Soylent: What Happened When I Stopped Eating For 2 Weeks

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Shane Drinking Soylent

Tim Ferriss Intro

Hundreds of people have asked me about Soylent, a controversial Silicon Valley team trying to replace food with a grayish liquid.

“Does it really deliver all the nutrients the human body needs?”
“Is it safe?”
“Why hasn’t anyone tried this before?” [Hint: they have]
And most often: “What do you think of Soylent?”

Serendipitously, four or so weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Shane Snow, a frequent contributor to Wired and Fast Company:

I’m sure you have seen the buzz about the food-hacking movement, where a couple of Silicon Valley techies have been creating Matrix-style food replacement formulas for “optimum” chemical nutrition. Soylent.me, in particular, has been buzzing like crazy, having raised $800k in a Kickstarter-like campaign.

But nobody (besides the creators) has gotten his or her hands on any yet.

Except me.

Naturally, we had to do an experiment.

This post describes the longest non-employee trial of Soylent to date (two weeks without food), including before-and-after data such as:

– Comprehensive blood panels
– Body weight and bodyfat percentage
– Cognitive performance
– Resting heart rate
– Galvanic skin response
– Sleep

I share my thoughts in the AFTERWORD and occasionally in brackets, but this article focuses on Shane’s experience and data.  Please also note that this is *not* a Soylent take-down piece. I hope they succeed.

That said, there are some issues. I expect the debate on Soylent to be fierce, so please leave your thoughts in the comments. I’ll encourage the Soylent founders to answer as many questions as they can. From all sides, I’m most interested in studies or historical precedent that can be cited, but logical arguments are fine.

Also, a quick clarification: There is a bit of soy lecithin (an emulsifier) in Soylent, but soy is not a main ingredient, which is understandably confusing.

Enjoy the fireworks…

Enter Shane

It’s seven a.m. on a Wednesday, and I am in my kitchen staring at a bag of flour. A crinkly, metallic bag with a blue, Superman-style “S” logo glued to it. With no scissors handy in my one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, I’ve managed to tear the bag open roughly with my teeth, inhaling a blend of oatey sawdust that, when mixed with water, will be my sustenance for the next two weeks.

I stare at it, thinking about all the pizza I won’t be eating, and the donuts Rebecca from the office will surely set out on the table next to my desk. But, I had all those things last night as a parting gift to my taste buds, so I sigh, pour the flour mix into a 2-litre pitcher of cold water, and shake.

Bottoms up.

This is Soylent. Not the cannibalistic “Soylent Green” that Charlton Heston weeps about in the 1970s sci-fi movie, nor the soy and lentil “soylent” steaks in Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel, Make Room! Make Room!. This is Soylent, the tasteless, odorless food replacement drink that a kid in California—who raised a million bucks from strangers like me—invented to take food out of our daily equation and, ambitiously, cure world hunger. This is the Soylent that geeks in Silicon Valley have been buzzing about for the better part of a year, and the Soylent that various nutritionists have attacked with dire arguments of Ad Hominem mixed with Appeal to Authority. This is the Soylent whose inventor, Rob Rhinehart claims has made him fitter, more alert, and more productive, after having drank it semi-exclusively for about seven months.

… and it tastes like oatmeal water. Not bad, I admit as I gulp down half a Nalgene bottle’s worth for my first of many non-breakfasts with the stuff. I fill a second Nalgene to drink after work, and leave the Fedex box with a dozen more crinkly bags on the kitchen counter as I lock the apartment door behind me.

On the surface, Rhinehart, a 24-year-old entrepreneur and engineer, seems an unlikely person to invent such a concoction. I had reached out to him months ago after reading his blog, where he moaned about how time consuming cooking and eating food is for him, and documented the development of a meal replacement in the vein of the amino acid goop served on board The Nebuchadnezzar in The Matrix. But when we met up a few weeks ago in Brooklyn, Rhinehart became in my mind the most likely person to invent such a drink. Quiet, earnest, with the precise diction of someone smarter than any of your friends (unless you hang out at science poetry slams), Rhinehart strikes you as the kind of obsessive introvert who really doesn’t have the patience for food and just might be willing to cram a decade of biology and chemistry into his head during Winter Break to invent a cure for it.

Basically, he’s a hacker. He’s just taking that hacker’s mindset to the human body.

“People see some credential as this binary thing,” he explained to me about why he’s qualified to do this. “The formal path is really inefficient.” But by devouring textbooks and seeking mentorship from master chemists and nutritionists, and bringing his experience in electronics manufacturing (which turns out to be strangely analogous to mass-producing supplements), he had successfully reverse-engineered—at a molecular level—exactly what the human body needs out of food. He claimed, at least.

And that’s where the nutritionists and whole foodies start to freak out. As Rhinehart published his findings and geared up to take his chemical smoothie to market (the natural thing for a Silicon Valley-ite to do upon inventing anything), the objections started to chunkily pour in like mineral-packed oat-water in a Nalgene bottle. The most common include the following:

  • The body needs whole foods and not atomic nutrients; the synergy between diverse ingredients is what matters in nutritional uptake.
  • We don’t know what we don’t know about nutrition (i.e. Soylent might be unexpectedly harmful).
  • The inventor has zero background in health.
  • Some of its core ingredients are nutritionally empty.
  • If food is too hard, you’re doing it wrong.”
  • It’s “ludicrous” and “dangerously unhealthy.
  • It hasn’t been scientifically tested by anyone but the founder.

I love food as much as the next person. As a New Yorker, I hang out with whole foodies, juicers, raw vegans, and holistic health coaches aplenty. As a vegetarian, I am no stranger to dire warnings about dietary choices, or superstitions many people have about food. But as a technologist, I can relate to Rhinehart’s questioning of the assumptions we perceive as granted. (For example, I’m nervous about antioxidants, as some studies indicate they’re harmful to the point of causing cancer; however, most of us assume “high in antioxidants” is a selling point.)

So, when I look at the above list of objections, I think this:

  • The body needs whole foods, not atomic nutrients; the synergy between diverse ingredients is what matters in nutritional uptake. This sounds nice, but has not been scientifically proven. 
  • We don’t know what we don’t know about nutrition (i.e. Soylent might be unexpectedly harmful). That’s not a good reason to not try to innovate. Why not do some tests?
  • The inventor has zero background in health. If we’re going to dabble in logical fallacies, this one is better: If a man with a bachelor’s degree can invent self-landing rockets, then a kid with the same degree and a blender can invent a meal replacement drink.
  • Some of its core ingredients are nutritionally empty. The Soylent team claims they’re updating the formula to resolve such concerns. But even so, is Soylent on the whole less healthy than the average person’s diet? Are the “filler” ingredients supplemented in a way that delivers balanced nutrition? Those are the questions that need answering.
  • “If food is too hard, you’re doing it wrong.” Given the obesity epidemic in America and the number of malnourished people in the world (including America), it’s not a stretch to say food is indeed hard for a whole lot of people.
  • It’s “ludicrous” and “dangerously unhealthy.” Given the lack up scientific backup for such statements, this is only conjecture at this point.
    (Interesting side note: Rhinehart told me that Soylent meets FDA guidelines; the crowdfunding campaign says the components are FDA approved, and Soylent will be made with “strict regulatory controls.” I’m curious what those controls are, but it sounds to me like he is essentially cooking with FDA approved ingredients but hasn’t gone through the nightmare that is the FDA testing process on the final product yet. Not that FDA approval means something is perfectly safe for all people, per se.)
  • It hasn’t been scientifically tested by anyone but the founder. I want to test it.

As the crowdfunding orders piled up, and it became clear that Soylent’s delivery would be delayed like every Kickstarter project ever funded, I asked Rhinehart if I might get my hands on some supply, so I could do a gruel-based version of Supersize Me and measure the results of what Soylent does to a mildly out of shape 28-year-old.

He shipped me two weeks’ worth.

Then, I asked Tim Ferriss, himself a body hacker whose penchant for lateral thinking is refreshing in the echo chamber of interest-conflicted health bloggers and naysayers, for advice on how to make my two-week study scientific. He had a company called Basis overnight me a health tracking wristband, gave some advice regarding blood tests, and said, “Keep me posted!”

Now, I knew that two weeks was probably not enough time to see dramatic changes, but it is enough time, worst-case scenario, to do some damage. (However, total meltdown didn’t seem likely.) What I wanted to do was begin testing the conclusions that Rhinehart and his company had claimed, that compared to the average person’s diet…

  1. Soylent provides all the energy and nutrients the body needs.
  2. The body can absorb all the nutrients Soylent provides.
  3. Soylent makes one more alert.
  4. Soylent can help people cut fat and maintain good body weight.
  5. Soylent saves time and money.
  6. And at the end of the day: Soylent isn’t dangerous.

I consider myself a pretty health-conscious person. No alcohol. No meat. Slow-carbs when possible. Run three miles, three times a week. Pull-ups, push-ups on the days I don’t run. On the weekends, however, my weaknesses come out: I tend to devour pizza and shotgun Vanilla Coke. Despite what is probably an above-average-health routine, I am out of shape compared to five years ago when I lived in Hawaii and surfed/body-boarded every day, and I’m certain that I don’t get all the vitamins and nutrients I need—especially things like Omega-3s that vegetarians have a tough time eeking out of spinach and arugula smoothies.

Here’s what a typical day’s worth of food looks like for me:

Breakfast = Muscle Milk (often I’ll also have mate tea when I first get up)

Lunch = Chipotle vegetarian burrito (or something akin to it) and a Diet Coke

Dinner = Take out, usually something like Thai red curry with tofu

Snack = Typically, a handful or two of peanut M&Ms from the office; almonds if I’m lucky

Nutrition Facts–Grand Total:

Calories: 1862

Total Fat: 74.1g

Saturated Fat: 24.5g

Trans Fat: 0

Cholesterol: 19mg

Sodium: 4,277mg

Potassium: 1,395mg

Carbohydrates: 199.5g

Dietary Fiber: 34g

Sugars: 45g

Protein: 88g

Vitamin A: 96%

Vitamin C: 139%

Calcium: 105%

Iron: 84%

Vitamin D: 35%

Thiamin: 35%

Niacin: 35%

Folate: 35%

Biotin: 35%

Phosphorus: 35%

Magnesium: 35%

Copper: 35%

Vitamin E: 35%

Riboflavin: 35%

Vitamin B6: 35%

Vitamin B12: 35%

Pantothenic Acid: 35%

Iodine: 35%

Zinc: 35%

Chromium: 35%

Want to see the individual nutrition facts for each item? Here they are:

Muscle Milk Diet Coke Chipotle Burrito Thai Red Curry (x2 servings) Rice Peanut M&Ms

 

Total Cost:

$24 / day

 

For two weeks, I traded that in for this:

Shane Holding Soylent

Ingredients:

 (Click to enlarge. Note that my shipment had two weeks’s supply, though this paper says one.)

 

Nutrition Facts:

Soylent isn’t supplying a finalized nutrition facts list until the company launches this Fall, but here’s the breakdown based on information Rhinehart shared with me and has posted online, based on daily nutrition percentages for an adult male and the recommended daily serving size of Soylent. (Download his most recent nutrition facts sheet here.)

Calories: 2404

Total Fat: 65g

Saturated Fat: 95% of daily recommended value

Trans Fat: 0

Cholesterol: 0

Sodium: 2.4g

Potassium: 3.5g

Carbohydrates: 400g

Dietary Fiber: 40g

Sugars: ?

Protein: 80g (Note that early reports declared that Soylent had 50g of protein; Rhinehart recently revised his blog to say 120g of protein now, though he told me it was 80g in the Soylent Version 0.8 that I drank. The formula isn’t final yet.)

Vitamin A: 100%

Vitamin C: 100%

Calcium: 100%

Iron: 100%

Vitamin D: 100%

Thiamin: 100%

Niacin: 100+%

Folate: 100%

Biotin: 100%

Phosphorus: 140%

Magnesium: 112%

Copper: 100%

Vitamin E: 100%

Riboflavin: 100%

Vitamin B6: 100%

Vitamin B12: 100%

Pantothenic Acid: 100%

Iodine: 100%

Zinc: 100%

Chromium: 100%

 

Cost:

$9 / day (at the crowdfunding campaign price)

 

Observations

 

Day 0

The day before Soylent, I went in to my doctor for some fasting blood tests. Tim recommended a comprehensive swath of exams via WellnessFX, a company that collects and visualizes health information in cool, newfangled ways. Unfortunately, the nearest clinic was two states away from me. Most of the tests in WellnessFX’s “Cadillac” suite don’t have to do with dietary changes (according to my doctor), but were just plain cool and important to know about in general. So I did the next best thing and got a few panels—ones that a local nutritionist recommended—at my doctor’s office and had them shipped to a lab that WellnessFX uses. (Also note: if I had gotten the comprehensive suite here in New York, it would have cost over $5,000 to cobble together the individual tests on my own! One day, I will spring for that, but not today.)

[TIM: I disagree with Shane’s doc and would argue that most blood markers can be moved up or down by diet. After all, outside of physical environments/pollutants, what other primary epigenetic inputs have greater global effects?  From liver enzymes to gene expression, you are what you eat.]

Then, I attempted to do 3 different body composition and weight tests: my FitBit home scale, a bioelectrical impedance body composition analyzer (or BIA, for which I used an InBody 230 at a local gym), and a DEXA scan at a local radiology lab. Bad news struck once again, as the DEXA scanner table was broken, “but will be fixed in two weeks.” After calling the only place in NYC that I could find that has a Bod Pod (Brooklyn College) and getting voice mail every day for a week, I decided to bag the third body scan. It was the before/after comparison that mattered anyway, which I would get with the other two just fine.

Finally, I took some tests on Quantified-Mind.com to measure my mental alertness while I was eating my typical diet of burritos and Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. In this way, I could try to reproduce Rhinehart’s claim that Soylent improves mental acuity.

I normally wear a Jawbone UP bracelet to measure my steps and sleep, but Tim recommended the Basis band, which measures those things plus skin temperature and heart rate, so I started wearing that.

I was determined to eliminate any other variables, including bedtime, stress, and exercise, so I tried to stick to my regular routines before, during, and after the trial, and I did my best to standardize my sleep schedule and the times I weighed and measured myself, for both mind and body tests.

And then I had a mini party for myself, gorged on all the foods I shouldn’t eat, and went to bed with food in my belly for the last time.

 

Days 1-3

(Me. 7am. Looking like some sort of a wild animal.)

My first surprise was that Soylent tasted fine, familiar even. It’s easy to gulp down quickly. In fact, as someone who’s used to drinking disgusting vegan protein shakes made out of peas and hemp, I found it quite pleasant.

On the first day, I was struck with a wave of exhaustion around 3:30, and I had a “tired headache” the rest of the afternoon. This low energy in the afternoon is common for me, but felt particularly bad this day. I blamed it on the Vanilla Coke at 11pm the night before.

Months ago, my doctor had told me I had a mild amount of acid reflux. It hadn’t bothered me lately. But as soon as I started the Soylent, I noticed that the back of my throat started feeling like fire.

On the second day, it was clear to me that I was psyching myself out on the “no food” thing. My nose seemed to pick up the scent of food everywhere. I even wrote this in my journal:

“Last night I had a dream that I ate a brownie, and halfway through the brownie realized that I was only supposed to be eating Soylent for the next two weeks.”

By the end of Day 3 I realized that if I drank more Soylent in the morning and rationed it less, I had great energy levels in the afternoon. On Days 1 and 2, I drank about half of my supply by 8pm when I got home, and on the days that I tried to drink 3/4 of my supply by mid-afternoon, I felt great.

But also by the end of Day 3, I had a monster canker sore on my bottom lip.

 

Days 4-6

(Me. 7am. Still looking haggard.)

By the fourth day of Soylent, I turned a corner. I started feeling noticeably great. I didn’t get the afternoon doldrums, I wasn’t starving, and had plenty of energy for my regular, 3-mile run along the West Side of Manhattan. On Sunday, I held a marathon writing session, where I didn’t even look up for over 6 hours—a shocking feat for me lately. And my burning reflux throat was completely gone. Though the canker sore was still going strong.

WARNING: Skip to the next section if you don’t like reading about poop.

It was around this time that something I should have anticipated—but hadn’t—finally happened. My poop became Soylent. Typically (and forgive me if this is TMI) I have a bowel movement once a day; it’s rare that I don’t. With Soylent, I started going every two days. And by the time everything from before made it out of my system, said infrequent bowel movements became extremely sticky and, ahem… off-whitish-tan. It was gross, but felt strangely… purifying?

 

Days 7-9

(Me. 7am. Look who took a shower!)

I stopped craving food at this point. I felt fantastic. I sat at a work outing and didn’t care that I wasn’t eating the delicious guacamole that everyone was passing around. I would watch people leave for lunch breaks and chortle to myself while I got an hour of extra work done and sipped my Soylent. My energy levels were higher than I had felt in a while. I didn’t feel that sort of shaky invincible like you do after drinking a Red Bull, but I felt pretty darn close to it.

But on Day 8, something peculiar happened. I got really bad vertigo in the afternoon. Then again the next afternoon.

I soon realized this was because I had been cheating since Day 7.

What happened was my blender broke. I had been shaking and stirring Soylent by hand, which meant I wasn’t able to get all the clumps out. By this time (and either it was my batch settling or me starting to get lazy at stirring), the chunks in my mixtures were getting huge. The white stuff that was mixed into the tan stuff was floating to the top and congealing together. For the last few days, I’d tried swallowing the white chunks down and gagged on them. So I just started just scooping them out.

I’m pretty sure the white chunks were the rice protein, and perhaps something else important. Whatever it was was causing my blood sugar to crash. On the afternoon of Day 9, I bought a Magic Bullet.

 

Days 10-13

(Hey, look at you, Mr. Morning Person!)

The Magic Bullet did the trick. I fully mixed and fully drank my Soylent, and soon felt great. No more vertigo. Energy levels still at an all time high.

At this point, I was becoming hyper productive—both because I felt like it and because I was no longer using food as a procrastination method in my life. One of my coworkers told me I was more wired and chipper than he’d ever seen me.

[TIM:  The “food as procrastination technique” is a non-trivial point. It’s critical to always ask yourself: “What else could explain this effect?”  Personally, I love to delay writing by snacking and drinking when totally unnecessary.  If Soylent removes these delay tactics, is the improvement due to biochemical change or a behavioral change?]

Also by this time, the canker sore was completely gone (I am told it was stress), and there was still no more sign of the reflux (perhaps also stress?).

I was happy. Life was starting to feel simple. I felt… lighter… inside. Which is a hard thing to objectively measure, but that was the case.

And by the final day, to my surprise, I found myself wishing I had two more weeks’ of Soylent left.

 

Aftermath

My first day back to real food was a bit of a doozy. I took all the blood tests and body scans in the morning, fasting, and then went straight to upstate New York for a meeting. In the meeting, we were served pasta salad and melty cheese sandwiches, which I promptly devoured. And then felt like a camel had kicked me in the intestines. Later that day, I ate half of a pizza from Angelo’s in Midtown (great place, btw) and washed down some vitamins with Muscle Milk to ensure some modicum of nutrition.

And the next day I felt gross.

Inspired by my experience with Soylent, and with that junk food binge over and done, I committed to eating healthier on my own. And I have. I cut soda out of my diet entirely—an easy thing to do after two weeks off. After a couple days of mild indulgence on things like bread and chocolate, I’ve now restarted Tim’s Slow-Carb Diet™, this time with what appears to be a little more will power. I even started working out with a trainer. (No more half-hearted pull-ups!)

Though I felt a noticeable difference in energy after the first couple of days, once I started eating healthy on my own, I feel like I’m somewhere between my “normal” and “Soylent” level. Which is not too shabby.

(Oh, and it took two days for poop to not be Soylent anymore; four to completely return to normal. Hooray.)

 

Data

Here’s the raw data from my tests, plus explanations when needed:

Weight / Body Composition:

This is the embarrassing part where everyone gets to see how out of shape I am. (Note to any lazy future news reporters who arrive at this page via Google or some other future search engine: Do not describe me as 160 lbs and made of 20% fat in any future articles. I’ll soon be a changed man, I swear!)

InBody 230 (BIA) Scan, BEFORE:

(enlarge)

InBody 230 Scan, AFTER:

(Enlarge)

The BIA indicates that I lost 7.7 lbs in these two weeks. (Awesome!) Concerningly, I seemed to have lost 3 lbs of fat and 4.7 lbs of lean mass. (Hmm….)

Fortunately, only 1.2 lbs of that lean mass was “dry lean mass” aka muscle. The rest was apparently water weight. So I had a 3:1 fat loss to muscle loss ratio, which is much less concerning.

My home scale tells the same story, just scaled down about 5 lbs:

 

FitBit WiFi Scale, BEFORE:

FitBit WiFi Scale, AFTER:

I’m not quite so heavy on the home scale; that’s undoubtedly because the bio-electrical scanner scans you while you’re still wearing your clothes, and I was wearing pretty heavy jeans the first time I went in. To make sure clothes weren’t a factor, I wore the same jeans when I went back in the second time (both times I wore a V-neck t-shirt of similar weight).

For anyone who’s curious, I do have DEXA scans, which the place with the broken table (Chelsea Diagnostic in Manhattan) took of me on the last day of Soylent. They pretty much corroborate the %s. Here’s a fun picture:

 

Blood Panels:

I had several blood panels tested before and after, with the following results:

 

Bloodwork BEFORE:

(Click either of the below images to enlarge)

Bloodwork AFTER:

(Click either of the below images to enlarge)

You can pore through the data yourselves, but the areas that stick out to me are the following:

  • Fasting Glucose went down
  • Sodium and Potassium and Chloride and Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen and Calcium stayed relatively the same
  • Creatinine went up 30%
  • Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate dropped 27%
  • Total Cholesterol went from 127 to 117, dipping just below the normal range. (Says the nurse at my doctor’s office, “The abnormal result was your total cholesterol level which was 117mg/dL. The low limit is 25mg/dL, so it was only slightly out of range. When your levels are high this is a concern, but low cholesterol is not anything to worry about.”)
  • HDL Cholesterol (the good kind) stayed basically the same
  • LDL Cholesterol (the bad kind) went down from 66 to 63
  • “Non HDL” Cholesterol (I assume more of the bad kind) went from 82 to 73
  • Triglycerides, or fat in the blood stream, dropped 46% (apparently lowering my risk of heart disease)
  • Monocytes, Absolute went up 25%
  • Eosinophils, Absolute went down 33%
  • Basophils, Absolute went up 25%

Mental Alertness:

I tested my reaction times via a site called Quantified-Mind early on and toward the end of my Soylent trial (and attempting to get the same amount of sleep before each test, also mitigating other variables such as mood or time of day). The site puts you through a battery of tests, randomized in groups of 7, so the results below are a combination of a couple of trials that I did in order to get matching tests both times.

(Enlarge)

Higher scores mean better reaction times and accuracty. As you can see, I improved across the board. This seems to corroborate the observation that I was feeling more alert and mentally snappy.

 

Vital Signs & Steps:

I wore a Basis band for the duration of the trial (with the exception of Day 5, when the battery ran out, and I left it at home charging). Below are some screenshots of early days on Soylent versus later days on Soylent.

(click either of the below to enlarge)

(Key: Blue line is skin temperature; red line is heart rate; orange bars are steps walked or run. Gaps are when I took the thing off for some reason.)

It’s difficult to pick out many Soylent-related insights from these charts, other than nothing crazy went on with my heart or skin temp throughout the trial. One interesting tidbit is my sleeping heart rate seemed to smooth out the longer I was on Soylent. There was less jumping up from 45 to 53 beats per minute and back.

I asked Bharat Vasan, one of the founders of Basis, to take a look at the limited data set I collected and help me unpack what happened. He dumped my data into a spreadsheet (which you can view in its entirety here), and commented on the following highlights:

  • RHR:  Your Resting Heart Rate had declined over the last 3 days of data from 50bpm to 46bpm which could be a sign of improved fitness. There are also other factors that could have contributed to it from your diet or sleep patterns. It may be interesting to chart your weight against resting heart rate. 
  • Sleep: You slept a little over 8 hours a night (both average and median) which is the great since that’s what’s recommended. Sleep times seem to have been pretty consistent with a couple of late nights (judging from the patterns chart below).

(Side note: one of the cool things the Basis tracks is perspiration vs heart rate. Notice with this chart how my perspiration spiked even at times when my heart rate was normal. “Potentially due to an emotional reaction or temperature changes,” Bharat tells me. Does that have to do with diet? I’m not sure. But it’s interesting.)

Cost:

Regular diet (not including meals out with friends on weekends, which almost always includes dinner Friday night and brunch Saturday): $24/day

Soylent diet: $9/day

Savings: $15/day or $105/week ($5,460/year)

(If you include $80/weekend I typically spend on eating out here in New York, then that’s another $4,160/year, for a total of $9,620.)

 

Potential weaknesses in the data:

Although I attempted to eliminate variables that could affect any of my before/after measurements (such as wearing the same clothes for the bioelectrical impedance scan and taking photos and tests at about the same times of day), the following things could have affected the final data:

1) I took my second BIA approximately 3 hours earlier in the day than the first one. Though I drank tons of water during Soylent, according to the instructions, those missing 4 lbs of water weight indicate I may have been less hydrated when I came in the second time. And studies of BIA measurement (on obese subjects, at least) indicate that hydration potentially alters the accuracy of BIA muscle and fat measurement.

2) On that note: I drank more water during my 2 weeks of Soylent than I normally do. How much of my results could be attributed to that change versus the actual Soylent ingredients, I’m not sure. But it could be a factor.

3) An alternative explanation to my improved scores on Quantified Mind could be that I simply got better at the tests because I had taken them before.

4) This experiment only looks at the effects of addition (I added Soylent). The gaping hole is that I couldn’t properly test the effects of subtraction of elements of my regular diet. What if the elimination of diet caffeinated soda is what really caused the fat loss? What if Muscle Milk was making me sluggish, rather than Soylent making me alert? (I think these explanations are probably unlikely, but I’d rather be certain than hunch-driven.)

5) Perhaps most importantly with a one-man experiment like this, I’m not immune to the possibility of a placebo effect. Would I have had similar results if someone told me that a pizza-only diet would make me skinnier and snappier? (P.S. If that diet ever becomes a thing, count me in.)

 

What I would do differently next time:

I believe a 30- or 60-day Soylent trial would produce more conclusive (and perhaps dramatic) results than the two weeks. Before embarking on such a trial, I would test (or study) the elimination of various elements of my diet, one by one, to account for the effects of subtraction on all of the measurements I took.

Second, I would like to test Soylent with a number of subjects, and give half of them placebos. The difficulty here, of course, is in the details, and in the possibility of really screwing the placebo people over. (Do you give them a drink that truly is nutritionally empty and then watch them nearly starve to death? What do you split test: high carbs and low carbs, high vitamins and low vitamins, individual ingredients? Do you blend up a day’s worth of Chipotle and Muscle Milk and dye it tan as a control?)

I would certainly do a DEXA scan or Bod Pod before and after, not just BIA and a home scale. (Couldn’t help it this time with the broken table at one location and summer break at the other. Also, how does the entire city of Manhattan only have one of each of these?!)

To better measure muscle gain or loss, I would physically measure the inches of my waist, arms, chest, legs, and neck before and after.

Finally, to really make things interesting, I would love to split test subjects living off of various other meal replacements (they’re out there). The Ultimate Meal, GNC’s Lean Shake, Slim Fast,  Naturade—shoot, even Muscle Milk (if I drank 4 of my 34g shakes a day, I’d get 100% of nearly all my vitamins and tons of protein).

While we’re at it, we might as well put the test subjects all in a house together and let MTV film. 😉

 

Conclusions

After looking over the data and my daily observational journals, it appears that a Soylent diet contains more nutrition than my typical diet, and that I was able to absorb said nutrition sufficiently well. Even though I’m not in the habit of putting many bad substances in my body (except for caffeinated soda, which I have now cut off), I was definitely getting more balance and less junk via Soylent than I do with my normal routine. My blood tests show that I remained healthy under a Soylent regimen. I had no weird heart rate or sleep issues (and in fact seem to have slept better than normal), and I was indeed more alert.

However, the composition of my weight loss (3 lbs of fat and 1.2 lbs of muscle shed) indicates that I wasn’t getting enough protein to maintain lean muscle, given my height/weight and the 3-mile runs and pullups/pushups I do 3x a week. This speaks to the challenges of creating a one-size-fits-all formula in a food replacement. When I try Soylent again in the Fall, once the company ships orders, I plan to supplement with extra protein. Of course, Rhinehart and team are still tweaking the formula. They say they will soon release different flavors, and Rhinehart indicated to me that they could adjust the mixture for athletes. So more optimal protein/carb mixtures are likely in the cards at some point.

Going along with some of the skeptics I mentioned earlier, I do question the high amount of carbs and the use of oat flour and maltodextrin in the Soylent 0.8 formula; why not something healthier to deliver energy, like quinoa? Perhaps it’s a cost issue?

One thing to note is that these guys aren’t marketing Soylent as a fat-shredding regimen. It’s meant to be a health simplification diet. And that it absolutely was. Shockingly, so, I might add, because I expected to be miserable the whole time and was in fact quite happy. Beyond the time savings (and not having to think about food much), I was struck by how much easier it was to stick to a diet as simple as Soylent versus any other diet I’ve tried. As they say, it’s easier to be 100% obedient to a diet than 99%. Soylent left no room for debate, and therefore turned out to be quite easy.

(Though sticking to the diet was surprisingly easy, I did have one gripe: Nalgene bottles are a rather bad user experience with anything but water. The mouth of the bottle is huge, making it easy to spill. And spilled Soylent dries like paper mache.)

By far, the most interesting result to me was the cost and time savings of living on Soylent. I saved $200 during my trial. This is good news for the company’s greater mission of combating world hunger—especially since I imagine they’ll be able to manufacture and ship the stuff to impoverished areas at much cheaper than the kickstarter price. (One side note: the use of Soylent requires access to clean water, so there will be additional logistical challenges to making a “cure-all” for the world’s starving.)

My two weeks of Soylent is just a data point among a flood of results that will come out as the powder hits the market this fall. Long-term, clinical trials are certainly going to go a long way to proving the stuff’s effectiveness and safety to a degree that will not leave nutritionists nervous. But in my limited data set, signs point in a positive direction for the Soylent crew.

On the other hand, food is delicious. Much more delicious than Soylent, even though Soylent isn’t awful.

“We’re definitely not trying to compete with the experience of your mom’s cooking,” Rhinehart tells me. “Our goal is to make food more like water.”

I found a new appreciation for good food after living on Soylent for two weeks. That first bite of Angelo’s Pizza on my first day off was a truly aesthetic experience.

But all the freedom to eat heavenly, post-experiment food didn’t prevent me from saving half a bottle of Soylent after the last day of my diet, just in case I needed a quick meal sometime.

It wasn’t long before I did.

Shane Snow is a technology journalist in New York City. He contributes regularly to Wired Magazine, Fast Company, Advertising Age, and more. Follow him on Twitter @shanesnow or on his LinkedIn Influencer blog at http://www.linkedin.com/influencer/7374576. And if you’re especially adventurous, subscribe to his private mailing list at http://eepurl.com/yJaEP

 

Open Questions:

I came away from my Soylent experiment with a few unanswered questions. I’d love any insights or opinions from Tim’s readers on the following:

1) How much of a problem are the so-called “nutritionally empty” ingredients like Maltodextrin? Are carbs from that source (or oat flour) just as good as other carbs, so long as one gets all the other vitamins and minerals from other sources?

2) What powder-izable ingredients might one swap in for any of the Soylent ingredients to further optimize the formula?

3) What other variables ought to be controlled for in future experiments with Soylent?

4) What’s the probable explanation for the acid reflux and canker sores in the first few days? Is it possible that they were related to Soylent, or more likely related to other factors in my life?

5) Also, can we suggest some more marketable names than Soylent? (Or is the fact that it’s a hoax-sounding name good for marketing?)

Afterword from Tim

I commend the Soylent team for attempting to simplify food. The problems of nutrition and world hunger are worth tackling.

That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight a few points, voice a few concerns, and pose a few questions. Soylent has done an incredible job of building an international PR platform, sparked from single well-done blog post written before it was a business.

And with great audience comes great responsibility.

Food isn’t a game, and people can die. I propose that — if Soylent doesn’t modify it’s claims — people will die. For their customers and investors to remain intact, allow me to highlight a few things:

Meal-replacement powders aren’t new. The only reason SF-based investors think it’s new it because of a novel target market: time-starved techies. Met-Rx pioneered meal-replacement powders (MRP’s) in the 1990’s, and there have been dozens of copycats since. From the Wikipedia entry:

Created by Dr. A Scott Connelly, an anesthesiologist, the original MET-Rx product was intended to help prevent critically ill patients from losing muscle mass. Connelly’s product was marketed in cooperation with Bill Phillips and the two began marketing to the bodybuilding and athletic communities, launching sales from the low hundreds of thousands to over $100 million annually. Connelly sold all interest in the company to Rexall Sundown for $108 million in 2000. MET-Rx is currently owned by NBTY.

Be careful with any terminology like “FDA-approved” or indirect implications of medical-like claims. Get a good regulatory affairs law firm familiar with both compliance and litigation. Consumables at scale involve lawsuits.

It’s premature to believe we can itemize a finite list of what the human body needs. To quote N.N. Taleb, this is “epistemic arrogance.” Sailors only need protein and potatoes? Oops, didn’t know about scurvy and vitamin C. We need fat-soluble vitamins? Oops, consumers get vitamin A or D poisoning, as it’s stored in body fat.

But let’s put aside a complex system like the human body–what about an isolated minimally-viable cell? Craig Venter, who sequenced the human genome, was recently interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek on his team’s attempts to build one:

We’re trying to design a basic life form–the minimal criteria for life. It’s very hard to do it because roughly 10 percent of the genes are of completely unknown function. All we know is if we take them out of the cell, the cell dies. So we’re dealing with the limitations of biology.

Upshot: The human body isn’t well understood at all.

This doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to create good nutritional products; it does mean you need to mind your claims.

Nutrition and people are not one-size-fits-all. Among the Soylent claims Shane outlined, there are the below. I’ve added my comments:

Soylent provides all the energy and nutrients the body needs.
[TIM: I’m not convinced Soylent can prove this.]

The body can absorb all the nutrients Soylent provides.
[TIM: I’m not convinced Soylent can prove this for healthy, normal subjects, let alone — for instance — people with celiac disease who cannot handle grains.]

Soylent makes one more alert.
[TIM: If measured, this could potentially be demonstrated.]

Soylent can help people cut fat and maintain good body weight.
[TIM: Be wary of any structure or function claims. Reword.]

Soylent saves time and money.
[TIM: Provable compared to another defined group (e.g. eating at Chipotle), but not across the board.]

And at the end of the day: Soylent isn’t dangerous.
[TIM: I’m not convinced Soylent can prove this. Where are the data? Safe for how long?]

I think claiming to know all the nutrients human’s require is dangerous. Claiming something is “safe” as opposed to a more objective/provable “all ingredients are on the GRAS list” is also playing with fire.

Given your early adopters, there’s a good chance you’ll have at least a handful of Type-I and Type-II diabetics (among other medical conditions) who are engineers prone to enjoying extremes. How do manage that with your user directions and messaging? What if they’re 100 pounds instead of 180? Or 350 pounds instead of 180? Don’t expect “Don’t use Soylent if you have a pre-existing medical condition” to stop them from using it exclusively as food, if that’s your positioning.

Tread carefully. Moderate claims are nothing to be ashamed of and can be monetized incredibly well. Don’t roll the dice with your customers’ long-term health.

Best of luck. I really hope you guys figure it out.

###

And dear readers, what do you think of Soylent’s approach and the above experiment?

Please join the conversation in the comments below. There several MDs, nurses, and nutritionists kindly offering their professional opinions (and answering questions).

Posted on: August 20, 2013.

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654 comments on “Soylent: What Happened When I Stopped Eating For 2 Weeks

  1. In the 4HWW, Tim talks about the business strategy of buying an existing product, and re-purposing it for another audience. The original MRP’s were designed for hospital patients, then re-purposed for body builders. Now we have re-purposing for the tech crowd.

    Like

  2. I would have preferred someone on a healthy diet (lots of fresh vegetable and fish, wholegrains, etc, to do this test. With a diet like his, most alternatives will make you feel better!

    With nutrition, it isn’t always just about getting the right nutrients to your body – it’s about how you get them there. The very act of chewing helps your body to take in nutrients and drinking them means you’re missing out on a significant part of the process.

    Finally, I doubt very much that a new food source will eliminate world hunger. Why? Because there are plenty of foods that don’t cost much to grow, and we are the ones who sell them at a high price, for profit. Are we really going to send over free packets of Soylent to famine struck countries when we throw out so much food everyday via our supermarkets? You’d need to change human nature first.

    Like

    • Why would you like to compare this to someone eating a perfect diet? People eating a great diet are not very likely to use something like this.
      I think it is much more interesting to compare it with people likely to benefit from this type of diet. People that eats high levels of fast food and fatty sugary processed foods since they most likely will see significant improvements from a simple and cheap solution like this. I don’t think its fair or even very interesting to compare it to a perfect diet. Nothing will ever be better than a well balanced diet with lots of veggies, fruits and quality meats.

      Like

      • I think it’s a fair comparison — one of the primary draws for me is eliminating the effort currently required to maintain a healthy diet. I want to save that time and money for other things, but I also want to be as healthy as possible. I always thought Soylent was for those people, not people who have the means and desire to eat a perfectly healthy traditional diet.

        So in comparing, if it turns out Soylent is simply better than the worst, rather than equivalent to an optimally healthy diet, it’s just another iteration every other MRP that has sacrificed one thing for another. Cheap, healthy, convenient: choose two.

        Like

  3. the reason you felt like crap is because you ate like crap, which you indicated when you went back to your american diet after you stopped consuming soylent.

    you know what you should’ve done? tested to see which vitamins/minerals you were deficient in and corrected it. that and ditching the american diet would’ve most likely yielded the same results.

    i would see people using this as a fad/detox diet. 2 weeks of soylent to reduce the excess body fat and body weight, reduce any vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and then continuing on with a healthier lifestyle.

    or this could be used for people who need to fed through a tube because of certain medical reasons.

    i don’t see people using this as their regular food source. you may feel great short-term, but i think complications will arise in the long-run. ex: constipation, vitamin/mineral overload/electrolyte imbalance (leading to even more complications).

    you’re not an infant, you’re adult.

    Like

  4. This totally reminded me of a write up on T-Nation by Dan John in which he goes 28 days on a liquid meal replacement diet. He also did some blood work and noticed improved numbers. I don’t know the policy here on links but if anyone was to google Dan John Velocity Diet I’m should it would be at or near the top of the list.

    Like

  5. Considering you started from a place of nutrient debt given your previous diet, it’s not shocking that you started to feel better once you had some nutrients in a more absorbent medium. Even without taking the diet soda into consideration (which robs your body of important nutrients), relying on take-out and junk foods as part of your daily ritual has huge negative health consequences. Taking those out of your diet even if you weren’t using soylent but following a truly whole foods vegetarian diet, I’m certain you would see huge improvements in physical and mental/cognitive health.

    While I fully agree that a lot of people think that food is hard, is making something like this really the solution, or is proper education what we really need? Education not funded by the companies that seek to gain from the messages passed on, as it is now for example with the Food Guide, care of the meat and dairy associations, respectively. Food is such a personal and emotionally/culturally/socially important subject, and giving people the tools to reconnect with their food is where I see the most importance. Just look at how GMO crops were meant to end world hunger, which are grown in all corners of the world and have been since the early 90’s and yet there are still millions of people dying – over 20,000 daily – of hunger. Trying to make a quick-fix by screwing with the food system and food products hasn’t been working, and maybe we just all need to go back to the basics.

    I wish I had more time to share my thoughts, but alas, my bed calls to me. Great article, and an interesting read though my training as a holistic nutritionist is setting off bells in my head thinking about a lot of the implications of products like this.

    Like

  6. Really interesting article. We have experiment with meal replacements for breakfast from pea protein to whey isolate and had mixed results.

    The slow card (whole food) gives us the best results in terms of weight loss, energy and feeling. I have more energy when not on meal replacements but we have never tried to replace all three meals.

    Inspired to try after this article. I don’t think it is a long term solution but something you do for a period at a time.

    We have experienced similar feelings as above coming off and going back on the slow carb diet around vacations. The body takes a few days to get used to any large change like the one above and to come back off!

    Awesome article. thank you Tim and Sean.

    Alan

    Like

  7. Just read the ingredients; soy lecithin is the twelveth ingredient, third from last. It seems rice is the source of protein (third ingredient) and it is more an oat-rice based drink than soy based so the name is missleading. I would try it since it’s not all or mostly soy and the amount since so little.

    Like

  8. Dear Tim,

    I was first wondering when i read “Soylent” in your Blog. Because of your past (BrainQuicken, etc.) i thought you just have money in your eyes again, think that this is the “next big thing” and don’t care about people’s health. Well, i was positively surprised when i see you now on the other side and criticizing stuff like that (Soylent).

    The body is made for what evolution created him. Unquestionable. And it’s not made for Soylent. You can maybe say that it has the molecules natural food also has, but in fact, it’s not natural. It’s synthetical. I guess when you take Soylent for 12 weeks you will get serious problems with your kidneys. I also guess that even the creators of Soylent do not take Soylent, they make try it, but thats I think already all.

    Well, good to see you Tim not beeing hungry for the money and questioning this whole Soylent scam.

    Don’t take supplements, your body is not adapted to it. It’s just a wish you have. But my sister has her PhD in bio chemistry, she agrees that you ruin your body with supplements with synthetical stuff inside.

    Like

    • “My sister says” is hardly a solid argument against supplementation. Do you honestly believe you can achieve micronutrient sufficiency from food alone? If so, I’d love to run some tests against you to prove you wrong.

      Like

      • ” I’d love to run some tests against you to prove you wrong.”

        Well my sister got her bio chemistry PhD, it’s argument enough. I don’t know what you’ve studied at the university: I’m sorry, but a healthy body without genetical defects concerning micronutrution extraction from frood, doesn’t need supplements.

        Well if you give me the proof that i would be wrong, then don’t use studies that are supported by pharma companies. You should also question the source of your studies you – as it looks like – rely on.
        A healthy body doesn’t need supplements.

        Like

  9. I think you should provide nutritional data for the average american as a comparison. Compare things to what is theoretically recommended is fine but most americans diets fall pretty short in that comparison as is now.
    How does it stack up to the real average american diet is what is interesting since that is what the results will come from. Not by comparing it to some theoretical recommendations that less than 10% of the population follows.

    Like

  10. Tim,

    Have you considered doing a Soylent trial yourself? It would be good to see your usual rigorous standard of testing applied to something like this and see where your observations differ from Shane’s.

    Cheers!

    Like

  11. Great article and good points, Tim.

    I agree mostly with the long-term effects that we don’t know yet and also the fact, that we simply don’t know what we effectively need. The human body is a complex object and you have to be careful with radical change – nothing organic changes quickly, so I’m proposing looking at nature when it comes to the human body.

    But I also have to commend them on at least trying – it’s a nice experiment, worth pursuing.

    Like

  12. This reminds me of things like “quantitative easing”, statin drugs, and radiation therapy for hemorrhoids…We prescribe a “treatment” for the symptoms that fails to account for the complexity of the system, the therapy, and their interactions. We don’t admit that we just don’t understand enough to know if its the right thing to do. As a result, we make the system worse through “treatment” that may make it more susceptible to bigger problems, cause bigger problems, or weaken it to unknown insults in order to meet a numerical value. (could be calories in/out, blood pressure, blood values, debt ratios, and on and on…)

    If someone is going to die without nutrition, and we have an experimental nutritional supplement that will save their lives tomorrow, then ok. Why? Their “downside” is minimal as the alternative is “immediate death”. Here…I applaud the development and controlled experimentation with things like Soylent.

    If you’re a young, busy entrepreneur and you’re using it because there is no “time” for a good meal, you feel like your time is better spent doing business than eating, or that somehow this brand new “tech” is “proven” in such a complex system , then (as otherwise brilliant as you may be) you’re doing it wrong…And may be killing yourself and your friends (when you sell it to them)in the process.

    Even if you “hate” eating. The relative tax that you pay in time, money, etc. when you eat for your nutrition is minuscule when compared to the cost you might pay if you’re assumptions are wrong on things like Soylent. In short, there’s just too much downside.

    Why take a risk like this if you don’t have to? And more importantly, why sell it to your friends?

    Not hating on Soylent…I think there’s a place for it. Just not the place its being sold…

    Like

  13. There was no thought by solyent to test their product on other mammals in a laboratory?

    I think a longer trial would have some very interesting psychological and social results. no more taking a date to lunch or dinner?

    and…
    I’m imagining a nightmarish world where my children don’t know what “food” is because they were raised on soylent.

    Like

  14. As a French guy I take lots of pleasure from cooking and eating, I’m not interested at all by food replacement approach.
    Several scientific studies have already figured out great eating habits.
    Soylent food can for sure simplify the life of ultra busy people that don’t take pleasure out of food for now. It can even save decision power like Zuckerberf strategy to dress himself every morning.
    But I’d rather promote the importance of choosing and preparing your food well.
    It will unlock a special huge source of satisfation: cooking a meal for your beloved ones.

    Like

  15. The experiment looks interesting, however I am very concerned with the “outputs” of the human body on this process. If the consistency of the “output” is slimy and sticky, this will interfere with the intestinal processes and leave residue on the intestinal walls. This is what high fiber is supposed to solve. Fiber is actually “empty” nutrition that can not be absorbed by the body on purpose, so that it acts as a sponge to push out all that slime out of the body. Thus, IMHO this needs more hard fiber structure. Either in the product itself or as some king of fiber cookie that you need to eat after the meal.

    Like

  16. I’ve seen a couple of these trials by now, but something always struck me: the people who do them (and generally claim big improvements) have generally been eating quite poorly to begin with (a lot of pizza and other processed fare). They are also all from the USA, which has specific implications on the state of health care.

    I’d like to see someone try it who is in good shape, eating a healthy diet (fresh and balenced), preferably from a country with good overall population health and healthcare and is therefore likely to have grown up with good health practices. Essentially to see how someone with already exemplary good health fares one a Soylent diet – after all it’s easy to see improvements in health if you live off pizza in a polluted city and spend all day sat at a computer.

    Like

  17. “We dont know what we don’t know” means we should do the best we can with the information at hand. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try (as discussed earlier).

    I think many are missing the point, which is NOT if this is the most optimal or healthiest choice. The point is, provided the information we have at hand, would this be an IMPROVEMENT to the status quo of, say, the current diet of the obese (which btw is mostly highly engineered processed foods). Or the diet of the people that are suffering from starvation?

    We can keep debating about the optimal diet all day, since there isn’t ONE. However, considering how many people’s diets this could improve is IMO the potential of Soylent. I agree that the claims should be careful, and testing should be done continuously, as with any new product. Instead of comparing Soylent with YOUR diet, try comparing it with the worst.

    I don’t believe switching to mostly Soylent -based diet would worsen the health or life expectancy of the morbidly obese, or the people suffering from famine and severe nutritional deficiencies.

    Like

  18. Pirates live for booty not nutritional safety… or is that wrong?

    In society being right is mostly a source of pain
    because being right is half the battle.
    And, If you can’t be heard while youre right, you are
    worse off then if you had shut up.

    Creatively work to have people hear you, then share the thought.

    Sound yucky? Would you listen to “you” being right the way you sound?
    example: this post

    Like

  19. soylent has made me enthusiastic in bed and…
    ..a more generous lover!

    What is soylent?
    soylent is sexy.

    ex. 2
    for your consideration

    Like

  20. Interesting post, I find the whole concept of replacing food full time a scary concept, but then food for me is so much more than than, although I can see how it would appeal.

    I think it’s great that they are trying to help solve world hunger with this product but we really need to work out how to solve the issue of providing clean drinking water to everyone first. I would love to see them develop something that doesn’t need water.

    I can see that an ocassional meal replacement does no real harm but to completely go without food would need an enormous amount of testing and careful control to ensure it’s not used for the wrong reasons. I’d want to see some proper evidence and thorough testing done, particularly when you look at some of the disasters we’ve seen in the past when this hasn’t happened.

    I would love nothing more than to see them come up with a product to truly solve world hunger and look forward to hearing more as this whole thing develops.

    Like

  21. In the long term I would be worried about obsolescence, would the jaw, teeth, stomach lining, rectum become unnecessary. It’s a ridiculous thought but think about it, that’s how we lost the tail, may be that’s why increasing number of people are going bald.

    Physiology is equally important aspect to consider.

    Like

  22. Very interesting indeed. Would love to see a 30 or a 45 day test. The body makes most of it’s changes in two weeks, but then adapts. A longer test would be nice. Koodos to you, I could never do that.

    Like

  23. Anyone with a decent knowledge in nutrition can design a shake they can live off of and make it much much healthier than this. I guess the advantage of soylent is that it is a dry powder and can be more easily stored/transported? But isn’t that the idea behind grains? I don’t see the value in it and don’t understand what the fuss is about. I’m also guessing one can live the same way on dog food granules – just add vitamin c.

    Like

  24. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for a great post and a really good study. I agree with your conclusions that it can be both dangerous, health wise and legally, to make the claims that Soylent does when they clearly can’t be sure of the claims. This could be a problem for consumers that will buy into the claims and act upon them without thinking.

    However, I believe this is a great step forward to 1) make food easier (sometimes I just want to get food in my belly and don’t really care if it taste good) and 2) learn more about the human body.

    I will try this when it hits the market and I look forward to see the results.

    Thanks
    Victor Björklund
    VictorBjorklund.com

    Like

  25. Tim,

    I saw one of the questions you had in the article and thought I would take a stab at answering. The change is in productivity is most likely not biochemical, but very much behavioral.

    I saw the same effect when I changed from eating 6 meals a day to Intermittent Fasting. I OFTEN used food as a procrastination method and had no clue. I would literally find myself wandering in the kitchen for NO REASON rifling through my fridge like a mindless zombie.

    Naturally, the rise in productivity led to me feeling all warm and fuzzy about myself which led to more energy.

    Placebo effect: Engaged

    Best,
    Alex

    Like

  26. I used Metrx off and on as a meal replacement in the 90s when it was all the rage. It was helpful for the purposes used – lowering bodyfat/maintaining muscle – but easy to burn out on, even when I mixed it up in various flavors. It is very difficult to subsist on an all-MRP diet for the long term. Most of us that used it back then haven’t in 10 years except on occasion.

    Like

  27. Hmm
    From my POV

    Rx seems to lack enough insoluble fiber to keep digestive tract functioning on time.

    Normal food has a high percentage of water, so adding more fiber and water into the consumable mixture might fix the hydration issue as just plain water over done can sometimes leech needed elements from the body.

    Like

  28. I have been on a liquid diet since 2007 when I lost my ability to swallow and was put on a feeding tube. My diet during that period primarily is a product called Isosource HN, which gets most of its protein, fat and carbohydrates from soy protein isolates, canola oil and high fructose corn syrup. Vitamins and minerals are added in order for the formula to be nutritionally complete.

    I have at times used Ensure (or store brand equivalent), yogurt beverages and blended food but Isoxource is most cost effective and conenient.

    Currently I am consuming 3 to 4 liters of the formula per day. I have lost weight, and seen my blood pressure and collateral drop. have had issues with gall stones when I was on a higher fat formulation but that has disappeared with a switch to the lower fat formula I am on now.

    My experience is not that unusual and if you want to learn more about others that live solely on liquid diets contact http://oley.org

    Like

  29. I’m actually surprised that you could live with what you used to eat BEFORE. The american diet is a joke… People eat too much at night and almost nothing during the day. And tons of junk! As my grandma use to say, you gotta have breakfast as a king, lunch as a prince, and dinner as a homeless person. It’s during the day that you’ll need the energy from the food. At night, your body trying to rest and digest at the same time, of course you won’t sleep as well as you should. Anyways, I actually read the whole thing, it’s pretty interesting, even tough I still believe that re educating people about food and nutrition is the key.

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  30. I’m curious to know if Soylent has considered putting their product into a bar format, or if this is possible without compromising the nutritional value of the product. It could serve well in recreational activities (hiking, camping) as well as a meal in areas where clean water is not readily available. A bar could also satisfy those who crave the sensation of eating and chewing.

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  31. I’m no food expert in anyway, but I will let myself have an opinion here. 1) your pre-soylent diet (the one you consider healthy) is not good at all. Half you protein intake is in that muscle milk and the rest is fast food. So would be nice to see the same experiment on someone who actually eats healthy, so soylent has a challenge. 2) Regardless of the effectiveness of soylent or any other experiment, I believe food and eating should be considered also a “way of life”. Just like training for staying healthy, or studying to get a degree or staying up late to get that promotion, diet is also something where results are best when are earned through hard work. We need to learn “how” to eat and “why”. Make it part of culture, enjoy doing it right, as opposed to just get over it really quick with a tasty big mac or soylent.

    Having said this, I appreciate your time and effort on your experiment. The data is very interesting and your hard work admirable. Cheers.

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  32. 1. What Tim said
    2. I just don’t get the obsession with “wasting time eating,” since I find eating one of life’s joys. Granted it’s time not spent coding, but sensory pleasure, relaxation, reflection, change of pace, the joy of cooking and sharing, social life, conviviality aren’t a waste of time in my book.

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  33. The question to me is can you engineer something marginally better than the average diet. This is not an optimal diet, nor will it ever be, but most people eat complete garbage.

    How hard is it to make a pea soup that has more nutrition than a Big Mac? That should be pretty easy, though it doesn’t appear that they’ve done it here.

    4.37 Big Macs would give you the same calories (2404), more fat (127g), more protein (109) and about half the carbs (201). If you add a multivitamin and fish oil, you’d be ahead.

    Everyone has opinions on what the optimal diet is, but I’d say we can all agree a diet comprised of Maltodextrin and grape seed oil isn’t it. I would suspect this is why sugar isn’t listed, because it’s extremely high. This is where the ad hominem attacks start to make sense. Someone who understands nutrition at a basic level would know that this is not a good formula. Substituting MCTs for grape seed oil may be an improvement, but still misses the point even if our goal is only to beat an average diet of Big Macs and pizza.

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  34. This is a very intriguing subject to study and I find myself wishing for more simple things in our crowded 24hr schedule. I am a Registered Nurse and it is part of my job to teach patients about healthy choices. I cannot say I practice what I preach even 90% of the time but I attempt to in my daily habits. Soylent seems like a wonderful idea. Anything that simplifies my day or my patients day I am all for. Shane has mentioned most of the issues I had with his own “homemade” study such as a longer trial etc. I also think a bigger research population with diverse genetic backgrounds would provide more information. The idea of a “one size fits all” nutrition approach is my very first issue with Soylent. Even though we are all human, predisposition to obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (to name just a few) is a real thing. A person can eat an all pizza diet their entire life and never block a coronary artery while another dies at 40 of sudden cardiac death from eating a diet that is relatively “healthy” when compared to pizza. My point is, no single human is the same. And while I commend the attempt of simplicity, it doesn’t take into consideration that genetics, the end all be all of life, is left out completely. Trust me I love this idea. And if all I had to tell my patients was “drink this and you’ll see myself and the doctor less”, I would! I also want to mention that soy at minimal levels is probably ok, in my opinion but a soy-based diet is not recommended at all. Soy is actually considered teratogenic to a fetus, which is why pregnant woman should steer clear of soy if at all possible. Soy is packed with estrogen. And if we’re going to keep up with the idea of simplicity, it is simply cancer causing to people who may be genetically predisposed to cancer. Hey, there’s that genetic word again! I believe you Shane that you felt better, because you probably did. Ridding your body of something it’s used will give you “tired headaches” and make you constipated to say the least. That’s a withdrawl type response from your body. And there’s nothing wrong with a placebo effect either. My last “thing” about this was on your labs. While they remained normal and stable for you, your BUN and creatinine on your basic metabolic panel increased, which is not good. At this point they are still normal but if you were to continue they may trend upward. I won’t go into what both markers mean but I will say you need to drink more fluids, namely water. Your hemoglobin and hematocrit went up which probably means your hemoconcentrated (Google it). So next trial run, drink more water!

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  35. It seems what he feels during the first days are HFCS withdrawal syndromes.

    Chocolate Milk, Coke [and probably the burrito] are loaded with High fructose corn-syrup.

    Like

    • @Pier

      Not chocolate milk; it’s a protein drink that actually contains no milk (the brand name is a misnomer). Coke was diet, so no corn syrup. No corn syrup in burritos.

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  36. I found the article to be quite interesting, and I’m glad to see more trials. I really wish that the author had access to a clinical scientist to get some tips on how to conduct the trial. Because in addition to the comments that others have made, I see a glaring problem with how he performed his trial:

    He didn’t control when he consumed his calories and in what quantities.

    It is good to see the total number of daily calories consumed, but knowing when the calories were consumed and how much at each time is critical. He shifted his consumption mid-way through the experiment (eating more early in the day) and felt much better. Was the mid-afternoon crash a result of “superior nutrients” due to Soylent, or from eating more food in the morning and at lunch? How does this compare to his old eating habits (small breakfast)? Did he eat the foods at the same time of day (drinking Soylent throughout the day or only at meal times)?

    The timing and consumption of nutrients/food is a topic of debate. Let alone nutritional composition. Too many variables to make any conclusions about the results.

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  37. I’m unsure as to why this doesn’t need to go through the rigorous tests that baby formulas do.
    If this is all you eat and it turns out it is missing something important, you might find out about it too late.
    I think it is a great idea in general so that it can be used in special situations, but consumed daily, as the only item on the menu, by people who don’t feel like preparing food, eating out, getting a take out or just having something delivered seems a bit too much.

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  38. How does this, or any meal replacement, compare to baby formula? Perfect baby formula doesn’t exist yet, and babies need a different diet from adults, but I would think that using that science as a basis or comparison would be interesting. Baby formula is the ultimate ‘meal replacement’ for many babies all over the world. Has been for 50 years. There must be many studies on the long-term effect of baby formula on people as they grow into teens and adults. Could that be used to help improve adult’s shakes?

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  39. Excellent presentation! I hope this work goes “viral”. One advantage that I see to Soylent – recall the most recent new “gut tract bug” discovered by the CDC this summer? Could “foodstuffs” like Soylent be more challenging for the bugs to contaminate? I see this as an advantage as I may have had the new bug myself – it has been with me over a month.

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  40. I would like to see them run a double blind test , one group drinking an industry standard MRP like Shakeology, Vi-shape or Met-rex and one group doing soylent. I would be willing to bet the MRP group sufferers less side effects and has an overall better experience.

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  41. To all the people who saying some flavor of “We don’t know everything the body needs, so this is dangerous.” How is that any different than eating any of the other diets that are around in the world today? Including, of course, Tim’s slow carb diet.

    I would say that without a complete understanding of the effects of an arbitrary diet on the human body (nearly impossible), the closest you could get to a diet that definitely has all the things that a human needs would be a diet that our ancestors evolved with. There are currently few, if any, diets today that meet that criteria.

    I fail to see how this is objectively more dangerous than a vegan, ketogenic, paleo, or slow carb diet. The foods that we are eating today, all that organic brocolli, tomatoes, peppers etc… do not have the same nutritional profile that they had when we were evolving. For that matter, the meat must be quite different too.

    My point is that any argument for any particular diet is still, and for the foreseeable future will be, an argument from ignorance. We should be encouraging testing for anything that has the slightest amount of promise, which I think Soylent does. It is certainly better than the diets of a lot of Americans.

    Many people who have healthy diets discount how much time they spend on maintaining their diets and don’t recognize that most of the world lacks the resources they have. Most of the world still has limited control over the nutrition of their diets and if Soylent can even produce only a small benefit for some of those people it is worth further investigation.

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  42. I can drink a rice based protein shake and take a multi vitimin and have the same thing, no?

    The author’s 4 day hangover was the detox from all the chemicals in his diet, especially the artificial sweetener from the daily soda. Not judging as I LOVE diet soda so I’ve been there, done that. It’s the reduction in chemical load on his liver that made him feel better. He should try green juice fasting if he wants to feel like superman!

    A whole foods meal replacement shake is grass fed unpasteurized raw milk and a few raw free ranged eggs (not factory farmed if you’re eating them raw) in the blender – egg nog. 🙂 Talk about easy to digest, and full of probiotics, vitamins, and good fats.

    As far as world hunger goes, research sprouts. No land, sunlight or dirt needed to maximize the nutritional load oz for oz. I take a regular .80 cent bag of lentils, and when sprouted they are a complete protein that makes a nice raw hummus.

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  43. Can I get this as an IV drip and prop it up next to my World of Warcraft station?
    That plus NASA diapers and I’m set for an awesome gaming session!

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  44. I am very optimistic about the potential of this and would give it a shot. Hopefully we will not look back some day and be like the people in the movie idiocracy “Water… like in the toilet. Nah ah we use Brawndo, its what plants crave!”.

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  45. I think the most powerful counterargument to the majority of claims questioning Soylent is: consider the alternative.

    Argument: We don’t know exactly what the body needs/what combination.
    Response: If we don’t know, then it stands to reason that food manufacturers don’t know either

    Argument: Nutrition isn’t one size fits all.
    Response: Yet we treat it as such by eating “muscle mile for breakfast, chipotle for lunch, and takeout for dinner”. Taking a look at the ingredients at least STARTS the conversation about customizing nutrition.

    Argument: We don’t know if a finite list of what the human body needs will work.
    Response: So many people are eating modified foods for every meal of the day. How can we know that isn’t basically a finite list.

    So again, basically all the same response. Sure, Soylent may not be perfect. Who knows. It may not even end up working. But it has a HELL of a lot more promise than the current food situation which is woefully broken. The health-nuts and nutritionists always seem to speak up, but are comparing their diet to Soylent, not the average American’s or Westerner’s, let alone the average person-in-a-third-world-country’s.

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  46. Living off of meal replacements is not new. People in the hospital sometimes consume nothing but Ensure for years at a time. It’s probably not ideal but they do OK.

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  47. I just discovered the studies about antioxidants.

    Tim, you recommand using Alpha Lipoic Acid in the PAGG & also Coenzyme Q10 which both are antioxidants.

    Are you planning to stop using them?

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  48. Long before anyone attempted to make a synthetic complete human meal replacement those in the know used an easily accessible (relatively) naturally manufactured substance for both healing and nutritional optimization of the body.

    Raw cow’s milk from heritage cows eating naturally growing grass.

    Little known historical fact – the Mayo Clinic was a leading proponent of using the “milk cure” as a treatment in the early 1900’s.

    Since returning to Pennsylvania in 2006 and getting relatively easy access to purely grass fed milk produced by clean farmers on a pristine farm in the middle of the state I have done a purely raw milk diet 6 times for periods lasting between 30 and 40 days each.

    My experience each time was dramatically different. The first time I did it I was doing a series of physically demanding construction jobs while working 12 – 14 hours a day. I was consuming 5 – 6 quarts of milk every day (nothing else) during the entire 30 day period. Aside from two hours of intense craving for a steak each afternoon I felt incredible. I was energized with endless stamina.

    Just as memorable was the 30 day cycle where I was in constant misery. I did not make it all 30 days without cheating and finally gave up somewhere around the 23rd day.

    All of the other milk diet cycles fell somewhere in between experientially.

    I ascribe much of the discomfort – when there was discomfort – to deep detoxification and cleansing that occurred as the nutrients in the milk repaired a body that had been severaly damaged to the point of great ill health from various forms of abuse between ages 30 and 40.

    The end result of these experiments have been an almost complete restoration of health and a vigorous and strong body with the blood profile of a 30 year old at age 52. I did not test before and after – I simply did the protocol multiple times. Watching my various medical checkups evolve throughout the years of the experiments, though, tells a tale of consistent improvement.

    The one thing I did not see mentioned in the comment thread, though, was the elimination of food as a social experience. I admittedly did not read every comment – after the first 50 I read quickly looking to see if there was anything in each one after that that I should note. It was mentioned in the blog post that kicked off the Soylent craze but not expanded on in a meaningful way.

    The memorable moment of awareness regarding how much the consumption of food is a part of our lives in ways we often do not recognize occured during a trip to Philadelphia with my wife who was also doing the milk diet with me during that particular cycle in 2007. After going to a bunch of museums and hanging out in a few parks we were stuck on what to do next. As we walked past open air restaurant after open air restaurant we were craving the experience of having a seat, drinking a cocktail and having a meal. We were not hungry – our milk was satisfying. We just didn’t know what to do with ourselves after the museums closed.

    Just as important was the experience of interacting with friends during the milk diet cycles. Sitting having a quart of milk while everyone else is enjoying a meal prepared with love by someone who is sharing his/her gift with friends is awkward at best.

    Despite years of nutritional experimentation at the Olympic level I can draw no useful conclusions about what we should eat and how we should eat. If you have not read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in its entirety – every god awful boring word – you may be lacking in a perspective that can be useful to hold when you examine the efficacy of any diet – the notion that it is the gestalt of consuming nutritionally dense foods that leads to optimum health. Yet that remains to be proven. I deeply respect the efforts of the creators of Soylent to figure it out. I even more deeply respect Tim’s willingness to stand up and declare that the price for error is DEATH.

    Great post. Great comments.

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  49. The use of this Soylent in hospital settings and those that cannot consume whole foods (elderly, post-op, etc) can be very useful. Assuming that it follows through on everything that it says.

    Sure, time saver, but I know when it comes to wisdom teeth removal and the like, this would be a helpful alternative.

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  50. So, after reading the original Soylent blog, this post, and the Kickstarter page, plus allot of the comments I have to ask: Does anyone else now just want to go buy the already available Meal replacements that are listed in the is post. The-Ultimate-Life-Meal-powder which comes out to $1.75 a meal? Additionally it has over 150 amazon reviews with 4.5 stars.

    How is that not good?

    cheers,

    Jonathan

    Like

    • Jon – I purchased the Ultimate Meal after reading this study and it’s just not filling enough. Even the recipe on the can calls for the addition of a banana and other fruits. I actually add plain oats, peanut butter and casein protein as well since it only has about 15g per serving and that is not enough for me. At this point it’s no longer $1.75 a serving and I’m spending time concocting shakes twice a day. I can’t say how this compares to soylent but I’m looking for a ‘complete’ solution that i can ‘eat’ for breakfast and lunch and then have a sensible dinner. Soylent for me was meant to be a time saver and hopefully deliver more nutrients than eating clean and taking a multi-vitamin. However, the Ultimate Meal does make you feel good because it has crazy amounts of vegetables and grains that nobody would ever have in their regular diets. Plus it’s all vegan and non-GMO and all that good junk. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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  51. When I could not breast feed my son any longer and had to switch to formula I was devastated. If you want to see some nasty ingredients read baby formula, I cried my eyes out. Alas, my son in 7 months old happy healthy and FULL of energy. At the most critical time of brain development our children drink their way to health. If this product can do the same for starving children/people somewhere else then go for it. We should not judge this product to harshly or use it to replace all the luxuries we have in our country, which is pretty much any food you want at the local food store.

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  52. Shane, Tim, thanks for putting this together.

    Let me start off by saying that I absolutely, completely… wholly, hate breakfast. I feel like it was a meal invented with the sole intention of torturing me. I have absolutely no apetite when I wake up, and have simply – by sheer necessity – found a way to stuff myself with boiled eggs by mushing them into chicken bone broth. Yes, I do this every morning.

    The reason I mention this is that I’m excited at the prospect of simply being able to drink a breakfast that isn’t complete crap. Anything that gets me away from the drudgery of boiled eggs would make me a very, very happy man. Having said that, I share your concerns Tim. I agreed with Mr. Talib that “messiness” is more robust, and having such a strictly regimented diet in terms of nutrient intake worries me a bit. We aren’t all the same… our requirements can be very different.

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  53. Tim, this is fascinating. Having recently done a body hacking mash up of Isagenix, ketosis, and slow/no carb, the first thing that comes to mind here is: how much of Soylent’s results are a actually the result of getting off sugar and starches? Plus 400g of Carb? That seems pretty heavy.

    So are the results soylent-based or driven by removing sugar, caffeine, and other processed foods from the diet? And if we could get more people to remove those ’empty carbs’ from their diet and replace it with real food, meal replacements of a healthy variety, and other such informed approaches, would those results differ much from Soylent?

    I’d be interested in trying a version of Soylent that could support ketosis (5% carb, 30% protein, 65% fat) and combine the metabolic ketosis that Dr. Attia describes with the whole nutritional impact of a Soylent-like profile to simplify nutrition and eating.

    This was totally fascinating to read though! There is so much to learn about the human body! Thanks for sharing!

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  54. The tester mentions that he is vegetarian, but the Soylent was shipped with fish oil capsules. Did he take the fish oil capsules? If so, how did he reconcile this with the fact that he’s vegetarian?

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  55. I kinda just echo Robb Wolf and Greg Everett’s thoughts on soylent from their podcast.

    1.) If people have trouble/resist eating paleo/slow carb diets that cut out grains and dairy how the hell are you gonna convince people to eschew food all together?

    2.) The goals of tackling world hunger don’t account for the cost of actually manufacturing soylent. I just don’t see it being cheap enough to sell to the 3rd world.

    Also, since this is Tim’s blog, I’m sure a lot of us are on slow carb and the high carb content means that this product is not slow carb compliant.

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  56. I really want to try this. How do I go about ordering it – even if I have to wait till fall? Would love to share my personal experiment with you after I have had the chance to experience it myself.

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  57. I am so impressed with the thoroughness of your experiment. I am a meatless athlete and am always looking for nutritious alternatives. AND, yes, I am a lazy cook. I could live off of smoothies with the odd pickle or cracker to chew on from time to time. I will be watching for further developments. Good on you for taking this project on.

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  58. Super interesting.
    I seem to have an inherent skepticism of messing with Mother Nature, and lean toward organic whole foods.
    Long-term independent studies would be critical for me to even consider becoming an adopter.
    Whatever the stated problems that soylent addresses, from lack of time to world hunger, I can imagine that there are multiple possible solutions both on a personal and a cultural/societal level.
    I’ll be curious to see how this evolves.
    Tim, as usual you make some really key points that shed light on the issues (e.g. meal-replacement powders are not new, what’s potentially provable and what’s not, etc).
    (To the world hunger claim, I would also add that I’m skeptical of the assumption that an undernourished person in the middle of a “3rd world” rural area would be able to depend on a blender, for example.)
    Thanks, Tim, for always keeping it interesting and informative.

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  59. I would suggest that a simple control is the creatine. I take low doses of creatine a few times a week with a ‘vegan’ protein powder (Ultimate Nutrition Wheat — NOT whey — protein isolate, chocolate flavor), and whether doing cardio, heavy lifting, or just doing intellectual work at a desk, the effect is to make me 10 years younger (I’m in my 30’s) and as if I was on a nice dose of Starbucks. The breakfast protein shake alone is like a nice cup of coffee, but the creatine is a fountain of youth monster. The caveat is, if you do not drink water, you get an afternoon haze like you need a nap. It’s dehydration. A cool drink of water cures this. The effect of the morning creatine (what I would call a “pinch”) lasts for about 12 hours, tapering slowly. I would suggest a control of a creatine supplement, water, and eating what you normally would eat to see just how different the shake really is.

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  60. Look at Shane’s “typical diet” at the beginning of the post. I’m sorry but that is far from healthy. Good on you, Shane, for being a human guinea pig for this product and I hopefully you read a few healthy living blogs and improve what you put into your body on a regular basis.

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  61. “The body needs whole foods, not atomic nutrients; the synergy between diverse ingredients is what matters in nutritional uptake. This sounds nice, but has not been scientifically proven.”

    Yes, this has been scientifically proven — I think I’ve even heard Tim mention on a Joe Rogan podcast what happens when you take beta carotene in isolation (BAD idea), in comparison to what happens when you consume foods naturally rich in it.

    Ditto vitamin A.

    Ditto vitamin E.

    200mg of caffeine from coffee vs 200mg of caffeine from a pill is another case in point (you get much more benefit when you consume the 200mg of caffeine from real coffee).

    I haven’t looked into it, but I’m sure the same would apply to green tea, and even to other vitamins for example synthetic vitamin C vs vitamin C from a veggie consumed as a wholefood.

    When it comes to nutrient absorption, safety, and utilisation, whole foods trump synthetic nutrients and/or isolated nutrients.

    Conclusion: I would not drink this stuff unless I was starving.

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  62. It’s an interesting experiment for sure, but I certainly won’t be doing anything like this anytime soon. While I love supplementing nutrients to compliment my workouts and healthy eating (creatine, l glutamine, etc), drinking a bunch of goo to replace my meals doesn’t sound remotely fun.

    Also, as he noted, his diet was fairly unhealthy to begin with, and therefore his results were slightly skewed. It would interesting to see someone who is already eating very healthy and exercising consistently etc do this same experiment.

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  63. I think a huge part of eating has been completely ignored in this study. Food is more than nutritional intake. It’s an emotional, sensual, bonding, societal necessity to a certain extent. The preparation and eating of food are acts that keep us social — and we are social creatures — and need to do more to keep that society alive, as we move closer and closer to life in cyberspace.

    As a species, we’ve taken both food and sexuality beyond their biological parameters. We’ve become creative, even indulgent, in both.

    Somehow I feel reducing meals to a Matrix-style product would be starving another part of our being as humans, that is just as important as the nutrition itself.

    Not to mention that the lack of chewing plays havoc on our teeth!

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  64. 1. 400 carbs a day? Pretty high… Not in line with the slow carb diet or the vast majority of leading health theory (specifically, diets high in fat AND low in carbs as the way forward – i do realize that the soylent diet is fairly high in fat but it fails on high carbs)
    2. Couldn’t agree more with TF about us not understanding how the body operates…. By simply taking all the daily requirements of vitamins we know about, we are still potentially missing vitamins and minerals that we don’t even know exist yet.
    3. would love to see more blood tests done (what happens to testosterone here?)
    4. Strength / conditioning tests would be great to see as well
    5. (EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – even if they customize, they will fail to account for people with genetic mutations such as mthfr c677t. someone who has these mutation (which many people do but dont know), their body cannot process normal b-vitamins (dramatic simplification here) thus they NEED methylated b vitamins or they will likely die early (lack of b-vitamins is linked to high levels of homocysteine which is highly correlated to cardiovascular disease. scary stuff!)

    PS. Extremely excited to see what happens in the future with this one!

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  65. I would like to try and respond to a couple of concerns that have been stated in the comments. Be aware that I am currently a Soylent DIY’er and I have been using my recipe (with some modifications here and there) for 3 months now. I have had a total of 34 meals in those 3 months, and those meals were all social meals due to work and or friends.

    Some people have mentioned that you need to have fruits and vegetables in your diet to acquire some of the phytonutrients that are required to survive. My diet before Soylent was extremely poor, in the fact I did not consume any fruits or vegetables, unless you consider ketchup, french fries or starbursts fruits or vegetables. I lived on that diet for 30 years, and I was well above average on my health. At least according to my blood tests and my over all fitness.
    But I too am not convinced that Soylent is not lacking something, so in my recipe I have added ginseng and kelp (powders), in an effort to add some of those phytonutrients. Not perfect by any means, but it also shouldn’t hurt.
    I will adjust my recipe as I need to, to compensate for anything that I am missing based on symptoms or things that I learn about.

    For the handful of comments on not using your teeth, you still need to chew / gnaw on things. If you don’t exercise your gums by chewing then your teeth will fall out. A lot of us DIY’ers chew gum, or other things to exercise our teeth. But do not swallow your gum, ever, bad things will happen.
    So yes, you still need to chew.

    I also agree with people who have stated that there probably isn’t a one size that fits all. My recipe has over double the protein, and almost double the calories of the commercial Soylent. I have spent the last 3 months tweaking my recipe to fit my needs. Solving one or two problems at a time. While I am not done yet, I think that I am getting close.

    For those of you that say that Soylent does not contain all the micronutrients (selenium, manganese, etc..), I would like to inform you that it does. For some reason Rob is keeping the complete recipe a secret. But if you read through all of his posts and blogs you will see that it does contain those micronutrients.

    Also some of you have said that the RDI is the bare minimum, and not the optimum. Do you have any links, articles or studies that support this? I am not doubting what you are saying, I just want more information, so that I can adjust my recipe accordingly. If those numbers are incorrect, then I need to learn what the correct numbers are and adjust.
    Also some people have been concerned about men vs women. There are 2 formula’s, one for men and one for women based on our different needs.

    I do agree that more testing needs to happen with Soylent. We just don’t know what we don’t know. My opinion of this though, is I am going to die anyways, why not try it. While this may not be the healthiest approach, it has worked so far. Also if none of us try it, then no one will know whether or not it works. If it ends up killing me in the end, then I will be a warning to the rest of the populace not to try it. But if it doesn’t kill me, then that is one more data point that it works.

    There were some comments on refrigeration. Currently Soylent does not need to be refrigerated. It tastes better cold, but storing it in powder form it can stay good for a while, a long while. If you add liquid fat (Olive Oil) or water to it, you may want to drink it in a day or two if you don’t refrigerate it. If you refrigerate it and mix in the liquids, then it will keep for a week or so.

    So far I love being on Soylent. It takes me 10 – 15 minutes a day to concoct, consume and clean. I have 5 shakes a day to get my macro and micro nutrients. It is less then half the cost of my previous diet, it is way healthier, and more efficient .

    There was some comments about Cholesterol though, that have me vaguely concerned. My cholesterol has been plummeting since I have been on Soylent. It hasn’t concerned my doctor yet, but he wasn’t too interested when I started anyways. I will do more reading on cholesterol though, and maybe adjust my recipe based on my findings.
    There were a couple of articles that I read that if your diet does not contain cholesterol that your body will produce the amount that it needs. I forgot what the process was called, or the “ingredients” needed for said process. But obviously I have not done enough research into that matter.

    I don’t always agree with the ingredient changes that Rob makes. I think that the initial recipe was way better, and that he is caving to peer pressure to try and appease everyone. I also do not believe it to be a viable solution for everyone either. Especially since the ability to customize it is practically non-existent, other than supplementation. There is a lot of work to be done, but some of us will see it through, even if it kills us, or at least me 😉

    There were some concerns about fats and Omega 3. I may get this backwards, so forgive me. Omega 3 was touted to lower your chance for heart disease, while Omega 6 was said to increase your chances of getting heart disease. There have been a couple of studies that have shown that increasing Omega 3 increases your risk of colon cancer, while increasing Omega 6 decreases your risk of colon cancer. So there appears to be a balancing act that must take place between the two.
    My fats come from Olive Oil, Fish Oil capsules, protein, oats, and flaxseed. I have 2 grams of Omega 2 and 9 grams of Omega 6 in my diet.

    Even though I don’t really eat normal food any more, that is a personal choice. I can still eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I just don’t have to. So I choose not to.

    Shane, great right up by the way.

    If anyone has any questions, or would like more info, just reply to this post, and in theory I will be notified and I will come back and respond.

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  66. I love the idea so much – especially as the mother of an 11 year-old boy who wants to be a vegetarian but doesn’t like beans or many vegetables. I am very interested in this drink becoming readily available but I admit that I love to eat food. It’s not even about the flavor of it or hunger. I like putting my hand to my mouth and crunching stuff. I love putting something warm in my mouth and swallowing it. In all seriousness, whenever I consider dieting I have to be realistic about my deep-seated need to snack and eat a certain amount of warm food so there is no way I could replace even one meal with a drink. I think I’m actually a pretty typical person in this way.

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  67. As Tim mentioned in the afterward, this is not a new concept. I’ve been using the ViSalus brand of meal-replacement shakes for two years now with an average of two shakes a day plus a third ‘real’ meal. I was sceptical when I first started, but now I wouldn’t want to live without them. Kudos to Soylent on their marketing and best of luck moving forward.

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  68. I am a 48 year old woman who has battled weight most of my life. I have gained and lost probably hundreds of pounds over the last 30 years. I am now at my heaviest, putting me about 90 lbs overweight. Would Soylent naturally take me to my “target weight”. It seems high in fat, but I know that isn’t necessarily a deterrent to weight loss. Would it be safe for someone of my weight to start Soylent, assuming I have no other medical problems? I would get a physical prior to starting it. While weight loss is a priority, I am most interested in getting and staying healthy and disease free as I age.

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    • Hi Judi!

      Speaking from a nutritionist point of view, I’d suggest you go see a nutrition expert (such as a dietitian) before you try Soylent as a weight loss treatment. If your caloric intake (now) is higher than 2404kcal/day then yes you will see weight loss. But in the long-term, I’m not sure how long you want to stay on Soylent. Instead I suggest you change your current diet to a “healthier” diet (meaning, more fruits and vegetables and less fast foods, pops and snack foods) because these provide nutrients while being lower in calories. If you can keep this up over the long term, weight loss is certain.
      Another key factor is exercise! You mentioned you’ve struggled with weight all your life, well, then your issue is probably genetic. By lowering your calories intake, your body may think it’s suffering from starvation and lower your metabolism which can mean lots of weight loss for the first month (or so) then you’re stagnant (or even putting on weight). Exercise is a way you can “trick” your body since it actually increases metabolism. You don’t need to go to gym daily but little things like taking the stairs, parking further away, doing housework, doing extra trips to carry groceries to the kitchen, can all add up and help with the weight loss.
      I wish the best of luck for your weight loss journey! And I hope I’ve helped with some of your questions!

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  69. I appreciate your mention of “Meal-replacement powders aren’t new” at the end, most articles on this topic fail to mention that and I think it is a key point. Personally, I think it is a point that should be made much earlier on in the article though. The only difference that I see of Soylent vs Ensure or Boost is branding and marketing. Ensure and Boost are branded and marketed as a medical aid while Soylent is marketed more like 5-Hour Energy.

    I actually did a 2-month Ensure/Boost-Only test on myself years ago and never went back. I hate how much time is wasted every day dealing with feeding myself (finding/cooking/cleaning/eating/digesting) so I did 2 months of just Ensure and Boost nutritional drinks. Afterwards, I switched to Ensure as my staple with solid food as a form of recreation. Now it is 2 years later and I eat on average one meal a day for fun (an enjoyable sensory experience) and Ensure the rest of the time because it is sooo much faster and easier.

    Compared to Soylent it has the advantage of coming pre-mixed with a long shelf life and can be ‘eaten’ warm or cold. Since we are talking about time here, having to mix a drink and then wash the various items before/after (blender, cup, etc.) and needing access to these resources means you are not getting the time savings you really want. Perhaps down the road Soylent will come pre-made and with a shelf life but right now it isn’t as effective of a time saver as other options.

    Ensure/Boost also have multiple flavors. In my 2-month Ensure/Boost only trial I ran initially I only did one flavor and I can tell you that I will never eat/drink anything flavored Butternut Pecan again! I now rotate through the other flavors (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla) to avoid burnout. I see no problem going 2 weeks on a single flavor of Soylent but 2 months or 2 years is a totally different story.

    Contrary to many people, I actually trust a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company more than a random guy on the internet. I am not one to put any stock in formalized education, but Abbott nutrition and Nestle have the resources to run very large clinical studies and have access to state of the art equipment that a startup simply doesn’t have. Also, Ensure/Boost are well developed products with years of real world testing behind them from a wide variety of consumers.

    In summary, Soylent is “neat” but it isn’t new by any means. The only thing “new” about it is the marketing angle. I think Soylent would be far better off just taking Ensure/Boost, slapping a new label on it and selling it to a new crowd. I see no benefits from reinventing the wheel here unless he has some insight that Abbott and Nestle don’t have.

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    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Micah. I’d love to see the Nutritional Facts or ingredients list for Ensure, if you’re able to past it as text here! If too busy, no sweat, but Abbot and Nestle do have excellent resources.

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      • Tim, Micah. Ensure and Boost are not healthy alternatives at all, with a whopping 28 grams of sugar as the 2nd ingredient and corn syrup as the third. Not to mention a few other not-so-recommended ingredients. Very anti-immune. It’s usually fed to sick or elderly to add calories in hospitals. There are many other meal replacements with lower sugar content, and without being made with corn syrup. Those still (I believe) would not be in the same category as soylent, which I agree with others needs way more testing, and not on people with auto-immune issues or other chronic disorders. Awesome article, by the way!

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  70. Meal replacements have been around a very long time, even before Met Rx. Companies back in the 70’s were promoting this way of fat loss.

    At the end of the day, all of the gimmicky ways of eating will fall by the way side and eventually, reasonable foods in reasonable amounts, mixed in with exercise and a passion for life, will always rise to the top.

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  71. When I look at this I think, “If this was my last day on earth would I want to drink this, or have a wonderful sour Gravenstein apple… or my mother’s chicken..” and I laugh because who would want to spend their life drinking this??

    My 85-year-old mother has always been a health nut – eating right, exercising and still maintains her active RN license. She continued to go to college every year since she graduated, traveled the world, learned computers in her late 60’s, danced, enjoyed life, volunteered, has many friends and STILL she had para-thyroid disease and was just this year diagnosed with Altzeimers disease. She is the model for healthy living and yet she is now sick.

    Genes are mighty powerful stuff … more powerful than Soylent green I think and I think I’ll spend the rest of my days enjoying life and eating what makes me smile. Thank you.

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    • She sounds wonderful! Your Grandma 🙂 Sounds like she lives a pretty healthy life style. There is a lot of environmental stuff that is transparent that can affect you though.. E.g. Deoderant that contains Aluminum. Can aluminum poisoning lead to Alzimers? Possibly.. not claiming it does, but just that it pays to try to pay attention to stuff so you can continue to be happy and live every day as your last day 🙂 Namaste to you!

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  72. No one has mentioned that the “experimenter” increased his calorie consumption by 29% (from 1862 to 2404) and managed to lose weight, all other things supposedly remaining equal. Yet the obvious conclusion that Soylent resulted in malnutrition is not inferred among the author’s conclusions.

    Would a person trying to survive on Soylent alone eventually waste away completely? The data suggests “yes.”

    Clearly factors other than strictly calories in/out influence weight, but 29% is a pretty big daily increase, and weight loss is not an intuitive hypothesis for a full spectrum of bioavailable nutrition and an increase in calories (which Soylent purports to be).

    Would you expect to lose weight eating four Big Macs a day?

    “4.37 Big Macs would give you the same calories (2404), more fat (127g), more protein (109) and about half the carbs (201). If you add a multivitamin and fish oil, you’d be ahead.”

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    • The obvious conclusion is not that Soylent resulted in malnutrition. The obvious conclusion is that the 2404 calories provided by the Soylent were fewer calories per day than the author was previously eating. There is likely no way that a 28 year old man who weighs 160 and does at least moderate exercise practically every day eats an average of 1862 calories every day of the week. He would probably lose weight on that. The amount he estimated for his “typical day” is probably somewhat low (the amount for red curry seems too low to me, and fast food calorie calculators are notorious underestimators) and if he eats less healthily than the sample day some days of the week then it is probably not representative of the average daily calories over a week.

      It’s not impossible that not all of the calories provided by the Soylent are effectively absorbed, or that they are absorbed less effectively than calories in normal foods, but it is definitely not the most logical assumption.

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  73. I had seen Soylent as too good to be true initially, so I greatly appreciate the work done on this article (also, I’ve had a Basis B1 for quite some time and love it). As a fellow body-hacker, this seemed like an interesting idea.

    Admittedly, I’m also kind of in the camp of “Needing the whole food to get the nutrients”. Kind of. Science is, of course, making great strides and I feel that, ultimately (stress: ULTIMATELY), humans could produce a food much to what Soylent claims to be. I can’t see that this time has come. I kind of liken this to my misgivings about juicing rather than blending; aside from the rapid loss of nutrients from oxidation in juicing vs. blending (inefficient by my standards), I was never one to see that you could get EVERYTHING you needed from a nutritious food (such as a kind of Kale or Baby Boc Choy) while discarding a great amount of the food. Just seems like an awful lot missing.

    Anyway, back on point: I see the proliferation of high-powered blenders (i.e. Vitamix, Blendtec) and knowledge (or at least the encouragement to do research) as far more important for people than the sort of thing Soylent has going for them. Far from being something with no uses, this certainly can have amazing effects on the hungry of the world. However, for the sort of message they claim, I’d agree with Tim that there are just too many variables to count (many of which, we’ll agree, we don’t even know about). Using research+blender, if there’s a problem with a particular diet (like the omega-3 deficiency listed earlier in the article), people can just add it: for example, my green smoothies lacked it, so I added a bunch of Chia Seed and some Hemp seed to round out my omega-3, 6, and 9s.

    I just don’t think science is at a point where people can trust that such a product is really as good as it claims. To be honest, I think I’m actually most disturbed by this claim: “And at the end of the day: Soylent isn’t dangerous.” Is this something they actually said or is this a paraphrasing by the author? If this wording is by the company my biggest question would be: What caused them to use ‘isn’t dangerous’ rather than reference any modicum of safety? Could be barking up a tree but I can’t NOT read between the lines on that one.

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  74. Really people? How is this much excitement being generated by in a meal replacement shake that includes a good vitamin / mineral supplement?

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  75. Everything in moderation. My son informed me about this product & I was very curious, so I’m thankful that someone wanted to put it to the test. I’m very busy & do not eat right. I have a protein shake at lunch which burns off pretty quick. I have been looking for the perfect meal replacement for a while. I have high hopes for this product and I’m looking forward to being able to try it myself sometime. I don’t think that we should ever replace food in it’s entirety unless absolutely necessary, but having something that is quick, easily digested and gives your body what it needs is definitely a step in the right direction as a supplement to ones’s nutrition. I don’t particularly like the taste of oatmeal made with water so an actual flavor would be huge!

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  76. I’m getting tired of people portraying this as a diet (as in weight loss) or as a diet (as in you drink only Soylent and have no other food). For the regular folk (prior to the discussion of solving world hunger) the founder meant it to be a meal replacement when you were busy, didn’t feel like cooking, etc. People have been testing by feeding themselves only with Soylent, but that wasn’t the ultimate goal. If it’s used as originally intended you would have a Soylent meal whenever you felt like it, but you would eat normally when you went out, or were prepping and eating a meal with your family, etc. That could mean that on average you would have one Soylent meal a day, one a week, or perhaps 14 out of 21 meals in your week. The founder was simply looking for a way for this particular meal replacement to be as complete nutritionally as possible.

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  77. Umm, a few things: Despite being vegetarian and whatever you think that’s getting you, your original diet was horrid to begin with. Takeout for dinner? Every day? A “burrito bowl” (whatever the hell that is) or equivalent, every day for lunch? Dear god. Everything you were eating before –vegetarian or not– was pre-processed, factory-made crap. Any change in diet would have been an improvement. Here’s an idea: learn how to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables and cut out the soda and ‘body milk’, you lazy hipster. Stop eating out of paper bags and at pizzerias, Einstein. Cook. At. Home. With. Real. Ingredients.

    Secondly, man does not live by nutrients alone, but by the EXPERIENCE of eating. Smells, flavors, colors, and textures combine to form a memorable meal. Eating and cooking should be fun. More than that, it is also a social activity. Soylent doesn’t meet any of these needs. Unless you are going to flop your bottle of goo down at your next dinner party, in which case your friends (should you still have any) should punch you in your fucking face.

    Thirdly, you know what’s just as cheap, easy to ship, abundant, tasty, easy to cook, and has proven nutritional value? Rice. You know why people can’t get rice in places where people are starving? Protip: it’s not because we can’t grow enough rice, and Soylent isn’t going to solve unstable nation states, political corruption, and ideological differences.

    The problem here isn’t that we need a new, easier kind of food. The problem is that you and the inventor of this horrid Human-Chow don’t want to spend the time or put forth the effort to learn how to do something as bloody simple as cooking for yourselves.

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  78. I find the notion of this product solving World hunger to be laughable. We are unable to feed ourselves for socio-political reasons, not for lack of resources. If it takes off, their biggest buyer will be Corrections Corporation of America.

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    • The socio-political point is important. For instance, US corn subsidies lead to 1) corn being exported to Mexico, where we often price out local producers, and 2) corn excesses going to waste in silos across the US. The problem isn’t so much production as distribution, which is often regulated by politics and lobbying more than pure logistics.

      Tim

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  79. An important factor to consider is the human microbiome. We’re coming to realize more and more how important the organisms that live on and within us are to our well-being, how intricately connected they are to our health, both mental and physical. Studies link different gut microbiome make up with conditions ranging from obesity to autism.
    Changing your gut microbiome is not so simple as getting a fecal transplant because maintaining a certain balance of microbes involves various factors. What you eat, what you’re exposed to, together with your genes and gene modifications seem to affect your microbiome.
    Raw lettuce, or even food that’s made from whole ingredients, probably have more and/or different bacteria than soylent. So–say you only eat soylent. What are you doing to all the organisms in your gut? How long must a trial go on to see these effects?
    As you and many others have said, there are SO many interacting factors that affect your health status. And defs necessary to formulate different powders based on activity level.

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  80. Open question #4) What’s the probable explanation for the acid reflux and canker sores in the first few days? Is it possible that they were related to Soylent, or more likely related to other factors in my life?

    It seems that you lost body-mass, both fat and water. In the body some toxins are stored in the bodyfat and potentially some in the water as well. When you start losing weight these will come free into the bloodstream. The body will get rid of them as usual, but the (mild) surge of toxins in your blood at the start can lead to various discomforts like tiredness, pimples, rashes and cankers. It’s normal and not dangerous, unless you are pregnant.

    I also have a question of my own. There is a very good reason for humans to eat whole food instead of shakes: without exercise your teeth will eventually come loose and fall out. Chewing gum might be fine for the mollars, but does nothing for your front teeth. This is a serious concern that should be addressed before marketing Soylent as a complete food-replacment.

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    • Hi Kaetje,

      I’ll throw out some guesses of my own as I’ve experienced similar symptoms through dietary changes.

      For the reflux, when changing from (for me) a balanced alkaline diet (mostly fresh whole food vegan with eggs) returning to Australia I ate a previously much loved store-bought hummus with acidity regulators. I ate it for lunch with brown rice and veg with nothing else differing to normal and that night had terrible acid reflux until regurgitation, more the next day then it was done. I did this a number of times with different foods but all with acidity regulators (my fav salsa! ><). The same thing happened with an afternoon diet coke, the first for at long while.

      Interested, I noticed the same thing happened when going in the other direction – from a 6-month travel eat anything diet to balance again, acid reflux after 4-5 days lasting a 3-5 days (no regurgitation this time). And again when I ran out of money in another country and only ate brown rice, oats and lentils for 2 weeks, no fresh veg. I've eaten vegan dahl and brown rice and lots of fresh veg for more than 2 weeks many times and never experienced reflux before so I was surprised.

      My conclusions, acid foods like coke/acidity regulators to a non-acid diet cause reflux for me; stopping acid foods and going to a more alkaline diet does the same, sort of like built up acid 'coming out' of the body; carbs like brown rice/lentils/oats without anything fresh (to balance the acid produced?) = reflux.

      Not sure about the canker sores (it's a mouth ulcer? I'm Australian). But I've experienced many seemingly negative symptoms 'come out' when a cleansing treatment works.

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  81. Tim, yes, this is probably not the most safest thing to have long term, but to be fair, it’s better then an extremely poor diet in a third world country. That is where I see a future for powders like this. With MAJOR funding, we can expect to see the unfortunate sipping on this to get them through the day.

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  82. My initial reaction is that any change from your previous diet would 1) bring on a negative feeling for a few days as you “detox” 2) result in improved mental alertness and 3) some weight loss. The results did not seem very astonishing to me to warrant not eating for two weeks. Same results could have been achieved by ditching your very unhealthy diet for a more natural one. But it was a fun read. Thanks!

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  83. Very interesting article and good experiment. I am a Registered Dietitian and I work a lot with patietns who are on tubefeeding. They are fed through a tube that is placed through the abdominal wall directly to their stomach or small intestine. They are fed with formulas that are similar in many ways to Soylent and other liquid meal replacement formulas (Muscle Milk, Atkins shakes, etc).

    Some thoughts:

    Shane’s Labs: The decrease in eGFR and increase in creatinine is not favorable. This means that the kidneys did a worse job in clearing waste products from the blood. The “after” results are definitely not dangersous or severe but it would not be good for the trend to continue. Based on the estimated water loss useing the BIA test, the labs probably also reflect hydration status.

    Regarding the completeness of Soylent: There are many products on the market for tubefeeding, baby formula, meal replacement shakes. From a clinical nutrition perspective, they should be evaluated on several criteria. Completeness: Does the formula provide all essential fatty acids and amino acids. Micronutrients: Most formulas provide 100% of the RDI for several vitamins and minerals in a volume that would meet a person’s calorie needs. However, this is not always enough for all patients. Often patietns need additional vitamin supplements. Nutrient composition: Products differ in the ratios of calories, protein, fat, and water. Disease state and other health concerns will dictate which combination is best for a patient, and this can change over time. It is not really accurate to say that one product/nutrition profile is better than another.

    Feeding the world: As a supplement to diets, the exact nutrition combination is less critical. A powdered formula will be less costly to ship to those who need it. However, reconstitution may be a safety issue if the water supply is not safe.

    Please let me know if I can help further with this project! I’d be glad to give more detailed information or examples.

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  84. I’m surprised at the lack of emotional issues related to withdrawal of food. I’d conject that people with a more diverse diet (with apologies to Shane!) may suffer more from that.

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  85. And what’s the upside here again? More time to work? 10 years from now I can see the cube farms with treadmill walking desks that provide power to laptops, and include ready supply of soylent via a mouth-level tube…sip sip sip…

    …all so people can work longer hours doing something they don’t really care about so they can buy more crap that doesn’t really improve their lives.

    The only people talking about “authenticity” will be marketers, who are really just talking about the best way to fake it.

    Okay, maybe it won’t be that bad! But of course sign me up for real walks, real food, and real life.

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  86. The fact that it is a processed food (considering that it is not in its natural form) is alarming. Although nutrients can still be encapsulated into a powder form, the “goal” of freshness is compromised (not to mention the health benefits of freshly-prepared fruits or meat). But this is really a breakthrough and I commend Rob for this. This is a must-try but we should wait for more comprehensive and scientific reviews.

    Excellent article Tim!

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  87. 1. Interesting.
    2. Would be interesting to know how your stool output over the intervention changed compared to your normal pre intervention- eg., less often? stool consistency? etc
    3. Would be interesting to know how this impacted your gut microbiota. The highly processed nature of the diet might suggest less substrates reaching your distal colon. This ‘might’ suggest that your colonic pH shifted towards a more alkaline environment which might lay the ground work for a growth in proteobacteria – maybe not such a good thing. But who knows.

    Things that make you go hmmmm….

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  88. The most horrifying part of this entire piece is the fact that Shane thinks what he was eating before Soylent was healthy in any way shape or form. Three meals of junk food per day? And then it gets worse on weekends, according to him? It’s no wonder his stats improved – it’s likely simply from ceasing to eat chemical-laden Muscle Milk and take-out food every single day.

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    • Hear. Hear.

      Good point becca. But you have to start a discussion somehow and Shane done that. Running another test where a subject moves from a badish diet to a healthier diet would be a good test too.

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  89. Great post,

    made for a very interesting read, reminds me of some of the experiments from 4HB. Although 2 weeks is a very short window of time to see effective dietary changes. I find it interesting that Shane is a vegetarian, wonder how the data would be different for someone who was on a paleo or diet including healthy meats,veggies, and fats.

    In terms of Soylent as a cure for world hunger, i would argue that world hunger is more than a logistics problem to be solved by manufacturing another supplement to be sold to people living on less than dollars a day?

    In relation to one of tims point about genome sequencing and the human body being complex, and each of us unique. Maybe this is path would be a better business model, creating customized nutritional supplement for individuals based on their genome type, blood data, or preference.

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  90. Tim, this is somewhat related as the following drug is poired into the eyes of humans who develop awful tortures over months. quickly googled and revealed no dry eye remedies by yourself.

    I have dry eyes and a smart person said she uses restasis, but quick search
    finds complaints of respiratory illness and large red blotches in eyes.

    so of course experimental oinker tim ferriss was first guy I ask, even though I dont know you! Thanks if you read and answered this, uber fella.

    …need organic eye lube… without respiratory illness…. please.

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