Updated 8/27/20. Have you heard of Formula 1? If not, you've likely heard of the company that sells it―Herbalife. Can Formula 1 meal replacement shakes help people lose weight? Are there any side effects? Is there any research on these meal shakes? Actually, yes, there is research on Formula 1 and that will be the main focus of this review.
What Is Formula 1 Used For?
On the Herbalife website, it's stated that “Formula 1 shakes include protein, fiber and essential nutrients that can help support metabolism, cellular growth repair, and production.” I take this to mean Formula 1 is a meal replacement shake. Meal replacement shakes are meant to be used when people don't have time to eat real food. They are often used as after-workout shakes also. I don't see any specific mention in the above statement that Formula 1 meal shakes are to be used for weight loss except maybe the vague words “support metabolism.”
Who Makes Formula 1 Shakes?
Formula 1 shakes are made by Herbalife. Unlike several supplement companies I've reviewed previously, Herbalife is a real company that has a physical brick-and- motor building. The address of Herbalife is 800 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 406, Los Angeles, CA 90015. The building says “Herbalife” on the side, so I know this is their official place of business.
If you search the Better Business Bureau for “Herbalife”, you will see a LOT of small businesses. This goes to the fact that the bulk of the selling of Herbalife products comes from people who are Herbalife distributors. Herbalife at its core has a strong multi-level marketing component. You have to search for Herbalife International of America to find the BBB report on the business.
The BBB gives Herbalife a B+ rating when this review was updated. It notes that Herbalife was started in 1980 and has been a BBB accredited business since 1990. It lists 400 employees, however, I'm sure that doesn't include the many thousands of Herbalife distributors around the world.
Formula 1 Nutrition Information
According to the Herbalife.com website, each container of Formula 1 has 30 servings. A serving size of Formula 1 is two scoops and has the following nutrition information:
|Calories||90||170 (8 oz nonfat milk)|
|Calories from fat||5||5 (8 oz nonfat milk)|
|Total fat 1 gram||1%||1%|
|Sat fat 0 grams||0%||0%|
|Trans fat 0 grams||–||–|
|Cholesterol 0 grams||0%||2%|
|Sodium 95 mg||4%||8%|
|Potassium 190 mg||5%||16%|
|Total carbs 13 grams||4%||8%|
|Dietary fiber 3 grams||11%||11%|
|Sugars 9 grams||–||–|
|Protein 9 grams||18%||35%|
Vitamins & Minerals
It's important to know that the Herbalife website also says to “remember to add fresh fruit and ice” to Formula 1. This means that the nutrition information (and calories) listed above will be different, depending on the type of fruit and amount of fruit that is added.
This idea of adding fruit to Formula 1, reminds me of Shakeology where I wondered “why would you need the extra fruit if it was already so healthy?”
Formula 1 is certified gluten-free. For those who are interested, formula 1 also contains soy protein isolate and fructose. The nutrition label does indicate that the product contains “Milk and Soy” however, soy is the first ingredient listed while casein (which comes from milk) is the ninth ingredient. I take this to mean that most of the protein in Formula 1 is derived from soy. The label does not indicate if the soy is genetically modified or Non-GMO soy.
Formula 1 also contains a fiber called inulin. The Formula 1 label calls inulin “a prebiotic that helps promote the growth of flora.”
Prebiotics are basically the food of probiotic bacteria.
While that may be true, inulin is a soluble fiber found in many foods. For example, inulin is also found in “Fiber One” cereal. According to a Nutrition Action Newsletter in 2008, (click to read the pdf file), “it's not clear if inulin is as good as a foods naturally occurring fibre.” Formula 1 doesn't have a lot of inulin since it's the 17th ingredient listed on the label.
Inulin is also in the IdealShape weight-loss shake so see that for more information.
The nutrition label also mentions that Formula 1 contains “Aminogen” This is a trademarked name for a protein-digesting enzyme complex that I've seen in a few other supplements such as Syntheriod and the Body By Vi Shakes. Aminogen is a product of another company called Triacaro Industries. I don't think there is anything special about Aminogens, especially for people who can digest protein.
Formula 1 And Weight Loss
Even though Herbalife doesn't specifically mention this, there is a lot of talk on the web about how Formula 1 can help people lose weight. So what might cause this? Looking at the ingredients, I think this is because a serving of Formula 1 only has 90 calories (170 calories, if milk was used, and more calories if additional fruit is added). So, if a person were to drink two Formula 1 shakes and then eat dinner, I'm pretty sure they would lose weight.
If I am right and Formula 1 helps people lose weight because it acts as a substitute for higher-calorie foods, then this is the same premise behind other weight loss shakes I've looked at including :
- Right Size Smoothies (100 calories)
- Body By Vi Shakes (90 calories)
- Shakeology (140 calories)
- Isagenix Shake (240 calories)
There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it does not lead to nutritional deficiencies. If a person were taking a multivitamin and eating at least halfway decent, I don't think this would be a problem. That said, I'd personally like to see more protein to Formula 1 if it is used for weight loss. Keep reading for my reasons why.
Formula 1 Weight Loss Research
On the website herbalifescience.com there is a page that discusses 3 clinical studies that used Formula 1 Healthy Meal. These studies are used to support the notion of how the formula 1 meal shake can be a healthy addition to the diet.
It appears that all 3 studies were conducted by members of the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board. That's not necessarily bad. Companies that invest time, money and effort into their products is a rare thing. I actually like to see this. That said, let's take a look briefly at each study.
Herbalife Formula 1 Study #1
In a study that does not seem to be published yet titled ” Increased Protein Intake Using Protein—Enriched Meal Replacements Compared to Conventional Protein Intake and Meal Replacements in Overweight Subjects” Researchers gave 110 overweight people different amounts of protein for a year.
Formula 1 shakes ―as well as another protein supplement― were given to the high protein group. Others were just told to eat less and try to get a normal amount of protein.
The researchers noted that drinking 2 Formula 1 shakes (that were enhanced with additional protein) “lead more effective weight-management than limiting calories alone”.
While this is interesting, notice they didn't say people lost more weight. For me, saying “more effective weight management” is very fuzzy language. They might have lost more weight but I'd like to see them actually say it.
I must also note that this study does not prove that Formula 1 itself leads to weight loss because researchers gave people Formula 1 PLUS extra protein (the supplement was called “European Personalized Protein Powder.”) To me, this is a weakness of this study.
Herbalife Formula 1 Study #2
In a study published in 2008 in Nutrition Journal, titled A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass, researchers gave 100 obese men and women (85 people completed the study) the same number of calories for 12 weeks. The difference: One group received more protein.
The high protein group received 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day) while the regular protein group received 1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight.
- High protein group: 2.2 grams per kilogram = 1 gram of protein per pound.
- Low protein group: 1.1 grams per kilogram = 0.5 grams of protein per pound.
Both groups were given Herbalife Formula 1 but the high protein group had their Formula 1 shakes enhanced with another Herbalife supplement called Performance Protein Powder. Those in the standard protein group (1.1 grams per day) had a carbohydrate powder added to their Formula 1 shakes.
- Both groups lost similar amounts of weight.
- There were no changes between the groups in blood fats (triglycerides) or fasting glucose levels.
- There were no changes in waist circumference between groups.
- The high protein group lost more body fat.
- The high protein group had significantly lower LDL and total cholesterol.
As I see it, the major finding of this study ―as far as weight loss is concerned― is that those who received more protein lost more body fat.
A possible problem with this study was that body fat was determined with bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA). This method is often seen as less reliable than other ways such as Bod Pod or underwater weighing.
This study used a BIA device called 310e Bioimpedance analyzer which works by placing electrodes at the ankle and wrist. This is different than the hand-held devices found in health clubs around the world. Theoretically, this device might be more accurate, but I'd still expect that it could be influenced by many factors.
Also, it's important to note that this study didn't just use Formula 1 but Formula 1 that had additional protein added to it.
Herbalife Formula 1 Study #3
In 2009 a study called Efficacy of low-calorie, partial meal replacement diet plans on weight and abdominal fat in obese subjects with metabolic syndrome: a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of two diet plans – one high in protein and one nutritionally balanced was published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
In this 12 week, double-blind study,75 obese people were randomly assigned to either these 2 groups:
- Low calorie / high protein group (Formula 1 + Personalized Protein Powder).
- Low calorie / normal protein group (Formula 1 + milk).
The women ate 1200 per day and the men consumed 1500 calories per day.
1. Both groups lost weight and fat in the belly.
2. Researchers noted that in those who “followed the diet most strictly, people in the high protein group lost more body fat (and less lean body mass) than the people consuming the standard amount of protein.”
In other words, people who stuck to the diet – AND ate more protein ―lost more body fat.
It's worth noting again, Formula 1 was modified with additional protein.
I also found this next investigation (“Study 4″) which is not listed on the herbalifesciences website. I'm including it because the principal author (Marion Flechtner-Mors) is also the principal author of study #1. She is also on the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board.
Herbalife Formula 1 Study # 4
In 2010 a study was published in the journal, Diabetes Metabolism Research Reviews. In this investigation, titled Enhanced weight loss with protein-enriched meal replacements in subjects with the metabolic syndrome, 110 overweight people followed for a year and were told to eat 500 less calories per day and randomly assigned to:
- A high protein group (1.34 grams per kilogram of body weight)
- A low protein group (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight)
Translation: the high protein group received 0.61 grams per pound and the low protein group received 0.36 grams per pound ―the normal RDA for protein.
This study makes no mention of Formula 1, so I assume it was not used.
1. Those in the high protein group lost more weight and fat than those in the lower protein group.
2. Measurements of diabetes progression (CRP, A1c, HDL, insulin levels, etc.) improved in both groups although it was deemed slightly better in the high protein group.
3. Similar losses in fat-free mass were seen in both groups.
So again, we see higher protein intake was associated with more weight loss.
Study Problem: In this investigation body fat was measured with bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) which is seen as less accurate than other methods.
Summary: Formula 1 Weight Loss Research
Looking at only the 3 studies used to support the use of Formula 1 meal shakes, I come to these conclusions:
1. None of the studies only used Formula 1.
3. All 3 studies increased the protein content in Formula 1.
4. Since protein was increased in all 3 studies, Formula 1 ―alone― cannot be guaranteed to produce the same results.
5. Using Bioelectric impedance analysis to determine body fat changes may not be as reliable as other methods.
If I look only at the research on the Herbalife website, it appears that even the researchers on the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board increase protein intake when studying Formula 1 meal replacement shakes for weight loss. If that's true, why doesn't Herbalife change the formula?
The idea of increased protein intake for weight loss is not new. Several studies have noted more weight loss in those who consumed a higher protein diet.
Let me be clear. I have no doubt that if people consumed two Formula 1 shakes per day and ate 1 “real” meal, that they would lose weight. I believe however, that weight loss would occur because overall calorie intake was reduced, rather than any special properties or ingredients in Formula 1. The protein in Formula 1 might help but I see no proof that it would work as well as the enhanced-Formula 1 studies shown on the Herbalifesciences website.
Herbalife Formula 1 Side Effects
At this time I'm not aware of any side effects from Formula 1. I believe that in healthy people, Formula 1 is safe. If anyone has experienced side effects please comment below. It's possible that the soy in Formula 1 may be a problem for some people so they need to consider this.
Those who this might be an issue include those with some types of cancer like breast cancer or endometrial cancer, which may -in theory-be activated by soy. This is a common warning with soy although direct human evidence is lacking. Still, for those with cancer, its something to talk to your oncologist about.
Soy might also reduce thyroid hormone levels. This is because soy contains compounds called goitrogens. This can be a problem for people with hypothyroidism. For those with hypothyroid problems, just don't drink the shake within 1-2 hours of taking your thyroid medicine (levothyroxine). If you do this, I don't think the Herbalife Formula 1 shake will have any effect on your thyroid hormone levels.
Soy is often blamed for causing hypothyroidism but this is not true. But, just for peace of mind, those who have hypothyroidism should get their TSH levels checked after a month or so of using Formula 1 to see if their thyroid meds need to be adjusted. I doubt if they would need to.
Formula 1 Price
I did not see a way to order Formula 1 directly at the Herbalife website so I'm not sure of the price. The majority of business Herbalife generates is through Herbalife associates.
As such, it's possible that different associates may sell Formula 1 for different prices. Here is a 30 day supply on Amazon to compare prices. Various Herbalife distributors also sell on eBay. As such it might be smart to shop around for the best price.
The address for Herbalife International is 800 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 406, Los Angeles, CA 90015. The contact number is: 866-617-4273.
If you call this number, good luck, because you are only given 2 options:
1. Are you calling about a recent magazine radio or TV promotion (press 1)
2. Are you a customer calling about an existing order (press 2)
If you don't choose an option you are disconnected! Pressing zero for an operator doesn't work either. For a company that claims to have several hundred people in the organization (BBB statistics), I wasn't happy with their lack of easy customer support.
How To Return Formula 1
If you are not happy with Formula 1, I suggest either calling Herbalife directly at 866-617-4273 or by contacting the Herbalife distributor you bought the product from. I am not aware of any problems associated with returning Herbalife products. If you have had any problems returning products please comment below.
Does Formula 1 Work?
Let me first say that I don't think Formula 1 is bad. Looking at its ingredients, I don't see anything that I would call “extreme.” So, I have no problem with people who want to use Formula 1 as a meal replacement, if they can afford the cost. Do remember that there is nothing unique in Formula 1 that I'd expect to promote better health or superior weight loss over other shakes―such as the shake recipe I make.
Remember, if Formula 1 shakes are going to help people lose weight, they should be used in place of higher-calorie meals ―not in addition to them. For people eating 3-4 meals per day, I would not recommend more than 2 shakes per day since more than this might displace other valuable foods and nutrients from the diet. I do wish Herbalife would increase the protein content of Formula 1 because that is in keeping with their own weight loss research.