Today we’re looking at a well-known product called Skald, from Beldt Labs.
Skald is one of the many hundreds (thousands?) of fat burner products in the supplement marketplace and has close ties with MMA and fight sports.
The company talks a good game with their marketing, and user reviews are generally strong. So let’s take a look under the covers and see if the product and claims stack-up.
Incorporated in California in 2011, Beldt Labs designs and sells high-quality performance supplements for MMA Fighters and explosive action athletes. Beldt has a number of pro athletes in their camp, including the highly successful Stephan Bonnar—UFC Hall of Famer perhaps best known for his gruelling brawl with Forest Griffin in April of 2005 to win the light heavyweight finals.
Ever since the launch of their first product—BELDT: Force Thermogenic—Beldt Labs has been firmly rooted in the fat burner market. With the latest evolution in their fat-burner product line, Skald claims to be the world’s very first fat burner with respiratory support. More on that later.
Most fat burners work by targeting and supporting one or more mechanisms of fat loss, including increased fat metabolism or energy expenditure, limiting fat absorption and reducing energy intake through appetite suppression.
On their product page, Skald opens with three potential benefits associated with their product.
- May Provide Astounding Energy & Fat Loss
- May Offer Respiratory Support
- Appetite Control
The powder form of the product also speaks to a Hydration Complex, a simple electrolyte blend of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, along with a dose of Taurine.
Astounding Energy & Fat Loss
There are a number of ingredients in the Skald product that have the potential to boost the metabolism of fats, increase energy and improve mental focus, including staples like caffeine and green tea extract.
However, as you’ll see when we get to the ingredients below, Skald uses a proprietary blend, and with the exception of caffeine we have no idea how much of each ingredient they are including.
Skald repeatedly speaks to the benefit of respiratory support that will allow you to push through and beyond your comfort zone, and therefore extend your workout and energy expenditure.
The two ingredients seemingly at the heart of this benefit are Elecampane and Mullein—herbs that have been used in medicines to treat conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.
A scan of the reviews suggests that a great many users do indeed feel the benefits of appetite suppression, although Skald does not make a strong play of this in any of their marketing beyond the opening claim on the product page.
Theobromine is the only stand-out ingredient that could be working to help improve appetite control.
As mentioned above, Skald uses a proprietary Oxydynamic Blend in their formulations. As a result, it is very hard to assess the potential efficacy or risk associated with the ingredients in support of the claimed product benefits.
We are primarily looking at the capsules with this review, but Skald is also available as a powder with the same Oxydynamic Blend. The Skald powder does include an electrolyte blend, as well as Taurine to further help balance electrolytes.
However, the primary difference with the powdered product is in the dosing—particularly the caffeine. As a result, we’ll cover both the capsule and powder forms in our section on Dosing and How To Take later in the review.
It’s also worth mentioning that Skald is produced in a GMP compliant facility, which assures proper design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and facilities.
A Modern ECA Stack?
From a look at the ingredients list, it appears as though Skald is attempting to recreate something akin to the potent ECA stack popular with weight loss products in the 1990s and early 2000s.
These early formulas that included Ephedra, Caffeine and Aspirin were ultimately phased out when Ephedra was banned in the U.S. in 2004 by the FDA due to serious safety concerns, injuries and deaths associated with Ephedra-containing supplements.
In the Skald formulation, you have the Caffeine, along with Synephrine—a chemical compound found in Bitter Orange Extract that is similar in structure to Ephedra—as well as White Willow Bark, which is frequently referred to as nature’s aspirin.
Ingredient List (capsules)
|Serving Size: 1 Capsule|
Servings per container: 60
|Amount Per Serving||% Daily Amount|
|Green Tea Leaf Extract||—||**|
|Synephrine (Bitter Orange Fruit Extract)||—||**|
|White Willow Bark Extract||—||**|
|Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus Leaf Powder)||—||**|
|Elecampane (Inula Helenium Root Powder)||—||**|
|Bioperine (Black Pepper Extract)||—||**|
** Daily Value Not Established
Other Ingredients: Rice Flour, Gelatin (capsule), Magnesium Stearate, Titanium Dioxide (color)
There’s a lot of overlap between fat burners and pre workout products in that they both seek to stimulate energy production to boost performance and ultimately have you doing more work.
As a result, it’s not surprising to see caffeine in the ingredients list as it’s long been used to boost energy, reduce feelings of fatigue and help improve mental focus.
Each capsule contains 110mg of Caffeine Anhydrous—roughly the equivalent of one cup of regular coffee.
That may not sound like a lot, but dosing with the capsules suggest you start at one capsule and progress to two capsules with the morning dose based on tolerance. A third and final capsule is taken 5-6 hours later.
Certainly 220mg of caffeine is an effective dose for many individuals. However, as with all classes of stimulant, the effects are very personal and greatly influenced by your size (body mass) and tolerance.
N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosone—or NALT—is a highly soluble form of the amino acid L-Tyrosine and is commonly found in nootropic formulations to help improve mood as a precursor to dopamine. However, the data on its effectiveness on mood and mental focus is both limited and inconclusive.
It has also been shown to help reduce stress during exposure to acute stressors—such as exercise.
However, dosage for stress reduction is usually 500-1000mg, and given each capsule is only 241g (nett of caffeine) there likely isn’t nearly enough NALT in the capsules to meet that demand.
Green Tea Leaf Extract
Skald includes Green Tea Leaf Extract to help boost metabolism—a common wonder-ingredient in fat loss formulations.
In a fat burner context, Green Tea Extract contains a number of important molecules and the key one we care about is Epigallocatechin Gallate—or EGCG. However, according to the scientists, any fat-loss benefits of EGCG on resting metabolism are tied to caffeine, and most critically the user being caffeine naive. This means that if you’re a regular consumer of caffeine, you may derive little to no benefit from the inclusion of this ingredient.
Furthermore, the effects of green tea extract on body weight and body composition has been extensively reviewed in the scientific literature. Unfortunately, the conclusions are seldom as exciting as we want them to be:
Green tea or gree tea extracts intake or its extracts exerts no statistically significant effect on the weight of overweight or obese adults. There is a small effect on the decrease in the percentage of fat mass, but it is not clinically relevant.
Synephrine (Bitter Orange Fruit Extract)
Synephrine is an alkaloid of bitter orange and is frequently included in weight management products for it’s claimed effects of increasing basal metabolic rate and improving lipolysis—the breakdown of fats for energy.
However, according to WebMD, Bitter Orange has shown mixed results in studies—both in isolation and in combination with other ingredients typically found in fat-loss formulations.
It’s also worth noting that there are a number of concerns around the safety of Bitter Orange Extract as a supplement, and in particular synephrine—a compound that is chemically similar to ephedra.
The FDA banned ephedra in 2004 for serious side effects on the heart, and synephrine used in combination with caffeine has been shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate in healthy adults.
As a result, synephrine is on the banned substances list for the National Collegiate Athletic Association—NCAA.
White Willow Bark Extract
White Willow Bark Extract is often referred to as nature’s aspirin and has frequently been used in herbal remedies to help reduce swelling, joint and muscle pain associated with arthritis.
The combination of the Willow Bark, Synephrine and Caffeine is likely intended to create a thermogenic effect on the body by increasing blood flow to the muscles as well increasing body temperature.
Anecdotally, profuse sweating is frequently listed as commonplace in user-reviews.
Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus Leaf Powder)
Skald is touted as the world’s first fat burner with respiratory support and Mullein is one of the two ingredients likely at the heart of that claim.
Mullein has a long history in herbal medicine and is frequently used to treat a myriad of lung-based conditions such as coughs, hoarseness, TB, bronchitis etc. So it makes sense that there are properties of Mullein that could help to improve breathing and thus athletic performance.
However, I could not find any scientific studies to support the use of Mullein in a sporting context.
Theobromine is a naturally occurring compound found in cacao plants and is largely responsible for giving dark chocolate its typical bitter taste.
Amongst the many reported benefits, Theobromine:
- Acts as a mild stimulant, increasing heart rate in a dose-dependant manner not unlike caffeine.
- Lowers blood pressure when taken in higher doses of 250-1000mg.
- May help brain function improving performance on mental tasks.
However, effective dosing of Theobromine is ~500mg with little to no side-effects, and we have no idea how much Theobromine is in the Skald formula.
Elecampane (Inula Helenium Root Powder)
Elecampane has a lot of history in herbal medicine and is the other ingredient that Skald includes under the banner of respiratory support.
However, while Elecampane appears to have historical merit in the treatment of lung-related conditions like asthma and bronchitis, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims at this time.
Bioperine (Black Pepper Extract)
The active ingredient here is Piperine—the common name for the patented BioPerine® named in the ingredients list.
A common ingredient in pre workouts and fat loss products, Piperine has been shown to enhance the bioavailability (absorption) of other compounds. This is particularly relevant to the EGCG catechins found in Green Tea—another key ingredient included in Skald.
Dosing to support enhanced absorption is generally considered to be 20mg. However, we have no indication as to how much Piperine is included in Skald to assess its effectiveness in this context.
Dosage and How to Take Skald
Skald is available in both capsule and powder form, and in both cases tolerance should be assessed before increasing to the maximum dosage.
Skald also recommends cycling off the product for two full weeks after six weeks of use.
The standard dose is one capsule taken on an empty stomach 15-30 minutes before breakfast.
An addition capsule can be taken 5-6 hours later.
The initial morning dose can be increased to two capsules if desired.
As a stimulant, all normal recommendations apply and Skald makes very clear on the packing:
- DO NOT exceed 2 capsules per dose.
- DO NOT exceed 3 capsules in 24 hours.
- DO NOT use Skald with any other stimulant-based products.
- Never to exceed the recommended dosage.
The standard dose is one scoop mixed with 6-8 ounces of water taken on an empty stomach 15-30 minutes before you workout.
NOTE: This differs from the capsules which do not mention taking them around workout times. This is because Beldt is positioning Skald as a pre-workout and fat burner product with hydration support.
More tolerant users can add an additional half-scoop to the initial dose.
The same stimulant warnings exist for the powder:
- DO NOT exceed one and a half (1.5) scoops per dose.
- DO NOT exceed one and a half (1.5) scoops in 24 hours.
- DO NOT use Skald with any other stimulant-based products.
- Never to exceed the recommended dosage.
Claims vs. Reality
Skald makes a lot of pretty bold claims across their website and marketing.
Some are just silly and contradictory, while others are simply tough to corroborate.
Here’s three that stood out for us.
World’s First Fat Burner With Respiratory Support?
This is simply going to be hard to support, and Skald makes no effort to quantify or qualify their statement that we could find.
Certainly there are products that share some of the same key ingredients, like Elecampane. For example, Fireball Liqui-Fusion contains this ingredient—they just don’t call it out for respiratory support.
There’s also the fact that the science behind the two key respiratory support ingredients—Elecampane and Mullein—is largely non-existent.
So perhaps something like this would be more accurate?
Skald—Claimed as the World’s First Fat Burner With Possible Respiratory Support.
No Cardio! Improves Cardio!
This is one of the more nonsensical claims Skald makes on its product pages.
Here’s the headline:
HATE CARDIO? NOW YOU DON’T HAVE TO!
However, Skald then goes on to talk extensively about how their unique formulation with respiratory support can help you experience greater relief from that tight chest strain commonly associated with dreaded bouts of cardio.
At the very least it seems odd to sell yourself as uniquely positioned to provide added breathing and respiratory support, and then go on to nullify the biggest single reason for needing that support in the first place—a.k.a. Cardio!
Nearly Double The Weight Loss 60-Day Study
Taken from a Skald marketing web page:
Includes C. Aurantium, clinically proven to nearly double weight loss in a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled human study
Parking the somewhat disingenuous presentation of trying to pass this claim off as a study on Skald itself, it took some digging for us to find the mentioned study of C. Aurantium (Bitter Orange Extract).
Skald does not reference or link to the study, and we ultimately found reference to it in a meta analysis on the safety of C. Aurantium and its primary protoalkaloid Synephrine.
The unpublished study referenced in the meta analysis is this one:
Zenk JL, Kuskowski MA. A prospective, randomized, double blind study to evaluate the effect of Lean Source™ on body composition in overweight adult men and women. Unpublished report. 2005.
We can’t link to it because as an unpublished paper it is not part of the pubmed database.
But here’s what you’d want to know as a potential consumer:
- The study was looking at a specific product formulation—Lean Source™—that included many other ingredients including guarana, green tea, (DHEA), conjugated linoleic acid and chromium picolinate.
- The daily consumption of bitter orange extract was 200mg although the exact dosing of p-synephrine content was not noted. Given that there is only 241mg of non-caffeine ingredients in each pill, it is highly unlikely that Skald contains anything close that dose.
- The study clearly concluded that it is not possible to determine the role of p-synephrine and the bitter orange extract in the observed effects.
Who is it Best For?
Skald targets and sells to the general fitness market, but their own Help Center goes on to say this about Beldt Supplements:
It would depend upon the user’s purpose. Our supplements have been specially designed for elite fighters (MMA, boxing, etc) and other high-intensity athletes. However, this does not mean other types of athletes cannot find similar benefits in using our products, only that it is entirely up to the discretion of the user to determine whether or not our supplements are right for their particular performance needs.
Nonetheless, if you are an adult over the age of 18 that is actively involved in a program of training and exercise, you should be safe to evaluate their products.
As with all stimulant–containing supplements, Skald is quick to advise that you consult with a certified medical professional before taking their supplements.
You should NOT be taking Skald if you are pregnant, nursing or have a known medical condition.
Skald Safety and Side Effects
Skald does not speak to any side effects in their marketing and claims to contain no dangerous ingredients. However they do go on to qualify that exceeding the recommended dosages could lead to unwanted effects.
Looking at the ingredients themselves, there are a couple worth drawing your attention to.
A full dose of Skald contains over 200mg of caffeine, and the maximum dose takes that number well over 300mg. And depending on your existing level of caffeine tolerance, caffeine can make some people feel anxious or agitated, and an excess of caffeine can lead to headaches and stomach upset.
Synephrine (Bitter Orange Fruit Extract)
A chemical cousin of ephedra, the Synephrine in Bitter Orange Extract has been linked to a number of unpleasant side effects. According to WebMD, bitter orange is cited as POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken as a medical supplement for the purpose of weight loss.
Individual studies show mixed results, and the one meta analysis on safety that we found concluded that at doses commonly used, p‐synephrine does not product significant cardiovascular effects or other adverse events.
However, the author of that analysis has served as a consultant for Novel Ingredients—a company that markets bitter orange extracts.
Where to Buy + Costs
You can buy Skald directly on the Beldt Labs website, and through their dedicated Amazon hub. Shipping is free in both cases.
On the Skald website, the capsule costs are as follows:
- 1 Bottle Skald Capsules – $47 ($0.78/count)
- 3 Bottles Skald Capsules – $126.90 ($0.71/count)
- 6 Bottles Skald Capsules – $225.60 ($0.63/count)
An additional 10% can be saved by opting for the Subscribe & Save option, where product is shipped automatically every 30, 90 and 180 days respectively.
Up at Amazon, there are no bundles and you simply pay for each bottle at $49.99—$0.83/count.
However, the product does qualify for next day delivery through Prime, and you can also save 15% when ordering 5 or more bottles through the Subscribe & Save option.
Capsules or Powder?
The Skald powder is positioned as a pre workout fat burner and is priced at $37 per container of 30 servings, or $1.23 per serving. As with the capsules, you can save a further 10% with Subscribe & Save, bringing the per-serving price down to just $1.10.
When you consider that TWO capsules are commonly taken, the powdered pre workout version of Skald works out to be a considerably-cheaper way to take the product.
Money Back Guarantee?
Skald offers a 60-Day money back guarantee with their product.
A quick review of the guarantee suggests there are no onerous hoops to jump through, and that you can simply contact Beldt within 60 days of receipt of your order to secure a RMA number.
However the Terms contradicts that slightly stating that the 60-day return policy is from the point of purchase (vs when the product is received).
You’ll also need to provide proof of purchase to qualify, and you’ll need to cover the costs of return shipping.
The Bottom Line
How does Skald stack-up to the hype and is it worth your money?
Does Skald Work?
Skald takes a novel approach in their formulation of this product by:
- Adding Elecampane and Mullein for respiratory support to help you push through the wall and extend your workouts.
- Modernizing the popular and effective ECA stacks of the 1990s by stacking Synephrine (Bitter Orange), Caffeine and White Willow.
However, the science to support both of the above is inconclusive and relies on a combination of animal studies, limited human trials, user anecdote and extrapolation.
The remaining ingredients found in Skald are commonplace in fat-loss formulations and could well help boost workout performance and lipolysis—the breakdown of fats for energy.
Should I Buy Skald?
With the Skald formulation, Brandt Labs presents an interesting product that modernizes the ECA stack and claims to provide respiratory support to help get you through your workouts.
And while the science is not really there to support some of the claims, Skald does include a number of staple ingredients that have been shown to improve energy, boost metabolism and help with fat loss. However, we generally don’t like blended formulas as it makes it nigh on impossible for us to assess the potential effectiveness of the ingredients for consumers.
So here’s the bottom line: Hard evidence aside, there are a lot of user reviews that speak to the effectiveness of this popular fat burner supplement. And while it’s not the cheapest product in the marketplace, if it works for you it could be money well spent. But as a blended product, just go-slowly to evaluate your tolerance to the ingredients, and strictly follow the recommended dosage to avoid any unwanted negative effects.