Dec142015

Posted in Diet Reviews.

I’m getting a lot of hate mail from people who are using products that I review and apparently are very offended by my criticisms of the diets. Here is what I have to say to anyone who is reading my reviews:

My reviews are not ‘try it and review my results’. I have a series I’m doing now called ‘I Tried It So You Don’t Have To’, where I am actually trying diets. My original diet reviews, like this one, are simply to compare the claims that the company makes with the research out there (and basic physiology). So writing me and bitching at me for not trying the diet…that’s not the point of these reviews. If you want testimonials, you can go online and find some. 

Before and after photos, testimonials, your own personal experience…they are easily fabricated, but besides that, they don’t have anything to do with the science. If you like to base your opinion of a product on before and after pictures and your husband’s weight loss while using it, then go ahead. I’m taking a deeper dive into the claims and science behind them. If that’s not your jam, don’t read my review. 

Contrary to what you may believe, I have almost 20 years of experience being a dietitian. This means I’ve taken plenty of university courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and nutrition. I’ve worked with critically ill patients, babies, people who are palliative, and I have done thousands of hours of counselling in my career. I am also open-minded about Eastern AND Western medicine. So yes, I do know what I’m talking about. I just like you to have as much information as possible before you start taking something (and spending your money on it).

I am not writing negative reviews in order to bolster my counselling business. That’s hilarious. I have enough clients, thanks for your concern! 

Stop taking it personally when I write negative things about your diet. If you like a diet, if it works for you, and it’s not dangerous, then go ahead and use it. Every single diet will have its success stories. You’ll also want to think about what you’re going to do in the future once you get tired of drinking diet coffee/having a shake instead of a meal/are broke from buying all sorts of supplements. For long term success, you should be changing your diet and lifestyle as well as taking a supplement. 

Its been a while since I reviewed Isagenix. Since then, lots of people have asked me to review Shakeology, so here we go!

Shakeology is marketed as ‘The Healthiest Meal Replacement Shake’, which I guess is a dubious honor – sort of like saying ‘the healthiest chocolate bar you can buy’. I mean, replacing a meal of healthy food that you can chew with a ‘meal replacement shake’ is not something generally regarded as being healthy. To that end, Shakeology’s ‘Make It Your Healthiest Meal Of The Day’ tagline should probably be changed to ‘Drink Me When You Have No Other Solid Food Options’. But anyhow.

Let’s take a look at the website.

The Shakeology website includes testimonials from some doctors, but their specialties are as follows: plastic surgery, anesthesiology, ‘age specialist’ (? I wasn’t aware that that’s a specialty, but maybe I just haven’t noticed in my 17 years of being an RD), otolaryngology (otherwise known as an ear, nose, and throat doctor), and internal medicine. Being the daughter of an orthopaedic surgeon and having worked in hospitals/around docs for more than half my life (gulp) I know that most doctors – especially in non-gastroenterology specialties like the ones above – know very little about nutrition. This is precisely why many dietitians – myself included – actually have jobs. To prove my point, the Age Specialist quoted even goes so far as to say that a low-glycemic diet burns fat. Wait, what? No it doesn’t, Mr. Age Specialist. Having an MD after your name doesn’t necessarily mean you know anything about nutrition (or apparently, the glycemic index). What I’m trying to say is, don’t let doctors’ testimonials fool you, here and otherwise.

The website then goes on to say how many fruits and vegetables you’d have to eat to equal the nutrients that you’d get in one glass of Shakeology. Are people still using this analogy? You can’t fairly compare whole food to a drink. The nutrition in whole fruits and vegetables is completely different than the manufactured vitamins and minerals that are present in a meal replacement shake. Don’t let yourself be convinced into believing that Shakeology is superior to whole foods, because it’s not. No, no, no. The site claims that Shakeology replaces $41 worth of fruits and vegetables in one single glass. Wow, that sounds really impressive! Saving you lots of money is what Shakeology is all about! Hold on…in terms of nutrition, how much does Shakeology actually replace solid, healthy food? There’s no comparison. The only thing Shakeology should be replacing, if anything, is $41 worth of crap food like the chips and chocolate bars that are in your pantry. 30 servings of Shakeology comes out to $130 before taxes or shipping – so that’s $4.33 a serving. How many fruits and vegetables and yogurt can you buy for 5 bucks? Probably enough to replace your Shakeology serving for the day.

Okay, moving on – let’s see what’s in these shakes.

The nutritionals are actually clean – only 8 grams of sugar, a bunch of ‘proprietary’ blends of herbs that are not magical but shouldn’t be harmful to the average person, and lots of whey and pea protein. Essentially these are protein shakes, but the 17 grams per shake is a bit below the 20-25 grams of protein that I recommend per meal.

The fiber in Shakeology is pre-and pro-biotic, which is great. There’s also fiber in the shake that comes from healthy foods like chia and flax, so that’s also good.

Each shake has only 160 calories, which is about 340 calories short of an actual meal by my recommendations. You’re basically relying on 17 grams of protein to keep you full until your next meal or snack, and good luck to you. I would say that Shakeology is a great snack, but definitely not a meal.

The good thing is that Shakeology realizes this as well. Their website FAQ’s state:

 

Shakeology is a dietary supplement that when prepared with certain liquids, healthy ingredients, and/or fruit can contain enough calories to replace a meal. As with all dietary supplements, Shakeology is designed to supplement your healthy diet and not be the only source of nutrition throughout the day. Shakeology is not recommended to replace more than two meals per day. 

 

The thing that’s confounding is that Shakeology is marketed as a meal-replacement shake, not a ‘dietary supplement’. You really have to dig into the website to find the above recommendation about boosting the calories in the shakes up. I find that a bit misleading.

One thing I like about Shakeology is that they’re really not making any crazy claims about their product being some magical weight-loss tool. The website states:

 

“Shakeology is a powerful superfood formula designed to provide you with the nutrients you need to lose weight, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and support healthy blood sugar levels. Shakeology contains globally harvested ingredients, such as adaptogens, proteins, prebiotics, and antioxidants that support energy levels, support regularity and digestion, and help curb junk food cravings.”

 

All of this is essentially true. So good going, Shakeology. They also discontinued their ‘cleanse’ program, and that makes me smile as well. You know how I feel about cleanses!

Something that does irk me about Shakeology, and I have to mention this, is the ‘Team Beachbody’ thing that it’s associated with. Can we please stop talking about beach bodies? A beach body is a body in a bathing suit. A fat body, a thin body, a pink, green, yellow, or orange body. Whatever body you have is your beach body. Let’s stop idealizing the ‘perfect bikini body’, because that BS doesn’t exist. Be the healthiest and happiest that you can be, and stop trying to fit into society’s warped vision of ‘beach body’, which we all know is unrealistic for 99% of us.

In short:

1. Shakeology has too few calories to be used on its own as a meal replacement, unless you like getting hangry. If you use it as a meal replacement, I’d recommend adding some almond butter and some whole-milk Greek yogurt to beef it up a bit in calories and in protein. And for god’s sake, add a piece of fruit or some vegetables on the side. Don’t expect to use a shake for the long term to replace a meal, because that’s not sustainable. It’s better to learn how to eat 3 solid-food meals a day in the first place than have to train yourself off a shake.

2. Shakeology is marketed as a meal replacement, but deeper in the website is essentially designated as a ‘dietary supplement’. The company seems to be a bit confused about these terms – or maybe marketing the shakes as ‘meal replacements’ with a hidden disclaimer is more lucrative. Yup, that’s probably what it is.

3. Shakeology doesn’t seem to contain anything harmful, so it can make a good snack if you like to drink your snacks.

4. Don’t be fooled by the ‘XYZ is equivalent to ABC in fruits and vegetables’, because there’s no comparison. Whole foods trump processed stuff hands down, every time. And the money you ‘save’ by using Shakeology seems like a myth. Stop buying crap and eat real food, and you’ll save money in the long run, no need to spend $130 on 30 Shakeology shakes.

5. Doctors don’t necessarily know what they’re talking about when they talk about nutrition.

6. Let’s forget about the word ‘beach body’, because any body on a beach is a beach body. Be the healthiest and happiest that YOU can be, not that you THINK you should be, and forget society’s silly, obnoxious ‘beach body ideal’.

The Verdict:

Eat real food (the healthy stuff), or if you’re stuck on the idea of Shakeology, use it as a snack replacement made with water, or a meal replacement made with add-ins like yogurt and almond butter. Don’t expect miracles: it’s better to teach yourself to eat 3 solid-food meals a day for the long term than have to train yourself off a shake eventually.

For more on diets, check out my reviews on: Isagenix, Herbalife, Zija, and Plexus.

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