In addition to aiding weight loss, the Herbalife program has a few more benefits.
Meal replacement shakes like the ones used in the Herbalife diet can be attractive for busy people or those who lack the time or interest to cook.
To make the shake, all you have to do is mix two scoops of powder with 8 ounces (240 ml) of nonfat milk and enjoy. The powder can also be blended with ice or fruit for a smoothie-style drink.
The main ingredient in most of the Herbalife meal replacement shakes is soy protein isolate, a type of protein powder that comes from soybeans.
Some research suggests that eating soy protein may lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease (8Trusted Source).
Two servings of Herbalife meal replacement shakes contain only 18 grams, so additional soy foods would need to be included in your diet (1).
For those with allergies or sensitivities to soy or cow’s milk, Herbalife offers an alternative meal replacement shake made with pea, rice and sesame proteins (1).
This product is also made from non-genetically modified ingredients, for those who wish to avoid GMOs.
While the Herbalife diet program has some benefits, it also has quite a few downsides.
The Shakes Are Highly Processed
Herbalife meal replacement shakes are made with highly processed ingredients, such as protein isolates, sugars, gums, fibers, synthetic vitamins, artificial flavors and emulsifiers (1).
They also contain a variety of added vitamins and minerals to make up for the nutrients these processed ingredients lack.
One of the biggest drawbacks is that the shakes are very high in sugar — 40 percent of the calories in each serving come from added sugars, primarily fructose (1).
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends getting no more than 5% of your daily calories from added sugars, which equates to roughly 25 grams per day for the average adult (11Trusted Source).
Two servings of the Herbalife shake provide 18 grams of added sugar, leaving very little room for other sources throughout the day (1).
It’s generally advisable to get your nutrients from less processed foods, such as high-quality proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.
They’re Not True Meal Replacements
Although Herbalife shakes are described as meal replacement shakes, they do not contain enough calories to constitute a true meal.
When mixed with nonfat milk, the shakes contain just 170 calories, which will likely leave you feeling very hungry throughout the day.
Blending the shake with fruit can help increase the calorie and fiber contents but won’t add any additional protein or fat to keep you satisfied.
It Can Be Expensive
Each container of Herbalife meal replacement mix contains 30 servings and costs just over $40.
Herbalife’s recommended two shakes per day equates to roughly $80 per month for the shakes alone, not including the cost of supplements.
While swapping meals for shakes may save you money on groceries, these savings may not be significant enough to justify the additional expense of smoothies and supplements.
Herbal Supplements May Cause Liver Damage
The Herbalife weight loss programs recommend several supplements that contain a myriad of ingredients.
These supplements have not been tested for effectiveness and are not regulated by any government agency for quality or purity.
It’s important to watch for signs of adverse reactions to supplements, as these can occur.
In fact, there have been several reports of liver damage due to Herbalife weight loss supplements, sometimes requiring liver transplants or even causing death (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Additionally, some Herbalife products have been contaminated with an overgrowth of the bacteria B. subtilis, which is also linked to liver damage (16Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that adverse effects and liver damage can occur with many over-the-counter medications and supplements, and it’s unclear whether the risks associated with Herbalife products are any greater than those of other pills (13Trusted Source).
It’s Not Appropriate for Everyone
The Herbalife diet program is not appropriate for everyone.
People with allergies, sensitivities or intolerances to the ingredients in the shakes or supplements should not follow this program.
Since so many supplements are included, it’s important to check with your doctor to ensure they don’t interact with your medications or medical conditions.
Summary Herbalife shakes are expensive, highly processed and do not contain enough calories to be true meal replacements. The recommended supplements can also be dangerous for some people.
Though most of your meals will be shakes while on the Herbalife diet, you can have one regular meal and two small snacks of your choice each day.
Herbalife does not give detailed diet advice about what to eat aside from the shakes and supplements, so you can technically have whatever you want.
However, in order to promote weight loss, the Herbalife website recommends a diet rich in lean protein, fruits and vegetables, nonfat dairy, whole grains, legumes, nuts and healthy fats.
Summary Most of your meals on the Herbalife diet will be meal replacement shakes, but you also get one meal and two snacks of your choice each day. Focus on low-fat, low-calorie, minimally processed foods.
No foods are strictly forbidden on the Herbalife diet, but you should aim for low-calorie meals rich in lean protein, fruits and vegetables.
High-calorie or high-fat foods are allowed but should be enjoyed in moderation if you want to lose weight on the Herbalife diet.
Summary No foods are forbidden on the Herbalife diet, but items rich in fat or calories should be consumed in moderation if you desire weight loss.
Here is what one day on the Herbalife Ultimate weight loss program might look like:
Breakfast: Herbalife chocolate shake made with 8 ounces (240 ml) of nonfat milk and half a banana, plus the Formula 2 Multivitamin, Formula 3 Cell Activator, Total Control, Cell-U-Loss and Aminogen supplements.
Snack: One can of tuna and a small salad with the Snack Defense herbal tea concentrate and Aminogen supplement.
Lunch: Herbalife vanilla shake made with 8 ounces (240 ml) of skim milk and half a banana, plus the Formula 2 Multivitamin, Formula 3 Cell Activator, and Total Control, Cell-U-Loss and Aminogen supplements.
Snack: One piece of fruit with herbal tea concentrate and the Snack Defense supplement.
Dinner: Grilled chicken with vegetables and brown rice, plus the Formula 2 Multivitamin, Total Control and Aminogen supplements.
As you can see, the meals are quite simple — but there are a lot of supplements to take throughout the day.
Summary A sample menu for the Herbalife weight loss program includes two Herbalife shakes, one balanced meal of your choice and two snacks, plus many supplements.
In addition to the Herbalife shakes and supplements, you will purchase food from the grocery store for your remaining meals and snacks.
Some suggestions include:
Lean protein: Chicken, turkey, pork loin, fish, lamb or lean beef.
Fruits and vegetables: Fresh, frozen, dried or canned.
Nonfat or low-fat dairy products: Cow’s milk or non-dairy milk for the shakes, plus other low-fat or nonfat dairy items for snacking.
Whole grains and legumes: Including brown rice, beans, lentils, and quinoa.
Healthy oils: Olive oil, avocado oil or other oils from nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds: Raw, roasted or ground into flour or nut butter.
Foods that are highly processed or calorie- or fat-dense should be consumed in moderation.
Summary Choose your favorite high-protein, high-fiber and low-fat items from the grocery store for your additional meals and snacks.
The Herbalife diet comprises low-calorie meal replacement shakes and metabolism-boosting supplements.
It’s convenient, easy to follow and may aid short-term weight loss, though long-term success has not been studied.
Yet, it’s expensive, may cause side effects, and the safety and effectiveness of the supplements has not been researched.
More studies are needed to understand how pairing meal replacement shakes with longer-term diet and lifestyle changes affects weight loss and weight management.