An image of GNC's Total Lean Shake

GNC is an enormously popular chain of supplement stores that has thousands of locations in the United States and stores in fifty other countries around the world. Because they own their own stores and factories, their products are known for being pretty inexpensive and crowd pleasing.

We’ve tried many of their products ourselves, including their whey protein, BCAAs, and their creatine. Their meal replacement sold under their Total Lean line, called “Lean Shake,” is a pretty interesting supplement.

For starters, it’s described on the front as “Clinically Proven Weight Loss Shake,” which is surprising because a lot of supplements try to avoid explicitly stating their product can help you lose weight. GNC, however, is very confident in its ability, pointing to a randomized study that saw more weight loss among people using their lean shake — and the 1500-calorie meal plan and exercise routine that comes taped to the tub — than among people who just followed a 1500-calorie diet.

It seems pretty obvious that exercise was an important component of that difference but nonetheless, I liked that this product comes with a detailed exercise and diet guide. So what’s the nutrition like?

GNC Total Lean Shake
GNC Total Lean Shake
A nutritious, low calorie shake that's especially focused on weight loss.MoreLess

GNC Lean Shake Nutrition

One serving is two scoops and contains 180 calories: 9 grams of protein, 32 grams of carbohydrates (3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar), and 2 grams of fat.

There’s a pretty great variety of micronutrients as well, with roughly 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of most vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, C, and E, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, and chromium.

The only nutrients it’s low in are Vitamin D, Vitamin K, potassium, and manganese.

GNC's Lean Shake packaging

GNC Lean Shake Ingredients

Most of the ingredients are just the vitamins and minerals themselves, but it’s worth pointing out that the carbs come mostly from maltodextrin, there are three kinds of gum in here, there’s quite a bit of corn (starch and syrup solids), there’s soy lecithin for mixability, and it contains artificial flavors and sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

GNC Lean Shake Benefits & Effectiveness

There’s a pretty solid amount of nutrition in this product, again there’s about 30 percent of the RDI of most nutrients. I was a little bummed out about the lack of Vitamins D and K, potassium, and manganese, but it’s nonetheless pretty low in sodium (5%) and cholesterol (2%), two nutrients that a lot of people try to minimize when losing weight.

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GNC's Lean Shake ingredients

So I liked the micronutrients, generally speaking, although I wasn’t quite so happy with the macronutrients, since there’s just 9 grams of protein per serving. Protein is an important component of satiety and weight loss and I think 32 grams of carbs per serving, 2 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber sort of missed the mark, although it is pretty low in sugar with 4 grams per serving.

The other thing I can see some people taking issue with is the ingredients: milk, soy, corn, and artificial ingredients. I’m not saying they’re necessarily bad for you — not at all — but there are nonetheless people who try to steer clear of some or all of those in their supplements. This isn’t Paleo, in other words.

GNC Lean Shake Price

You can pick up a 1.7-pound tub, which contains 16 servings, for $35. That comes to $2.20 per serving, which is a pretty reasonable price for a meal replacement (most are between $2 and $2.50). That said, for a GNC product that’s full of artificial ingredients, I was expecting this to be cheaper.

GNC Lean Shake Taste

I grabbed the Vanilla Bean flavor which is very, very sweet. The directions say to mix two scoops with 8 ounces of water, and one obvious way to improve the sweetness would be to simply mix it with twice as much water, which I recommend. That said, it’s still a very artificial flavor that some people might not love.

The Takeaway

Here’s a 180-calorie shake that delivers plenty of nutrients, though not much fiber or protein. I think that GNC could have made this more filling if they want people to use it for weight loss, but as a means of delivering vitamins and minerals without a lot of calories, I think it’s effective.

GNC Total Lean Shake

Per Serving: $2.20
6.9

Ingredients

6.5/10

Effectiveness

8.0/10

Price

7.5/10

Taste

5.5/10

Pros

  • Nutritious
  • Comes with a detailed exercise and diet program
  • Low in sugar

Cons

  • Artificial ingredients
  • Pretty low in protein and fiber
  • No Vitamin D or K, little potassium

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Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.