Red Zone, from Ultimate Nutrition, is the fat burner that claims to “delay exhaustion and burn fat”. The “delayed exhaustion” element of the formula is largely attributable to the “fatigue-delay” complex which consists of two ingredients: beta alanine and coenzyme Q10.
That said, let’s take a thorough look at the complete Red Zone formula and see how it measures up…
1. The “Fatigue-Delay” complex: A full 3-capsule serving of Red Zone delivers 1030 mg of the following two ingredients (according to the advertising copy I reviewed, the “precise blend of COQ-10 and beta alanine that have been clinically studied to extend workouts.”)…
i. Beta Alanine: More commonly found in pre-workout formulations and body building training supplements like Isatori’s H+Blocker, there’s plenty of clinical evidence that shows beta alanine reduces training fatigue (see here, here, here, and here!).
If there’s a problem, it’s the fact that the doses used in these studies are much higher than what is found in this product (3-6 grams daily is the norm). It is extremely unlikely therefore, that this relatively low dose of beta alanine will deliver results on par with the studies referenced above.
ii. Coenzyme Q10: A powerful antioxidant that has been used experimentally to treat both cardiovascular and mitochondrial diseases. Some retailers—like Ultimate Nutrition—claim coenzyme Q10 can increase energy and boost training performance. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests otherwise; for those with normal mitochondrial function, coenzyme Q10 has little or no effect whatsoever (see here, here, here, and here!).
2. The “Calorie-burning” complex: This 795 mg blend boasts 8 ingredients, which pretty much guarantees that none of them are going to be present in a dosage strong enough to elicit any effect (just like with pharmaceutical drugs, the compounds present in fat burners must be present in a specific dosage if the user is to experience some benefits from them. That is not going to be the case here).
i. Cayenne Pepper (Fruit):Cayenne fruit (the active ingredient of which is called “capsaicin”) is often used to improve digestion. Topically as a cream, it can be used to treat arthritis. However, it may improve the efficiency of the circulatory system, as well as elevating the internal body temperature, and increasing fat burning ability through thermogenisis.
There is a small body of evidence that indicates that cayenne consumption can indeed elevate the metabolism (Br J Nutr 1999;82:115–23).
Unfortunately, it’s only at much higher doses (one study used 10 grams consumed along with meals!) that any effect is realized. This study (Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Jan;292(1):R77-85. Epub 2006 Jul 13) says it best…
“Capsaicin has been shown to be effective, yet when it is used clinically it requires a strong compliance to a certain dosage, that has not been shown to be feasible yet.”
In other words, in order for capsaicin to have an effect on your metabolism, it has to be taken in doses much too high to make it practical.
ii.Asian Ginseng Powder (Root): A well-known adaptogen, although studies validating its effects on atheletic performance are mixed.
iii. White Willow Powder (Bark): In the old days, white willow bark was used as the herbal form of salicin, and comprised the third element of the good old ephedra / caffeine / aspirin stack. In ephedra-free fat burners like this one, there is no evidence it offers any benefit, short of the anti-inflammatory effects inherent to salicin.
iv. Red Tea Extract (Leaf & Stem): It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s likely this refers to rooibos tea, which, although high in antioxidants and phenolic compounds, isn’t in the same family as green or oolong tea and has no demonstrated weight loss effects.
v. Kola Nut Powder (Seed): Animal studies have shown kola nut has fat burning properties, but for humans, the main benefit kola nut offers is as a diuretic and a source of caffeine (kola nut can contain between 2-4% caffeine.
vi. Evodia Extract (Fruit): a compound derived from the Chinese fruit Evodia Rutaecarpa. It’s claimed to burn fat by increasing the body’s production of heat, as well as reducing the body’s ability to store fat.
Although a preliminary animal study shows promising results, to date there’s no evidence showing evodiamine works in people.
vii. Ginger Powder (Root): Ginger contains gingerols, which are chemically related to capsaicin. It does demonstrate some mild thermogenic and metabolism-boosting characteristics, although compliance to high dosage is likely necessary.
Some small animal studies performed on zingerone (a component of ginger) have been positive for weight loss (Yakugaku Zasshi. 2008 Aug;128(8):1195-201) albeit the dosage used (170 mg/kg) is too high to be transferred into humans.
Ginger also seems to accelerate gastric emptying… the opposite of the sort of thing dieters want (Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 May;20(5):436-40).
viii. Black Pepper Extract (Fruit): Usually added to fat burners and other supplements on the basis it improves the bioavailability of certain ingredients. Some make the argument that it elevates the metabolism as well, although there’s little evidence to validate this argument—at least when used at the dose typically found in products like this.
3. Power enhancing complex: 500 mg of the following two ingredients…
i. PowerGrape®: A proprietary Bordeaux grape extract which acts as a powerful antioxidant. Powergrape makes other claims as well; at the 400 mg/day dosage (incidentally, the amount included in Red Zone) it increases oxgenation of the muscles, and protects muscles against lesions caused by physical exercise.
Apparently, these benefits are backed by clinical studies, although these appear to be performed “in-house”, and not published in a reputable journal where the methodologies and conclusions can be contested by qualified professionals. Nonetheless, it’s well established that grape extracts are potent antioxidants.
ii. Caffeine Anhydrous: Caffeine has a well established record as a mild thermogenic, and does deliver mild weight loss results (see Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan;49(1):44-50, Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 May;33(5):989-97). It also cheaply and effectively addresses the most common complaint of dieters; lack of energy. According to the Red Zone advertising, there is 100 mg of caffiene in a single dose (the equivalent of a cup of coffee’s worth).
So there you have it. Red Zone in a nutshell.
Frankly, it’s a bit of a bizarre formulation with an odd focus on potent antioxidants (Coenzyme Q10 and PowerGrape).
While no one is going to argue to possible benefits of antioxidant supplementation—despite the fact that none pertain to weight loss specifically—it’s not usually what customers are looking for when they purchase a weight loss supplement.
The inclusion of low dose beta alanine too, is perplexing. At the appropriate dose (around 5 grams, or 5,000 mg), it’s a great addition to pre-workout and bodybuilding supplements. At this dose, in a fat burner? I have no idea what Ultimate Nutrition was thinking.
And the ingredients included precisely for fat burning? A tepid, under-dosed and/or backed by poor or preliminary clinical evidence group of ingredients.
It’s not that Red Zone is a bad product, it’s just that Red Zone can’t decide what it wants to be, and in an attempt to be “everything”, fails on all accounts.
On the other hand, the small amount of customer feedback posted on BodyBuilding.com is largely positive, although no one seems to be touting its amazing thermogenic properties.
That said, we’d love to hear from Red Zone users. How did you like it?