When Corrina McQuiston-Kurowski and her husband Adam Kurowski opened Goals Nutrition in April, more customers checked out the Litchfield storefront every week.
“They doubled within the first month of opening,” McQuiston-Kurowski said of the burgeoning shake shop. “We see a pretty much weekly increase in the number of customers.”
Their business isn’t the only one. As more and more people look for convenient ways to cut calories and save time, meal-replacement shakes seem to have stepped into the spotlight. Nutrition stores, which McQuiston-Kurowski and other owners describe as clubs, have popped up all over Minnesota, including in Hutchinson, Litchfield, Watkins, Norwood Young America and Eden Valley, as well as smaller “satellite clubs” in other nearby cities.
Many of these locations have a few things in common. They promote a health-conscious atmosphere, use a cafe-style setting and sell Herbalife meal replacement shakes. Herbalife Nutrition is a multi-level marketing corporation that sells dietary supplements, nutrition products and personal-care items.
Why has the trend picked up so much steam? McQuiston-Kurowski thinks there are a few factors.
“From our feedback, a lot of it is the convenience,” she said. “And it’s a healthy option. It takes five to 10 minutes to get an order from a nutrition club … rather than running to a fast food restaurant.”
McQuiston-Kurowski started as a customer at a Cold Spring location before deciding she wanted to open her own. A team networked to locations across the state helped her get started. Since then, she has noticed a variety of customers buying shakes, teas and other products, including teenagers and those with children or grandchildren.
At Crow River Nutrition in Hutchinson, Michelle Nies sells 44 flavors of shakes, teas and aloe shots. Shakes range from 200 to 225 calories with 17 to 24 grams of protein. Protein sources include whey, plant and pea quinoa.
“Customers come in once or twice a day,” she said, noting that there are many repeat customers and a breakfast crew.
On average, the location serves 112 people a day. Some learn to make their own shakes.
“It’s a way for us to reach our community and for them to try the products without having to invest a lot,” McQuiston Kurowski said, adding that customers have the option to purchase products to make at home.
Lisa Petersen of Glencoe started using meal replacement shakes about two and a half years ago.
“My intent was for weight loss,” she said. “I’ve lost 75 pounds, and I’ve been able to keep that weight off.”
She found the nutrition club approach to be helpful at Panther Point in Glencoe.
“I’d go have a shake occasionally, and they (had) these challenges once in a while,” Petersen said.
She found the variety of challenges helped her stay accountable and interested. One such challenge was to run 30 miles in 30 days.
“So every day you are supposed to run a mile” Petersen said.
She started meditating and paid to become a preferred member at Panther Point so that she could have a coach.
“The focus is on 80 percent of what you put in your body, and 20 percent exercise,” she said.
Petersen later became a coach and tries to share lessons she learned about health and nutrition, and about how to round out a diet with the required daily intake of other vitamins and minerals.
She sometimes puts chocolate, peanut butter or even spinach in her shakes. She has a shake for breakfast and lunch, a snack mid morning and afternoon, and what she likes to call a “colorful meal” for supper.
Emma Schalow, a registered dietician and health and well-being coordinator at Hutchinson Health said it is best to get nutrition from real foods as much as possible.
“(Meal replacement shakes) are better than skipping a meal,” she said. “You may be missing out of other nutrients you naturally get from protein rich foods like eggs or meat.”
Schalow said it is important to know what product you are using and to check the label.
“You want to know what you are drinking, not just look at the calories or protein,” she said.
As the Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate supplements, it can sometimes be hard to know if they are safe. There are agencies that certify supplements, but doing so is voluntary. Schalow advises seeking a brand with a certification.
People using the shakes should also take care to keep track of their caloric intake, Schalow said, as liquids sometimes tend not to fill people up as much and lead to extra snacking.
“If you are not as satisfied from a protein shake as from a whole meal, then it is not doing as much for you if you are still hungry,” she said, but added that everyone is different, and may benefit differently.
Many Americans tend to get more protein than they need.
“The recommended amount is 0.8 grams (of protein) per kilogram of body weight for the general non active person,” she said.
An adult weighing 180 pounds (81.65 kilograms) would therefore need 65 grams of protein.
“If you’re drinking a protein shake in addition to (eating a) grilled chicken breast and eggs, that can be too much,” Schalow said.
She also reminds people that in order to build muscle mass, one must combine exercise with the protein. In general, she advises people to eat everything in moderation, keep a balanced diet and have 30 minutes of physical activity a day.