a very clear design philosophy behind it.
There’s not a unified vision for what these compounds should do for you when combined. The individual benefits are interesting when we look at them, but you could get most of the benefits of all these products in a single supplement with a focus on the effective compounds.
It seems like each of the complexes has one or two key ingredients that help and then a lot of ‘filler’ compounds.
This product would be much better if it had three capsules that contained nothing but the effective ingredients.
It does some good stuff – combining caffeine, tea, tyrosine, and some of the performance-boosters is a great approach. We just feel like 50%+ of these ingredients could be dropped out and you’d never notice the difference!
The next question we are left with is ‘what could this product be if it replaced the useless compounds with more of the effective stuff?”. We end up with three capsules’ worth of useful ingredients and 3-4 capsules worth of useless compounds like raspberry ketone.
Applied Nutrition Critical Cuts Benefits
The benefits of this product are mixed, and it does have some modest benefits in each of the categories mentioned above. While things like thyroid support are weak, metabolic support is pretty strong.
The main benefit of Critical Cuts is that it does all of this at a relatively cheap price. It’s not the best product we’ve ever seen – and there are very few benefits to many of the ingredients – but it does a lot on a budget.
You could definitely get better results with other products, but if you’re looking for the sheer variety and you like the 7-capsule gimmick, it could be for you. It could be an all-rounder, but it’s also pretty innocuous compared to premium products.
Who Takes It?
Being generous, we’d like to think that – being both an economy product and having so much variety – Critical Cuts is an OK general supplement. The compounds in the product aren’t all directed towards fat loss, but the secondary ingredients might be useful.
Might being the operative word. For most of them, there’s not tons of research and what is there doesn’t show them to be super-foods. Rather, it covers a lot of maybe-it’s-useful ingredients. If you want to roll that dice, it isn’t going to be harmful.
This product is, therefore, for anyone that wants a cheap fat-loss support compound that might have secondary benefits. It’s not clear just how effective these are, but they’re probably not the next big miracle – so be sceptical, even if , even if you really want to give this product a try!
Applied Nutrition Critical Cuts Side Effects
There are a fair few reported cases of negative responses to this product – either from general illness or sickness specifically. These could just be coincidental, but it does seem to be a semi-regular problem.
Otherwise, the main side-effect risk comes from the stimulants such as caffeine. These are pretty standard, and you may have experienced them before with a coffee or other caffeinated drink: jitters, headaches, and short-term sickness.
However, this isn’t a huge risk and the stimulant load isn’t huge on this product. The risks are primarily for the stimulant-sensitive, anyone with pre-conditions, and anyone using prescription medication.
Of course, the most ingredients a product has, the more likely the chance of negative reactions.
If you fall into any of these groups – or are just concerned for your supplement use – we recommended talking to a qualified medical professional.
Applied Nutrition Critical Cuts Summary
- Wide variety of ingredients
- Several effective primary ingredients
- Reasonable price tag
- Many of the secondary ingredients aren’t very useful
- You could easily use far less capsules if you cut out the less-effective compounds
- Doesn’t always have all of the capsules advertised/the right number of servings
- Doesn’t compare well with dedicated single-capsule products
- Relies on a gimmick that doesn’t add enough value!
Pricing & Buying Info
This product is available through Amazon, though often in and out of stock. When it’s in stock, it comes at a very reasonable $23-25 price tag, historically.
This is a good price tag and puts it firmly into the ‘economy’ category, which is its saving grace. In this context, it’s a significantly better supplement, even with all the problems we’ve mentioned above.
The value is much greater when it’s a cheap product, but we do still take issue with the design philosophy of the product and the choice of ingredients. Imagine the savings if the unnecessary filler was removed!
Applied Nutrition Critical Cuts Review: Final Word
This product has a pretty novel approach to supplementation, but it doesn’t seem to get the basics nailed first. The opportunity cost failures it represents are huge and the benefits are spread across 7 capsules when it really doesn’t need to be.
There is value to efficiency and making every gram work well. This product doesn’t seem to dial in on this, focusing on the more-gimmicky combination of capsules. This is why we insist that gimmicks are well-implemented: it’s easy to distract from what really matters.
We would like to see a narrower focus from this product or, alternatively, just better secondary ingredients. Either of these would improve the amount of effective grams you’re getting without affecting the good things it’s already doing.
We feel like it’s a missed opportunity. This is a product that could be doing better with some small changes, but will still bring some benefits – there’s just a lot of unnecessary compounds. It’s good but not great.