GNC Lean Shake: Does It Work?

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Expert rating: 2.5/5

Customer rating: stars-icon voted

Intro: What is it?

GNC Lean Shake is a meal replacement that claims to be proven to help people lose weight.   It’s also claimed that this shake will help you keep lean muscle mass while improving metabolism.

It’s available in 7 different flavors, and in both powdered and ready to drink bottles.  According to the label, this brand produces more weight loss benefits than just a 1500 calorie restriction. Is this true? What’s the overall quality like? To answer these questions and more read this review further.

GNC Lean Shake Ingredients

These are the ingredients for both the chocolate and vanilla, though the chocolate does not have corn syrup solids and vanilla has no processed cocoa:

Maltodextrin Oat Bran Cellulose Gum Resistant Starch Fructooligosaccharides
Xanthan Gum Carrageenan Milk Protein Concentrate Nonfat Dry Milk Cocoa Processed with Alkali
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil Sucralose Sodium Caseinate Dipotassium Phosphate Dipotassium Phosphate
Polysorbate 60 Monoglycerides Natural Flavors Artificial Flavors Dimagnesium Phosphate
Calcium Carbonate Tricalcium Phosphate Sodium Ascorbate Corn Syrup Solids Ferric Orthophosphate
dl-alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate Niacinamide Zinc Oxide d-Calcium Pantothenate Manganese Sulfate
Pyridoxine Hydrochloride Cupric Oxide Thiamin Hydrochloride Vitamin A Acetate Riboflavin
Chromium Chloride Folic Acid Biotin Sodium Molybdate Potassium Iodide
Sodium Selenite Cyanocobalamin Salt Acesulfame Potassium


There are a lot of unnecessary additives such as Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil; this ingredient is processed in a way that preserves it.  This method produces trans-fat, which according to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine can produce:

“23% increase in the risk for coronary heart disease”

It also showed the possibility to increase bad HDL cholesterol.

Another issue is that maltodextrin is the first ingredient listed, this means most of this product isn’t healthy protein, but instead the cheap thickener maltodextrin.

Calories 180 Calories from Fat 20 Total Fat 2g, 3% Saturated Fat 0.5g, 3% Cholesterol 5mg, 2% Sodium 100mg, 4%
Potassium 150mg, 4% Carbohydrate 30g, 10% Dietary Fiber 8g, 32% Soluble Fiber 5g, Sugars 4g Protein 9g
Vitamin A 15% Vitamin C 60% Calcium 50% Iron 20% Vitamin E 20% Thiamin 20%
Riboflavin 20% Niacin 20% Vitamin B-6 20% Folic Acid 20% Vitamin B-12 20% Biotin 20%
Pantothenic Acid 20% Phosphorus 20% Phosphorus 20% Iodine 50% Magnesium 20% Zinc 20%
Selenium 20% Copper 20% Manganese 20% Chromium 20% Molybdenum 20%


There’s more calories offered here than in most meal replacements, so this requires more exercise on the customer’s part.

The 4 grams of sugar isn’t the highest amount available in shakes, but it’s still better to keep this low as to avoid any increase in blood sugar.

Other vitamins added are offered in fairly standard amounts. The reason why there’s a high amount of vitamins and minerals added is because the way the protein is processed. Milk Protein Concentrate is stripped of all its nutrients.

Quality of GNC Lean Shake’s protein

Included is 9 grams of Milk Protein Concentrate. This means at least 40% of this ingredient is protein. Unfortunately it’s also the 8th ingredient down, most of the ingredients make up the carbohydrate blend.

According to the Food and Water watch organization, Milk Protein Concentrate or MPC’s are largely imported from:

“countries where American standards cannot be enforced”

They have concerns that contaminants like melamine are often found. According to the FDA, this unwanted ingredient can cause kidney damage, kidney stones, and even death.

Basically MPC as its known is a filtered form of milk protein that is dehydrated and stripped of its minerals in order to produce a more protein heavy ingredient. There are better sources of protein such as whey which offer even more amino acids.

Take the value of whey versus MPC as an example.

Protein ratio

Whey: Provides up to 90% or more in isolate form.

MPC: Has around 40% or slightly more, but it’s unknown exactly how much is inside this product.

It’s important to understand what the exact amount of amino acids is provided by GNC Lean Shake. Without knowing the strength, you’ll be unable to determine whether or not you’re paying for a quality source of amino acids.

The Price and Quality of GNC Lean Shake

The regular price for nonmembers of GNC is $34.99 for 1.7 pounds or 16 servings.

So the math is $34.99 divided by 16= $2.18.

This may seem like a cheap price, but the most important thing to consider is quality. Many of the ingredients aren’t the most wholesome additives. There’s much better alternatives which offer better quality.

For example, the Carb Blend is a mixture of the following ingredients:

Maltodextrin: Easily digested carbohydrate that has a high ranking on the glycemic index up to 100 points.

Cellulose Gum: Thickener also found in laxatives. In lab mice it has shown an increase in inflammation and obesity.

Resistant Starch: A laxative which has been shown to potentially increase the rate of flatulence.

Xanthan Gum: A thickener that can be extracted from soy, corn, wheat, and dairy. It can lead to intestinal problems and diarrhea.

Fructooligosaccharides: Low calorie sweetener which can lead to flatulence and stomach problems.

There’s about 30 grams of carbohydrates that all comes in some form from the above list.  You’re paying money for what’s essentially a mixture of commonly added artificial ingredients and thickening agents.

Some customers have reported they’ve experienced embarrassing side effects that prevented them from doing every day activities. One lady documented her experience on an review, where she stated these ingredients gave her digestive issues. It’s unknown what mixing these additives together might do to the body.

Clinical Study for GNC Lean Shake

Listed on each label is a mention that people lost more weight with this meal replacement while on a 1500 calorie deficit, then just a 1500 reduction of calories.

There weren’t any links to these studies on any websites, nor does GNC provide their own citations. They claim that 98 people went into the study and that it lasted 12 weeks. These people are claimed to have lost 3 extra pounds.

Without knowing the specifics of the study, it’s unknown if the claims of weight loss are true.

The Sweeteners added

The type of sugar sources which are used can actually lead to more problems, and it can even potentially prevent weight loss.

Both flavors have the ingredient Sucralose. According to studies performed by the Duke University, Sucralose can:

“reduced the gut bacteria of mice by up to 50%”

Science direct also posted another study which showed this same ingredient could cause:

DNA damage in the glandular stomach, colon, and/or urinary bladder”

Corn syrup solids are one of the ingredients found in the vanilla flavor. This ingredient use is not recommended according to Dr. Andrew Weil because:

You have no way of knowing how much glucose it contains.”

A high amount of glucose has been linked to a potential rise in obesity. It can also harm insulin resistance as well.  Also, this shake has 4 grams of sugar per serving. It’s better to get alternatives which won’t potentially prevent you from losing weight.

GNC Total Lean Challenge

It’s recommended by the company to follow the 12 week Total Lean Challenge. This means you have to exercise, include dieting, and take other supplements in their Total Lean lineup.

To do it properly you have to eat food combinations such as:

  • 1 serving of a GNC Lean Shake with 25 grapes.
  • Chicken tacos.
  • Trisket crackers.
  • 10 brown rice crackers.
  • ½ cup edamame

There’s a list of different foods offered which also go alongside a one a day shake. Eating these exact kinds of foods can be tricky since everyone has a different caloric demand. For some it might not be filling enough.

The Business of GNC

GNC operates a chain of US chain supplement stores, they not only sell their own products but they sell other companies.

Phone Number: (877)462-4700

They also offer a contact form on their official website.

On there are only negative reviews, about 42 customers have complained about the lack of quality service.

They’ve also had a few noticeable lawsuits and FDA intervention:

  • The Oregon Attorney general filed a lawsuit against the company for adding the illegal ingredients BMPEA and picamilon. Both of these additives have been banned by the FDA because they can cause serious health damages. BMPEA for example has been linked to bronchial issues and it’s been closely related to the drug Ephedra.
  • The FDA tested supplements made by GNC and they determined there were filler ingredients in their products. Their review also mentioned that some brands didn’t have any of the ingredients which were claimed on the label.

Customer Opinions of GNC Lean Shake

Several reviews are available on, currently 102 customers have reacted the product unfavorably:

“consistency of pond scum”

“serious side effects”

“caused serious gas”

Positive reviews are also available:

“Ok, but not great”

“mixes well with oj and fruits”

The most common complaint you’ll find is from people who had side effects.  People mention they had stomach discomforts, flatulence, nausea, difficulty digesting, diarrhea, and increased bathroom times. Every few reviews there are mention of some sort of unwanted symptoms that made it hard to continue use.

Some also report that they didn’t like the flavors. It’s commonly read that customers mention how the taste is artificial and odd tasting.  It’s unknown which of the ingredients is causing this problem, since many of them are processed and artificial. 


Though GNC Lean Shake is offered across the US, there are some concerns about the overall quality and price:

  • Many of the ingredients are processed and commonly added to cheap supplements: There’s a lot of ingredients added which aren’t as wholesome as the more natural alternatives. These included thickeners, cheap sweeteners, and artificial additives. Also, for some reason there’s hydrogenated oils and corn syrup. Both of these additives have been shown in some studies to increase the risk for obesity.
  • Protein isn’t the first ingredient, so it’s not provided in the highest amount: For the vanilla flavor it’s the 9th listed ingredient, for chocolate the 8th. So above all, the majority of this meal replacement is carbohydrates. This is likely why there are 30 grams added and only 9 grams of protein. There’s also only Milk Protein Concentrate, this does not have the most well rounded amount of amino acids. This is especially important when you’re replacing meals, you have to ensure you’re getting the full benefits possible.
  • The quality of the protein isn’t very good: There have been studies done on Milk Protein Concentrate; the majority of it isn’t produced in the US. Most of it is made in Mexico and China where the safety regulations aren’t as strict. It’s also cheaper to simply buy milk as opposed to this form of protein which might be only 40% protein by weight. A better substitute is whey protein which has a much higher amount of protein by volume.
  • Artificial sugar and cheap sweeteners are added: The chocolate flavor doesn’t have corn syrup solids, but the vanilla does and they both have sucralose. Corn syrup has been linked to higher rates of obesity in some people. It’s also often made by GMO corn. Sucralose has been shown to cause DNA damage to lab rats as well as other symptoms. It’s important to keep your sugar intake low, and to only have enough to give a product a good taste. These cheap sugar sources aren’t the best quality available.
  • For the price you’re paying it isn’t worth it: Customers have had concerns over the rate of potential side effects, the cheaply sourced ingredients, and the lack of quality protein. At the price you’re getting it for you’re not getting a good deal. Many of the ingredients are actually often used in many processed foods. This might explain why some have reported side effects.

The overall quality of this ingredient isn’t very good; some liked the flavors but not all. There are better meal replacements which can help you lose weight.

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