Shakeology claims to be the “healthiest meal of the day” and to help you lose weight, feel energized, improve digestion and lower cholesterol. In reality it may just be an expensive substitute for real food that has loads of ingredients with little scientific backing.
Type Of Product
Beachbody LLC. (website)
From the manufacturer’s nutritional information (PDF):
Not only is Shakeology delicious, this patent-pending formula is packed with proteins and energy-providing carbohydrates, plus a combination of nutrients that is simply impossible to find at your local supermarket or even health food store. Beachbody searched the world to find açai and goji berries, camu-camu, quinoa, wheat grass, maca root, and sacha inchi (just to name a few) so you don’t have to. With Shakeology, you truly have a world of nutrition at your fingertips.
Price Per Serving
US: $4.30 – $6.33 ($129 – $189.90 / month)
EU: €5.29 – €5.56 ( €158.70 – €166.80 / month)
(Monthly cost calculated with one daily serving and as total with shipping and tax, where applicable)
Vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, and K, folic acid, mineral mixture, whey protein isolate, Plukentia volubilis seed, sprouted Flax seed, sprouted Chia seed, pea fiber, Quinoa seed, Amaranth seed, Acerola cherry, pomegranate, Camu-Camu, apple pectin fiber, Bilberry, Goji berry,blueberry, açai berry, citrus bioflavonoids, decaffeinated green tea, rose hips, grape seed, Maca root, Astragalus root, Ashwagandha root, Maitake mushroom, Cordyceps fungi, Reishi mushroom, Holy Basil, Ginkgo, Schisandra fruit, Spirulina, Chlorella, Hydrilla, Spinach, Barley grass, Kamut grass, Oat grass, wheat grass, Yacon root, Bifodobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Streptococcus thermophilus, methylsulfonylmethane, Amylase, Papain, Protease, Lipase, Lactase, Cellulase, Bromelain, fructose, Stevia, Cocoa powder, Xanthan gum, Chocolate powder, Guar gum, and Cinnamon powder.
The nutritional information sheet starts off with the list of vitamin and mineral contents per serving, that range anywhere from 22 too 300 percent of the RDA. This especially stands out in the 100% RDA of vitamin A – vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, that can become toxic when overdosed. Anyone regularly using Shakeology and getting at least some vitamin A from their normal nutrition, which is likely, can run into this.
The list moves on to so-called “proprietary superfoods / fiber blends”. The “superfoods” turn out to be sources of essential fatty acids (Sacha Inchi, flax, chia), while the pea fiber among the three fiber sources is often found as a filler in pet foods that claim to be “natural” or “holistic”. The other two fiber sources, Quinoa and Amaranth, are so-called “pseudo-” or “proto-” grains and these days readily available in most health food stores.
Next on the list are antioxidants, where we meet a lot of the usual suspects: Goji berry, Acerola cherry, green tea, Acai berry, pomegranate and others. At least some of these, such as the the goji berry and the acai berry have very little evidence behind them about a positive effect on human health.
The “proprietary adaptogen herb blend” introduces a term: “adaptogens”. These are herbs that supposedly help the body “keep its balance”. Unfortunately, if there was little evidence for the antioxidant fruits doing something useful, we move into the territory of “just about non-existent” for adaptogens. It says a lot when even the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), that sometimes tends to give alternative medicines the benefit of doubt, is critical. About astralagus, for example, they write that “evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited” and that “high-quality clinical trials (studies in people) are generally lacking“.
This brings us to the phytonutrient (“super-green”), pre- and probiotic and digestive enzymes blends. Phytonutrients are nutrients that aren’t vitamins, but can still have a positive effect on the body. That sounds good, but any cheap apple provides you with about 2,000 of these substances, while for the spirulina in Shakeology we at the moment don’t even know if it does anything at all for humans. Probiotic bacteria can be found in any yogurt for a couple of cent, while you can easily get enough prebiotics with wheat bran, bananas and many other foods. Finally, supplementing digestive enzymes is unnecessary for anyone with a working digestion.
With that we are almost through, as there is only methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) left. The ingredient with the name that so easily rolls of the tongue is a sulfur compound, about whom in the past various health claims have been made. While sulfur itself is needed in the human metabolism, the body readily produces it from dietary protein. Supplementing it will likely have very little effect.
When I researched this article, the first thing that stood out was that any search for “Shakeology” or “Shakeology review” presents you with a list of results where the first ten or twenty pages are mostly made up of websites that, let’s put it delicately, seem to have an interest in saying something positive about the product. I may entirely misjudge what it takes to generate attention for a good product these days, but I have to confess that I believe a good product should need no support in this form.
With further searching, I finally found an article on Bloomberg Businessweek, where Darin Olien and Bill Wheeler, responsible for Shakeology at Beachbody LLC, explain how they designed it:
We look at all the science, the historical data, the literature, and make a SWAG. A scientific wild ass guess. Sometimes you can’t wait for all the science. In 1853, a British naval surgeon said one lime a day would prevent scurvy. It was 1920 before we knew the active compound was vitamin C. If they had waited for the science, how many would have died in 70 years?
What these men basically say here is that they throw a bunch of ingredients together, sell it as a product and then check for what will happen. What puts insult next to injury is that the claim about scurvy is false. The connection between scurvy and lime was proven in what in fact was the world’s first formal clinical trial ever and that was in 1747. James Lind, who conducted it, didn’t go out and told sailors to eat x or y – he tested each fruit for effectiveness in treating scurvy and only then made a recommendation.
On the Shakeology website, Beachbody LLC also prides itself with having had conducted scientific research on Shakeology, that supposedly prove the drink’s effectiveness. It is referenced on their website with this:
In a 90-day study, participants replaced one meal per day with Shakeology, ate a balanced diet, and exercised moderately three times per week. Total cholesterol was reduced on average by 30% and LDL cholesterol was reduced on average by 38%.
Was there a control group that “ate a balanced diet and exercised moderately three times per week” but didn’t use Shakeology? Were there any differences between the groups? Did the study fulfill scientific requirements? And why doesn’t Beachbody LLC formally publish it? If you have positive scientific evidence, wouldn’t that be the best advertisement of all?
In short, you can very likely have the same benefits without a daily Shakeology shake that costs a whopping $129 minimum per month. Just invest the money in a balanced diet and the moderate exercise three times per week.