MonaVie versus Two-Buck Chuck

2009 December 12
by Alan Aragon

 

This post is inspired by an article called Berried in hope: a scientific look at the implications of exotic fruit juice marketing, the main article in the May 2008 issue of AARR. I find this topic interesting because it’s so highly misunderstood by so many. Not to mention, big bucks are flowing through an industry that makes a lot of promises – but does it fulfill them?

Meet the competitors

Charles Shaw wine is also known colloquially as Two-Buck Chuck. As its moniker implies, Charles Shaw runs 2 to 4 bucks a bottle. It’s sold exclusively through Trader Joe’s grocery stores, which are numerous throughout the US. Despite their dirt-cheap price, the 2002 shiraz and  2005 chardonnay have topped the field in prestigious wine competitions. Although Charles Shaw is available in a variety of types of reds, I’ll refer to red wine as a general category.

MonaVie is a direct sales-based company whose namesake beverage is a blend of juices featuring the acai berry. Arguably, no other fruit has garnered acai’s level of media hype. Acai has become a household name, due in part to best-selling author Dr. Nicholas Perricone proclaiming it to be the #1 superfood. As of this posting, MonaVie is ranked #18 on Inc. Magazine’s top 5000  private companies in the US, with 2009 revenues totalling $854.9 million. This is about double the annual revenue of the entire catalog of Charles Shaw’s parent company, Bronco Wine CO. Monavie’s product line has expanded with variations of the original juice blend, but each product’s key ingredient is the acai fruit.

Antioxidant capacity

The primary selling point of MonaVie is the antioxidant capacity of its acai berry content. The overhyped importance of antioxidant products is a separate topic altogether. Here, we’ll focus on how strong the antioxidant claim is. On MonaVie’s website, they cite a 2006 study showing that a freeze-dried acai powder has the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of any food tested to date [1]. Since ORAC is a measure of antioxidant effect, MonaVie proponents use this research to support the claim that the acai berry is the king of the antioxidants.

Here’s what a lot of people miss: ORAC is not the only way to assess antioxidant capacity.

A subsequent study using a more comprehensive assessment panel on 10 commonly consumed polyphenol-rich drinks yielded some interesting results [2]. In addition to ORAC, 3 other antioxidant tests were administered: trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC), free radical scavenging capacity by 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), and ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP). In addition to the 4 antioxidant capacity tests, they measured inhibition of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, and total polyphenol content by gallic acid equivalents (GAEs). Each of the 6 tests was equally factored into determining overall antioxidant potency. Here’s how the beverages ranked:*

  1. Pomegranate juice
  2. Red wine
  3. Concord grape juice
  4. Blueberry juice
  5. Blackberry juice
  6. Acai juice
  7. Cranberry juice
  8. Orange juice
  9. Iced tea (green, black, & white tea collectively)
  10. Apple juice

*Caution is advised against the tendency to judge foods based on a single parameter such as antioxidation. Many people will automatically perceive the above list as a good-to-bad continuum. Don’t fall into that trap; all foods have unique nutritional benefits aside from their antioxidant effects. 

When acai juice was put through a more thorough battery of testing, it ended up with a humble ranking at #6, while red wine came dangerously close to the top spot held by pomegranate juice. As this study indicates, the claim that acai berry is unquestionably the most potent antioxidant is false.  For those itching to cry “foul” because MonaVie wasn’t used in this study, I’ll quote the researchers who were already a step ahead of that concern:

“…the acai juices in Figure 1 and Tables 1 and 2 did not include Mona Vie, the premier acai blend, because it is a blend of acai and 18 other fruit juices. The Mona Vie data show the polyphenol and antioxidant index to be in the same range as for the acai juices reported or in the midrange for all beverages analyzed in this study.”

Chalk one up for Two-Buck Chuck.

Bang for the buck

Charles Shaw wine is famous for its low price (2-4 bucks a bottle). In contrast, MonaVie is famous for being about $40 per bottle. Imagine that, you can get 10-20 bottles of Charles Shaw for the price of 1 bottle of MonaVie. Sounds like a party. You can drink a ton of MonaVie, and the only buzz you’ll get is your phone vibrating with your accountant calling to say, “You’re KILLING me Larry!”  Chalk up another point for Charles.

The obnoxiousness factor

Charles Shaw just sits quietly on the shelves before getting snatched up by customers who voluntarily seek it out. MonaVie has independent sales reps that nag you to attend a “tasting” where you’re politely obligated to become either a MonaVie distributor or simply a customer. This is multilevel marketing, where you’ll inevitably mix family and friends with business (not a good idea). Give good ol’ Chuck another point, and a final nod for the win.

__________________________________________________________________ 

References

  1. Schauss AD, et al. Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried Amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (acai). J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Nov 1;54(22):8604-10. [Medline]
  2. Seeram NP, et al. Comparison of antioxidant potency of commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 27;56(4):1415-22. [Medline]

Microsoft Word - AARR wide banner 1.doc

51 Responses
  1. December 12, 2009

    Alan, not that I think anti-oxidants are all the big a deal, but in what portions are we talking? If it’s 1oz of monavie and 8oz of wine to get a similar result, we have a whole other problem.

  2. Eric permalink
    December 13, 2009

    Waterbury also recommended this in one of his programs, I honestly didn’t want to spend that much money on berry juice, I think I was going to go through 1 or 2 bottles a month AND the Greens+ was also on the list. That’s about $60-90 a month on those two things alone. Glad I never did do it.

  3. December 13, 2009

    When you have a bottle of Sicilian Merlot, I wouldn’t describe quaffing 8oz of it as “a problem”….er….hic!

    As for dietary anti-oxidants in general, I would agree with Dr. Art Ayers that There Is More Than Antioxidants.

  4. December 13, 2009

    “*Caution is advised against the tendency to judge foods based on a single parameter such as antioxidation. Many people will automatically perceive the above list as a good-to-bad continuum. Don’t fall into that trap; all foods have unique nutritional benefits aside from their antioxidant effects.” This is a great point. The glycemic index is a common example of this tendency to over estimate the value of a food based on a single parameter. The white potato is considered a “bad” food by many due to its high ranking on the GI Index. Low carb advocates often consider any source of food that is moderate in carbs as “bad”, low-fat advocates do the same with any food that contains a moderate amount of fat.

  5. sameer permalink
    December 13, 2009

    Hey Alan,

    Thaks for the video. I just ordered your book but the shipping info is not mentioned. Any idea about when I can expect it to arrive in Canada. I wish I could have made it fast shipping as to read it over the holidays…

    Sameer

  6. December 13, 2009

    Roland — In my observations, MonaVie distributors recommend anywhere from 4-8 oz a day.

    Eric — Looks like Chad got a little fruity. It happens to the best of us.

    Nigel — I liked the link.

    Jamie — Great points made. Practitioners & patrons of the fitness industry are particularly vulnerable to this type of ‘absence-or-excess’ mindset.

    Sameer — Thanks for getting the book. Shipments to Canada take 2-3 weeks depending on customs. Come move to the US, where orders will arrive within a week.

  7. sameer permalink
    December 14, 2009

    Thx for the reply Alan. Damn, in that case I will be reading your book when the school starts.. Which kinda sucks, but what can I do! By the way, if you ever get a chance, please let me know why do cardio when on a cut, besides burning calories?

  8. JLB permalink
    December 14, 2009

    Alan,

    Great article, I have a couple of friends who are looking into selling Monavie, and I’m sure this would interest them. Like so many of these superfood companies, they set their profit margins as high as possible, and push their hype accordingly.

    By the way, I LOVE your research review, can’t tell you enough how much it has contributed to my understanding of a ton of fitness topics. Thanks and keep it up!

  9. December 14, 2009

    Sameer — It really depends on what your goals are. It can also depend on how extreme your goals are (& how far along you are towards this ‘extreme’ goal). You’ll have to ask yourself these questions, because it’s an individual thing. If you don’t like the idea of doing cardio, start at zero and add only if/as necessary to reach your goal.

    JLB — Your friends thinking of selling MonaVie will probably not get tickled by this article, but the truth is what it is. Glad you’re enjoying AARR, it’s a pleasure to be able to help.

  10. Sameer permalink
    December 14, 2009

    Thx Alan. My goal is to Lose body fat. The scale is going down every week by about 1.5-2lb. I make sure to consume atleast 1g protein/lb of bodyweight and keep calories 500-700 below maintenance with weight training and 0 cardio. Things are going well but I was wondering if cardio must be incorporated. I am sitting @ 165 lb, around 20% bf. Your book might cover these issues but out if curiosity, how much fatloss should I aim for/week as I weigt only 165 but high bf.

    Thx and I really appreciate DAT U CARE FOR US!

  11. December 15, 2009

    Sameer — At the start of a program, at your weight, 1-2 lbs per week is actually pretty fast. If you were to keep your lean mass and cut your bodyfat percent in half, you’d weigh 146.6. If we look at a little more relaxed (realistic) scenario where you go from 20% to 13%, assuming you keep your lean mass, you’d weigh 151.7. So, we’re looking at about 13 lbs total, which if you apply the ballpark rule of a pound a week (which I’m fine with), you’re looking at another 3 months or so. Can you be aggressive and get this in 6-8 weeks instead of 12? Sure, but I’d keep the expectation conservative just to preserve motivation & sanity.

  12. Sameer permalink
    December 15, 2009

    Thx a ton.. Can’t wait to read ur book and start bulking..

  13. December 15, 2009

    Great stuff as always Alan! Glad to see you have a blog now too.

    Don’t forget that 2 buck chuck is much more impressive to the ladies . hahahaa.

    Can’t beat a great glass of Cab in my opinion.

    Rock on!
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  14. David Miklas - snorkelman permalink
    December 16, 2009

    I still expect people who read this to completely ignore the disclaimer under the asterisk, and thereby adding alcohol and liquid calories (perhaps a lot) to a nutrition plan that previously did not have them. And they will subsequently be posting questions about why their gains/fat loss stalled.

  15. December 16, 2009

    Sameer – No probs. Read this article when you start bulking in order to get a grip on realistic rates of progress: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/supplement-marketing-on-steroids-by-alan-aragon.html

    Mike – It’s all about impressing the ladies, hah. 2-buck Chuck is magical in that regard. Hey, when you gonna get dat dere doctorate?

    David – That’s true… Maybe I should put that passage in bold red 20-pt font.

  16. sameer permalink
    December 16, 2009

    Thanks Alan,

    Actually planned to read all your articles till I get your book as I am free for few days! Trying to reasses my knowledge with science..

  17. December 16, 2009

    Yeah, but how ’bout dat dere CellTech.

  18. Kujo permalink
    December 17, 2009

    I fee like a idiot for using Acai Berry juice as CW recommended when I did his 10-10 transformation program a while back. I can’t believe I paid $40+ a bottle for that stuff. I should have just went with POM juice. I’ve learned a lot since then.

    I would have thought acai berry juice would rank much higher with all the hype it gets. Very interesting.

  19. Munda permalink
    December 17, 2009

    Alan,

    What is the role of juice, cakes ( i.e., sugar) in fatloss or mass gain? Do they in anyway contribute negatively to our diet.

    In other words, does consuming too much of sweets lead to fat gain assuming that one’s calories are in check (be it bulk or cut)? You can add the role of white bread, pasta etc as well if you have time.

    Thanks bro

  20. Munda permalink
    December 17, 2009

    ofcourse white pasta loll!

  21. LoveYolk permalink
    December 17, 2009

    Nice read Alan, makes my smile at stupid marketing hypes…. It seems like u r loaded with tons of great info as evident by ur articles and posts on bodybuilding website.. I am struggling to get answers for the following question (confused due to contradicting info by bros!):

    1- how is it better to burn colories through cardio as opposed to eat less? Besides the health benefits of cardio, does it affect the body compositions any different than if we creat a deficit by food?

    Would strongly appreciate ur insight to it..

  22. Eric permalink
    December 18, 2009

    Kujo- 10/10 is when I started to really doubt Waterbury. I did not care for the plan but I really like his previous stuff before that. Huge In A Hurry is kind of out there too, at least for me, but 10/10 is what really did it.

    Munda- I’m not Alan but including stuff you like will only help you adhere to you diet. If you like sweets then go ahead, and juice is fine too. I wouldn’t make it like all of your carb intake or anything but as long as your daily macros are in check I think you’ll be fine.

  23. Eric permalink
    December 18, 2009

    Munda- the gods are with you, look through this recent thread where Alan talks about what you asked. Post 90 and on. But read the whole thing, some of it is funny.

    http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=121039831&page=3

  24. December 19, 2009

    Munda — As long as calories/macros are in check, then sugar in the diet has no special fat gain-promoting effect. Take note, however, that micronutrient dilution (a reduction of essential micronutrient intake) can happen as a result of a large proportion of added sugars to the diet, especially under hypocaloric conditions. The research consensus of an upper safe limit to added sugars (also called non-milk extrinsic sugars – NMEs) is 20-25% of total kcals. Regarding white bread, pasta, etc, those foods are usually fortified with essential nutrients, so the same concern with NMEs doesn’t apply. Fit them into your total carb target for the day & you’re good.

    LoveYolk — Your 1st question is positioned too assumptively. It’s not necessarily better to burn kcals through cardio as opposed to eating less. This depends on the individual’s goal, and what else is going on in the rest of their program, and of course personal preference. Adding cardio can effect the body differently than cutting out an equivalent amount of calories, but the degree of significance really depends on what the rest of your program looks like, since resistance training can cause similar adaptations. I’ve observed plenty of fat loss cases involving no cardio.

  25. December 19, 2009

    Eric — LOL @ that link! I was pretty crabby, for reasons best undiscussed 🙂

  26. LoveYolk permalink
    December 19, 2009

    Thx Alan.. Much appreciated.. Yes, I do weight training in my basement gym and have no equipment or interest for cardio lol.. But I was thinking that if it is a
    must to achieve optimal results then I rather do it but I guess it is not. I am on a low calorie high protein diet and losing around 1.5 per week with my current diet and weight training..

    Thx a ton

  27. ShootItalia permalink
    December 20, 2009

    I live in Japan and the Acai fad hasn`t even arrived here yet – probably never will. But thinking people are willing to spend 40$ for magical fruit juice and take it as if it were a patented drug is pretty funny.

  28. LoveYolk permalink
    December 20, 2009

    Alan,

    I read your post but confused. Please elaborate on how cardio can effect the body differently than calorie deficit in diet assuming I am weight lifting and goal is to lose weight.

    “Adding cardio can effect the body differently than cutting out an equivalent amount of calories, but the degree of significance really depends on what the rest of your program looks like, since resistance training can cause similar adaptations”

  29. December 20, 2009

    LoveYolk — Sorry ’bout the confusion, cardio can effect the body differently than simply decreasing cals from a health & functional standpoint (it improves glucose control, decreases heart rate, increases mitochondrial volume, etc). However, these adaptations can also occur with weight training, plus the added bonus of better lean mass retention. Thus far, no strong case can be built for the idea that cardio offers superior fat-burning capabilities than weight training. IF you have specific goals to improve aerobic endurance, by all means add cardio. If you don’t, then save cardio as a “trump card” to increase your calories burned once you hit a plateau that can’t be broken with further decreases in calorie cutting. Clearer now?

    ShootItalia – Just give it some time, Japan will be hit with its own versions of the nutraceutical superfruit juice racket.

  30. LoveYolk permalink
    December 21, 2009

    Alan that clears it all big time! Thanks alot bro.

  31. littleguy permalink
    December 23, 2009

    Alan – what workout programs would you recommend on gaining weight? I’ve learned a lot on forums, etc and customizing and switching my workouts every 6 weeks.

    My Stats: I’m 5’5” and weigh 131lbs with a RMR of 1800 calories per day & 6% body fat. I drink whey protein 3x per day and take a casein shake before going to bed so I don’t wake up at 3am starving.

    My Goal: I’d like to add 8-10lbs of muscle by the end of 2010.

    A few trainers at the gym told me that I should eat 60% carbs, 30% proteins, and 10% healthy fats. Any thoughts on a workout program/nutrition plan?

    Thanks,
    littleguy

  32. December 23, 2009

    Littleguy — LOL @ 60C/30P/10F.

    For training, I’d go with something simple & stick to it, focusing on uptrends in strength (increases in reps & weight). You don’t have to change it every 6 weeks unless you run into strength plateaus. Try training each muscle group 2x/week, keep your worksets per training bout in the 4-8 range. I like to mix reps up, vasilating from the 5-8 range & the 9-12 range peppered in. You also might wanna consider kicking out cardio completely, depending on how tough it is for you to put on mass.

    For nutrition, just eat more than what’s currently maintaining you. Seriously, just eat more. I don’t want to complicate it any more than that. Read this article for realistic rates of muscle gain:
    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/supplement-marketing-on-steroids-by-alan-aragon.html

  33. December 28, 2009

    Outstanding article! “Berried in Hope” remains one of my favourite editors cuts to date. The concept of “In vivo vs. in vitro” really resonates and essentially kyboshes the entire marketing and hype platform that these “superjuice” salespeople rely on to hawk their magic blend.

    This is only somewhat related as this refers to Goji Juice but it’s the same marketing scheme. Take a few minutes and watch how the scam artist is exposed (Earl Mindell). http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2007/01/goji.html

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  34. December 28, 2009

    Mike — That video captures the essence of these scams. Thanks for that. Even the guys at the top of the pyramids are clueless of their own errors.

  35. Sameer permalink
    January 6, 2010

    Alan bro,

    Can you please elaborate on what do you mean by “keep your worksets per training bout in the 4-8 range” in the above post. A question that always bothers me is:

    What would be your estimation of the highest protein in grams one would shoot in one sitting without worrying that the excess would be just calories and won’t help with muscle retention/enhancement. I know that it might depend on many factors such as current weight, lean mass etc. But just for the say, a 160lb guy, carring around 30lb of fat.

    I have learned from your thread on bodybuilding website as well as your podcast (starting to read your book) that meal frequency is not an issue as long as daily macros are met. What about a person taking two meals a day who needs 180g of protein to gain muscles? would be shoot for 190g on each meal? or he would have two meals and spread the protein throughout the day?

  36. Sameer permalink
    January 6, 2010

    Sorry, I meant “would he shoot for 90g each meal?”

  37. January 9, 2010

    Sameer — 4-8 worksets per training bout equates to 8-16 worksets per muscle group per week. This is the sweet spot above & below which optimal progress is less likely for the natural trainee. Notice the word likely; there are always exceptions.

    As for my “estimation of the highest protein in grams one would shoot in one sitting without worrying that the excess would be just calories and won’t help with muscle retention/enhancement”, it all depends on whatever else you’re having in your day. You can’t look at protein dosing as an isolated concept; there are many contingencies, as always. But to put it broadly, if you had all of your day’s protein allotment in 2 doses, your body would absorb and utilize it similarly to if you doubled the frequency of dosing. The concern that the body can only use X amount of protein in a single dose is nonsense. The body will take the time it needs to effectively digest and absorb whatever dose you give it, for the most part. Larger doses will have longer digestion times in order for effective absorption & utilization to occur, smaller doses will have shorter digestion times for this purpose.

  38. sameer permalink
    January 9, 2010

    Thanks bro, always been helpful

  39. January 14, 2010

    Great post, Alan. I wrote a similar blog post a while back when I worked for 20/20 Lifestyles. I might repost it to my B.S. Detective blog and link to this one from it as well.

  40. January 17, 2010

    I just made a post to my blog about superfruit juices….I linked to this blog post as well

    http://www.thebsdetective.com/2010/01/bullsht-of-day-superfruit-juices.html

  41. January 18, 2010

    Cool, thanks James.

  42. sameer permalink
    January 27, 2010

    Alan,

    In your book when on creatine, you mentioned that consumption of caffiene will not negate mass gain, however it affects performance. Can you please elaborate on this as how much of caffiene will affect my performance in weight training and whether it is something I should worry about (stop my chocolate bars, drinking coffee and sodas?). My goal is to gain mass/strength.

    Also, I am going to take creatine daily be 5g. Should I change anything? (take it only on weight training days or something?)

    thanks

  43. January 28, 2010

    Hey Sameer,

    Regarding this issue, there’s only a small amount of data to speculate over, and it’s riddled with limitations. I discuss this in-depth in the July 2008 AARR. Suffice it to say, if you’re already a habitual caffeine user, don’t worry about it. Even if you’re not, don’t worry about it. If you ate enough chocolate bars & soda to negate the effect of creatine, you might have more pressing problems on your hands 🙂

  44. Sameer permalink
    January 28, 2010

    Bro,

    Thx alot. I was about to stop enjoying my cup of coffee and a few small cubes of chocolate… I will subscribe to AARR as 2 get updated till u or I am ALIVE!

  45. Daniel Han permalink
    October 30, 2011

    As I learned in a medical school course, the best antioxidant is the body’s own: glutathione. and its generated effectively if one is healthy, and is worth more than exogenous sources of antioxidants. ppl who dont understand this believe in the one-all, be-all power of dietary antioxidants, which can only help.

    Even the new bad boys like Resveratrol, shown to inhibit aromatase action (boosts T levels), cannot work like a magic pill but instead are just part of one’s journey towards better health.

  46. June 18, 2012

    Well two bucks chuck is my favorite of the 2

  47. September 26, 2013

    Concerning foods high in antioxidants, what’s your thoughts about the Baobab fruit Alan?

  48. September 16, 2016

    We take great pleasure in our essay writers as a result of
    they are an integral part of our low-cost essay writing service and our
    common purpose is your full satisfaction.

  49. December 9, 2016

    Thanks for this run down on how to sift through one of the many areas of nutrition misinformation. As a trainer, clients are often coming to me with the latest claims by the Dr. Oz types. I’m glad to have resources like you and Examine to combat their money-grubbing foolishness with scientific evidence.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. The JP Fitness Summit: It doesn’t get any bro-er than this. | Alan Aragon's Blog
  2. Are acai berry products effective?

Comments are closed.