Are You Beach Body Ready? Not If You Drink This Bulls**t
A while ago. there was a big yellow ad which caused tons of body shaming hoopla.
As a tanned, skinny blonde with a better-than-you look on her face stared down on us mere mortals in disgust, the line “Are You Beach Body Ready?” jumped out of the page like an uppercut to your self-confidence.
Controversy ensued. And rightly so.
I mean, if you feel like s**t trudging to work on a cold Monday morning, you probably wouldn’t appreciate a big yellow poster saying, “Hey! Don’t forget you look like s**t too!”
It gets worse…
Because, bizarrely, this ad was being used to promote weight loss products, with Protein World going on to present themselves as the solution to the bad mood which they had just f**king put you in!
The CEO of the company responded to criticism by calling his audience feminist terrorists (!!) and said they’re only opposed to the bikini-clad model because they’re insecure about their own body.
The product in question is Slender Blend, a whey protein which was developed by UK-based supplement manufacturer Protein World.
Despite being a relatively new company, these guys have already seen their fair share of controversy; from this ad, to their genius marketing strategy, to recently being caught lying on their nutrition labels…
There’s more on all of this below.
Because today I’ll be taking a look at this product to decide whether it’s worth all the fuss, as we put it through my deliberately harsh supplement rating system in my Protein World Slender Blend review.
No supplement has yet made it out with a full 5 star recommendation. Let’s see how this one fares…
Protein World Slender Blend Review
Surely, a product which is so bold and brash in it’s marketing strategy must be fantastic.
After all, why else would it take the “Use this, you fat f**ker!” approach..?
So I was expecting greatness inside this very pretty tub.
(No joke there, the company have made a very nice looking product.)
Sadly, that’s not what I got.
When looking at the finer details of Slender Blend, it became clear why Protein World use shock tactics in their marketing.
Because beyond that big attention-drawing advert, things are rather bland. There are a few red flags which I’d like to discuss, too, as I point out the main things you can expect from this product.
First up, I found it rather difficult to locate the nutritional information on the company’s website.
We get pages of hype, social media posts, and a few strange claims about weight loss which I’ll dig into later in this post, but I had to dig quite deep to locate the nutritional values of Slender Blend. Maybe they don’t expect their target audience to look for it, but whenever a company makes it difficult to see the nutritional breakdown of a product it tells me it isn’t going to be as great as the hype behind it.
Thankfully, I don’t give up easily.
You can see the nutritional information below:
- 22.9g protein (per serving)
- 7.9g carbohydrates
- 2g fat
- 22.9g Protein Is Optimal For Muscle Growth
We get off to a good start (enjoy it while it lasts!) with 22.9 grams of protein per serving.
Sure, there are products available which go much higher than this, but studies show that as long as you’re getting around 20-30 grams of protein you are striking the optimal balance for building lean muscle. (1)
- Basic Whey Protein Formula
Our whey protein formula here consists of good old whey protein concentrate and skimmed milk powder.
That’s as basic as it gets.
And while that is all fine, it’ll do the job, the price of Slender Blend doesn’t reflect the rather basic nature of the protein formula.
You’re paying just under £60 for a 2kg supply, and that’s the kind of price you’d expect to pay for a top of the range whey protein supplement which provides you with a more complex blend featuring, say, hydrolised whey protein isolate, or a mixture of several different types of protein (egg, soy, casein, whey, etc) in order to stimulate muscle protein synthesis for longer.
Example: you could pick up this whey protein supplement for a lower price, despite the fact it boasts a superior nutritional breakdown and is built by a company with a much more solid reputation within the fitness world.
- Only 60% Protein-Per-Serving
I always advise PT clients to look for a whey protein which has around an 80% protein-per-serving ratio.
That’s because you’re likely buying a protein supplement in order to get more protein into your diet (duh!), so we want a product which gives us as much protein and as little filler as possible in each scoop.
Slender Blend gives just 60% protein-per-serving.
There’s nothing wrong with the 22.9 grams of protein it does provide, but there’s a lot of ingredients we simply don’t need. I’m covering that next.
- 7.9g Carbs Per Shake?
For a supplement aimed at the weight loss category, that’s a lot of carbs per shake.
This has clearly been included purely to make the product taste nice, but it takes away from the quality, because to make matters worse Protein World have ensured almost the entire carb serving comes in the form of pure sugar.
This will certainly add up if you’re drinking a few shakes per day.
- A Proprietary Blend Of Fat Burners & Vitamins
Throwing in so-called “fat burning” ingredients and a range of vitamins is a cheap way for a company to be able to make claims of the product boosting weight loss further, or giving the customer more energy.
In truth, though, these ingredients are always under-dosed and therefore ineffective.
Protein World are not the first company to do this, and it’s one of the reasons I recently said diet whey products suck.
For those of you who are new to the fitness world, and might not know what a proprietary blend is, it’s where a company uses industry loopholes which allow them to list the ingredients inside the product without giving the dosages.
Imagine going to the gas station and the meter saying, “I’ve put diesel in your car!” without telling you how much, so you have no idea if it’s enough or not.
That’s a proprietary blend.
However, what I can tell you without even being able to see the dosage levels here, is that the so-called fat burning ingredients are ineffective.
Despite it’s huge popularity, science does not support the idea of green tea extract as a fat burner. It won’t make any difference to fat loss unless consumed in ridiculously high dosages, and even then it depends on the person being caffeine naive. (2, 3, 4)
The other main ingredient in the fat burning blend is guarana extract.
But again, there is no research to support it as a fat burner. It does contain a fair amount of caffeine inside it, but (just like green tea extract) you’d need a super high dose to see any energy boosting effect at all. (5)
As you can see, the elevated price tag of Slender Blend doesn’t appear to have a direct correlation with the quality of the product itself!
Which leaves me with one very important question – why is it so popular?!
Why Is Protein World Slender Blend So Popular?
I believe this is a bang average whey protein supplement.
But it certainly has garnered a lot of sales for the company, and I believe there are two reasons for this.
- Very Good Design
The product looks beautiful.
Protein World realizes we live in a time where more and more women are starting to lift weights.
The majority of supplement manufacturers still opt for out-of-date looking packaging, with images of big bodybuilders and gross veins popping through the skin. They’re stuck in the past, and Protein World are at the forefront of a group of companies who have identified this problem and cashed in on it.
For example, which of the following two items would you rather buy?
There’s a clear winner, right?
It looks modern, it looks female-friendly, and it looks slick, whereas the other supplement looks like it came straight out of a 1980’s bodybuilding magazine.
It’s no wonder that young men and women are choosing the clean cut design of Protein World, because this is an appearance-based industry, and this comes despite the fact the second product has a superior nutritional breakdown than Slender Blend!
- Clever Celebrity Endorsement
Protein World were very quick to establish their target audience.
That niche is reality television and social media “influencers”.
It’s a dark world, where people are forever whitening their teeth and how many likes you got on your last Facebook post determines how happy you are inside.
I don’t like it here.
But it works.
Entertainment shows like Geordie Shore, Love Island, or the endless stream of similar programs on MTV are book-ended with adverts for Protein World featuring pretty girls dancing in swimming pools, duck-pouting at a Slender Blend shaker or a tub of so-called “Toner” capsules.
(Yes, that’s a real product… kill me now…)
When my clients are looking for new supplements I often joke that they should simply beware of anything luminous.
Well, the same could be said about the people selling the product…
Because the issue with using reality stars and social media influencers to publicize a supplement is that most of these guys and girls will post about anything if a company gives it to them for free.
I’ve seen this first-hand.
As such, many of these social media posts come with a lot of bad dieting advice which youngsters are taking as gospel truth.
Khloe Kardashian posted a picture with Protein World Slender Blend?
This is the same Khloe Kardashian who’s TV coach recommended putting butter in her coffee to burn more fat.
If anything, that should be a f**king deterrent.
But it’s not. It’s a smart pairing, correctly aimed at the right target audience for this supplement, and that’s why it works.
Hats off to Protein World for being able to lock in on their niche, because most companies get it completely wrong.
There are countless examples of this.
Usain Bolt mentioned Juice Plus once and sales reps have used it as a hook ever since. Gwyneth Paltrow has made a second career selling woo based on the trust in her name. Bono once advertised credit cards. Oprah recommended James Frey’s autobiography which later turned out to be fake. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray used to endorse Dunkin’ Donuts. Hulk Hogan released a grill and it looked like he didn’t even know about it at the time.
These were all terrible ideas of odd pairings that just didn’t go together.
But the creme de la creme?
A couple of years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger released a line of bodybuilding supplements which absolutely sucked.
Arnold f**king Schwarzenegger. Bodybuilding supplements. Sucked.
Sales were still huge (because Ah-nuld) and this just goes to show the power of a good marketing pair-up.
My point being, celebrity endorsement shouldn’t really stand for s**t and they aren’t a good indicator of whether a product is truly great or not, but it gives that product a chance to succeed on the big stage. It allows a company to piggyback on the trust we’ve built with a particular star.
In the case of Protein World, they were very smart to target the self-absorbed world of reality TV and the slew of Instagram models it spawns, because it’s a genre which matches it’s own kinda self-absorbed advertising strategies and the clean design of the product.
The Nutrition Label Lie
As if this product needed more controversy, Protein World were recently accused of lying on the nutrition label.
In a report published by The Sun, Slender Blend was discovered to contain 17x more carbohydrates than advertised.
17 times more carbs! Holy s**t!
Protein World aren’t the first company to do this, of course, and they won’t be the last.
The poorly regulated supplement industry is rife with companies who push out misleading labels and contain hidden ingredients. I recently wrote about several products which were taken down by the U.S. Department of Justice for misleading potential consumers. That list included the likes of CSN 100 Pro Whey Standard and a range of pre workout supplements.
Now there’s a new name to be added to the list – Protein World Slender Blend.
The repercussions from this could be severe. Protein World are currently being investigated by Trading Standards, who had this to say:
“The company is committed to complying with legal ingredient, health claim and labeling standards. Should Protein World fail to do so, we will seriously consider all legal enforcement options.”
While I’m On One…
I see numerous issues with the way Protein World have set up their approach.
From the misleading label claims (investigation still pending), to the shock tactics used in advertising, to the company’s unprofessional response to the criticism of that first controversial ad…
The body shaming nature displayed by the company is quite disturbing.
The heroics of Jessica Ennis-Hill and the entire Team GB squad at the 2012 London Olympics really did a fantastic job of instilling a sense of pride and self-belief in our young athletes, particularly women. For the first time in as long as I can remember, women were focusing on trying to get strong (not skinny), and common sense was winning in the fitness world.
But Protein World’s approach to marketing takes us back to those dark ages, and paints them as a company with little-to-no social conscience.
It’s the same “you can’t sit with us” Mean Girls mentality which pressures young women into trying to achieve a thigh gap, or feeling alienated if they don’t conform to the old stereotype of being thin and dumb as f**k.
From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense why they do it this way.
After all, the exposure they got due to that controversial advert saw them enjoy a £2,000,000 sales bump for that year.
Because rather than getting lost in the heavy mix of average supplements crowding the weight loss marketplace (and make no mistake, this is average), suddenly they were on the 10 O’ Clock News and featured in The Telegraph.
Heck, it didn’t even seem to matter that Campaign Live went on to name it the worst advert of the year.
Sure, they were being featured for all the wrong reasons, but all publicity is good publicity, right?
Whether you agree with that, or not, will probably affect your decision on if you want to buy products from Protein World.
The misleading claims on the company website are frequent.
We have products claiming that they’ll give you “a firmer bum, a slimmer tum, and leaner thighs” (spot reduction, which is impossible), we have so-called “toner” capsules which are basically creatine monohydrate mashed together with some vitamins and minerals (all of which are under-dosed and overpriced although they seem very proud to tell us it’s gluten free. Whatever next, gluten free oxygen?), and we have claims that you can lose up to 4lbs per week as a result of using Slender Blend as a meal replacement shake.
Yes, the old meal replacement line…
Supplements are designed to help you check the boxes your diet couldn’t tick (i.e. get more protein, hit your daily vitamin level). They aren’t meant to start replacing food.
And the reason they say you’ll lose weight is because they advise you to swap two meals per day for two shakes. Given that each shake contains only 150 calories, depending upon how many calories you’re currently eating this could see a fair few readers drop under the dreaded 1000 calories per day mark.
No s**t, you’d lose weight! You’re starving!
There’s even the use of one of my favourite fitness buzzwords – detox!
Yes, apparently we must take a capsule to cleanse our soul of the evil powers of rock n’ roll. Despite the fact that no detox supplement has ever been proven to work. (6)
This is all just misleading advertising (albeit, on a very pretty website) from a company who have a history of misleading advertisements.
And there’s more…
Another example (taken from Protein World’s own website):
“The Slender Blend is a high protein, low fat and low carb meal replacement drink.”
I’ve already shown that it’s not particularly low in carbs, nor is it high in protein at just 60% protein-per-serving.
“Non-GMO and replacing two meals a day can attribute to a healthy loss of up to four pounds per week.”
Protein World Slender Blend Review – Final Verdict
Oh man, this is where I have to rate this thing.
I’m supposed to tell you guys to rush out and buy Slender Blend, like a good little supplement reviewer (example: see the array of ‘5 star reviews’ from people who were sent the product for free and haven’t got a clue whether it’s good or not but like the taste and/or make a commission from you buying the f**ker).
So, I’m going to be as bluntly honest as always.
That’s why you read my blog, right?
Back when I was a youngster trying to learn about lifting weights, I bought Arnold Schwarzenegger’s New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.
I don’t know where I’d be now if I didn’t read that book.
My know-how has obviously grown since then, but I consider that the baseline of me becoming the trainer I am today.
Nowadays, our teenagers are looking up to some yo-yo- dieting reality TV star who releases a January weight loss DVD claiming you can have rock hard abs in three minutes per day… then in June is featured in a gossip magazine, having piled all the weight back on… only to do it all again in time for next January’s DVD…
It’s a sad state of affairs.
Protein World Slender Blend is aimed at cashing in on that quick fix market, where science and integrity don’t seem to matter.
It’s the supplement equivalent of those men and women who go to the gym to do more selfies than reps.
And they don’t hide the fact that that’s who they’re targeting.
It’s clear to see on the imagery on their website, and they’re doing a successful job of it.
My advice is to stick with trusted brands, and qualified sources of information.
So the next time you have a florescent D-list celebrity push this nonsense at you on Instagram, feel free to hit them with some science, or send them here and I’ll do it for you.
So, now that we’ve reached the end of my Protein World Slender Blend review, how did this supplement score on my supplement rating system?
In it’s original formula (before the revelations of misleading nutritional information), I would have given this 1 star out of 5.
- Low protein-per-serving
- Carbs too high to be classed as a strong runner in the diet whey category
- Overly expensive for a basic protein blend
- Proprietary blend of ineffective fat burners, vitamins, and minerals
In light of the nutrition scandal, however, it didn’t stand a f**king chance…
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- Moore, D. R., et al. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. (2009)
- Hursel, R., et al. The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis. Int J Obes (Lond). (2009)
- Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S. Green tea catechins, caffeine and body-weight regulation. Physiol Behav. (2010)
- Diepvens, K., et al. Obesity and thermogenesis related to the consumption of caffeine, ephedrine, capsaicin, and green tea. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. (2007)
- Rodrigues, M., et al. Herb-Drug Interaction of Paullinia cupana (Guarana) Seed Extract on the Pharmacokinetics of Amiodarone in Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (2012)
- Blachford, A., et al. The Voice Of Young Science brings you; the detox dossier. (2009)