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 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!

What is Shakeology?

Ingredients in Shakeology

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 
  • 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.

I’ve used 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 it is listed as fibre on the nutrition facts table. 

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.” 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. Normally it’s well tolerated but can cause bloating, diarrhea and nausea. 

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. 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 carb 

6g fibre 

7g sugar 

17g protein

The fibre amount is decent. Although not all of it is whole grain fibre, but prebiotic fibre. 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, 8g is 2 cubes of 2 tsp of sugar, so 7g is close to that.

At 17g, the protein 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
  • Benefit overall health 

are not referenced.

Their claims on weight loss and decreased appetite 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 would never recommend someone consume Shakeology before a meal (or anytime) for weight loss purposes.

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 practictioner. “
  • 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, clotthing factor replacements, acetysalicic acid, ibuprophen, fish oils, vitamin E as this may increase the risk of spontaneous bleeding.” <<<<however Shakeology contains vitamin E?!

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 searched that pop up includes:

“Shakeology makes me fart.” 

“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 an intolerance to one+ of dozens of ingredients like chicory and inulin (especially if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Cons of Shakeology

Other than the potential side effects listed above….

Expense: 

How much does Shakeology cost? It cost me $23.95 CAD for 4 samples + $10 shipping = $35.10. This is $8.75 per serving. Which could provide a lot of food! But I imagine most people don’t just buy the odd sample.

If you want a full bag (30 servings) you can get it for $155 CAD plus Shipping & Handling. This is just over $5 per serving.

At least now you buy one bag at a time. It used to come on auto-ship. Until Beachbody was sued for $3.5 million for auto-charging credit cards without the client’s written consent.

Multi-level Marketing (MLM) sales:

MLM for fitness and nutrition products turns consultants into automatic fitness/nutrition ‘experts.’ This could be dangerous. 

My Beachbody consultant friend is lovely and not pushy at all. But I’m sure you’ve had negative experiences with the opposite (World Financial Group….RUN!!).

Beachbody & weight loss focus:

While Beachbody sells primarily workouts, it upsells to purchase Shakeology for additional effects. Which definitely doesn’t replace the rest of your day-to-day food choices.

And Shakeology will not give you an automatic “Beach Body.” The Shaekology claims for weight loss are followed by small print: 

“Results vary depending on starting point and effort. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition. The testimonials featured may have used more than one Beachbody product or extended the program to achieve their maximum result.”

For reviews of some of Beachbody’s other programs, check out fellow dietitian Abby Langer’s article Are the beachbody nutrition programs worth it?”

My Shakeology taste test review

I ordered a sample pack of 4 whey-based Shekology flavours. They also have plant-based vegan options. I mixed each packet just with water and ice to taste first.

Vanilla: 

The Shakeology Vanilla is not as sweet as Vega which I also have in my pantry (and find very unpalatably artificially sweet). It has a not super-pleasant chemically taste to the vanilla flavour but it’s not horrible.

Chocolate: 

Strong and bitter. Probably could’ve used more sugar. But it tasted much better when I added peanut butter and banana. 

Strawberry: 

Pretty strong artificial strawberry taste when mixed with just water and ice. This was my least favourite flavour. I added a banana and it tasted better.

Cafe Latte: 

This was the best Shakeology flavour that I tried on its own when just mixed with water and ice. I then made the Banana Cashew Latte from the recipe book (added banana, cashews, oats and nutmeg) and it was quite tasty! 

Overall, the flavours mixed with plain water were not good. Which I wouldn’t really expect, looking at many of the ingredients which are strong and would be hard to mask (like mushrooms and maca).

However, I find most shake options have a similar problem. But if you use it as an addition to a smoothie, the power flavours are palatable and get overwhelmed by the fruit you add.

Shakeology Alternative

Instead of these shakes, make your own. If you want to add extra protein, I find plain collagen powder (affiliate link) is the best. It has no flavour or gritty texture. 

You can also add lots of whole-food options for added protein to a homemade smoothie. Choose 1 or more of the options below:

  • Yogurt: 100g = 10g protein in greek yogurt, 4g regular
  • Cow’s milk or soy milk: 1 cup = 9g protein
  • Egg whites (pasteurized): ¼ cup =7g protein
  • Skim milk powder: 1/3 cup = 8g protein
  • Hemp hearts: 3 Tbsp = 10g protein
  • Chia 1 Tbsp = 2g protein
  • Red lentils: cooked 3 Tbsp = 3g protein
  • Nut butter: 1 Tbsp = 3g protein

Blend with berries, banana or avocado, spinach, ice and you’re done! A real-food smoothie, cheaper than Shakeology. With easily as much protein and it won’t make your gut ache….

Pros and Cons of Shakeology; a review

Shakeology is a nutrient-dense 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!

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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