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:
(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:
- Basic composition
- Vitamin and minerals
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.
Take a look at the main section of the nutritional label. I’ll zoom in for you here:
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:
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.
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:
|Vitamin A||500 IU||1000 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|
|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|
*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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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:
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.