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I usually try to steer clear of spouting my personal opinions on health and wellness products that are distributed by direct sales companies, but I am beginning to make exceptions to this personal rule. I know there are many people out there who are interested in promoting health and wellness that do not have a certification of any sort in the field that use direct sales as a way to help others. Helping others AND bringing in a paycheck is a wonderful thing, but what bothers me the most is the majority of these people truly do not educate themselves thoroughly on the products they are pushing.
I'm beginning to see more and more posts regarding a product called Shakeology that is distributed by a company known as Beachbody. I'm sure you have heard of Beachbody by now. You know, the Santa Monica-based multinational corporation that uses multi-level marketing and direct response infomercials to sell weight loss, fitness and home exercise DVDs? That's the one.
The following review is based solely on Shakeology, and not the exercise program. I am a huge advocate of any home-based fitness routine that produces results, and the ones produced by Beachbody featuring Sean T definitely produce results. No, I do not use this program myself, nor am I affiliated with Beachbody in any way. I do not sell their products, I do not work for the company directly, and what I have to say is completely unbiased.
The product I am discussing is the chocolate version of Shakeology. Looking at the ingredient label, I noticed that there are a LOT of ingredients. Aside from the standard list of vitamins and nutrients, there is also a list of probiotic, super-fruit and enzyme blends. Each of these blends contains a word I cannot stand: proprietary. 'Proprietary Blend' means that there is no set amount of each ingredient in a particular blend. There can be any amount of the individual ingredient in the world in there, as long as the total amount equals the overall amount. For example, the super-fruit blend contains 2075 mg of super-fruit extracts. There is no standard as to how many exact milligrams of each ingredient there are in this blend.
This is quite irritating to me as this blend contains ginkgo. Pregnant or lactating women should not use ginkgo as in vitro evidence suggests that it can inhibit the cytochrome P450 1A2 activity by up to 13% and 2D6 activity by up to 9%. Is this dangerous? Probably not in the amounts that are in this product, but with a proprietary blend, you never really know how much you are consuming. You should also know that ginkgo can interfere with the potency of medications used to treat depression, cholesterol, diabetes and seizures.
*Just a quick note here- this super-fruit blend contains citrus bioflavonoids, which isn't a fruit. It is a phytonutrient.* Moving on.
This product also contains a probiotic blend that contains no dairy. Probiotics are great for regulating the digestive system, but should not be used by people who suffer from a compromised immune system (such as those affected by HIV). Probiotics can disrupt the flora in the intestinal tract, and should only be used under the watchful eye of a physician if you are being treated for HIV, lupus, or any other immune-compromised condition. This product only contains 150 mg, but err on the side of caution here.
Another ingredient that concerns me is ashwagandha. This herb has been known to cause premature birth, so again, I would avoid this product if you're pregnant. Following this concern is the use of holy basil. Holy basil can interfere with blood thinners, as well as diabetic medications. There is only 50 mg per serving of Shakeology, but this all depends on how much one person consumes. Being such a small amount, there should be no issues, but the concern is still there.
Is Shakeology Gluten-Free?
Shakeology claims to be gluten-free, yet I see barley grass and wheat grass listed. These two ingredients are generally considered gluten-free, but ONLY if the plants are harvested BEFORE they sprout and set seed. Can we be guaranteed 100% that the plants are harvested before then? No. Would I recommend this product to someone who suffers from Celiac disease? No.
Protein vs Carbs
In order to use a liquid supplement to increase muscle mass and burn fat, you need the protein levels to outweigh the carbohydrate levels. Chocolate Shakeology contains 17 grams of protein and 17 grams of carbohydrates. Add into this 9 grams of sugars, and I really don't see that this product has the ability to increase mass.
This product does contain a natural sweetener (stevia), but also contains fructose. What can I say here.... fructose negatively affects insulin levels, places an excess metabolic load on the liver, and is known as the most lipophilic carbohydrate available. In short: it's not good for you. A healthy individual should aim to consume less than 25 grams of fructose per day. Diabetics, even less. I have no idea why fructose is added to this product, except to make it taste better. I would hope that overall health would be more important to them than taste, but I suppose not.
I see lots of Beachbody coaches speak about how well Shakeology performed in clinical trials. Well, guess what? There are no such trials published by the US National Library of Medicine. Beachbody did, however, commission a study from Medicus Research to determine the product's effects.
This trial was extremely small (only 50 people), and lasted for a mere 90 days where the participants consumed a shake for breakfast and lunch. These individuals reported an average weight loss of 9 pounds, a 7% reduction in overall cholesterol levels, and a 5% reduction in A1C levels. Drinking these shakes reduced the participants' overall daily caloric intake, so of course weight loss was expected. In general, reducing your body fat percentage will stabilize A1C levels and reduce cholesterol, so the weight loss (not the shakes) was most likely the key factor.
Should You Use It?
If you want to shell out roughly $130 a month for a bag of shake mix, then go ahead. I'm not saying that you should or shouldn't. I personally don't use supplements and shakes promoted by multi-level companies, but that is my own choice. I simply decided to take a look at the ingredients and see if this product is really worth all the hype. Is Shakeology worth the price?
I don't think it is.