Shakeology Review: A Non-biased Dietitian’s Review

three Shakeology flavours blended

Shakeology Review: A Non-biased Dietitian’s Review

Fitness giant Beachbody sells a popular protein shake mix called Shakeology. Or a “superfood nutrition shake” as they call it.

It has high claims like: “A world of superfoods in every glass.” But do the claims really stand up? And is it worth the money?

This blog post will review Shakeology including the ingredients in Shakeology, the pros and cons, my own taste test, and some cheaper alternatives to Shakeology.

Let’s get going!

Shakeology Ingredients

Here’s a link to the full ingredients in the whey-based Chocolate flavour, including the amounts of ingredients.

The instruction/marketing booklet that came along with my order states Shakeology contains:

  • 4 supergreen and phytonutrient sources
  • 3 superfruit sources
  • 5 antioxidant sources
  • 8 adaptogen sources
  • 4 prebiotic/probiotic sources
  • 6 digestive enzymes
  • 4 protein sources (whey protein, flax, quinoa, and pea protein) 
  • 4 fibre sources

Highlighted ingredients include maitake, moringa, maca root & ashwagandha. Asha-what?!

Since some of the ingredients read Greek to me (and I assume to you too!), I’ll break down a few of them here. What they are, how much Shakeology contains and some ingredient claims or potential uses. The Natural Medicines Database as my main reference.

Chorella (600mg)

Chlorella is seaweed, which is an antioxidant and perhaps antiviral. It’s probably effective for pregnancy-related iron deficiency. For other claims, there is not enough evidence (as is a common story for many of the ingredients…).

Natural medicine says studies have used safely 300-1800mg of Chlorella; so 600mg sounds like a reasonable serving size.

Yacon Root (400mg)

Yacon is a prebiotic. Prebiotics feed probiotics or the healthy bacteria in our gut. Yacon is slightly sweet in flavour and often used as a natural sweetener. But the Nutrition Facts Table lists it in the fibre count..

The type of prebiotic in Yacon root is called fructooligosaccharides. Supplements of Yacon contain about 400-2000mg. So again, while 400mg is on the low end, it’s not just a slight dusting just to allow addition it the ingredient list. It seems like an appropriate amount.

Chicory + Inulin (250mg)

Inulin is also a prebiotic. The chicory root also contains 75mg of inulin so a total of 325mg inulin per serving. Prebiotics can help create a healthy gut and also serve to sweeten food products naturally.

But prebiotics can cause intestinal pain like gas, bloating and diarrhea in some people. Especially if you have irritable bowel syndrome.

Astragalus (250mg)

This is a root that has been traditionally used as an “adaptogen.” These adaptogens may help the body resist physical and mental stress. Up to 60g (60,000mg) per day for 4 months has been shown to be safe, according to Natural Medicine Database.

Astragalus has dozens of health claims, from diabetes to menopause symptoms. All of the claims have insufficient evidence. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not true….just that more research is required to prove it.

MSM (150mg)

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring compound found in some green plants, algae, fruits, vegetables, grains and milk. It can cause bloating, diarrhea and nausea, but is normally well tolerated.

MSM is possibly effective for helping with osteoarthritis. There are many, many claims of health conditions MSM may help with but have not been proven, from ageing, athletic performance to Alzheimer’s….and those are just the conditions that start with the letter “a.”

Camu Camu (200mg)

Camu is an evergreen shrub from the Amazon rain forests. While again there’s not enough evidence, Camu Camu is an antioxidant and said to help asthma, atherosclerosis, cataracts, cold sores, colds, chronic fatigue syndrome, gingivitis, glaucoma, headache and more.

Digestive Enzymes (ex Alpha-amylase, Lactase)

If you have pancreatic insufficiency you’d be on a prescription for digestive enzymes from your doctor. While certain digestive enzymes can be more widely used (like lactase to help digest lactose if you’re intolerant), you likely don’t need this.

L-methyltetrahydrofolate (200mg)

Shakeology contains some vitamins and minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium and L-methyltetrahydrofolate. Folate is a b-vitamin. But depending on a certain gene, many people can’t property use folic acid, the normal supplemental form.

I can tell the Shakeology developers have put a lot of thought into ingredients. It’s not always common to see B-vitamins in their more absorbable forms.

Bacillus coagulans (250 million CFU)

An effective probiotic supplement should contain at least 10 billion CFUs. Health Canada requires probiotic-containing food to have at least 1 billion before they can claim “promoted healthy gut flora.” So while probiotics can be useful in creating a healthy gut, there’s not enough in Shakeology to make a difference.

Sweeteners

Shakeology contains stevia, evaporated cane juice (this is just sugar), pomegranate juice concentrate, goji berry juice concentrate, bilberry fruit juice concentrate and prebiotics as sweeteners.

While the fruit concentrates may sound like part of the “superfood” ingredients, they actually have to be classified as added sugar on food labels. And likely have little, if any, nutritional benefit beyond as a sweetener.

Shakeology nutrition facts review

Nutrition Facts for the Chocolate shake are listed here.

When mixed just with water (blech), one serving contains:

160 calories 17 carbs 6g fibre 7g sugar 17g protein The fibre amount is decent. Although not all of it is whole grain fibre, but prebiotic fibre (inulin, or chicory root). Adding prebiotics bumps up the fibre levels but doesn’t have the benefits that come with whole-grain fibre, like lowering cholesterol and improving poops.

The sugar level isn’t crazy high. I assume to cover the more bitter herbs and flavours, some needed to be added. On top of the Stevia. So that you have a better idea, 8 grams of sugar is 2 cubes of sugar, so 7 grams of sugar is close to that.

At 17 grams of protein, this seems pretty standard for a protein-type shake (around 20g). We need 0.8g per kg protein per day at least, so 54g or so per day for a person weighing 150 lbs/68kg. A 100g chicken breast contains about 30g and a glass of milk 9g, as reference.

Is there any research on Shakeology?

Most of the claims for Shakeology like:

  • Feel better
  • Support healthy energy levels
  • Benefit overall health

are not referenced. Their claims on weight loss and decreased appetite and food cravings lead to one clinical trial published in Current Developments in Nutrition. It included 41 adults who drank Shakeology or calorie-matched (but low fibre and protein) shake 30 mins before a meal of unlimited pizza.

When looking at the results in the study, the first line sums it up for me “Looking at the ad libitum energy intake (aka calories from the pizza) in the unadjusted model showed no significant differences.”

However, the Beachbody website states differently: “those who consumed the Shakeology found the desire to eat was reduced by 58% and helped them eat 180 fewer calories at next meal.” Why is there a difference between some of the study results and Beachbody’s interpretation? Marketing.

Regardless, I don’t give out diets and wouldn’t recommend someone consume Shakeology before a meal (or as a meal replacement shake) to support weight loss.

Potential Shakeology Side Effects

From the back of the Shakeology package:

Contra-indications:

Do not use if you:

  • have any chronic health conditions or are taking other medication without consulting a health care practitioner.
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding. (I have a post on safe shakes when pregnancy and breastfeeding here.)
  • are taking health products that affect blood coagulation (e.g. blood thinners, clotting factor replacements, acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen, fish oils, vitamin E as this may increase the risk of spontaneous bleeding.” 

Cautions and Warnings:

“Discontinue use and consult a health care practitioner if symptoms of digestive upset (e.g. diarrhea, nausea, vomiting) occur, worsen, or persist beyond 3 days.”

Known adverse reactions:

“Hypersensitivity/allergy, headaches, heartburn and bloating have been known to occur; in which case, discontinue use. Some people may experience gastrointestinal bloating, constipation or indigestion.”

And when googling “Shakeology side effects” the top searches that pop up include: “Shakeology makes me fart.” and “Shakeology makes me sick.” I didn’t experience any of this when I sampled Shakeology, and imagine most people don’t. Or it wouldn’t still be for sale.

Yet I did find a site (likely selling Shakeology) that claimed: “Most of the side effects due to Shakeology are due to a poor diet and Shakeology having too many healthy ingredients, which results in your body going into a bit of shock.” Riiiiight. Total BS. You’re not “Detoxing.” You’re likely farting due to an intolerance to one+ of dozens of ingredients like chicory and inulin (especially if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Pros and Cons of Shakeology: a review

Shakeology is a nutrient-dense nutritional shake. And the levels of many of the ingredients seem to be decently substantial with potential health benefits.

However, some people experience gas and bloating from some of the ingredients. And it’s easy and cheaper to make a shake at home and add your own protein options. So that’s what I would suggest as the bottom-line for this Shakeology review!

Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, author & mom of 3. From Baby-led weaning to picky eating and meal planning, she helps you to make feeding your family easier.

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