Before I start the post, For those of you who don’t know, Visalus is a multi level marketing company whos product is a weight loss drink and challenge concept. This blog post really aims at sharing my reason for not joining Visalus in an aim I can help educate people as having a go to page so I can send Visalus distributors to without having to repeat myself. This is in by no way an attack on the company or the distributors of the product. I have some good friends involved in Visalus and some are making a good living out of it, again these are just my views based on the knowledge I currently have about fitness, nutrition and sports nutrition
Now let’s begin…
In yesterday’s post, I decided to have a little bit of a rant about the whole Carbohydrate debate.. to cotinue in that vain, I decided today, I’ll have a little rant generously dipped in scientific reasons and common sense purposes as to why I didn’t join the Visalus business. (I think I shall call these Fahad’s Pseudo Scientific Rants lol)
Ok, so let’s set the scene. I haven’t personally got a problem with the Multi Level Marketing model, you know the one where you recruit someone who recruits someone who recruits someone etc and you get commission based on the size of a team… yes it looks like a pyramid, yes it can be dishonest depending on the company or the leadership but it is a decent business model and works and this isn’t about the model of MLM, this is about the product Visals are selling called the Vi Shape mix.
Anyway, I was open to looking at an opportunity to make some extra money (Seriously, who isn’t right?) and I got a call from somebody who is well established within MLM and told me Visalus is launching in the UK. I had heard of Visalus previously to that seeing the success it has had accross the pond so I thought, yeah, i’ll have a look at it. I managed to get myself down to a meeting in London for MLM leaders. It was an invite only meeting I believe and was basically a prelaunch event to start the buzz and momentum going. Now, without sounding disrepectful to the people in that room, most if not all looked as though they’ve never stepped foot into a gym in their lives apart from the main speaker Nick Sarincola, one of the owners of Visalus, who was in incredible shape.
The first thing that entered my mind was that as much as these people say on the outside that they’re here to help people lose weight and get fitter, they’re really mostly in it because of the money, again, I’ve not got a problem with making money, it’s just the lack of honesty and integrity on the part of most of these independant distributors (because seriously, if you were so keen on health and fitness, you’d be a walking role model not a jelly roll!). I even had a personal one on one meeting with Nick Sarincola after the meeting to air my concerns. He was brutally honest and very candid which I appreciated. Since that discussion was in private, it would not be sincere of me to divulge what was said but I will say, Nick’s honesty help sway my decision from joining Visalus!
But that wasn’t the main reason I didn’t join Vi, the main reason was the product itself.
Let’s have a quick look at what’s in a Vi shake
(Click to see full size)
The first thing I noted was this was a Soy based shake. Soy protein is probably one of the most controversial protein sources and soy has gotten a pretty bad reputation too. Visalus claim that the Phytoestrogens have been removed from the soy meaning that it won’t have adverse effects on elevating male estrogen levels (Estrogen being a female hormone and detrimental to male health)
Phytates in Soy protein has also been shown to inhibit absorption of certain nutrients such as Calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. It has also been shown to effect thyroid function too and contains enzyme inhibitors that effects protein absorption as well as Haemaggluttin which is known to cause clumping of red blood cells which inhibits oxygen uptake in cells.
Although Soy actually has been shown to have some benefits too, there seriously is far too much controversy surrounding soy protein for someone who understand this to promote it.
Soy is also controversial for many other reasons and has a lot of negative press especially if you’re into the whole Dr Mercola school of thought (It’s a tough school too!). Here’s Dr Mercola’s latest on Soy http://www.mercola.com/article/soy/avoid_soy.htm and there are tonnes of sites that can go into the dangers of Soy if you care to do your own research but it wasn’t even this that made my decision to leave Visalus alone. 1, 2, 3
As far as I am concerned, Soy protein is a cheaper form of protein. This is simply visible everytime you go to a health food shop and see soy proteins are half the price of a good whey protein! Now, Visalus do use some whey. They use the more expensive Hydrolysed whey as well as the cheaper whey protein concentrate but here’s the thing, Soy is the major ingredient and there’s only 12 grams of protein per serving!! that means the whey protein is at most 5 or 6 grams! Hardly much to justifty the price of the overall product and that’s the main reason I chose to steer clear of Visalus.
Yes folks, as much as there are dangers regarding soy protein and some of the other controversial ingredients (Sucralos, Sunflower oil, artificial flavours etc) it all boiled down to price for me. A month’s supply of Visalus shape mix comes in at £40! Now, let’s compare that to two other products. For this, I’ve headed over to The Protein Works who provide some great supplements.
First we’ll look at their Soy 90 Protein stats.
(Click to see full size)
A month’s supply of this weighs in at only £12.99 and has over twice the protein! Yeah it doesn’t have the hyrdrolized whey or added Branch chain amino acids so I decided to use The Protein Works’s Customizer to find something a little more like Vi’s shake!
Now, the above custom formula is pretty good, i’ve added a good amount of amino acids to really boost this one and it still only comes up to £25.61! (buy in bulk and you could save up to £30 here)
So where is the extra money going?
As far as I am concerned, the Vi Shape mix is a cheap product sold at a premium price. Why is that? To pay for BMW bonuses and team building income of course! The cost of all the lovely bonuses and incentives for top earners is obviously built into the product cost and that’s what annoys me slighlty but what really annoys me is that there wasn’t even an attempt to use premium ingredients which wouldn’t have cost that much more. Put the whole Soy protein issue aside and they could have opted for a good whey protein blend which would be far less controversial and only cost a fraction more and have more benefits and not effect anyone with soy alergies or cause men to grow a pair of tits!
Wait, Soy protein is a good alternative to whey if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant right?
Yes, but let’s not forget that this product contains a small amount of whey rendering it useless to vegans and those with a lactose intolerance bad enough to warrant needing to steer clear of whey. Infact, I’ve tried this shake and all I can say is i’m glad I didn’t have a passenger driving home back to Leicester with me that day!
12 measly grams of protein is all that’s on offer here and a whopping 90 calories per serving (that’s ridiculously low!) When I asked why there was only 12 grams of protein in the shake, one of the responses I got from the “scientific” team was that the human body can only absorb 12 grams of protein. I’d love to see the science on that one (they didn’t respond when I asked). So does that mean a frail elderly grandma and a 250lbs athlete who weight trains on a regular basis with a low body fat percentage both have the same protein absorption rate?
Also, when I suggested 12 grams was not enough, the reply I got from Visalus was, “Just add milk and you’ll bump up the protein content”… Well maybe that’s true but what if I don’t want to bump up the lactose and carboydrate content and have an upset stomach for most of the day? (It was a tamer answer to the one Nick Sarincola gave me over coffee by the way).
And now let’s talk about the calories. The Vi program encourages the drink as a meal replacement. swapping a meal with a shake that’s only 90 calories is a recipe for disaster as that’s hardly enough calories. Yes you’ll lose a tonne of weight dropping your calories drastically but most will probably be muscle and if you’ve read my previous blog post on the worst mistake made by dieters, you’ll know just how bad that is for you. But let’s give Visalus the benefit of doubt here and say that the shakes are just a supplement to 3 meals a day and, like all the recipe ideas seem to suggest, you’re adding in calories through peanut butter, fruit and almond milk etc, you still may aswell just have a whey shake with those things and save a tonne of cash and get more nutrients!
And it’s not just me, many well respected sports nutritionists and trainers seem to agree on that topic. Ben Coomber of Body Type Nutrition wrote about both Visalus and Herbalife on his blog recently and David Modderman goes into great detail about his opinions of Visalus here on his blog In fact, he goes into more details in his blog about the dangers of soy.
Another thing I wasn’t to keen about Visalus from being involved in the fitness industry is how many distributors became overnight experts in health and nutrition (and do you remember how I observed that most at that meeting looked anything but fit and healthy?) I appreciate that people are passionate about a company and even a product and buy into whatever the company say but I also believe that such blind allegiance can be dangerous especially when making recommendations to a person’s health and well being. I saw a page on Facebook where a lady recommended to her friend to have 3 shakes a day instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner for rapid weight loss… yes that’s right, rapid muscle loss darling!
The “Science” behind the shakes
One very very good disection of the product, in my personal opinion, comes from Canada based sports nutritionalist, Graeme Thomas. 4 In his article, he takes a look at the Vi shape from a sports nutritionalist point of view and shows how substandard the vi shape mix is. I’ve already compared the product to a soy based shake and a like for like comparison in terms of price but Graeme goes one step further and compares the vitamin profiles and disects some more of the ingredients in the product… the result isn’t very surprising to me in any case as Vi shape falls short off the marker.
So is soy the work of the devil?
Look, i’d like to think that i’m not a complete moron easily brainwashed by the teeniest bit of citation from some one who comes accross as an expert in their field. I like to see all sides of the story and frankly, Soy actually isn’t the evil product some people like Dr Joseph Mercola make it out to be in terms that there can be benefits to Soy. My only issue is that there are certainly more negatives associated with soy than positives and I would personally steer clear of it and should someone ask for my professional opinion, I would suggest they stay away from soy protein also. If you’re a vegan (Vi isn’t vegan friendly but let’s forget about Vi for a second), then Hemp protein is going to be your best bet and a combination of Hemp, Pea and Rice may be all you need. Recently, Sports nutrition expert Will Brink actually wrote in praise of soy protein so there are those who will sing its praises. 5
In the article, Will Brink Writes how soy reduces cholestorol and how monkey’s sex organs were not effected by Soy and could be a benefit to thyroid function in a reduced calorie diet although the article seemed to be aimed more at steroid using bodybuilders than the average Joe that wants to lose weight.
Another article I found on the same website shows a combination of Whey and Soy could lead to greater muscle gain however, I personally am not sure how that would work with such small amounts of protein in Vi Shape as well as the fact the recommended Whey: Casein:Soy ratio that Jim Stoppani talks about is reversed in the Vi Shape blend.6
What I do like about Visalus
I’m not going to be totally negative towards Visalus. One thing I do like is the platform they provide for the end user by giving away prizes and having a forum etc for once you get going with the challenge. Whilst I feel that if you need a promise of a free tee shirt or the chance to win a car to push you towards making healthy lifestyle changes and lose weight/gain muscle etc then you’ve really got issues in the first place, I do appreciate that most people are lazy and need a push but are those perks worth paying the extra premium for? Body transformation challenges aren’t a new thing and many companies do give out prizes. I know USN (a brand who make lovely protein by the way) have their own transformation challenge where you can win prizes too. It’s nothing new and certainly not exclusive to Visalus. So why is there such a buzz about Visalus then? Well their Juggernaut marketing stems from the hype they created at launch. Whether that will be short lived or not remains to be seen but I have my own personal suspicions (especially when distributors will be forced to make payments to BMW for their lease cars should their incomes drop… another huge issue which put me off the company)
The company are also typical of most MLM companies in that they work on the pay it forward principle. Whilst some people do criticize network marketers for being brainwashed, frankly, I’d rather see a world full of people brainwashed by positive thinking and the idea of helping others than the contrary. I do like the positivity MLM companies breed into their distributors although sometimes, it can border onto the “cultish” whereby distributors are led to believe that it’s their way or the highway.
So in the end…
If you choose to become a Visalus distributor or use its products, that’s up to you. Just be weary as a distributor that you’re selling a product that’s over priced and as a consumer, there are far better products you can take out there in the market.
Believe me (and ask my wife if you don’t believe me) but I lost a lot of sleep over Visalus after I went to the initial meeting. I so desperately wanted it to be the answer to my problems.. a way to make an income by doing what I love, Promoting a healthy lifestyle and helping people. I so desperately wanted to find the magic bullet that made the Visalus shape mix, the Rolls Royce of protein shakes to justify the price tag for the ingredients but I just couldn’t find it. The more research I did, the more convinced I was that it just wasn’t a good enough product and my reputation was on the line as someone people respect within the realm of nutrition.
I hope this article helps you make a decision about joining Visalus or taking the product either way, I hope you had a giggle and were enlightened (and I hope that those of you who keep trying to sign me up read this and will know better now to leave me well enough alone!). Again, I didn’t write this to piss in anyone’s proverbial cornflakes, I wrote it merely to share my opinion on the product and as much as I would like to think that I have backed up my arguments with science and fact, there are always good and bad points about everything (Hey, I even highlighted the positive side of Soy protein supplementation! How good am I?).
I chose not to become a Visalus distributor solely because it would go against my own personal integrity. There is no way in hell I could look someone square in the eyes and tell them to take Visalus when I wouldn’t drink the stuff myself knowing that they’d be better off with another brand of protein shake. I just can’t do that, nope siree… not even for a new shiney BMW
1) The Soy Controversy – Katherine Nichols and Jay Williams, Ph.D.
2) Dangers of Soy
3) Newest Research On Why You Should Avoid Soy – Dr Joseph Mercola
4) ViSalus Shakes: The “Science” Behind The Shake -_Graeme Thomas
5) The Vindication of Soy – Will Brink
6) Can Adding Soy To Your Protein Mix Lead To More Growth? – Jim Stoppani