Shakeology is a nutrition powder blend manufactured by Team Beachbody, one of the leading weight loss brands in the world. It’s Team Beachbody’s most popular line of products, and the shakes come in a wide variety of flavors.
In this article we’ll review the ingredients in the most popular Shakeology shakes based on published medical research to evaluate whether they’re actually healthy and whether they can help you lose weight.
Café Latte Whey Shakeology Review
The best-selling Shakeology product is the Café Latte Whey mix, which contains protein and coffee flavor and is branded like a hot chocolate drink. It costs $129.95 before shipping and handling for 30 servings, which is over $4 before shipping and handling charges per serving. That’s more than a Starbucks coffee at many locations, and is overpriced for a powder blend in our opinion.
The shake contains a wide variety of added synthetic vitamins and minerals. This is a common practice in the industry, and many other “superfood” meal replacement shakes like Kachava do the same thing, likely because it makes the Supplement Facts label look impressive. Consumers see the high level of vitamins and minerals and assume it’s coming from the food blend rather than the synthetic additives.
We recommend avoiding products with blends of synthetic vitamins and minerals for two reasons. First, multivitamins are proven to provide no benefit to the average consumer and may even slightly increase risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
An extensive medical review on multivitamin use published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine analyzed medical data from over 100,000 individual patients enrolled in vitamin trials, and concluded there was no benefit.
The second reason we recommend avoiding products with these additives is because they may be a health risk to consumers already taking multivitamins, because it may push that patient's dose of individual nutrients above a safe range.
Vitamin supplementation can be therapeutic to patients with a documented deficiency, but taking a random blend of vitamins and minerals has no benefit and may even cause harm if you’re a healthy adult without any deficiency.
This product also contains 5 grams (g) of added sugar, which is one of the few ingredients that’s conclusively proven in medical research to be harmful to human health. Selling health products with added sugar is a red flag, and we recommend avoiding supplements with added sugar entirely.
Another ingredient selection which is a sign of a low-quality brand is maca. This is an essentially indigestible starch, which is why all high-quality brands selling maca use the gelatinized form. Eating maca raw is like eating potatoes raw; it’s not recommended because it can cause digestive discomfort, and any company selling raw maca has incompetent formulators in our opinion.
Café Latte Whey also contains cinnamon but doesn’t list which form of cinnamon is used. This makes it almost certain that the cheapest form, botanical name Cassia Cinnamon, is the form used. Cassia Cinnamon contains a toxic compound called coumarin, as shown in medical studies, while “true” cinnamon (Ceylon Cinnamon) contains essentially no coumarin.
We recommend supplements and food products with Ceylon Cinnamon rather than Cassia Cinnamon, and the fact that Shakeology presumably uses the latter is another sign that their formulators are not aware of the scientific research behind the ingredients they’re using.
Shakeology advertises that their product contains omega-3 fatty acids, but they use the wrong form. The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in Shakeology has been shown in medical trials to be inferior to the seafood forms of omega-3 such as DHA and EPA. The linked study found that EPA+DHA, but not ALA, improved cholesterol and inflammation.
The omega-3 in Shakeology also appears underdosed at only 250 milligrams (mg). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. has set the minimally effective dose at 2 g per day, which is nearly 10x the amount in this product.
This shake contains natural flavors, which we recommend avoiding because this is a loosely regulated term and fails to distinguish which specific chemicals are used for the flavoring. Without a company disclosing what specific flavoring agents are used, consumers can’t determine whether those are safe or toxic.
Aside from all of the questionable additives we’ve outlined, the core superfood blend contains a mix of whey protein and various powdered plant compounds like camu-camu and astragalus, along with some probiotics.
This blend may be beneficial for consumers eating a poor diet, who would benefit from the antioxidants and phytonutrients in the plant compounds. However, we can’t determine what the dosage is of the plant compounds because Shakeology includes them in a proprietary blend, which means they provide the dose of the entire blend rather than the dose of each ingredient, which is a practice we recommend manufacturers stop engaging in as we find it deceptive.
For all we know, 99% of the blend could be whey protein and the remaining 1% could be a mix of all of the exotic plant ingredients.
Overall we find this to be a very poor formulation, with many questionable filler ingredients we recommend avoiding. The brand uses inferior forms of various botanical compounds, and fails to publish the exact dosage of the whole foods ingredients they do use. We would strongly recommend avoiding this product, especially considering the price.
Tropical Strawberry Plant-Based Vegan Shakeology Review
Team Beachbody sells a vegan shake blend called Tropical Strawberry Plant-Based Vegan, which costs the same as the previous product we reviewed.
We were hoping that since this is a shake including fruit, the brand wouldn’t feel the need to include added sugars, but the same 5 g added sugar dose is included in this product as well. This shake also contains maca and cinnamon and natural flavors.
One additive ingredient unique to this product that we recommend avoiding is citric acid, which is a flavor enhancer that’s been documented in a series of medical case reports to cause whole-body inflammatory reactions in some patients. This is likely due to the fact that it’s manufactured from a fungus called Aspergilus niger which is a known allergen.
This product contains a very similar botanical ingredient blend to the Café Latte product, so we feel as though it may benefit some patients with a terrible diet, but we wouldn’t recommend it due to the additives and would recommend eating more fruits and vegetables instead if the goal is to improve health.
Medical Study Analysis
Beachbody funded a medical study of Shakeology to test whether it could result in increased weight loss. We commend them for doing this, and the study was published in The Journal of Nutrition which is a legitimate, peer-reviewed medical journal.
This is actual clinical research, unlike many supplement brands which pay a for-profit research firm to test their products and publish the results on their website (looking at you, gf-9), and then call it clinical research.
The study found that Shakeology improved weight loss outcomes compared to a control drink with less fiber and protein. In our opinion, this is a poorly designed study because both fiber and protein are proven to increase the sense of fullness which results in improved weight loss outcomes.
Essentially, we believe it’s the fiber and protein in the product which causes the improved weight loss rather than anything proprietary about Shakeology’s formula. We can’t identify one single ingredient other than fiber and protein in their shakes that’s likely to cause weight loss.
We know from medical studies that fiber intake predicts weight loss. Shakeology only contains 6 g fiber, so consumers could likely see improved weight loss outcomes with a higher fiber intake.
Taking a fiber supplement for weight loss would be much cheaper than Shakeology, and would avoid the additives like sugar and flavoring agents. We believe this is a healthier alternative. Look for a plain fiber powder like psyllium husk fiber that doesn’t contain any additive ingredients.