Body Moment

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Shakeology Alternative

Here’s a cheap and easy Shakeology alternative that won’t cost you the big bucks.

I’ll warn you, though – if you think it’s going to involve mixing up magical powders and crazy ingredients from far-flung corners of the world, you’re going to be disappointed.

For the sake of this article, I’ll stick to the Vanilla Shakeology. Let’s start with the basic information sheet on Shakeology below:

 

ShakeologyNutrition

 

(Click on the image above to see the entire factsheet for Vanilla Shakeology.)

We can break down the nutritional information of Shakeology into three distinct categories:

  1. Basic composition
  2. Vitamin and minerals
  3. “Superfoods”

I’ll walk you through a breakdown of each category, and show you exactly how to replace the essential bits of each category with something that costs a lot less.

Basic composition

Take a look at the main section of the nutritional label. I’ll zoom in for you here:

ShakeologyNutrition1

The basic macronutrients of Shakeology are pretty essential: fats, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein. This is no different than any other whey protein mix out there on the market. I love the Gold Standard Whey protein powder from BodyBuilding.com – here’s how the French Vanilla Creme version stacks up against Shakeology:

Shakeology Gold Standard
Calories 130 120
Saturated Fat 0g 0.5g
Unsaturated Fat 1g 0.5g
Cholesterol 5mg 30mg
Sodium 200mg 90mg
Total Carbs 14g 4g
Dietary Fiber 3g 0g
Sugars 7g 1g
Protein 16g 24g

The few differences with the Gold Standard whey are a few less calories, a tiny bit more fat, a bit more cholesterol (as this is a whey protein derivative and not mostly plant-based like Shakeology), a LOT less sodium, fewer carbs and sugar, less fiber, and a lot more protein.

The only thing I’d want to tweak here is the dietary fiber – and I can do that by adding just a few grams of finely ground psyllium. I simply grind it up really well with my mortar and pestle.

I don’t want to touch the sodium or the carbs, because I prefer to keep my sodium intake low, and I’ll get more than enough carbs in my regular diet.

**Click here to see my full review of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey!**

That takes care of basic macronutrients. But what about vitamins and mineral content?

Vitamins and Minerals

One thing Shakeology has that your standard whey powder doesn’t is a stack of essential vitamins and minerals; the only mineral detectable in whey isolate is calcium – around 80mg. But Shakeology doesn’t contain anything more than your average multi-vitamin.

Take a look at the chart below – I’ve compared the vitamins and minerals in Shakeology to my current favorite, Centrum for Men:

Shakeology Centrum Multi-vitamin
Vitamin A 500 IU 1000 IU
Beta-carotene 0* 1500 IU
Vitamin C 180 mg 180 mg
Vitamin D 200 IU 800 IU
Vitamin E 15 IU 40 IU
Vitamin K1 40 mcg 25 mcg
Vitamin B1 1.5 mg 4.2 mg
Vitamin B2 1.3 mg 4.6 mg
Vitamin B3 5 mg 16 mg
Vitamin B6 2 mg 5.5mg
Folic acid 200 mcg 0.4 mg
Vitamin B12 6 mcg 21.6 mcg
Biotin 90 mcg 54 mg
Pantothenic acid 5 mg 12.5 mg
Calcium 300 mg 300 mg
Iron 2 mg 6 mg
Phosphorus 250 mg 0**
Iodine 52 mcg 150 mg
Magnesium 80 mg 84 mg
Zinc 6 mg 11 mg
Copper 0.8 mg 0.9 mg
Manganese 2 mg 5.5 mg
Chromium 60 mcg 35 mcg
Molybdenum 30 mcg 0***

*Vitamin A and beta-carotene sometimes come bundled together in supplements. Your body can convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A.
**Calcium and phosphorous sometimes come bundled as dicalcium phosphate.
***Manganese, chromium and molybdenum sometimes come bundled as amino acid chelate.

If you run your eye down the list above, you’ll see that the multi-vitamin usually does far better than what’s contained in Shakeology. I’ll continue popping my daily multi-vitamin instead of paying for Shakeology.

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“Superfoods”

Here’s where I roll up my sleeves and dig deep for the truth.

Shakeology lists a huge number of “proprietary superfoods” on their nutritional information label. But do any of these so-called “superfoods” hold any weight in terms of benefit to your body?

I’ve compiled a list of the superfoods contained in Shakeology and I’ve added a few comments next to each one:

Superfood What research shows
Whey protein Protein. From milk.
Pea protein Protein. From peas. It's a vegan protein source.
Pea fiber Fiber. From peas. That's it. Go and eat some peas instead.
Maca root I have absolutely no idea why this is in here. They claim it's an 'adaptogen' which is an unproven fringe theory on the effect of these supplements on body health.
Chia These are high in omega-3's, but they're best consumed freshly milled, not pulverized into powder.
Flax Yay for flax! The problem with powdered flaxseed is that to get the benefits you need to grind it fresh from seed, or the oils in it will start to oxidate the longer they sit around. But it still works as bulk in the diet, which could help with appetite suppression.
Yacon root This hit the radar on the Dr. Oz show (koff) a little while ago as a possible weight-loss supplement. 'Nuff said.
Acerola cherry Beyond the Vitamin C content and antioxidant properties, there's not much to recommend this fruit – especially in extract form.
Camu-Camu High in Vitamin C and potentially has antioxidant properties which are still under review.
Pomegranate I love pomegranates (even though they stain everything they touch.) I'd suggest eating them as a fruit first; the jury is still out as to the benefits of the antioxidants contained in pomegranates.
Astragalus root Known to TCM adherents, there is limited research as to the health benefits.
Bilberry This little fruit may have some antioxidant properties but there's little to no research on its effectiveness.
Blueberry I love blueberries! But in fruit form, not ground up. Research is still ongoing as to the health benefits of blueberry extract.
Goji berry A ingredient in TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) that has no solid findings in modern research.
Spinach I've never understood why anyone would put spinach in a smoothie or a shake. If you want increased intake of vitamins and minerals, eat more fresh foods.
Açai A source of antioxidants and polyphenols; the jury is still out as to whether polyphenols actually offer us any health benefits.
MSM Methylsulfonylmethane, in other words. There's a lot of unfounded claims as to the health benefits of dietary sulfur supplements.
Himalayan salt It's salt. There's a host of trace minerals in there as well, but it's still just salt.
Ashwagandha root Common in Ayurvedan healing, there are no modern scientific findings regarding benefit to humans.
Cordyceps Fungus that has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, but there are no modern studies as to any of its purported health effects.
Protease Enzyme that helps convert proteins into amino acids.
Amlyase Enzyme that helps convert starches into sugars. Amylase is naturally present in your saliva!
Bromelain Enzyme used as a protein tenderizer.
Cellulase Enzyme that converts cellulose into beta-glucose to assist in digestion.
Lipase Enzyme that breaks down fat so it can be digested.
Papain Enzyme used as a protein tenderizer; possibly has some effect on digestion.
Lactase Enzyme commonly added to whey isolates to promote digestion in people who are sensitive to lactose.
Maitake mushroom Nothing conclusive yet on this fungus. They're looking into its effects on the immune system as well as its effects on blood sugar.
Reishi mushroom This one is interesting – there's actually some research on the cancer-fighting abilities of this 'shroom, as well as its effect on lowering blood pressure and controlling cholesterol and blood sugar.
Lactobacillus sporogenes Ah, probiotics. Also known as Bacillus coagulan, these may prove useful to decrease abdominal bloating in people living with IBS and may be responsible for increased resistance for certain viral respiratory tract infections.
Luo Han Guo Monkfruit. This has a history in traditional Chinese medicine, but other than being prized for its sweetening abilities, there's no modern research on this fruit.
Citrus bioflavanoids Just like the flavanoids in tea, chocolate or wine, there's not a lot of evidence that these have any noticeable effect on the human body.
Grape seed They're high in polyphenols but the jury is still out as to any possible health benefits. There are no studies of long-term tolerance to grape seed extract beyond 8 weeks. How long do you plan to drink Shakeology?
Green tea Ah, powedered green tea, a favorite of the health-food set. Do yourself a favour and just consume green tea as a leaf in your cup.
Tulsi Tulsi, or holy basil, has long been a standard ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. However, modern scientific studies on tulsi are extremely rare with little to no conclusions on potential health effects.
Rose hips High in lycopene and Vitamin C, but the benefits seem to end there. Eat a tomato or an orange instead.
Schisandra This fruit has long been a staple of traditional Eastern medicine but there is a serious lack of any scientific studies on the purported benefits of schisandra.
Cinnamon bark There are minimal studies on the health effects of cinnamon with mixed results. But I bet it makes this shake taste good!
Apple pectin Apple pectin is admittedly high in soluble fiber, but you'll get the same effect from eating apples…plus the other benefits of eating fresh fruit!
Ginkgo Ginkgo has been studied for years as a potential enhancer for memory and cognition; however, study results vary widely and it hasn't been ascertained if it has any effect on healthy individuals. It does have anti-oxidant properties, and there are a few promising studies on using ginkgo to improve blood flow throughout the body.
Moringa This isn't a bad food, although I can't find any evidence of it approaching superfood status. Moringa is being used to treat malnutrition in some areas of the world. The leaf is high in beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, Vitamin C and protein. Some compare it to spinach.
Wheat grass Ah, good old wheat grass. Although it sounds healthy, it really has no more nutritional content that regular old vegetables. The American Cancer Society reports that "available scientific evidence does not support the idea that wheatgrass or the wheatgrass diet can cure or prevent disease".
Oat grass Not much different from its cousin wheat grass (see above).
Barley grass Not much different from its cousins wheat grass and oat grass (see above).
Kamut grass Not much different from its cousins wheat grass, oat grass and barley grass (see above).
Amaranth seed This seed is high in protein and the amino acid lysine. However, Wikipedia reports that "Over 100 scientific studies suggest a somewhat conflicting picture on possible anti-nutritional and toxic factors in amaranth".
Chlorella A single-celled green algae that was once touted as a possible food supplement due to being high in protein, fat and carbohydrate. However it's difficult to mass-produce this algae and there are non-credible claims of it being useful in treating cancer, weight-loss and other maladies which the American Cancer Society has stated are not true.
Quinoa A great gluten-free source of all essential amino acids. However, I enjoy this cooked and on a plate – not crushed up in my shake.
Sacha inchi seed Also known as mountain peanut, the seed of this plant contains high amounts of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Spirulina Spirulina is common term for cyanobacteria of the Arthrospira family which photosynthesize energy and are a source of protein. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, at present there is insufficient scientific evidence to recommend spirulina supplementation for any human condition, and more research is needed to clarify its benefits, if any.

So what’s the bottom line on the “superfoods” contained in Shakeology?

My opinion is that NONE of these additives are useful in any form. I’ve never been convinced of the benefits of dessicating and pulverizing fresh foods, and the lack of research on these supplements is a short Google search away.

The Shakeology Recipe

So, here’s my own Shakeology recipe for those of you who have read this far. It has only three ingredients:

  1. Flavored instantized whey protein isolate
  2. A daily multivitamin
  3. A balanced clean-eating diet

Sorry. I know you were hoping for more than that.

Notes on Shakeology as a Meal Replacement

I’m not keen on the “meal replacement” approach of Shakeology either. It will help you lose weight, to be sure – but only if you don’t mix it up with these terrible Shakeology recipes that are pinned all over the interwebs.

Why? Here’s a simple recipe that doesn’t seem too bad at first glance:

  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter

Any guesses as to how many calories are contained in this “diet” shake?

Over 500 calories.

When you’re on a 1400 calorie/day diet, that’s a significant chunk of your daily intake.

If you just mixed the Shakeology with water, you’d save 370 calories – and that’s what it takes to lose weight. Anecdotal evidence tells me that Shakeology and water tastes terrible – so I don’t blame people for searching for anything, ANYTHING to mix with this stuff to make it palatable.

I beg of you, peeps, if you want a protein shake then get some basic flavored powder and make a shake. But don’t rope yourself into paying over $1500 per year for this stuff. Save your money and buy a treadmill instead – that will get you into shape a lot faster.

If you’re looking for affordable protein powder, my one-stop shop is Bodybuilding.com. The Gold Standard Whey and Casein products are a great value and come in a bunch of great flavors, including Banana Cream, Double Rich Chocolate, and Tropical Punch! Click here to browse the great selection of protein powders at Bodybuilding.com.

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28 Comments

  1. Thanks for this review. My wife recently started some sort of exercise program that incorporates Shakeology but she isn’t excited about how expensive it is. I was about to break down the ingredients because I was pretty sure I could give her an alternative for MUCH less. I assumed this was essentially a protein shake with a bunch of vitamins and some other “twigs and berries” tossed in that probably don’t have much support in the literature.

    You said that none of the additives in Shakeology are useful in any form but I think that’s a bit strong. I agree that a balanced clean diet is the way to go but from the perspective of convenience I think it can be useful to add a few things to a standard protein shake (or take as regular supplements) to help support an active lifestyle.

    1. Flax seeds are a good source of fiber and Omega-3. Just buy whole seeds, store them properly and grind as needed to avoid degradation.

    2. Probiotics – beneficial for maintaining gut health. I realize we have these in our systems naturally but will some supplementation hurt? I think this might be a useful addition for my wife because she has celiac disease and can use all the help she can get with maintaining a calm digestive system.

    3. Green tea – of course making a cup of green tea will do the trick but is it any less effective if taken as a supplement in powder form or mixed into a shake for the sake of convenience?

    • Chris

      2014-06-26 at 1:37 pm

      Hey Joel! Thanks for stopping by.

      I love your comment on “twigs and berres” – that’s a pretty good description of what’s in there!

      Was I a bit strong on saying that none of the additives are useful? Well, I can’t debate that increased vitamin and mineral intake are helpful to most people. But I can debate the usefulness of (a) paying $50/lb for these vitamins and minerals, and (b) the “superfoods” in their dessicated state.

      Flax seeds – Yes, yes, yes. I love your suggestion of freshly ground flax seed to increase Omega-3 and fiber intake.

      Probiotics – I have not done a tremendous amount of research on the real benefit of live vs. tablet form probiotics, but I do know that most unbuffered probiotics won’t survive the trip through the stomach alone. Buffering them in a dairy product – i.e. like yogurt – or encapsulating them with a buffer layer increases their chance of surviving their trip to the gut. I don’t know if Shakeology uses buffered probiotics or not.

      Green tea extract – I’m torn on this one. I still am not convinced that the benefit of the polyphenols survives the dessication process. However, bodybuilding expert and researcher Jim Stoppani, PhD, whom I look up to very much, recommends them as a daily supplement. If you’re looking for a green tea extract to add to the protein shake, I might suggest a matcha powder which is essentially ground green tea leaves.

      Thanks again for your comments – public discussion and criticism of any claims, including my own, keeps people honest and keeps us focused on finding the true, proven benefits of any health supplements or techniques.

      Cheers!

      • Is there a protein shake you would recommend to someone just getting started that has no idea what they’re doing? I need to lose 150 pounds. I’ve lost 15 so far by changing how I eat, and walking on my treadmill (have to start slow). I keep hearing about shakeology and i’m trying to find an alternative shake that’s more affordable (and after reading this I’m so glad I didn’t buy it). SO expensive! Hope to hear from you!

        Thanks!

        • Chris

          2014-07-07 at 1:20 pm

          Hey Ashleigh! Thanks for stopping by.

          The mere fact that you’ve already lost 15 lbs means that you have at least some idea of what you’re doing! :) Keep up the good work!

          My recommendation for protein shakes is to start simple and start cheap. I’ve been doing this for a while and my protein shakes are still really, really basic – and now that my wife is dipping into my protein shake stash too, I have to be extra-conscious of the cost!

          Here’s a few pointers to help you on your journey:

          1. Protein shakes aren’t magic – and don’t believe anyone that tells you that consuming a specific food or beverage will burn fat. It’s not true. However, protein shakes are a great tool in your weight-loss arsenal for a few reasons: they are a low-carb, low-fat source of protein which you’ll need as you build muscle mass from your treadmill workouts. Since they’re very high in protein, they’ll leave you feeling fuller longer than you would if you drank a fruit smoothie or anything juiced.

          2. There are a lot of different proteins out there, so it’s easy to feel confused with all the options available to you. I’d suggest looking at two really basic and affordable protein powders first: whey and casein. Whey can be quickly digested and absorbed by the body, so it’s a good choice immediately after a workout when your body is craving nourishment. Casein, on the other hand, is more slowly absorbed by the body, so it’s a good choice if you want to use a protein shake as a meal replacement to cut down on total calories consumed. Casein digests more slowly so you may feel fuller longer. I find that whey mixes really easily and makes a nice smooth shake, while casein doesn’t mix quite as easily and makes a thicker shake. I also find casein has a slightly stronger taste.

          3. What to mix your protein powder with is really a personal preference. I find mixing with water leaves me with a bland, thin shake, so I mix it with unsweetened almond milk which is low in calories plus I don’t enjoy liquid cow’s milk all that much. My favourite mix is 1.5 cups of almond milk, one banana, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and a few ice cubes. Blend that up and that’s my go-to breakfast shake right there. There’s a great starter list of protein shake recipes here that will get you started with various flavours of shakes. Just remember – it’s tough to out-run your fork, so be careful with the recipes that add extra calories in the form of sugar (chocolate syrup, honey) or fructose (fruit juices).

          4. Keep it affordable. I used to buy my protein powder from the bulk store here in town until I discovered that I could get it far, far cheaper online. My gym rat friends love the 100% Gold Standard Whey and 100% Gold Standard Casein from Bodybuilding.com – and the best part is that it gets delivered right to your door. I love having the chocolate and vanilla flavours on-hand, as I’m a chocoholic and the vanilla flavours mix really well with fruit. Until you’re farther down the path of your wellness journey, don’t worry about other, more complicated shakes.

          If you don’t have a blender, then you’ll need a decent shaker cup to mix your shakes (unfortunately they won’t blend up a banana in your shake but they’re good in a pinch). They’re great when you’re on-the go at work or even when you don’t want to face washing out the blender AGAIN just to have a smoothie. Just remember to always mix us your shakes fresh – they’ll go skanky if you let them sit around, even in the fridge.

          Please check back in as your wellness journey progresses! I’d love to hear how it’s going!

          • Thanks for your informative review of shakeology. I had started T25 with beachbody where they then sold me shakeology. Even as a “discount” coach… shakeology was $95 a month plus a membership fee. It was ridiculous and I didn’t want to be a part of it. I was taking a look at the bodybuilding.com protein powder that you recommended… I am wondering if you know if they give any samples to try different flavors before you buy them?

          • Chris

            2014-08-14 at 10:39 am

            Hi Andrea!
            Unfortunately they don’t offer samples of the different flavors. (I wish I’d been able to try a sample before I ordered the Chocolate casein – I would have stuck with Vanilla!)
            They *do* offer 3-serving size packets in Vanilla Ice Cream, Double Rich Chocolate and Cinnamon Graham Cracker for a reasonable cost, so that’s a great way to try out a few flavors before you commit to a huge container. The taste ratings as shown on Bodybuilding.com are pretty accurate. What sort of Shakeology flavors did you enjoy in the past? I can try to match up some whey flavors with your taste profile if you’d like!

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for this article. I found it very informative. I was sucked into the whole Shakeology thing a few months ago. After doing more research and reading more unbiased articles, I realized it was all hype. The shakes are ok tasting, but nothing worth over $5 a serving. They are all about trying to get you to “coach” and preach that you get a discount, but then you have to pay $16 a month for a website that doesn’t even work right. Don’t even get me started on that end of it. I like the idea of a shake meal replacement , but not for the price or hype they are selling it at.

    • Chris

      2014-07-22 at 11:06 am

      Hey Mel – thanks for stopping by!
      I have to say that Shakeology is a brilliant marketing scheme. Even as a coach with a discount, you’re still paying an astronomical amount of money for a basic protein shake in a bag with dubious “superfoods”. Beachbody realized some time ago that they weren’t going to make tons of money anymore selling DVDs in the digital age, so they had to move on to a consumable/renewable product they could market to their primarily female demographic. It’s incredibly smart marketing – but it’s gouging people unnecessarily.

      • Yes! These “coaches” are so pushy.. knowing they won’t make any money if they don’t get more people to sign up. I am so glad to find a good article about this. Every time I find an article it ends up being a coach and they of course have it all one sided to sound so good. I hope more people will start realizing it’s just a pyramid scheme.

  3. Hi!

    I really appreciated your through breackdown of the different parts of the shake. I did a 4 day Shakeology challenge and gained 2 lbs, really discouraged. I did do the Body by Vi shakes 6 mo ago and it tasted a lot better and I lost a few pounds. What are your thoughts on the Body by Vi shakes? Are the protein shakes you listed in another comment good for women too? Thank you for all your insight!! :)

    • Chris

      2014-07-25 at 3:07 pm

      Hey Kelly – thanks for stopping by!

      I haven’t tried the Vi shakes yet – but you’ve given me a perfect idea for the next product I should review! :)

      The great thing about the shakes mentioned in the comments here is that they don’t discriminate – they’re great for both men and women. In fact, there’s very little difference in protein requirement between the sexes except for total daily protein intake. (And if a woman is benching 250 lbs then she’s probably going to need more than me!)

      However, there is a difference between the sexes when it comes to shakes. TASTE. Seriously. Women have a more refined sense of taste and tend to gravitate towards the sweeter flavors, while men predominantly couldn’t care two hoots about what they drank. There are some NASTY workout supplements that I see guys drink all the time. I have even chugged a whole shake of UNFLAVORED whey just because there was nothing else available.

      This causes a problem in terms of total calories when it comes to shake recipes. If women aren’t into the chocolate flavored shakes, they tend to choose fruit-flavored or vanilla shakes and then add varying amounts of fruit and sweeteners like honey or agave, or calorie-dense things like peanut butter. This dramatically increases the calorie count of the shake.

      If you’re interested in writing down a few thoughts about your experience with Body by Vi, I’d love to publish it here! Let me know!

      • Hi
        Just wanted to add my two cents about any shakes from MLM companies.. you ned to be careful, because ultimately they are just worried about making money. I tried to get a sample from Body by Vi three times and all three times they said they were sending me one and never did. I am not expecting to really lose weight from drinking daily shake, but it’s convenient for me since I am not a breakfast eater. I am so skeptical of all these mlm companies now. I still would like to try the body by vi though.. I have seen them being sold on Amazon but not sure if it’s wise to buy from there or not? Is it just some random person selling it or a reliable company?

  4. Great article! I had a feeling Shakeology was over-hyped and you confirmed that, so thank you for saving me thousands of dollars.

    You mentioned that you don’t recommend protein shakes for meal replacement – do you use them at all, or recommend using them? Right now I drink one from EAS after I work out (not as a meal replacement), hoping for muscle recovery and building, but not even sure if that’s a good use or not!

    • Chris

      2014-08-05 at 7:01 am

      Hey Jen!

      I love to eat, so I just can’t get on board with having only a shake as a meal. However, I DO use protein shakes as SNACK replacements, and I definitely have a shake post-workout.
      When I workout in the morning I don’t feel like eating, but I don’t want to work out on an empty stomach. I’ll do up a quick shake pre-workout so that I don’t have to spend the next 45 minutes starving and light-headed, and I’ll have another shake after with bananas or avocado along with my usual breakfast of eggs and fruit.

      I’m a big fan of protein shakes for anyone wanting to build muscle. I find that when I consume protein shakes after a workout my muscles are a lot less sore (i.e. less DOMS) than when I was working out without using protein shakes.

      Thanks!

  5. What a great post! Thank you!
    Recently, I’ve been following a Beachbody DVD, which I enjoy the workouts, but before, during and after is like a Shakeology infomercial. They almost had me convinced until I started looking for alternatives. I want a shake for a meal replacement because I don’t always have time, or last nights leftovers, for lunch at work. I’ll grab a smoothie but come dinner time I’m feeling ravenous and fighting the urge to grab whatever is in sight. I like what you said to Ashleigh about the Casein protein and how it helps you stay fuller longer. Is there something similar that’s more plant based? Not that I’m a vegitarian / vegan, just curious. Thanks again!

    • Chris

      2014-08-05 at 9:56 pm

      Hey Christina!

      Lately I’ve found that the entire WORKOUT is a Shakeology commercial – with the bags on shelves in the background and everyone in the video wears a Shakeology t-shirt! LOL!
      There are two main choices when it comes to vegan protein: soy-based protein, or pure plant-based protein. Soy-based protein powders come from soy, obviously, but soy doesn’t agree with some people’s digestive systems. The plant-based proteins usually come from peas, legumes or rice; however they don’t tend to be as filling (or as cheap!) as soy. Some people are concerned about the amount of soy in our modern diet but I don’t feel this has been proven yet in all the food research I’ve uncovered. If you want a more filling shake, you can always add fiber – my favorite is ground flax. A little gritty to drink but tastes good and helps fill you up a little longer.

  6. hi, this is a very interesting article…i knew 6 months ago that i wasnt going to be suckered into buying shakeology as im in the u.k for one and i realised that if i drank a good protein based meal replacement with my own supplements (fish oils, matcha BCAA. and a good multi vit including magnesium) then i wouldnt go far wrong…in the U.K check out the proteinworks…meal replacement shakes, they taste absolutely delicious ..esp the chocolate machiatto and as they are a meal replacement and not just a protein shake..(though they are whey based) they are full of vitamins…i tip a few chia seeds into mine and have done this post workout for 6 months..

    • Chris

      2014-08-12 at 11:12 am

      Hey Ursula – thanks for the comments for our UK readers. You seem to have a great plan with the protein/meal replacement shakes and your supplement stack. Great work!

  7. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the write up. I’m ripping my way through P90X right now, and it seems to be working. I was about to delve into figuring out whether Shakeology was science or pseudoscience, and as I suspected (I’m a PhD molecular biologist) it’s the latter. Thanks for saving me the time.

    One thing though – you list protease as being an “enzyme that helps convert starches into sugars”. This is incorrect – proteases are a group of enzymes that convert proteins into amino acids. I suspect that this is just a cut and paste error, but it might be worth updating this otherwise flawless article. The whole concept of Beachbody feeling the need to add these enzymes to a shake when they are present in our saliva and secreted by our gastrointestinal tract is mind-boggling to me. If we didn’t have these enzymes, we couldn’t digest any food at all!

    Thanks again, Andrew

    • Chris

      2014-08-27 at 8:53 am

      Hi Andrew!
      I’ve corrected the article – thanks for catching this cut+paste error!

  8. Hi Chris,
    Thank you for confirming my suspicions. Very informative article.
    I have completed triathlons, P90X, Rushfit, Les Mills Combat, ‘some’ of Insanity and now P90X3 over the last 5 years. I undertook these excellent workout programs with different shakes/supplements combinations to determine pros/cons. I thought readers might be interested in my anecdotes. By the way, I am a celiac and lactose intolerant, so i have to go with vegan or whey protein isolate to avoid all the stomach problems.
    My regime was to workout in the morning, have a protein shake for breakfast, then eat sensibly for the rest of the day. I tracked my calories with myfitnesspal. Net calories (after deducting those used in the workout) was ~1600 cals. I lost 10lbs after 90 days, but put on muscle and cut fat. Happy with the results.

    Protein Shakes and experiences:

    1. GNC Whey Isolate Protein shake and Soy Milk (40g, 8oz soy milk) – no problems, apart from being hungry and tired. A lot.
    2. GNC Whey Isolate Protein shake and Soy Milk (40g, 8oz soy milk), 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter, 1 ground flax seed. Tasted way better, and the fats switched off my hunger until lunchtime. Still tired.
    3. GNC Whey Isolate Protein shake and Soy Milk (40g, 8oz soy milk), 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter, 1 ground flax seed. 1 scoop of Waxy Maize. Less hunger, more energy for workout the next day, trained harder, more fitness gains.
    4. Shakeology – Vegan Chocolate and Tropical Strawberry – plus 8oz soy milk. Chocolate tasted great, strawberry tasted fake and a bit gritty. Got an energy spike 30 minutes after drinking. Did not notice any loss of appetite, or increased weight loss or muscle gain. Much improved digestion and bowel movements.

    So, no real surprises here, but my personal experience taught me this:
    1 . My custom shake cost me $3.50. Shakeology was $5, or $6.50 if I supplemented the carbs and flax seeds to match my custom shake. My customised shake tasted just as good, and gave my body what I KNOW it really needed to help me get the best out of these workout programs.
    2. Adding good fats to my diet was the key to switching off sustained hunger pangs. Low fat diets caused me to eat more calories (usually carbs). A spoonful of peanut butter would bridge the ‘3pm crave for carbs’ and keep me satisfied until dinner.
    3. Low carb diets might be good in the long term to help you slowly shed fat, but used on a tough workout program like P90X, they left me tired and unable to workout hard. It also sapped morale being tired all the time and increased the likelihood of me failing to complete the program (i only failed to complete Insanity by the way).

    So, once my last few sachets of shakeology run out I’ll be back on the custom protein shake, and looking to identify and add the supplement in shakeology that helped out my digestive system.

    Nik

    • Chris

      2014-09-02 at 10:33 am

      Holy cow, Nik! That is an amazing breakdown and analysis of your protein supplementation. Thank you SO much for this. I would like to hold this up as a shining example of how to use yourself as a proving ground for supplementation and its benefits. I wonder how your experience would have changed had you incorporated Casein into your workouts – it breaks down more slowly and it keeps me fuller longer. As well, I’m interested to see that you tried waxy maize in your shakes – I usually stick to dextrose as it breaks down a little faster than WMS and it’s hella cheap. Check out my Body Beast review to see what I put in my workout shakes. If you do determine the digestive supplement in Shakeology that helped you out, PLEASE come back and let me know. I’d love to publish your findings!

      • Thanks Chris. FYI, I used waxy maize because that’s what the guy in the healthfood store recommended. As you stated, further research since has confirmed that dextrose would have been just as good (and cheaper). Looking forward to something different as waxy maize spoiled the texture of the shake (unsurprisingly, it kinda tasted like finely ground cornmeal….). I am 1-2 weeks away from finishing my up my shakeology and will start experimenting with probiotics, and other ingredients from shakeology that could have contributed to my improved digestive system. Midway through P90X3, so for phase 3 I will be back on the custom shakes for the final stretch and will try casein too.

  9. I bought a sample pack of Shakeology (trial of four different flavors). I thought it tasted just okay, and it didn’t really help stave off cravings or increase my energy. Like so many others, I determined it wasn’t worth the price.

    I liked your post here and decided to try the ON Gold Standard Whey in Vanilla Ice Cream. It tastes very good, but the one thing that concerns me is its use of acesulfame potassium as a sweetener. I know there are contradictory reports as to its safety, and I’m wondering if my research might be dated and if you have something more recent to report.

    I think the way to go might be to buy the unsweetened powders and add fruit to sweeten the shakes.

    • Chris

      2014-09-10 at 10:02 am

      Nancy – I’ll point you to the well-respected supplement team at Examine.com who have this to say about acesulfame-potassium:

      There are no studies that indicate any long-term health risks from drinking diet soda. Diet Soda (defined as calorie free carbonated beverages sweetened with aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium, or other non-caloric or minimally caloric sweeteners) is not harmful to health, well-being, or body composition.[1]
      There is no evidence that diet soda inhibits fat loss, or that it even spikes insulin levels to levels that would be detrimental to health.

      The full article can be found here if you’re interested. But if you wanted to eat as cleanly as you could, then I’d suggest that the NOW unflavored whey powders found here would be a great start. The ingredients list is as follows: “Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate (including ß-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, Immunoglobulins, and Glycomacro Peptides), and Soy Lecithin (<1%). Contains milk and soy.”

      Let me know how you make out!

      • Thank you! There is so much contradictory information out there! I think I will try what you recommended.

        • Chris

          2014-09-10 at 10:42 am

          Good luck! Remember that you’ll never go wrong sticking to pure natural whole foods. But there are a lot of additives and supplements that are equally safe – it just takes a lot of digging to find the truth.

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