Dieting is hard and counting calories definitely isn’t fun. It’s difficult to find a plan that’s sustainable and doesn’t totally impede your life. That’s where meal replacements can come in. They’re quick. They’re easy. Depending on your lifestyle, they can be very convenient.
But do they work? Shakeology swears by their product. They even go as far as to call it “the healthiest meal of the day”. But is it right for you?
Shakeology has a few options for you to choose from. The first is a three day refresh. For this option you take three shakes for three days with a fiber drink and you supplement it with fruits, veggies, and other healthy options.
The main problem with the refresh is that the shakes are only about 150 calories per shake. That means you’re eating about 450 calories. You need to take in at least 1,200 calories per day in order to not be considered as having an eating disorder (unless otherwise prescribed by your doctor). This means you need to snack on around 750 calories of fruits and veggies.
If you’ve tried it, you know how hard that can be. So this option may not be the most ideal pick. That doesn’t write off Shakeology completely, though, because there are other options out there.
Shakeology users typically opt for two shakes per day to lose weight and one shake per day to maintain the weight loss. Most people can easily replace breakfast with a shake. The harder meal to replace is lunch. This is because the shake mix typically requires a blender. There are small, single-serve blenders that are fairly cheap or some people think blender bottles are efficient enough, so it’s not necessarily a deal breaker yet.
The best part is that you simply mix it with a cup of water so you don’t have to worry about storing your skim or soy milk during the workday if you opt to replace lunch. Also with the two shakes totally 300 calories, you have 900 left for going out to eat for dinner or having a snack with a dinner at home. It’s actually pretty feasible.
The first issue usually arises when you look at price. The three day refresh can run you up to $80. Say what now?! That’s about $8.00 per shake- much more than a typical home-made meal. The regular shake program is a little better. You can get 24 pre-portioned shake mix packets for $130 (~$5.00 per shake) or the big bag of 30 servings for $130 (~$4.00 per shake). This may not seem bad, but if you’re doing two shakes per day you’ll be dropping $260 on diet products per month. That’s pretty expensive for a shake mix. Especially if you learn you don’t like the taste after you buy the product.
The next potential downside comes with the flavors. First, there are some people out there who just don’t like the taste of Shakeology products. If you don’t like it, there’s no point in trying to force yourself to learn to like it. It’s too expensive for that, especially when there are some products that are comparable at lower prices that might taste better to you.
However, Shakeology is adding more flavors to its repertoire. They now have 5 regular flavors: café latte, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and greenberry. They also have 2 vegan options: chocolate and tropical strawberry. Of course, they say you can add extras like cinnamon, fruit, and whatnot to create new flavors of your own, but this diminishes the convenience aspect of the product.
Shakeology has recently added boost products to their repertoire. You can choose from focused energy, power greens, and digestive health. Focused energy has 100mg of caffeine from guarana (fancy for coffee) and green tea. Both are stimulants that have also been shown to help promote weight loss.
Power greens offers 1 serving of vegetables with a ½ serving of fruit. Digestive health has a whopping 7 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber. Not only will it help make you regular, but fiber has also been shown to help increase weight loss. As always, though, it comes down to price.
So to the more important question- do meal replacements even work? Should you even be looking at Shakeology at all? The answer is a resounding yes!
Shakeology itself has very limited research. There is only one study done with Shakeology products, but the study did show promising results. After using the products for 90 days, users experienced an average weight loss of 9 pounds, lowered their cholesterol by 7%, and reduced their blood sugar by an average of 5%.
This seems impressive, but with a restricted-calorie diet you should lose about 1-2 pounds per week. At the bare minimum of 1 pound per week, you should lose at least 13 pound in 90 days if not 26. So really, the results are not as promising as they originally appear.
Still, meal replacements have their place in weight loss. Research has shown that meal replacements can be just as effective as calorie counting diets. This study did not look exclusively at Shakeology, but it still had some promising results.
Also, meal replacements can do more than help you lose weight, they can help you keep it off. This means meal replacements can be an effective way to lose weight and maintain your weight loss, something most diet plans tend to lack. Shakeology itself even meets the guidelines for choosing a meal replacement- it’s low fat, low calorie, with lots of vitamins and minerals.
Meal replacements can also been effective for those with metabolic syndrome and those with type II diabetes[3,6]. By helping you to lose weight and reduce average blood sugar, meal replacements can help alleviate symptoms of the two diseases. If you don’t have either diagnosis, you can still benefit from the weight loss and blood sugar reduction, anyway.
The primary ingredient in Shakeology is whey protein. Whey is a milk product that often contains traces of casein, so if you’re lactose intolerant you may want to opt for the vegan options because it can potentially trigger your symptoms. Aside from that, whey itself is fairly good for your health. It lowers blood sugar, which can be good if you are not a type I diabetic.
However, it also increases your risk of bleeding, which can be dangerous if you are already on blood thinners. If you can take whey, it can even act as an appetite suppressant if you take more than 50 grams per day (which you will meet with Shakeology).
Whey protein has also been shown to promote muscle synthesis (building) after resistance exercise. This can be a great way to boost your exercise program. Overall, Shakeology has some great ingredients in it. Although, natural foods are always preferred.
Shakeology does try to be open and honest about their product. They readily share their ingredients and nutrition labels. They even try to give you a cost-effective means for taste sampling their products. You can try their 4 regular flavors or 2 vegan flavors for just $20. That way you can make sure you like it before you officially buy it.
The downside is that they do have distributors. This isn’t necessarily bad, but after being involved in the diet industry for a while you can get tired of having someone constantly trying to sell you something- especially something so expensive. Shakeology is also a part of Beach Body so it’s not just shake mix that they will try to sell you.
There are books, workout DVDs, tons of products for them to pressure you into buying. Sometimes that makes other products like Slimfast more appealing. It can be more convenient to order a product online and be done. This doesn’t mean you need to write Shakeology off your list- just be aware of what may be ahead of you.
Shakeology also uses some less-than-kosher phrases and advertisements. They like to throw around the words “superfoods” and other over-exaggerations that don’t exist in the scientific world. Ignore the hype and look at the label for the truth. The product is still good, but don’t be swayed by their false advertisements.
Shakeology is not truly available on Amazon because they have distributors. However, you can occasionally find the 3 day refresh. The 3 day refresh only has 3 out of 5 stars. Most users complain that they didn’t see results. Others say that it made them feel brand new.
To be honest, you can only safely lose 2 pounds per week (unless your doctor says otherwise). So you shouldn’t see many results in 3 days. It’s meant to be a replacement for a cleanse (See our article on cleanses for more details). But again, it’s not the most ideal product, so stick with the typical shakes if you choose Shakeology.
Ignoring the 3 day refresh, we give Shakeology a 4 out of 5 stars. The fifth star is reserved because they do make some bogus claims and have a very high price for their product.
However, if you can afford it and you enjoy the taste, this product can be a great way to lose weight. But, as always, it’s a good idea to try it before you buy it.
1. Amazon. (2016)
2. Ashley, J. M., Jeor, S. T., Perumean-Chaney, S., Schrage, J., & Bovee, V. (2001). Meal replacements in weight intervention. Obesity: A research journal, 9(S11), 312S-320S.
3. Cheskin, L. J., Mitchell, A. M., Jhaveri, A. D., Mitola, A. H., Davis, L. M., Lewis, R. A., Yep, M. A., & Lycan, T. W. (2008). The Diabetes Educator, 34(1), 118-127.
4. Costa, A., Dekker, M., Beumer, R. R., Rombouts, F. M., & Jongen, W. F. (2001). A consumer-oriented classification system for home meal replacements. Food Quality and Preference, 12(4), 229-242.
5. LeCheminant, J. D., Jacobsen, D. J., Hall, M. A., & Donnelly, J. (2004). A comparison of meal replacements and medication in weight maintenance after weight loss. American College of Nutrition, 24(5), 347-353.
6. Noakes, M., Foster, P. R., Keogh, J. B., & Clifton, P. M. (2004). Meal replacements are as effective as structure weight-loss diets for treating obesity in adults with features of metabolic syndrome. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences, 134(8), 1894-1899.
7. Pritchard, J. (2015). Whey protein and prostate cancer. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/479308-whey-protein-prostate-cancer/
8. Shakeology. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.shakeology.com/blogs/2014/07/03/shakeology-now-clinically-proven/
9. Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., Kujibida, G. W., Tarnopolsky, M. A., Phillips, S. M. (2009). Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 107(3), 987-992. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00076.2009
Emily has spent the last 8 years comparing, reviewing and analyzing ingredients in the supplements industry. She has worked extensively with dieticians, nutritionists and personal trainers to separate fact from fiction and help people achieve their fitness goals. In her free time she works and enjoys the outdoors with her husband and 2 children.