You guys know I love everything about nutrition. I am constantly reading books, listening to podcasts, taking grad classes, and basically learning everything I can get my hands on so I can be a better educator. Whether it’s my students in class or you all here, I love sharing what I’ve learned with others. I also am game for a little N=1 nutritional experimentation on myself at times. In fact, that’s how I found paleo 3 years ago. In my Paleo Transformation post I talk about how I decided to sign up for my CrossFit box’s paleo challenge. When training for a half marathon and my version of healthy eating wasn’t working, I figured I would give it a try. Fast forward to the end of the 63 day challenge and I was hooked and never looked back.
So when I was asked to try Shakeology this past summer I was intrigued; there are some pretty convincing before & after photos out there. I checked out the ingredients online and was actually surprised. Unlike another big name nutrition supplement company, Shakeology actually had ingredients that I recognized or had heard of before. Nowhere were ingredients like: soy protein isolate, fructose, cellulose powder, guar gum, corn bran, canola oil, & carrageenan. A quick Google search of this big company’s pumpkin spice shake reveals those cheap ingredients plus others. I have written a few posts (here, here, and here) on how important it is to read labels and know what you are putting in your body. Why anyone would want to drink something with those ingredients as opposed to eating real food is beyond me. What makes me SMH is that they convince themselves and others that it’s actually health promoting and better for you than real food.
Many of my friends were surprised when I told them that I was going to give it a try. I haven’t exactly been shy about my feelings towards liquid calories. I wrote this post and this post about liquid calories and why chewing food is a good idea. Like I said, if the ingredients were crap I wouldn’t have even agreed to try it. But it was the summer and I was out of work and way off my routine. Instead of getting up early to WOD and then eat breakfast in school before home room, I was sleeping in and being a full-time mom. I would wake up with my kids and have coffee…and nothing else until late morning or lunch. My sleeping, eating, and exercising schedule was way off and I was feeling it. If ever the convenience of a shake would be useful, now was the time so I decided that I would start August 1st. Luckily I was contacted by a friend through the blog who is a Beachbody coach and she was able to get it to me at her discount. Don’t get all excited, I was still paying $100 for a bag. Although this is a lot of money, if the stuff was quality and did what I wanted it to do, the money would be no problem.
So what was my goal? What was I looking for this “miracle shake” to do for me that I couldn’t do on my own? Well basically just lean out. I don’t care about how much I weigh. As long as my clothes are still fitting the way they are supposed to I don’t worry. But I will admit that I would love to decrease my body fat percentage and have some visible ab definition.
So did it work for me? That answer is a resounding NO. Not only did I not lean out but I actually put weight on. Not a lot (2 pounds) but when you are less than 5 feet tall, 2 pounds is a lot. I realized that it wasn’t working around the end of the first month (August). My clothes were beginning to feel a bit snug and I just didn’t like the way I was looking I realized I was about 5-7 lbs. heavier than I normally am. I chalked this up to it being the summer and my eating & drinking habits playing more of a role, so I decided to extend my research for another month. September was around the corner and so was my normal routine. I decided to change-up my recipe. Up until this point, I was making my daily shake with 1 banana, 1 tbsp PB, 1 tbsp grass-fed gelatin, 2 tbsp organic cacao powder, and 1 scoop vanilla Shakeology. I don’t eat fruit on a daily basis so I thought maybe the sugar in the banana was the culprit. So I swapped out the banana for ½ an avocado for the second month. Now some of you may be thinking that this was just a lot of calories. But one of my stipulations with trying this meal replacer shake in the first place was that it had to do just that, replace a meal and keep me full between meals. When I eat my traditional whole foods breakfast, I can go 4.5 hours between meals. Without my additions, the Shakeology didn’t satiate me and I would get hungry after only a few hours. (My whole shake was maybe 450 calories which isn’t a lot considering it was replacing a meal.)
I weighed myself after 2 weeks of doing nothing other than eliminating the Shakeology from my diet and I lost 2 pounds. I didn’t exercise more at all. In fact I tore my ACL in the beginning of October so if anything I was exercising less. Just coming off the shakes allowed my body to get back to where it wanted to be naturally.
My ultimate opinion & thoughts on Shakeology (and all other “Big Name” nutrition supplements too):
- What are you currently eating? If you are eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) then I think that swapping out your typical cereal, milk & banana or bagel & cream cheese breakfast for a Shakeology made with some grass-fed gelatin and avocado would be a much better choice. But then again I think that a green smoothie made with kale & grass-fed organic protein would be a better choice too. Is it the Shakeology that is so amazing or is it the fact that you will most likely feel better drinking real food than eating processed junk food. If you usually skip meals so your metabolism is tanked, then yes I do feel that drinking a shake would be a better option.
- What are your goals? If you look ontheBeachbody web site, Shakeology is marketed as a meal replacement-that means duh, it’s supposed to take the place of a real food meal. It’s the “healthiest meal of the day” because apparently no one can manage to eat the recommended 5-9 servings of vegetables & fruits. They say that even if you eat an amazingly healthy diet that you just
can’t get all the nutrition from food as you can from Shakeology. “It’s like eating over $41 of vegetables & fruit!” Sorry but I don’t agree. I am pretty sure that one of the reasons why it didn’t work for me is because I exercise regularly, get a decent amount of sleep, and eat a 95% strict paleo diet (no grains, dairy, or legumes) daily. I may splurge with a glass of red wine, some dark chocolate, or some tortilla chips, but that’s about as crazy as I get. I just don’t believe that any nutrient made in a factory or a laboratory is going to be better than real whole foods, ever, period, end of story. But according to the FAQ’s on shakeology.com, I should consult a doctor because I put weight on :-/ Oh and in the commercial straight from Beachbody, the Shakeology success story girl says point-blank “I don’t eat vegetables-not a single vegetable. And now I am drinking them for breakfast!” Face palm…
- Did I like the way it tasted? I can’t lie, I actually did. It tasted like a chocolate milk shake and I liked that I was guaranteed to get my gelatin serving for the day and I like that I was getting antioxidants & essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron , & calcium from the cacao. I never really experimented with the ton of recipes that are online. I found one that I liked and I drank it every day. Which brings me to my next point…
- Did I get bored drinking a shake every day? OMG YES! By 5 weeks I was so bored with drinking the same damn shake every day. Maybe it would have been different if I experimented with a bunch of different recipes, but I didn’t. All I know is by the end I couldn’t wait to chew some actual food.
- Was it easy? Um, duh yes. It cut down my lunch making by half. Instead of making something for breakfast and lunch to eat at school, I was just making my lunch and taking a shake. It was so easy that it made me pretty lazy. Again, not exactly what I was hoping to accomplish. This was basically a short-cut in my meal prep. Lazy & short-cuts are not words in my vocabulary usually…
- Are you obese? I see the before & after pictures of people I know who drink these types of supplements and lose weight. The negative health consequences from being obese far outweigh the consequences of drinking shakes. If the initial weight loss is the catalyst of increasing self-esteem which leads to eating right, exercising, and eventually coming off the shakes, then I am all for it.
- It’s not a lifestyle- a lifestyle is something that is sustainable and can be done for your whole life if desired. Just like being a vegetarian is a lifestyle choice for some, eating a nutrient dense whole foods diet is a lifestyle. I equate drinking these types of shakes like doing a nutrition challenge-a short-term change in one’s diet to accomplish a goal. Whether it is a Whole30, a 21 Day Sugar Detox, a Lurong Challenge, or my Ease Your Way into Paleo Challenge, the one thing that these plans all have in common is the fact that they are temporary. Doing these plans forces you to cook, eat new foods, and learn what foods makes you feel good and what foods make you feel terrible. These types of plan encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, learn something new, and apply it. What does drinking a shake teach you? Not nearly as much.
- The Cost– $129.95 for a 1 month supply. Kinda steep in my opinion. I would rather buy this grass-fed organic whey protein powder from Amazon for $35.
The bottom line is that eating a nutrient dense whole foods diet can be hard for some. It’s time consuming, involves planning, shopping (sometimes at more than 1 store), prepping, cooking, cleaning, having will power, and basically just being dedicated. Why would anyone want to do those things when it’s just so much easier to buy a supplement and convince yourself it’s actually better than the real thing? It’s a short cut; will you lose weight initially…maybe. I didn’t but maybe you will. But my question is: are you really willing to drink a shake for one of your meals for the rest of your life? Because if the answer is no and you haven’t learned what foods your body needs you to eat, then it’s just a matter of time before you put all the weight back on. I wrote a whole post on why 95% of people who go on diets put all the weight back on. You can read that here.
So there is it, my opinion on meal replacement shakes, specifically Shakeology. I am sure you are not surprised that I am not giving it my stamp of approval. There are no short cuts to anyplace worth going. Which reminds me of this pin which summarizes my entire message:
Ultimately I am just not comfortable recommending a product like this nor do I want to be a Beachbody “coach.” I put coach in quotes because really the better word would be cheerleader or salesperson. Although some coaches truly are legit coaches (meaning they have the background like myself) unfortunately so many are not. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable taking exercise and nutrition advice from someone who doesn’t have the background. Ultimately I am not trying to sell you all anything. No workout program, no nutritional supplements; I just spend my free time writing this blog trying to spread the word and educate as many as I can….for free…with no strings attached. I have a full-time job that I love and I wouldn’t give it up to work from home. Frankly, I don’t want to work from home. I have teacher’s hours and that’s just how I like it.
I hope this review has helped you. Just like I did a nutritional experiment with Shakeology and ultimately decided that it wasn’t for me, you can do the same with a nutrient dense whole food approach to eating. If jumping in 100% into this paleo way of eating seems overwhelming, check out my Ease Your Way into Paleo Plan where I walk you through the process in 15 weeks.
Remember that this post is my opinion from my personal experience taking Shakeology for 2 months. Feel free to check out my bio so you can see my background here.
Yours in Health,