Advocare or Herbalife? That’s a question a lot of people might be asking. Both brands of shakes are pretty heavily promoted in the fitness space.
Some trainers I know even promote one or the other of these brands on the side for extra money. I don’t, but I’ve struggled to find honest reviews and comparisons about either of these products online so far. There’s just too much “vested interest” at stake. Most reviews are from distributors themselves.
After doing my review of Herbalife shakes and suggesting a few alternatives, I received a request from a reader about Advocare. They were wondering how it compared to Herbalife and if I thought it was a good substitute. This sparked me to do some research. I actually ordered some Advocare shakes packets on Amazon to try them out for a week.
I’m generally not a big fan of products like Herbalife, Shakeology, and Advocare, because they rely on a heavy “distributor” or “multi-level marketing” scheme to drive profits. It works from a financial perspective because it utilizes social pressure and word of mouth marketing.
However, this can also falsely inflate the perceived standing of a product and – at the very least – paper over some of the shortcomings. The following comparison is a result of this trial and builds off of my previous testing of Herbalife.
To help analyze the positives and negatives of Herbalife, I’ve broken down the “Pros” and “Cons” below:
Pros of Herbalife
Very Affordable: Unlike brands like Shakeology which over charge you for a basic product, Herbalife is a genuinely cheap supplement in comparison. It’s only just over $1 per serving, which is quite good as far as supplements go. This is the listing I’ve used for reference.
A Low Calorie Option: If you are trying to lose weight, you’ll really want to curb the carbs. Fortunately, Herbalife knows this and only has 90 calories per serving. This is pretty low for a meal replacement, which is good. This is probably one of the initial items you want to look at when grading a meal replacement supplement.
Tastes Good: The taste and texture of Herbalife is nice. They’ve refined their product to where it’s highly mixable – not grainy – and almost like a milk shake. Ultimately, I care more about the ingredients that I’m taking, but a good tasting product is certainly better than a bad tasting or mediocre one.
Cons of Herbalife
Heavily Marketed by Amateurs: Again, because of the “MLM” structure to their promotion, you may be bombarded with amateurish “promoters” looking to make a quick buck.
It’s not fair to say that everyone who promotes has ill intent, but – in my experience – most of the promoters I’ve stumbled upon are not fitness or nutrition experts by any stretch of the imagination. Someone told them they could get fit and make money, and they’ve bought into the marketing plan.
High in Sugar: High is a relative term, but when compared to other common supplements, 9 grams of sugar is a bit much. I don’t want to be getting my calories from sugar.
Contains Sucralose: What makes me particularly angry about this is that Herbalife still contains 9 grams of sugar per serving, even with sucralose laced in. In short, sucralose is one of those “fake” sugars that is chemically altered.
There is a fair amount of “mixed” research on the benefits vs cons of it. I stay far away from it because I don’t believe – fundamentally – that you can trick your body with “fake” sugar. In short, who knows what the “true” sugar + sugar substitute count is for Herbalife.
High in Sodium: Sodium is a very cheap and sneaky way to make “things taste good”, as any chef will know. Supplements that load on the sodium are always suspect to me. While 95mg of sodium is not the worst I’ve seen, it’s certainly worse than Advocare by 15mg. Yes, it’s nice to have a shake that “tastes good” but 1) there are healthier ways to do this, and 2) it directly inhibits your ability to lead a healthier lifestyle overall.
Contains Soy: A lot of people are really concern about soy, both as a food group and a protein source. Like corn and gluten, much of our diet is indirectly soy based. It’s one of the most common and cheap feed sources for most livestock. There is also a fair amount of research out there about the interference with estrogen levels, particularly for men.
I think some of the criticism here is a bit overboard, but I do see reason to limit intake. Unfortunately, soy protein is the first ingredient in Herbalife. Not ideal. I’d prefer to see a wider array of plant-based proteins present, which there are none of.
Not Enough Protein: This is the real killer. Herbalife only has 9 grams of protein per serving. 9 grams! That’s almost nothing when compared to other meal replacement options. Everyone knows – or should know – that ample protein is key to staving off cravings, especially when you are cutting carbs heavily.
And this is my main problem with Herbalife. It’s a very low calorie option, but it doesn’t really make up the difference with protein. Instead, they load on the sugar – and sugar substitutes – to mask these imperfections. I suppose it’s still better than nothing if you are dieting for the first time, but it definitely wouldn’t be my first choice.
Similarly, I’ve assessed the “Pros” and “Cons” of the Advocare shakes below:
Pros of Advocare
Less Sodium: Advocare gets a slight bump up in my book because it only has 80mg of sodium, vs the 95mg per serving in Herbalife. It’s still a bit higher than I’d like, but better nonetheless.
Decent Source of Fiber: Fiber is key to metabolism and metabolism is key to weight loss and a healthy body. Advocare has 6 grams of fiber, while Herbalife only has 3 grams.
Excellent Protein Levels: This is where Advocare really blows the competition out of the water. 24 grams of protein is very good for a meal replacement. Higher protein levels mean that you will be getting enough energy to keep going throughout the day. Whereas with Herbalife, I started to crash in the mid afternoon when I tested it for a few days.
Cons of Advocare
MLM (again): For the same reasons I mentioned earlier with Herbalife, I had that Advocare is promoted via multi-level marketing. Most of the “distributors” are pretty naive about nutrition in general and haven’t done their research beyond the standard talking points.
Also Contains Soy: While not as prominently featured, it’s still listed as a key ingredient. I won’t beat a dead horse with this one, but soy is not the best ingredient.
Higher Sugar: Advocare is high in sugar as well, with 12 grams per serving. While still less than most juices or drinks, most people don’t need 12 grams coming from their meal replacement option.
Also Contains Sucralose: This is starting to be a theme of MLM supplements…. especially as the product still contains a fair amount of “natural” sugar as well. I just don’t get it, but it makes me want to stop treating by body as a guinea pig for these experiments.
Higher in Calories and Carbs: Higher calories is counter-intuitive if you are trying to lose weight. 220 calories per serving and 24 carbs is pretty significant for a meal replacement option. It’s one of the higher totals I’ve seen so far. Normally, if the supplement is full of vitamins, minerals, and raw plant based ingredients, I’ll let the calories slide, but not for a product that already contains a lot of junk.
Expensive: Advocare meal replacement shakes may come in cute little “swiss miss” style packets, but all that individual packaging adds up. Advocare is around $3.35 per serving, which is really far too much to pay for a meal replacement.
Advocare and Herbalife Alternatives – Expanding the Horizon a Bit
While this comparison has looked closely at how they compare to each other, Advocare and Herbalife do not exist in a vacuum. There are other supplements out there worth considering. In particular, I’d like to highlight a few alternatives that I’ve had success with. They are not heavily promoted by distributors and have a good track record (positive reviews from customers, industry sources, and a strong sales record).
Garden of Life RAW
I’ve become a really big fan of plant based supplements. Our diets are already overloaded with dairy products, especially those with hormones and additives. A lot of what Herbalife and Advocare promise, plant based supplements actually deliver, without the harmful shortcuts.
Garden of Life has a very solid Raw meal replacement supplement that offers 17 grams of pure vegan (and soy-free) protein. This is almost twice as much as Herbalife. Although its 7 grams less than Advocare, the quality of plant based protein is a lot higher. Whenever I have the choice, I will always take 1 gram of plant based protein over 1 gram of whey.
If you think that you are missing other ingredients, you are not. Part of Garden of Life’s formula includes sprouted brown rice, amaranth, chia seed, buckwheat, sunflower seed, lentil sprout, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, flax, and much much more.
It’s a veritable cornucopia of plants and beans that can be hard to supplement in a normal diet. You’ll also get a healthy dose of 6 grams of fiber, comparable to Advocare and double what Herbalife offers.
It’s hard to beat Herbalife on price, but Garden of Life comes close. It’s roughly a third of the price per serving of Advocare and just 30 cents more expensive (per serving) than Herbalife. At $1.33 per serving, it’s a higher quality and still cost effective option.
Vega One is another one of my long time favorite protein shake supplements. Like Garden of Life, it’s an all plant based protein source. The one thing I’ll say up front is that it’s a bit more expensive than both Garden of Life and Herbalife, so it may not be in everyone’s budget. However, it’s definitely less expensive per serving
Vega One has many of the same ingredients as Garden of Life, but I’ve found it to be a bit more “mixable” and less granular than Garden of Life. It’s not a big concern, but a slight difference.
Vega One goes a step further than other meal replacement shakes by including 6 servings of veggies, 1.5 grams of Omega-3’s, the equivalent to a cup of yogurt’s worth of probiotics, plenty of antioxidants, 6 grams of fiber, and 50% of your daily serving of vitamins and minerals.
What’s more, it offers 20 grams of protein per serving. It’s like a dietary supplement pill and protein shake rolled into one.
Even Vega One can’t quite hit the 24 grams of protein offered by Advocare, but – again – quality of protein matters to me. It’s incredibly hard to find a plant based protein supplement that offers at least 20 grams of protein, but Vega One delivers. It does come at a bit of added expense, but it’s still less than costly than Advocare at approximately $2.67 per serving.
Herbalife vs Advocare Head to Head Comparison
I’ve included a handy table for quick comparison below, also including my alternative options to consider.
|Calories||Saturated Fat||Sodium||Carbs||Fiber||Sugars||Protein||Price||Estimated Cost Per Serving|
|Herbalife Formula 1 (30 servings)||90||0g||95mg||13g||3g||9g||9g||Click here for latest||$1.06|
|Advocare Shake (14 servings - per box)||220||1g||80mg||24g||6g||12g||24g||Click here for latest||$3.35|
|Vega One (20 servings)||160||0.5g||30mg||10g||6g||<1g||20g||Click here for latest||$2.67|
|Garden of Life RAW (28 servings - 1 scoop)||155||1g||60mg||15g||6g||3g||17g||Click here for latest||$1.33|