Meal replacement supplements are a simple, convenient way to lose weight and eat better without spending hours in the kitchen. Isagenix, a top supplier of protein and meal replacement shakes, appeals to dieters, athletes and healthy eaters. These products, however, may not be as safe as you think.
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How Does Isagenix Work?
Established in 2002, Isagenix offers dietary supplements for weight loss, exercise performance and general wellbeing. Its line of products includes plant-based protein shakes, fat burners, meal replacement formulas, colon cleansing formulas and diet-friendly snacks. The company is best known for its shakes, which can be purchased individually or as part of the Weight Loss Basic Pack, the Premium Pack and other combos.
These products claim to promote fat loss and make it easier to boost nutrient intake. Dieters can buy them in bundles and use them to replace one or more meals. The Weight Loss Basic Pack, for example, includes seven different supplements for cleansing, hydration and fat loss. The package contains four meal replacement shakes, offering 24 grams of protein per serving.
The whole idea behind this system is to cut calories and detoxify your body while getting more nutrients into your diet. You'll have to alternate between "cleanse days" and "shake days" and replace most snacks and meals with the products from Isagenix. The exact requirements depend on the specific package.
According to the manufacturer, "cleanse days" ignite the fat-burning process and help your body detoxify. If you're physically active, Isagenix recommends using its other products, such as AMPED™ Hydrate and Isagenix Snacks, to stay energized.
This weight loss system looks convenient at first sight. After all, why would you spend hours cooking healthy meals when you can simply drink a shake or grab some diet-friendly cookies?
There's a catch, though. These supplements are heavily processed and contain dozens of ingredients. Additionally, dietary supplements are not reviewed and approved by the U.S Food & Drug Administration before they are marketed, so it's hard to determine their safety and efficacy.
What's Inside the Bottle?
Isagenix shakes are either whey or plant-based and come in a wide range of flavors. Each product has a different nutritional value, depending on the ingredients. The IsaLean® Shake Vanilla Chai, for example, provides the following nutrients per serving:
- 250 calories
- 24 grams of protein
- 22 grams of carbs
- 7 grams of sugars
- 8 grams of fiber
- 8 grams of fat
- 25 percent of the DV (daily value) of iron
- 8 percent of the DV of calcium
- 2 percent of the DV of potassium
Protein, the most abundant nutrient in IsaLean®, may aid in weight loss and improve body composition, according to a review featured in the British Journal of Nutrition in August 2012. High-protein diets have been shown to promote satiety, preserve lean mass and increase metabolism. When combined with exercise, they may help build lean mass.
IsaLean® contains a blend of pea protein isolate and brown rice protein concentrate. It's vegetarian, dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free, making it suitable for vegans and individuals who are allergic to gluten, soy, or milk and its derivatives. But some of its ingredients are questionable to say the least.
Cane sugar, for instance, is pretty much the same as table sugar from a nutritional standpoint. Other ingredients, such as olive oil powder and sunflower oil powder, are heavily processed. Additionally, Isagenix doesn't mention how much of each ingredient is used in its products.
Other shakes, including AMPED™ Tri-Release Protein, are high in fructose and feature proprietary blends, so you don't really know what's inside the bottle. A research paper published in the journal Nutrients in April 2017 points out that fructose plays a key role in the onset of metabolic disorders, obesity, elevated blood lipids and inflammation.
Beware of Added Sugars
Although you can lose weight by drinking protein and meal replacement shakes, these products carry potential risks. First of all, Isagenix shakes are high in simple sugars, such as cane sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men.
The IsaLean® Shake provides 7 grams of sugars, including 5 grams of added sugar, per serving. A typical "shake day" involves the consumption of one to three shakes daily (instead of a regular meal). If you drink three shakes per day, that's 21 grams of sugar. Your other meals and snacks may contain sugar, too, so you'll exceed the maximum daily intake recommended by the American Heart Association.
Read more: 10 Foods You Don't Realize Are Packed With Sugar
According to a large-scale study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in April 2014, there is a strong relationship between sugar consumption and cardiovascular disease mortality. In other words, this sneaky ingredient can significantly raise your risk of dying from heart disease, even if you don't have obesity. It may also contribute to diabetes, weight gain, increased triglyceride levels, high cholesterol and cardiac events.
The Dangers of Excess Protein
IsaLean® also boasts 24 grams of protein per serving, which is a good thing. It contains plant-based protein, so you won't experience any of the side effects associated with lactose, the sugar in whey. However, if you drink up to three shakes per day, you may be getting too much protein. Your other meals provide this nutrient, too.
Despite their potential health benefits, high-protein diets may cause adverse effects, reports a November 2014 review published in Nutrition & Metabolism. When consumed in excess, protein may affect your kidneys. The risks may be even greater for people with kidney disease.
Beware that high protein intakes may contribute to weight gain when energy expenditure is low. This nutrient supplies 4 calories per gram. If you don't burn the extra calories, they'll add up and can cause you to gain fat.
Additionally, your body has the ability to convert excess protein to glucose, which may further increase the risk of gaining weight. If you're physically active, a high-protein diet will work in your favor. Unfortunately, it's not the best choice for those with a sedentary lifestyle.
Lactose and Other Sneaky Ingredients
Other shakes, such as IsaLean® Shake Creamy Dutch Chocolate, are based on whey protein, which may cause digestive discomfort in those with lactose intolerance. Plus, this product is higher in sugar and fats than IsaLean®. Fructose, one of its main ingredients, may lead to insulin resistance and metabolic disorders, as mentioned earlier.
Although this shake and others boast large doses of vitamins and minerals, they cannot replace whole foods. Harvard Medical School and other health organizations state that nutrients are most effective when they come from whole foods, not supplements.
All in all, Isagenix shakes may benefit your health when consumed in moderation. For example, if you're too busy to have lunch or dinner, consider using these products rather than munching on snacks or indulging in foods lower in nutritional content. Protein and meal replacement shakes are also a good choice for when traveling. The Isagenix diet, on the other hand, may not be safe, as it relies heavily on processed snacks, cleansing formulas and supplements.
- Isagenix: "About Isagenix"
- Isagenix: "Weight Loss Basic Pack"
- FDA: "What You Need to Know About Dietary Supplements"
- Isagenix: "IsaLean® Shake Vanilla Chai"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Protein – Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health"
- American Council on Exercise: "9 Things to Know About How the Body Uses Protein to Repair Muscle Tissue"
- USDA: "Cane Sugar"
- USDA: "Granulated Sugar"
- Isagenix: "AMPED™ Tri-Release Protein"
- Nutrients: "Fructose Consumption in the Development of Obesity and the Effects of Different Protocols of Physical Exercise on the Hepatic Metabolism"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- JAMA Internal Medicine: "Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults"
- Nutrition & Metabolism: "A High-Protein Diet for Reducing Body Fat: Mechanisms and Possible Caveats"
- National Kidney Foundation: "CKD Diet: How Much Protein Is the Right Amount?"
- USDA: "How Many Calories Are in One Gram of Fat, Carbohydrate, or Protein?"
- IsaLean® Shake Creamy Dutch Chocolate: "IsaLean® Shake Creamy Dutch Chocolate"
- NCBI: "The Interrelationships Between Lactose Intolerance and the Modern Dairy Industry: Global Perspectives in Evolutional and Historical Backgrounds"
- Harvard.edu: "Should You Get Your Nutrients From Food or From Supplements?"