Weight loss is a major goal for many people, yet it can be exceptionally difficult to achieve.
For some, products can seem to be the answer and they offer a way to make weight loss easier and more realistic.
But, in many cases, products don’t live up to the marketing and hype that surrounds them.
This post takes a look at the product selection offered by Herbalife.
Specifically, I consider the meal replacement shakes that the company provides and how these work as tools for weight loss.
This includes looking at what the Herbalife reviews from actual product users have to say.
The article has been recently updated to take into account any changes with Herbalife, including their products and the ingredients that are used.
Herbalife Meal Replacement Shakes
One of the key ideas from Herbalife is meal replacement.
Meal replacement products are extremely common and they have become a staple of the weight loss industry. To a degree, this isn’t surprising, as the underlying concept does make sense.
How Meal Replacement Products Work
As the name suggests, meal replacement products are something that you have instead of a meal. They try to contain similar nutrients to a meal, while also helping you to feel full.
To do this, most meal replacement products rely on high levels of protein. Not only is protein filling but it can also offer some health benefits, especially as many people don’t get enough protein in their diet.
Replacing meals this way can work well because you’re eating or drinking something that is lower in calories than a normal meal. As a result, you’re decreasing your calorie intake, which can contribute to weight loss.
The technique is often appealing because it’s fairly easy to achieve and many of the meal replacement products also taste good. For example, the site Healthline talks about some of the benefits of the shakes.
Meal Replacement with Herbalife
The concept might work but what does this mean for Herbalife? Should you invest in their various meal replacement products? Certainly, some reviews think the company is amazing but are those claims accurate?
Well, the first thing to note is that meal replacement products are everywhere. In fact, every direct marketing health and nutrition company that I’ve seen has their own version.
- For example, the company Shakeology specializes in protein shakes and the company Isagenix offers a significant number as well.
- Likewise, diet systems like Take Shape for Life and the Cambridge Diet strongly rely on meal replacement options, including shakes, snacks and other products.
- You don’t have to go to a direct marketing company either. Most grocery stores have a pretty decent selection of meal replacement products, including mixes for protein shakes.
- Specialized health companies like GNC offer a range of options.
- And, of course, there is a wide selection of meal replacement shakes on Amazon.
This means that the question isn’t really whether Herbalife works for weight loss. Instead, we need to focus on whether Herbalife is better than the other options out there.
To do this, we’re going to specifically focus on the shakes.There are other meal replacement products from the company too but they tend to follow similar patterns.
For this post, we're focusing on one type of shake from Herbalife. This is the product line shown below:
These are specifically promoted as meal replacement shakes.
There is a range of flavors listed, along with some limited release options (like roasted peanut). Their standard flavors are currently:
- Banana Caramel (750 g)
- French Vanilla (750 g)
- Dulce de Leche (750 g)
- Orange Cream (750 g)
- Mint Chocolate (780 g)
- Vanilla - Alternative Proteins (810 g)
- Dutch Chocolate (750 g)
- Wild Berry (750 g)
- Cookies 'n Cream (750 g)
- Pina Colada (750 g)
- Cafe Latte (780 g)
Overall, the selection of flavors is decent, with more options than most other brands.
Herbalife Shake Ingredients
The shakes from Herbalife do contain a large number of ingredients (image is for the Dutch Chocolate flavor - you can view full details here).
The pattern isn’t too surprising or concerning because of the nature of the shakes. Specifically, meal replacement shakes try to replicate many of the nutrients in a meal. The only way to do this is with a lot of ingredients.
Still, there are a few things worth mentioning.
First, the protein shakes use soy protein as a base
They also contain soy lectin. The use of soy is fairly common for this type of product, but it is an area that is intensely debated.
In particular, some people are concerned about soy, especially as soybeans are often genetically modified. For that matter, Herbalife specifically has one flavor variation that uses ‘non-GM ingredients’. This suggests that at least some of the other flavors may have genetically modified ingredients.
Likewise, there are other debates about whether or not soy is a good option for health. Some people are deeply concerned about soy and argue that it can harm health dramatically (1). For example, the site Food Renegade talks about various risks of soy, as does Paleo Leap.
Now, I haven’t focused on this area enough to give an accurate opinion but this is a topic worth thinking about. Personally, I prefer whey protein as a protein source anyway but that’s not true for everyone.
If you are concerned about soy, then the use of soy protein may be a problem with Herbalife’s shakes. However, if you’re not, this part may not be relevant.
The company does also mention the presence of ‘artificial flavors’
This aspect may not appeal to everyone, especially as there's no way to know which specific ingredients are being used.
Myself, I find the sheer number of ingredients concerning and this is reason enough for me to avoid the shakes. However, if you want a flavored meal replacement shake, you’ll find a similar pattern from most companies.
The nutrition of the shakes is okay but it isn’t brilliant.
There are a few things worth noting about this ingredient label.
The first is the level of protein – 9 grams
This is enough to make you feel reasonably full but it is lower than many other products. For example, Isagenix has 24 grams of protein in some of its shakes versus 17 grams for Shakeology (2).
Those values make the 9 grams from Herbalife seem fairly small.
Also, there are only 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving
Again, this is on the low side.
Protein and fiber are the main components of a protein shake that are supposed to make you feel full. So, low amounts of both of these is a major cause for concern.
Now, the protein levels do mean that the shakes are relatively low in calories, which is a plus. However, that scarcely matters if the ingredients aren’t enough to keep you full.
The other thing to note is the sugar
9 grams of sugars may help the shakes taste good but the sugar doesn’t offer any nutritional benefits.
For that matter, sugar is damaging to the body. Plus, there really isn’t a need for that much of it anyway, especially as the idea is to make the shake with berries and ice.
If you’re taking these shakes to lose weight, then extra sugar really is the last thing you need.
The nutrition aspects suggest that the shakes would still work but there are certainly better options out there. Nevertheless, there may be a reason for this.
In contrast, Herbalife specifically promotes the idea of snacking regularly and relying on high protein snacks. Because of this, the shake doesn’t need to keep you full for as long.
So, if you plan to follow Herbalife’s strategy, then the shakes may be a better choice than other brands. But, don’t expect the shakes to completely fill you up from one meal to the next.
Herbalife Side Effects
I was surprised to find just how many reviews talk about side effects from the products. Honestly, I hadn’t expected too many issues, because shakes are a fairly common concept but there does seem to be a significant risk of side effects.
These includes headaches, dry mouth, stomach problems and thyroid issues. Now, some people use Herbalife products in conjunction with one another - so it's not always clear whether the shakes themselves were causing the observed issues.
The side effects could be caused by a number of things.
- For example, some people get side effects when they increase protein intake, especially if they do so without also increasing how much water they drink.
- Likewise, the Herbalife shakes are fairly high in sugar and this could interfere with some health conditions.
- Herbalife’s approach can also be a significant change in eating patterns for some people. This alone could easily cause some side effects, including low energy and possibly headaches.
Most reviews don’t mention side effects, so these probably only affect a subset of people using the products. Still, the presence of side effects suggests a need for caution.
Additionally, if you are on medication or have a health condition, you should talk to your doctor before getting involved. This is true for any significant change in diet or lifestyle.
Herbalife Weight Loss Reviews
The science tells one story about Herbalife but looking at what people actually think is also important. After all, nutrition science is very individualistic. What works for one person won't necessarily be useful for another.
Some reviews even suggest that the writer is a distributor.
Nevertheless, there are also many positive reviews out there
Some of them should be (hopefully) less biased.
There are also many complaints about the company and the products
One other key thing about the shakes is the taste and opinions about this in the reviews vary. In particular, some people absolutely hate the flavors and look for things to add to improve the shakes.
Others love the way the shakes turn out.
These differences may be partly based on personal preference and also on the way that you prepare the shake.
Because of the debate about taste, I suggest that anyone considering Herbalife finds a way to try the shakes first. Realistically, weight loss is hard enough on its own. Your chances of success will become much smaller if you’re trying to lose weight through products that taste awful.
Shake reviews are very mixed, with some people finding the products taste great and are effective, while many others are less thrilled
Meal Replacement versus Protein Shakes
There is one other thing that I want to bring up, which is the distinction between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes.
As I discussed before, Herbalife meal replacement products do contain many ingredients. Most of these are natural and plant-based, although it’s clear that some are artificial in nature. This pattern is true across most similar items in the marketplace.
To a degree, that pattern is also necessary. After all, the products are designed to provide a range of nutrients and those have to come from somewhere.
At the same time, many brands focus on making their shakes taste really good. This sometimes means the nutritional profile is compromised.
- In particular, there are 9 grams of sugar in a single serving of the Dutch Chocolate meal replacement powder. For a serving of 26 grams, that’s a high amount of sugar.
- That same serving size only has 9 grams of protein, which is pretty low for a meal replacement product.
These patterns are why I don’t personally recommend meal replacement shakes. Instead, if you want to replace a meal, then it’s healthier to simply rely on protein powders.
This type of product is used in the same way and can still taste fairly good. However, there are some key differences.
- For one thing, protein shakes don’t tend to focus on vitamins and minerals. Instead, the emphasis is on macronutrients.
- As a result, they typically offer higher amounts of protein, often 18 grams or more per serving.
- They also tend to contain less sugar
The end result is that these can typically be better for weight loss. In many cases, they even cost less than the products that Herbalife offers.
Protein shakes are also especially relevant if you don’t want to snack through the day. In particular, this type of shake tends to have more protein and more fiber, making it considerably more filling.
Protein shakes can be a better alternative to meal replacement shakes for weight loss and are often more filling
Other Herbalife Products
Now, Herbalife has a large selection of products, far too many for me to go into here. However, I do want to cover some of the key ideas and how they work.
So, one area is their various protein-based snacks.
The idea is that these will keep you satisfied between meals, making weight loss easier.
For some people, the snacks the company offers may work. In particular, people vary in the way they respond to hunger.
- Some find hunger to be a minor inconvenience and have no problems being hungry for a while. People in this situation often benefit from intermittent fasting as a method of weight loss and may not get any advantages from extra snacks.
- In contrast, others find being hungry unbearable, which can result in impulse decisions about food. For people in this group, high protein snacks can be a way of reducing calorie intake.
But, regardless, if you snack it should be because you need to – not simply to impact your metabolism.
The company also offers a range of supplements, which perform various functions. For example, one focuses on maintenance of blood sugar levels, while another helps with protein digestion.
Supplements are an entirely different topic and one that I won’t consider in depth with this post. However, weight loss supplements don’t tend to be nearly as effective as the marketing suggests.
Instead, most supplements have no impact at all or only work if you were deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral. Certainly, they’re not going to revolutionize weight loss.
Now, it’s true that some supplements seem to have an effect, such as making you feel less hungry, providing more energy or potentially impacting aspects of how food is metabolized. But, supplements rarely translate into observable impacts on weight loss.
Some of the supplements do also just focus on health rather than weight loss, such as Herbalife’s digestive health kit.
In some cases, products like this may work, especially if they involved a probiotic supplement. However, you can normally get similar benefits by simply making good choices about what food you eat. There are also plenty of other probiotic supplements out there.
Should You Rely on Herbalife?
I have no doubt that people successfully lose weight through Herbalife. The various products could easily help you to decrease your calorie intake and they may even make food selection easier.
But, relying on specific products to lose weight often doesn’t work all that well in the long-term.
For one thing, you’re choosing packaged and processed food over healthy meals that you make yourself.
- As a result, you could easily miss out on some plant-based nutrients.
- In many cases, you could find yourself relying on one of Herbalife’s shakes for a meal or two each day along with their snacks during the day.
- Even if you don’t go to that extreme, it’s easy to see how your intake of natural food decreases.
Beyond this, using Herbalife effectively is surprisingly complicated. For example, this is what one person recommends.
This strategy may work for some people but for others, it would just be frustrating. Plus, as I mentioned before, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that many small meals per day actually helps with weight loss.
My biggest problem is just that you end up depending on the products.
After all, Herbalife doesn’t do much to teach other healthy strategies for eating and weight loss. So, most people would just lose weight when they are on the program and may regain weight if they leave.
Losing weight in the short-term is fine, but only if you can keep it off.
Unfortunately, most systems (like Herbalife) don’t set people up for long-term success. So instead, you can spend a lot of time and money on the company, just to eventually regain the weight once you stop buying the products.
This problem is why I feel that any weight loss solution needs to be long-term. In most cases, this will mean that you shouldn’t be relying on prepackaged meals or on supplements. Instead, you need to figure out a lifestyle that works for you.
Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off?
Weight loss is a huge industry, with no shortage of hype. But, long-term weight loss doesn't come from a crash diet or a popular fad.
Instead, you need sustainable habits and healthy foods.
Check out my recommended weight loss products to see where you can get started