Loving this content? Share it on your social channels!

herbalife weight loss products may work in the short-term

If you’re on a quest to lose weight, you may have encountered Herbalife weight loss products at some point in your journey. What is their nutritional profile like, and is the Herbalife program worth trying?

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the pros and cons of Herbalife products for weight loss to help you make an informed decision.

What is Herbalife?

Herbalife is a global multi-level marketing (MLM) company that sells dietary supplements to support weight management, sports nutrition, as well as personal care products. Founded in 1980 by Mark Hughes, the company has been the subject of significant attention, both positive and negative, due to its business model and the efficacy and safety of its products.

Herbalife operates on a multi-level marketing (MLM) model. This means that products are not typically sold in stores but instead through individual distributors. These distributors not only earn money from selling the products but also from recruiting others to become distributors. 

Herbalife sells various products such as:

  • Meal replacement shakes
  • Protein powders
  • Energy boosters
  • Weight gain/muscle boosters
  • Snacks
  • Multivitamins
  • Herbal supplements
  • Skin and hair care

While Herbalife clearly sells many different categories of products, this article will focus solely on its weight loss meal replacements and products.

How Herbalife Weight Loss Products Work

Herbalife products for weight loss are designed to help you lose weight by reducing calorie intake via meal replacement shakes and supplements to boost metabolism. The shakes are low in calories but high in protein, to fill you up with a smaller amount of calories.

Here are the “Core Nutrition Products” recommended if you’re trying to lose weight with Herbalife:

Formula 1: Healthy Meal Replacement Shake Mix

These are powdered flavored shake mixes intended as meal replacements. The goal is to replace 2 of your meals with these shakes while you are in the weight-loss phase of your program. 

They contain 21 essential vitamins and minerals, around 170 calories, and 15 grams of protein when combined with nonfat milk. They are available in over ten flavors.

Formula 2: Multivitamin Complex

These multivitamin tablets contain 21 essential minerals, including vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, calcium, and iron. These are intended to supplement the diet and to replace anything that may be lacking. One tablet should be taken with each meal three times daily.

Formula 3: Cell Activator®

This Herbalife-branded supplement is intended to provide support for mitochondria and nutrient absorption. The mitochondria are the energy center of our cells, and supporting mitochondrial function can promote overall health and energy levels.

The main ingredient in this supplement is alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant involved in mitochondrial energy production and metabolism. While there is some research on the role of this ingredient in energy production, there is no clear answer as to what dose is actually effective.

One capsule should be taken with Herbalife shakes or meals two times daily.

Protein Boosters (optional)

These protein powders are available to supplement your diet and help you meet your daily protein targets. They contain close to 8 grams of protein per scoop and can be added to your meal replacement drinks, juice mixes, or baked goods to boost protein intake.

GLP-1 Medication Companions

These vegan powders are a newer addition to the Herbalife line of products, which are said to supplement nutrition needs for those on prescription weight loss medications like Ozempic and Wegovy. However, the nutritional facts or ingredients are not posted on their website to even know what is in them.

Depending on which diet stage you’re in, you may have 1, 2, or 3 plus meal replacements per day, but the traditional program has you taking 2 replacements and one real meal high in protein and fiber.

What the Research Says

There is not much research specifically on Herbalife weight loss products. However, there is a good amount of research on meal replacement programs in general that may provide more insight.

Some research shows meal replacement programs like Herbalife can facilitate weight loss for up to one year. They are also shown in some cases to induce greater weight loss than traditional low-calorie diets.

One study sponsored by Herbalife showed users may lose 1 pound per week on average, especially in the beginning. Overall, the average amount of weight loss among users was about 12.5 pounds in 12 weeks. This is considered a healthy, gradual rate of weight loss.

However, research has also shown few people maintain that weight loss once they come off the meal replacement program. To maintain weight loss, it appears necessary to continue following a low-calorie diet with regular exercise. In addition, nutrition and behavioral counseling help increase your chances of long-term success.

This is especially true if you’ve lost a large amount of weight, where your daily calorie needs decrease to maintain that new weight you’ve achieved. This process is known as metabolic adaptation, where your body becomes more efficient at burning calories and producing energy, which means you burn fewer calories at rest. If you don’t adjust your plan to account for this adaptation, it is easy to regain the weight back.

Herbalife Pros and Cons

Here are the main pros and cons of Herbalife products for weight loss to consider:

Pros

  • Very simple to follow
  • Minimal meal planning required
  • May support short-term weight loss
  • Employ an advisory board of experts

If you’re looking for a plan that does most of the legwork for you and you want a good jumpstart on your weight loss, Herbalife can probably help do that. Many people feel overwhelmed with the process of meal planning and creating balanced meals, and this program can help bridge that gap with ready-made products that are low in calories to support weight loss.

I do appreciate that Herbalife employs an advisory board of health experts such as doctors, personal trainers, and dietitians. It is not clear, however, how much involvement they have in the creation of the products or the program overall.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not suitable for vegetarians – contains milk
  • Many customers report feeling hungry
  • Highly processed products high in added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and additives
  • Uncredentialed professionals sell the products and guide you in meal planning

There are several possible downsides to the Herbalife program. First, it is expensive compared to other meal replacements and protein powder brands and may not fit everyone’s budget. The meal replacements at baseline are also low in protein (only 9 grams per serving), which is not enough for a meal, requiring you to purchase their protein powder in addition in order to get enough.

Their products also contain a laundry list of ingredients and are highly processed. If these are part of your diet on occasion, this would not necessarily be a big concern, but consuming artificial sweeteners every day, for example, may be linked to poor gut health and inflammation.

My biggest concern with Herbalife is its distributors who provide nutrition advice to people following the program. Their distributors are generally not nutrition experts but people who just went through the program themselves and then want to make money from it. They are guiding others in healthy eating when they do not have any sort of formal nutrition background.

Nutrition is a complex science, and simply going through a diet program does not qualify a person to teach others how to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Bottom Line

While the Herbalife weight loss program may give you a weight loss jumpstart, it’s not a long-term solution for most people as it is too restrictive. The biggest problem with meal replacement programs like Herbalife is the distributors are not nutrition experts, and they don’t have a background to safely guide people on eating in a healthy, balanced way.

The most important thing to remember when exploring any diet program is that everyone has unique genes. Not everyone will experience the same results from this or any program, and it’s important to choose a program that feels good to you, not just because a friend found success in a given program.

The field of nutrigenomics – a field investigating the relationship between our genes and the best diet for us, is growing. With this, more research is finding that different people respond positively or negatively to different types of diets, so there is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

If you are curious about using Herbalife or any other meal replacement program to get a faster jumpstart, I recommend working alongside a Registered Dietitian to ensure you’re doing it safely, learning how to make balanced meals, and practicing healthy habits long-term.

For more on losing weight in a healthy way, check out these additional blog posts: