Ever been approached by a Herbalife rep?
If so, then you’ll know they’re more difficult to shake off than a bit of peanut butter on a spoon.
But, pushy sales tactics aside, are the products any good? Or is this company one big rip off?
A quick search on Google and you’ll find that most reviews are just well-disguised sales pitches, so discovering the facts can prove somewhat troublesome.
That is, until you got here.
Because today, I’ve decided to put Herbalife under the microscope.
As always, my reviews are completely impartial and (quite often) brutal.
I’m going to give you my honest opinion on Herbalife products, and the business as a whole. What you do with that opinion is your choice.
We will be focusing on their “Formula 1 Meal Replacement Shake” and “Personalised Protein Powder – Formula 3”, as these appear to be the company’s flagship products.
After reading this article, the next time a friend you haven’t spoken to since high school gets in touch and offers you “an amazing opportunity to live your #dreamlife” (!!), you’ll have plenty of ammunition to make an honest judgement.
Product Review: Herbalife Formula 1 Meal Replacement Shake
The first mistake with this product is in the title.
Shakes were never designed to replace meals.
Formula 1 is their pioneering (their words, not mine) MRP which promises us it contains a high quality source of protein and all the nutrients our body needs, all backed by science.
Before we move on, let’s fact check that…
(Yes, sales reps, you’re gonna f**king hate this article, because I will not let you get away with your s**t.)
High quality source of protein?
Nope. The primary protein source used is soy protein isolate – the cheapest form of protein powder money can buy. It’s backed up by the inclusion of milk protein concentrate; the second cheapest.
Kinda makes the inflated price of their products seem a little misleading, right? Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and we’ll cover that later on…
In a 26g serving, we get:
- 221 kcals
- 17.4g protein
- 21.4g carbohydrate
- (20.9g sugar)
- 6.4g fat
Are these all the nutrients we need in a healthy meal?
Hmm… with 97% of its carbohydrates coming in the form of quick-release sugary carbs, the answer is absolutely not.
Also, the company claims that the product contains the optimal amount of protein to promote muscle growth but this isn’t true. The optimal amount appears to be a little higher, at 20 grams, as shown in a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (1)
But the suck gets worse…
The company also goes on to advise that users should consume two of these shakes per day and one balanced meal if their goal is weight loss.
Let’s put that to the test…
If I make my balanced meal a large baked potato with tuna fish, this would give me a daily intake of:
- 703 kcals
- 62.6g protein
- 79.8g carbohydrates
- (43.8g sugar)
- (8.8g fiber)
- 13.5g fat
No s**t you’d lose weight… you’re f**king starving!!
I don’t know anyone who could sustain this type of lifestyle long enough to see real results. It’d be even harder if they were also training.
And hold up, because that’s exactly what they tell us to do next…
The sales page advises us to head out to the gym and use these “protein-rich” shakes to build muscle. But as you can see in the figures above, the user would be getting nowhere near enough protein per day to support their training!
A meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine back in 2018 found that we need around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and we can aim as high as 1.18 grams per lb to maximize it. (2, 3)
That would mean a 180lb per son would require somewhere between 180g-216g protein per day. Not 62.6g. With these numbers, I’d only hit my target if I made my “one balanced meal” a f**king horse.
The overall dietary carbohydrate content is so low we’d lose water weight in the first couple of weeks, making the user think “It’s working!” before they hit a brick wall and want to eat their entire fridge… and our fat intake should ideally be set to around 0.5 grams per lb of body weight to support hormones which help in the muscle building process, which would be somewhere around 90g per day for a 180lb person.
And then there’s the price…
At a cost of £40.44 for just 780 grams (30 shakes), this tub would last just 15 days, and you’d be paying a grand total of £80.88 per month to consume two shakes per day.
Remember, these are bottom of the range ingredients with a sub-par macronutrient breakdown. For that price, you could pick up a far superior whey protein shake.
Product Review: Herbalife Personalised Protein Powder – Formula 3
Wow, that name is quite a mouthful.
Formula 3 Personalised Protein Powder is the top whey protein supplement sold by Herbalife. It takes all of the information in the previously reviewed product and somehow manages to make things worse.
It does that by getting our hopes up, then dashing them.
The nutritional breakdown of the product is as follows:
- 92 kcals
- 20g protein
- 0.8g carbohydrates
- (0.4g sugar)
- 1.2g fat
That’s a pretty decent amount of protein per serving, and there’s not a lot else – exactly what we want from a protein shake.
But don’t celebrate just yet.
Because while this is certainly better than giving us a mouthful of sugar in each serving like the previously mentioned meal replacement shake, once again we find ourselves paying a lot of money for dirt cheap ingredients….
In this one, we get a proprietary blend of soy protein isolate and whey protein concentrate.
And despite the misleading label claiming there’s 40 servings in your tub, you can see they class one serving as just 6 grams (then tell you to have four servings).
The real size of each serving is 24 grams, and the tub itself is only 240 grams, meaning your £23,18 tub only contains TEN SHAKES!
That’s right, two shakes a day and your tub will expire in just five days!
That’s a whopping £2.31 per shake, for ingredients which would have cost pennies to formulate.
I’ll explain why charge so much later on, because we’re just getting to the good bit…
But I’ll finish this section by saying you could pick up stacks of superior products with better formulas and macronutrient breakdowns for a much lower cost per serving.
Why Is It So Popular?
As you can see above, there is nothing special about Herbalife products.
And you won’t find any of them on the shelves of your local supermarket or supplement retailer, either. You have to buy it from a sales rep.
Which begs the question; how is a meal replacement shake company from the 1980’s so popular nearly forty years later? Well, there are two reasons for this.
The first is great marketing.
By encouraging every social media flavor of the month to sell their products to their ready-made audience, Herbalife tap into the ever-growing market of folks who want quick results for very little effort.
Oh, and what about the inevitable bad nutrition advice which these Insta-celebrities and reality TV stars dish out to their followers in a bid to grab more commission?
Not to worry, according to Herbalife:
Basically, they take no responsibility for the bulls**t advice being handed out.
However, it’s not just the Z-listers that are being targeted. This is just one aspect of Herbalife’s global domination plan.
You’ll also see them sponsoring L.A. Galaxy in the MLS, and world-renowned sports stars like Cristiano Ronaldo posing with their tubs.
How do they afford these type of associations?
Well that brings me to the second reason behind Herbalife’s success…
Don’t say the P word… Don’t say the P word… Don’t say the P word…
Yes, remember that old school friend who got in touch and wants to help you live your #dreamlife…?
Turns out, Herbalife provides their distributors a neat
pyramid scheme home based business opportunity which allows them to earn money for signing up other people.
That’s the real reason behind those greatly inflated prices.
Also, the massive profits the company makes from the unsuccessful business ventures of their hopeful bulk-buying sales vendors undoubtedly makes it easier for them to go to such lengths with their marketing.
In 2012, activist investor Bill Ackman accused Herbalife of being “the best managed pyramid scheme in the world”, claiming that the company mislead their sales reps to believe they can all become millionaires by selling their products door-to-door.
This led to the company being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission back in 2014, and while they stopped short of outright calling Herbalife a pyramid scheme, they ruled that the company had acted unfairly, and cheated hopeful salespeople out of hundreds of millions of pounds via it’s multi-level marketing earning system. A $17.5 million fine followed.
And the drama didn’t stop there…
In 2016, the FTC forced Herbalife to restructure its operations and ordered them to pay a whopping $200 million ($200,000,000!!!) to customers who lost money due to deceptive behavior.
The FTC found that members often boasted about earning thousands of dollars per month, quitting their jobs, and leading lavish lifestyles in a series of videos, brochures and team meetings – but half of their so-called “sales leaders” make less than $5 per month from selling products.
Of course, in their desperation to make money, struggling sales reps do stupid f**king things.
Let’s go back to those celebrity endorsement deals…
Check out the widely shared meme below, which appears to claim that Cristiano Ronaldo got into shape because of Herbalife – despite the fact that he’s always been in great shape and they’ve just used a ‘before’ picture with poor lighting, and the ‘after’ picture was taken in 2013 (before he even signed a sponsorship deal with them).
So why did they stop short of calling it a pyramid scheme?
Many reporters believed the prohibiting of this word was part of the $200 million settlement agreement with the FTC.
When questioned, here’s what the Federal Trade Commission had to say:
The following year, Herbalife was the topic of a well-received critical documentary called Betting On Zero, which accused the company of “building an empire on hollow promises that sellers of their protein shakes could all become rich.”
Seeing a pattern here?
In 2018, things got even worse…
This time, Herbalife were sued for $1 billion in damages for – you guessed it – continuing with their f**king bulls**t about getting rich quick.
Plaintiffs Patricia and Jeff Rogers had this to say:
Herbalife – The Final Verdict
So, what do we have here?
Well, for a start, we have a company manufacturing poorly formulated, greatly overpriced supplements.
That’s always a bad thing.
And it’s made worse by the fact that anyone can sign up in a bid to make money, and can freely dish out silly nutritional advice which the company takes no responsibility for…
This is a recipe for disaster, because anybody with a social media following can sign up and suddenly call themselves a ‘coach’ without earning that title. This puts the public in great danger from the advice being handed out by these charlatans.
Of course, Herbalife are not alone in using this type of marketing:
- Juice Plus
They all follow similar approaches with their business model, and I’ve encountered affiliates of all these companies who are guilty of the same deceptive behavior..
But repeat after me:
Selling weight loss shakes does NOT make you a “coach”.
It makes you a f**king sales rep. It sickens me that some salespeople even use the term “coach” (or similarly made up titles like “Weight Loss Adviser”, etc) to falsely position themselves as an authority and gain the consumer’s trust.
You are not a coach.
And if you are a coach, then I frown on you even more. You should know better than to sell your clients this poorly formulated, expensive nonsense just so you can make a quick buck.
So all of that, combined with the basic as f**k products and inflated prices, mean Herbalife becomes the latest member of my illustrious zero stars club.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, and if you’ve got a friend giving you the hard sell on buying into Herbalife, feel free to share this article with them and watch the fireworks as they get offended.
The next time a friend tries to sell you this stuff, here’s what to do:
- 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)
- Morton R. W., et al. A Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression of the Effect of Protein Supplementation on Resistance Training-Induced Gains in Muscle Mass and Strength in Healthy Adults. Br J Sports Med. (2018)
- Antonio J., et al. A High Protein Diet (3.4 G/Kg/D) Combined With a Heavy Resistance Training Program Improves Body Composition in Healthy Trained Men and Women–A Follow-Up Investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2015)