If you've ever seen someone in workout clothes carrying around what looks to be a milkshake in a large, colorful tumbler, chances are they've signed up for the Beachbody program. And if not, the odds are still good that you know at least one person who has tried Beachbody.
Founded by fitness enthusiasts Carl Daikeler and Jon Congdon, Beachbody has become an insanely popular brand, boasting over 23 million customers and $1 billion in gross sales since its launch in 1998.
"I know people hear the name 'Beachbody' and automatically assume we're all about looks and rock-hard abs, but it's not just about losing weight," says Janna Hemstreet, a Beachbody coach based in Salisbury, Maryland. "It's about feeling good in your own skin. We want people to see that getting healthy doesn't have to be hard and that you don't have to do it alone."
A worthy mission, for sure. But Beachbody — whose best-selling workouts include titles like "Insanity" and "Body Beast" — can seem intimidating at first glance. How hard is it really, and can it help you get fit and reach your goal weight?
How Does Beachbody Work?
Beachbody is a subscription-based fitness and nutrition company that encourages weight loss through several different avenues, including workouts, meal plans, nutritional supplements and community-based accountability.
Beachbody is famous for offering dozens of intense workouts, curated by professional trainers and distributed through the Beachbody online system. These workouts — often called "challenge packs" — incorporate strength training, yoga, tai chi, cardio and other forms of exercise, and can last anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes per session.
Users are expected to complete several weeks of sessions before seeing results, which can be dramatic due to the length and intensity of the programs. Challenge packs can be modified based on experience level (so beginners can move at their own pace) and come with DVDs, access to an accountability coach and fitness equipment with purchase.
For those who want to try different workouts before committing to just one, they can purchase a membership to Beachbody on Demand (BOD), a streaming service that includes every Beachbody workout ever created. Those who access the workouts through BOD can also purchase additional equipment for the workouts — like steps, weights or resistance loops — through the Beachbody website.
"Beachbody is all about community," says Hemstreet, who signed up to be a Beachbody coach in 2015. New Beachbody users are automatically paired with a coach upon signup, or can opt to sign up under a specific coach of their choosing.
In addition to helping new members set goals and track progress, coaches also receive a discount on all Beachbody products (25 percent) as well as a 25 percent commission on products and services sold, Hemstreet says.
Another mainstay of the Beachbody program? An array of "superfood" shakes known as Shakeology, which are loaded with antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, adaptogens and proteins, and designed to reduce hunger and fill in nutritional gaps between meals, according to the Beachbody website.
Shakeology products are available for purchase through the Beachbody website and comes in nine flavors, including chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and pumpkin spice. Beachbody also offers collagen supplements, protein bars and more.
The Beachbody program also offers meal plans. Users who opt for the 21 Day Fix or any other challenge pack that incorporates a change in diet will use color-coded containers rather than counting calories, each container representing a different food group. Users calculate their daily calorie target, which then determines how many colored containers they can eat per day. This method of dieting doesn't allow for desserts, so participants who need a sweet fix are encouraged to sip Shakeology between meals.
Customers can join Beachbody by purchasing a challenge pack or the Beachbody On Demand streaming service directly from the site, or by signing up under a coach. Together, coaches and Beachbody users determine fitness goals and pick a program that best suits the individual.
How Much Does It Cost?
"The best bang for your buck is to start off with a challenge pack so you can try things at a discounted rate," Hemstreet says.
Shakeology, for instance, is much cheaper when it's included in a starter pack rather than purchased separately on the website.
Challenge packs are steeply priced, starting at $160, while Beachbody on Demand costs $99 for the calendar year.
Can It Really Help You Lose Weight?
Like all diets, success with Beachbody is based on the user's starting point and the effort they put into it. And like all diets based on restrictive eating, weight gain is a possibility after the challenge pack is completed.
If you want to know whether diets like Beachbody can help you lose weight, the answer is yes," says Rebecca Hart, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian at the Center for Eating Disorders in Baltimore, Maryland. "But can you lose weight effectively, in the long term? No."
The reason, Hart says, is that diets based on restrictive eating fail more often than not, as users tend to regain all of the lost weight — and then some — when the dieting period is complete.
The science backs this up: A literature review published in the April 2013 edition of ISRN Obesity noted that 50 percent of people who have lost weight return to their baseline weight within five years.
Read more: 10 of the Most Common Weight-Loss Mistakes
To effectively lose weight and keep it off, you need to change your lifestyle in a way that you can maintain going forward. That means learning how and what to eat on a daily basis, along with how to incorporate exercise in a healthy and consistent way.
Pros of the Beachbody Diet
1. Accountability works. While some might scoff at the idea of needing a coach, research shows that regular accountability checks can vastly increase the odds of weight loss and maintenance in the long term. According to a study published in the July 2015 issue of Health Technology Assessment, participants in a weight-loss program were more likely able to maintain weight loss after 12 months if they participated in multiple sessions of "motivational interviewing" with an accountability partner.
2. It combines diet and exercise. Although diet or exercise alone can help someone lose weight, research shows that people lose weight the fastest when they combine the two. One study in the August 2012 issue of Obesity, for example, took three control groups and followed them throughout the course of 12 months to gauge which weight-loss method was the most effective. Participants who relied on diet alone lost an average of 15 pounds, whereas participants in the exercise-only group lost just 4 pounds on average. But participants in the third group, who used a combination of diet and exercise, lost a mean weight of nearly 20 pounds each.
What Are the Potential Cons?
1. It could be overly restrictive. "With Beachbody, you can pick the calorie range, which in my opinion is restrictive and can border on disordered behavior, because some of them are super low," Hart says. Additionally, users might not be getting all the necessary food groups. "Based on your calorie range, you might only be allowed to eat a few servings of grains and carbohydrates, whereas the average recommendation is 6 to 11 servings," Hart says.
2. Drinking your calories could hurt you in the long run. "I'm not a big fan of using shakes when it comes to weight loss," Hart says. The reason? "I prefer clients to get their calories from food — otherwise, they may not be totally satisfying their hunger, and that leads to overeating and obsessing over food later."
The Bottom Line
Like any diet program, your Beachbody results will depend on the effort you put in. And while it can be a good option for those looking to get in shape and stay accountable to a coach or group, it might be too restrictive for some and may not support long-term weight loss.
- Team Beachbody: "About Us"
- Team Beachbody: "Fitness Programs"
- Beachbody on Demand: "Before and After"
- Team Beachbody: "Gear"
- Team Beachbody: "Why Shakeology?"
- Beachbody on Demand: "Meal Prep and Containers"
- ISRN Obesity: "Mechanisms of Weight Regain Following Weight Loss"
- Health Technology Assessment: "A feasibility randomised controlled trial of a motivational interviewing-based intervention for weight loss maintenance in adults."
- Obesity: "Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese post-menopausal women"