Friends, today we commence to chatter about a topic that’s familiar and dear to our hearts: other people’s products. After all nothing stirs curiousity like peering into the looking-glass to see what everyone else is doing in the supplement world, amiright?
The object of our attention for this post is definitely worthy of praise because they’ve achieved an elite distinction in the industry: they’re the internets most cunning provocateurs of titillating before-and-after pictures.
Of course that means I’m talking about Shakeology.
And boy, do those pictures titillate. It’s hard to scroll through their website and not get sucked in by the toned, buxom women who lost 45 pounds or the grown men who zapped their D-cups by drinking their daily shake. Click here to see what I mean.
They could be selling horse laxatives and that little voice inside me would still be screaming “Buy!”, they’re that captivating.
Of course powerful imagery begets powerful questions.
Will it really work like that for me?
It’s hard to stop cognitive dissonance from creeping in when deciding if the success stories are too good to be true.
The good news is that beneath the powerful marketing Shakeology itself is perfectly fine. It’s pleasant to use and it gets my vote for best product in the “MLM Diet Shake” category. If someone were to ask my opinion about whether or not they ought to try it I’d say “if you’re thinking about it, go for it.”
And always, let’s continue this review with a disclaimer: I don’t get paid for any of my reviews. I typically only review products that I like, although I try and bring up counterpoints for the sake of balance. Any opinion I express is my own and I highly encourage you to try things for yourself if you have doubts. I make my own product and thus am probably unable to completely remove my own bias, but I write to prop other companies up, not tear them down.
With that out of the way, here are the relevant points a nutriphile ought to be aware of:
- It uses whey protein as its main ingredient. This is good for providing the amino acids cysteine and methionine but it comes from cows, making it a bad fit for people who avoid dairy. They do have one vegan flavor for people who can’t drink milk.
- It’s a “deep” formula. It has protein, seeds, fiber, greens, enzymes and probiotics . In addition to providing enough calories for satiety, this allows for a nutrient content that somewhat approximates what you’d get from a meal.
- It’s heavy on protein and seeds, light on greens. Protein is good for satiety but lacks phytonutrients, so people who lean on Shakeology as a meal replacement should make a note to take it with a salad.
- It has no filler. In my opinion the biggest drawback to weight-loss products is the frequent inclusion of low-grade starch, dehydrated oil powders and thickening agents that are typically found in junk food. With the exception of a small amount of xantham gum Shakeology does not contain any of these.
- Best used with other Beachbody programs. The people who get the best results from Shakeology seem to be plugged into the other fitness programs team Beachbody offers. The full retail price of Shakeology is $129.95 which is more expensive than most retail brands. If you *just* want to take the shakes and not become a distributor or plug yourself into the Beachbody ecosystem it might behoove you to take a look at popular products like Amazing Grass’es Amazing Meal or Garden of Life Raw Meal which offer similar products but are less expensive.
With these broad points in mind, let’s take out our scalpel and dissect the professors of Shakes with a little more scrutiny.
For this review I tried the chocoloate, vanilla and strawberry flavors. I believe they have the same active ingredients.
Here’s a picture of the label of the chocolate:
How you interpret this is an eye-of-the-beholder thing, but here’s what I liked best:
- Reishi – herbal mushroom that improves the immune system and promotes whole-system functioning when taken in its entirety.
- Holy basil – Botanical that helps your mood without creating nasty side effects.
- Cordyceps – Fungus that helps your energy levels. Also used heavily in the Boku Superfuel.
- Moringa – a tree native to the Himalayas and northern India that helps reduce fatigue.
While I think these ingredients are the most powerful they’re also the least plentiful because they’re at the bottom of the list. What’s just as important are the sort of ingredients they have at the top.
The lion’s share of Shakeology’s ingredient stack comes from three ingredient categories: proteins, roots and seeds. The first 10 ingredients listed are whey, pea protein, flax seed, chia seed, quinoa, amaranth, cacao, maca, pea fiber and yacon. These are all nutritious ingredients but it’s worth noting that you have to go through them before you’re brought to its first green food: chlorella.
Shakeology doesn’t provide exact amounts of the ingredients on their label but this ordering likely means green vegetables comprise a small percentage of the total amount of ingredients.
I instinctively group Shakeology with the retail brands I’m most familiar with and when put next to them it’s less green and more rootsy in its ingredient makeup.
For example, here’s the macronutrient breakdown from the meal replacement powder that has the most greens in its mixture, the Amazing Grass Amazing Meal:
For a more detailed comparison of how some of these products compare to one another I suggest reading my article that analyzed them side by side.
However, it’d also be helpful to compare it side-by-side with other MLM diet-shakes since the people buying Shakeology are just as likely to be comparing it to these than something you’d buy at Whole Foods.
To be perfectly honest I know practically nothing about them because it’s not a distribution channel or customer segment I’ve thought about for my own business.
But as I write this I’m doing a quick google search for “MLM diet shakes” and the first product that comes up is a company called Isagenix. A quick glance at the label of their Strawberry Cream diet shake makes Shakeology look green by comparison. It lists fructose, tapioca maltodextrin, xantham gum and olive oil powder before you get to its first (and only) green ingredient: Ionic Alfalfa leaf extract.
In any event, a protein-heavy blend means it’ll be more filling, have better texture, more calories and better suited for people that want to use it as a replacement for food instead of a compliment to it. This comes at the cost of a lower vitamin content.
Shakeology does have vitamins, but they come from add-ins since ingredients like folic acid, magnesium oxie and cyanocobalamin are not found in nature, only in labs.
Taste, Texture, Price
I tried three Shakeology flavors and they all tasted great. They were nice and creamy and I found them filling. Chocolate was my favorite. (It usually is). Someone buying these things expecting them to taste like real shakes is in for a rude awakening, but I’d assume anyone that’s ready to lose weight and reasonably intelligent can comprehend the tradeoff between taking something that’s truly good for you and something that gratifies the addictive part of your brain the minute it goes into your mouth.
You cannot make plant foods taste like ice cream.
At $129.95 it’s more expensive than other brands you can get on Amazon like Garden of Life or Vega One, but I’d assume most people who regularly buy it are distributors and get it for much less than that. The next MLM network I join will be my first so I really can’t say what the distributor price is. However, I’m sure if you facebook stalk enough of your contacts you can find someone with a wall full of motivational quotes and full-skin bathing suit pics that’s on Team Beachbody and ask them.
A Curious Range of Opinion
I ought to review MLM products more often because the research for this article was a nostalgic experience. Sifting through Shakeology reviews reminds me of the internet in 1998 before it matured and there were lots of amateur websites that were cute but left you the feeling the information it may or may not have been made up on the spot.
The big echo chamber is on Youtube which yields a cornucopeia of video selfies from people giving the nitty-gritty on team Beachbody.
Here’s somebody who’s excited to try her Shakeology:
Here’s somebody that just quit Shakeology:
A lot of clever marketers use the bait-and-switch tactic of giving the video a negative, alarming title and then try to convince you to join their affiliate network once you start watching.
Here’s a good example:
This one’s even better. We get lured in to find out the “Dark Side of network marketing” only to find out that she turned her life around and made millions by joining team Beachbody:
When I was in college I used to love watching amateur cover videos. Their quality was terrible but the nascent, unripened ambition from the people who made them was endearing and I was left with a more enthusiastic feeling about humanity when I finished.
I get a similar wave of affectionate glowiness when I watch these scrappy webpreneurs.
I don’t believe what they say, but I still like them.
The blogosphere’s opinion towards Shakeology is a little more indignant. I suspect this is so because the process of setting up a website requires you to take yourself more seriously than posting a YouTube video.
For example, this gal doesn’t think Shakeology is worthwhile because it doesn’t use grassfed whey:
I’m all about whey protein. It’s a great protein source – but if and only if it’s grass-fed and organic. Which Shakeology’s is not. Purchasing inorganic whey is a cheaper option, but it is one that will lead to health issues. – See more at: http://www.ancestral-nutrition.com/unbiased-review-shakeology/#sthash.EgvjOagD.dpuf
She kind-of has a point, but I think she’s really just put off by the feeling of un-sophistication from a bunch of people paying $130 for a powder because they fantasize about having six-pack abs.
Most health bloggers are food snobs and marketing before-and-after pictures to overweight people is a little too plebeian for their museum curator sensibilities.
The Shakeology universe is a charmingly-weird maze of affiliate marketing, lifestyle business vloggers, really good looking people in swimsuits and testimonials from people that lost over 100 lbs in 3 months.
If you remove hyperbole and the slick marketing the shakes themselves are pretty good. Much better than companies that use similar business models and comparable to brands that go through the retail gauntlet to get their customers.
If it were my money I’d probably buy the Amazing Meal, but most people who have success with Shakeology do so by plugging themselves into the Beachbody ecosystem and not just taking Shakeology by itself.
And this here is the major difference between an MLM company and a traditional retail brand. MLM’s really sell social experiences that use physical products as a way to monetize the process. The reason is because their target customer is someone that struggles putting together the lifestyle components needed to achieve their health goals, which is usually to lose weight. Buying a supplement by itself does not do much to accomplish this.
And when you view the Beachbody operation through this lens they have to be considered a success because their total package fits together nicely and allows people to get the results they want.
After all, those pictures can’t lie.