The Truth About Beachbody

After a year-plus of working out from home, chances are the Beachbody empire has entered your radar. Even if you hate all things exercise, you likely have at least one Instagram friend selling the company's Shakeology products and posting workouts and inspirational quotes. But if for some reason the word "Beachbody" still doesn't ring a bell, book us a flight to whatever desert island you're living on. 

For some background, Beachbody is a multilevel marketing program. It bills itself as a program that has "helped millions achieve a healthier lifestyle through proven fitness and nutrition programs complete with daily instruction, eating plans, and one-of-a-kind support," according to the official website.

Is this true? Well, we did some digging to determine whether Beachbody is actually worth the hype and the monetary commitment. With the open minds of highly educated fitness professionals, we scoured the internet to find out the truth beyond the abs. Here's what we found.

The history of Beachbody

Beachbody was created by Carl Daikeler and Jon Congdon in 1998 (via Forbes). This fitness phenom didn't get rolling until around 2007 when they incorporated Team Beachbody, the multilevel marketing element. What began as the peddling of workout DVDs has snowballed into much more. However, this is unsurprising as Daikeler received his degree in corporate organizational media and has been quoted expressing his distaste for vegetables and exercise numerous times. "The story makes sense when you consider his mission is to sell to a nation of [couch] potatoes," Forbes noted. However, eating healthy food and exercising are the most important elements of any fitness regimen. 

The first popular Beachbody program was P90X, created by Tony Horton. It's a frightening 90-day protocol that essentially prepares you to fight a bear. Daikeler and Congdon marketed P90X with their own before and after photos. Once they had a moderately sized following, the founders began to use their customers' results as advertisements. "The customer has always sort of been our celebrity," Daikeler told Forbes in 2018.

Even the name "Beachbody" is controversial and antiquated, many would no doubt argue. Nevertheless, when the team transitioned from DVDs to streaming services, the momentum continued.

The workouts are legit

While there are certainly a lot of negatives to note about the Beachbody program, the workouts are actually pretty legit. Most of them are devised by highly educated and experienced trainers, which is a positive element to take notice of. Of course, though, workout programs should be led by professionals.

Beachbody on Demand offers seemingly endless options to choose from when it comes to working out. If you are in the mood for yoga, it's a click away. If you are in the mood for some high-intensity kickboxing, that is easy enough to find (via Verywell Fit). If you want to try something interesting and new, your living room is the place to do it! No matter your mood, Beachbody has created a workout to suit your needs.

As with any video workout, the risks are notable. Without feedback from a trainer or, at the very least, a mirror, you could easily end up repeating a movement with poor form. Over time, this could lead to serious injury (via AARP). However, these risks are not unique to the Beachbody platform. And honestly, some of these workouts are really great (Verywell Fit). If you are in the mood to break a sweat, by all means, swipe around to find something that tickles your fancy.

This is why you see Beachbody all over social media

Many of the people involved with Beachbody are outspoken about how it is not a pyramid scheme. Conversely, others who are no longer participating in this niche fitness community say otherwise

As is the case with many multilevel marketing strategies, people working for the company take to social media to push product. These "coaches" systematically reach out to acquaintances on social media and slip their business venture into the conversation (via Healthline). They explain the costs to sign up, the logistics around the magical unicorn that will rectify all of life's problems, and of course, the recommended nutrition supplements, as former Beachbody coach Melissa Blevins revealed to Your Money Geek.

Beachbody sells Shakeology and other nutritional supplements as their main profit-earning thing. Blevins told the site, "Every time I mention that you must sell Shakeology to be successful, coaches chime in and say, 'We don't HAVE to sell Shakeology. We WANT to!' Of course, you do ... it's the only way to make decent money with Beachbody."

Is Beachbody's Shakeology baloney?

Ignore what fad diets, trends, and MLMs tell you: Weight loss is about calories in versus calories out. If you opt out of breakfast and replace it with a 160-calorie shake, you will lose weight. This isn't groundbreaking. It is creating a calorie deficit (via Healthline). If you exist in a calorie deficit day after day, you will lose weight. One pound of body fat equals about 3,500 calories (per Mayo Clinic). By restricting calories and skipping meals, the pounds start to drop.

Restricting your calories too much is not a healthful approach to long-term weight loss, according to NASM. This often leads to yo-yo dieting and weight gain after the "challenge" is over. Nutritionists recommend creating a lifestyle around healthy, whole foods to ignite and maintain healthy weight loss (via Healthline).

But is Shakeology all bad? "While it contains a good amount of protein, vitamins and minerals, you can get the same benefits from consuming a homemade protein shake or a meal," Healthline confirmed. Instead, "combining Greek yogurt, frozen berries, fresh kale, chia seeds, almond butter and cashew milk will provide a nutrition boost without the added sugar found in Shakeology," the site explained.

Beachbody has made plenty of false claims about its Shakeology products

Dietary supplements are subject to less stringent testing than "conventional" food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For years, the makers of Shakeology claimed it "prevented mental decline, slowed the aging process, removed toxins and even helped prevent heart disease and cancer," according to Forbes. Grade-A baloney, of course. These erroneous claims have been proven false, and the state of California has barred Beachbody from saying anything beyond "Shakeology can curb appetite and improve energy" (via Forbes). Okay, but so do bananas, right?

According to Beachbody, their supplements meet the Good Manufacturing Guidelines set forth by the FDA. A gray area exists, however, because the claims of superfood ingredients are high, but Beachbody doesn't disclose the amount of each ingredient per serving. And there are many ingredients.

And although Beachbody says their Shakeology products contain superfoods, there is no legit definition of what a superfood actually is, licensed nutritionist Liz Applegate told Forbes. Nutrient-dense, whole foods have been rebranded as superfoods, after all. Since there is no actual definition, anything can be listed as a superfood.

Do Beachbody coaches make good money?

The mounting promises from your MLM-happy IG friends are hard to ignore. Of course, working from home with the ability to create your schedule is appealing. And of course, making money while pursuing your weight-loss journey is tempting. If you love exercise and want to make a living by pursuing this passion, you may think Beachbody is for you.

However, Beachbody "coaches" are not fitness experts and they pay to become coaches. "Signing up to become a Team Beachbody Coach costs $39.95. After 30 days, you'll be automatically billed $15.95 per month to the credit card you provide," the company explains. Like all MLMs, once you sign people up beneath you, it is your job to hassle encourage them to stay active so you can have a few schillings thrown down the pipeline to you.

"Active Coach" is the easiest rank to achieve. To become this type of coach, you either need to sell or buy something worth 50 personal volume points, which is the equivalent of $55 (via Sorey Fitness). Beachbody's entire ranking system is pretty convoluted and full of numbers. According to Beachbody's Statement of Independent Coaching Earnings, "Active Coaches" averaged an annual income of $439. If you achieve a higher rank, they claim you have the potential to make from $0 per year to $3,258,823 per year. Quite the disparity.

The hustle is real, but the payout is not

Multilevel marketing schemes are set up to best serve the people at the top. You are expected to work really hard for a 15 to 50% commission — but the average coach doesn't bring home much. On average, a coach makes about $37 per month after purchasing the company's products and paying their monthly dues, according to the 2019-2020 Statement of Independent Coaching Earnings. Pay close attention to the fine print at the bottom of the earnings report. It reads, "43.8% of all ranks received a bonus or commission check from Team Beachbody." That leaves 56.2% of coaches without any such earnings. 

Additionally, Beachbody did away with infomercials years ago. They now rely more on the marketing done by their independent coaches (via Forbes). All of this translates into more money for Beachbody's bottom line and close to none for you, Gretchen Weiners.

You have to spend money to be a coach

When compared to the overhead of operating a brick-and-mortar business, the cost of becoming a Beachbody coach is enticing. Your first year will cost you over $200 in membership dues. This figure excludes the cost of maintaining your "Active Coach" status.

To maintain your standing as an Active Coach, you need to either sell or buy around $55 worth of product per month (via Beachbody). The annual cost of being a Beachbody coach is around $900 if you buy the minimum amount each month. If this is your tactic, you won't be earning anything, just spending.

A month's supply of Shakeology for a coach costs about $100 (as opposed to the "non-coach" monthly price of about $130), which bumps up the yearly cost to nearly $1,500 (per Beachbody). This isn't a horrible cost for a business's overhead, but remember, you have less than a 50% chance of actually earning commission or a bonus, per the  2019-2020 Statement of Independent Coaching Earnings. All in all, this sounds more like a good way for you to get a small discount on a powder to make some fancy milkshakes.

How hard is it to quit Beachbody?

If you decide being a Beachbody customer isn't for you, you can just quit right? Well, yes, but it wasn't always so easy. However, after being hit with numerous legal altercations, Beachbody was forced to restructure its foundation. The company originally signed members up for auto-renew without consent, explained the Los Angeles Business Journal. Beachbody settled this lawsuit for a whopping $3.6 million in 2018.

These days, Beachbody now gains separate consent to auto-renew, explained Forbes. If you are a Beachbody coach, you will need to submit your request online, according to the company. If you are a Beachbody on Demand customer, you can cancel online or by telephone. Nevertheless, customers still express frustration with the cancellation process, according to Better Business Bureau complaints. The small size of the cancel button and accompanying text was a complaint that popped up more than once.

Beachbody is not exactly the pinnacle of health

Beachbody's company name implies that a certain shape is a "beach body," which is evidenced by before and after photos. Additionally, the 21 Day Fix program promises quick weight loss of up to 15 pounds — in just 21 days! On one hand, the 21 Day Fix protocol can help teach users about portion control and can aid in forming habits around exercise, which is awesome. On the other hand, many people's nutrient needs are not met with the meal plan available through the 21 Day Fix, which is not so awesome (via Healthline).

Everybody has different nutritional needs. You can really only issue one blanket statement about nutrition and caloric needs: When you are in a calorie deficit, you will drop weight. The 21 Day Fix offers a low end of 1,200 calories to be consumed per day, which is scarcely enough to meet a person's nutritional needs (via Verywell Fit).

The nutrition experts at NASM continue to educate the masses, saying weight loss has to be done slowly to be long-lasting. Dropping 15 pounds in 21 days is idealistic, arguably unhealthy, and unsustainable (via Healthline).

Beachbody coaches are not a replacement for personal trainers and nutritionists

Becoming a Beachbody coach is as simple as paying about $40 to begin, signing up for autorenewal, and selling products. Beachbody coaches are very different from personal trainers. At a minimum, Ace Fitness personal trainers have to study a personal training textbook and pass an exam. Without the knowledge, they don't pass. Many exercise professionals earn and maintain numerous degrees and certificates within the exercise science sphere. Personal trainers work with individuals to help them achieve their goals sustainably and with an eye for personalized detail (via NASM).

Although Beachbody coaches sell programs devised by legitimate trainers, they do not have to hold exercise science knowledge themselves. According to the company, coaches "connect people to a fitness program and eating plan that works for them, and help them get started on the path to living a healthy life." They are not to "provide clinical health advice." If that's what you're looking for, you should instead consider meeting with a person who is qualified to dispense such advice, like a registered dietitian nutritionist.