Soylent: What Happened When I Stopped Eating For 2 Weeks

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).

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with over 400 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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654 Replies to “Soylent: What Happened When I Stopped Eating For 2 Weeks”

  1. You might find it interesting to look at enteral nutrition as a control/comparison to Soylent. The reasons for using it are different – enteral nutrition is usually done because the body can’t handle the processes of digesting food, or can’t do it efficiently enough to get the needed nutrients.

    A lot of enteral diets are done via tube instead of by mouth – but that’s most because most enteral formulas taste like old fish mixed with rust. But some people do ‘train’ themselves to be able to take it by mouth.

    Enteral nutrition has a long history, and a lot of clinical trials behind it. Most of them are for efficacy of the formula vs a specific drug though, so you don’t get in to the whole ‘starving a control group to death to see how the formula works’ issue. But there are some solid measurements between things like growth rate, weight loss/gain, etc. people on different enteric formulas vs people with the same conditions eating a ‘normal’ diet.

    TL; DR – enteric nutrition formulas have been around a long time, and people have used them for complete nutrition for extended periods. They might be a good control for testing Soylent.

  2. Interesting, I’ve subsisted on flaxseed+olive oil+psyllium+ a five protein powder mix for 10 years now (with supplements, I hasten to add). It’s more than half my meals. If I want to cut up, it’s my entire diet. My HDLs and LDLs are good, my triglycerides are freaking awesome, no digestive issues.

    Soylent’s main ingredient seems to be maltodextrin. That’s a mistake, your body does not need carbs, and simple carbs are usually the worst. The next two are carb-heavy as well. And creatine? Really? That’s a 1990s fad that mainly increases muscle pulls.

  3. If part of the goal of this product is reducing world wide hunger, then there are two problems with it being delivered in a powdered form. The first issue is finding clean water to use to mix it up. The second problem is mixing it, because, as Shane Snow discovered, mixing it by hand does not work well. Having a blender and an electricity supply to power it might be a little too much to expect in the parts of the world that have the greatest need of an inexpensive source of nutrition.

  4. Interesting idea, but FWIW what really matters is the affect this has on a specific individual (YOU), and all the studies in the world won’t give a definitive answer to that. Only way to know is to try it.

    So in the future I’d rather see a customized version of Soylent. Send them my current diet/health information and they send back something precisely formulated for ME. THAT would be cool.

  5. It’s too easy for someone to deconstruct a process into separate parts and assume that what you’re left with is all you need. I think there interactions between certain vitamins that increase absorption, for example, that are ignored. I think that’s why you see weight decrease with a large increase in calorie intake (poor absorption of food).

    Fascinating stuff, but deconstructing something that we don’t have full information on (not even close) is guesswork at best.

  6. A 27 percent drop in your estimated glomerular filtration rate and a corresponding rise in creatinine means one thing: your kidneys took a big hit. Not only that, so did your digestive track with the slowing down of BMs despite a high water content.

    The scary thing is, we use nutritional replacement products intravenously and via gastric absorption in intensive care units all across this great nation. As a former ICU nurse, I would love to hear what an ICU Intensivist (Pulmonologist specially trained in intensive care) would have to say about the labs before and after!

    No thanks for me. I’ll stick with juicing my kale and other greens daily and avoiding soda. I drink about 140 ounces of water daily and I feel great. The real question is, why is the US Government subsidizing cheeseburgers not organic vegetables?????

  7. Health wise they’d be better off making powdered grass fed cow, just make sure to get some liver, brains, and marrow etc in it too. They might have to be careful about the taste though.

  8. figured this out in 2000,

    I call it food goo

    >you give a blood sample in the morning which determines nutrient requirements

    >the goo is produced (from natural sources initially)

    >you choose a carrying vector flavor and texture (nacho cheese, ice cream, etc.)

    >now you have all your optimized daily food requirements in tubes

    easy to carry, tastes great, better for you than anything you could have created.

  9. Wonderful and insightful post… I read a lot about Soylent during their funding campaign and thought it would be interesting to try. I am overweight and pre diabetic, but am young and open to lifestyle change.

    I did a 20 day juice cleanse a while ago and felt great, but afterwards really packed on the LBs 🙁 – Now I am sort of following a low carb diet and drinking bulletproof cofee in the morning (butter in coffee) – I find I am more alert than my normal junk breakfast followed by coffee with milk. I now only eat my frist meal at around 2pm and only eat twice a day. – Not sustainable as I am losing weight, but im sure most is muscle 🙁

  10. My major concern would be that consuming all (or the majority) of your food in the form of this blended sludge would have negative consequences to the adaptability of your digestive system. Personally, I value eating a variety of foods from a variety of sources guided by nutritional science and common sense – the idea being that my digestive system becomes robust and able to make the most out of whatever I put into it.

    The negative reaction Shane had after eating normal food again speaks to this — it wasn’t that he was lacking nutrients, it was that his body was losing the ability to break down and digest normal food. I’d be particularly concerned for the people consuming this product exclusively or almost exclusively long term.

    But like any other meal replacement shake, I’m sure it can be a great meal replacement in a pinch. But it has the same issues as any other meal replacement or supplement….is the vitamin A retinol, carotenes, or both? is the vitamin E mixed tocopherols & tocotrienols orjsut d-alpha? is the B12 cyano- or methylcobalamin? etc. What about phytonutrients, plant sterols, polyphenols, hundreds of other fatty acids, or the myriad other chemicals (many of which we probably don’t even know are good for us) that you normally get by eating a variety of plant and animal products and their derivatives. The countless compounds in herbs and spices that you’d be missing out on… Some products like VEGA try to capture it all, but the obvious better solution is to eat actual food.

    If you want to solve world hunger, try agricultural science – we need drought resistant crops and sustainable robust farming techniques. The oat-rice sludge might be useful in disaster relief, wilderness expeditions, and other niche areas (where there are already equivalent products available, but hey maybe this stuff is cheaper) but to envision a world where a large number of people live (mainly) off of it is, to me, a very dystopian thought.

  11. Soylent will never be successful in western society for a simple reason: people will not be able to give up the foods they love. If people could control their consumption, we wouldn’t have a nation where over 70% of people are overweight or obese – and let’s face it, switching from food to some Matrix-style gloop would require some serious self-control, which almost nobody has.

    The guy who created it strikes me as a real-life version of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He can chase his obsessions, but the fact remains that there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a healthy diet of real foods. To think otherwise is delusional and moronic.

  12. I’m ready to become a subject in this experiment. I ordered through the kickstarter campaign a week’s supply. Ever since I moved away from my community/family buying groceries has become a tedious and frustrating endeavor. I have to drive a few miles to the nearest supermarket and figure out what I’d feel like eating for the next 15 days. I often end up eating breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and by breakfast I mean cereal or a sandwich). This is basically my only reason for wanting it, as I’m not too concerned about how healthy my diet is since it basically consists of crisped rice cereal, cranberry juice, 12 grain bread, turkey ham and pasteurized processed food product (cheese). If this Soylent thing ever arrives and it works for me I hope I can forget about the biweekly drive to the supermarket and just occasionally hang out with my coworkers at the place where they sell salmon burgers.

  13. fantasitc read.

    You mentioned the possibility that an improvement in quantified-mind.com test scores might be a result of increased familiarity with the test format. The promise of increased mental acuity is an intriguing aspect of the soylent story and so it would be worth the effort to shore up this component of your tests.

    I haven’t taken the tests on quantified-mind.com myself, but perhaps you could take the test repeatedly until your score reaches a steady state. Repeat two weeks in and every two weeks thereafter.

    Also it would be worthwhile to run tests to measure your ability to remain alert. Your statement that you were able to remain at work for hours on end during the experiment is again promising, but it would be valuable to back this up with some formal testing.

    Suerte,

    Marcus

  14. I tried Bullet Proof Coffee three times; 0.5 liters of coffee blended with 80 grams of butter and 30 ml of MCT oil. I added cocoa powder the 3rd time. Some people love it, but I can barely swallow it (most of my friends were not surprised). I don’t like the taste of coffee in general, with the exception of frappuccino’s (only the Starbucks version) and coffee flavored Vienetta ice cream.

    Soylent – or perhaps even some of the older meal replacements – is something worth trying. If I can reduce the number of meals I have to cook by 30% that would be great. Slow carb forces me to cook several times a say which is time consuming.

    Before I discovered slow carb – like most Dutch people – most of my calories before 7pm would come from (whole wheat) bread with cheese, meat or peanut butter. This can’t be worse.

  15. Tim,

    Sailors would not get scurvy if they ate proteins and potatoes. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C.

    I think you meant salted meat and grains. From my understanding, that is the recipe for scurvy.

  16. More protein! Less carbs! As an athlete who is concerned about bodyfat percentage and muscle gain/ retention, I’d love to see the athlete version of this. Have you considered adding probiotics and enzymes to the mix? These are found in whole foods and are also necessary to a healthy diet. I would love to eliminate food from my life and replace it with a shake or two, but I’d have to know for sure that it’s absolutely 100% safe and gives me everything I need before considering it. Just one missing ingredient could be catastrophic!

  17. All I can add is that Shane’s diet SUCKS! Eat a friggen banana or apple, dude!

    Anyone who drinks Diet Anything, loses my respect and attention.

  18. I’ve been drinking meal replacements for a while. I don’t really see anything special about Soylent. If you want to find something that is already on the market; Garden of Eden Raw Meal is really good.

  19. G’day,

    This Soylent product is interesting, I think the name has already worked wonders along with their PR strategy to get their product noticed. I can’t really say anything one way or the other about the product, but it does seem to be an additional low-cost alternative that 4HWW style has sold itself to a niche market.

    What does concern me and I do know about is the rampant bashing of vegetarian diets in the comments. I think Tim Ferris has had some ideas on the subject that are not the most favourable, but low and behold he is collaborating and published an article by a vegetarian trying out this Soylent product.

    I am a scientist and I think a clear and evidence based approach is important when analysing any subject. Life sciences seem to yield the highest level of poor thinking for some reason, along with global warming. Particularly diet and evolution are often hit with poor thinking and the use of repetition of false information to ‘disprove’ them.

    For a level headed approach across two diverse genetic backgrounds, namely a mostly European background and almost entirely Chinese background in another, analysing the health effects of a vegetarian diet, look at the already cited Adventist Health Studies performed. I would add a look at the China Study which again studied a vegetarian diet in a population group in the tens of thousands. People as prominent as Bill Clinton and a great many others have eaten a vegetarian or vegan diet and done quiet well.

    As a matter of fact, from real valid studies conducted with thousands of people, it was shown that a vegan diet is the ONLY known treatment/cure for cardio vascular disease. Nothing else known, no drug or other diet, will reverse the condition.

    There seem to be a lot of calls for evidence and emphasis on specific tests, interpreting them, and controlling of variables. But a distinct lack of placing this Soylent diet or a Paleo themed diet in the context of what IS known about human nutrition. In fact, there have been many a studies done with great rigour and validity. They show that a whole food plant-based diet more than meets the needs of people and in fact significantly by 75% lowers the incidence of host of diseased from cancer to CVD.

    There is also the human context. Since the time of Emperor Ashoka around 800CE and the spread of Buddhism there has been a huge population of vegetarians in the world. In India, it is estimated that 1/3 of the population (around 330 million people) is vegetarian. How can we ignore a population of that is all vegetarian and is larger than the United States population? They have been that way for over a thousand years and they didn’t all drop dead. They have lived that way through pregnancy and nursing, they’ve lived that way from birth to death, and they’ve been thriving in number and in health.

    There are real studies that have been done on the health of vegetarians and there are huge populations of vegetarians. Sorry to belabour the point, but it is difficult for me to see this as an intellectually honest debate rather than a shame of a debate when the context has been skewed so far towards a meat-centric diet that has been proven to be unhealthy. A handful of vegans who ate poorly and got sick only anecdotally compares to the millions of meat eaters who have heart attacks, cancer, and strokes at much much higher rates than vegetarians. Outside of intellectually weak anecdotal arguments and appeals for evidence…well actually, check out the evidence in the China Study I’ve linked to at the bottom of my post. Outside of that anecdotal space, it seems clear enough to me that there are strong arguments for vegetarianism and veganism…certainly there is no valid argument against it. There are hundreds of millions of people living that way right now.

    I love the 4HWW book and the blog and I’ve found myself becoming a regular reader. Thanks for putting it together and inspiring so many people Tim.

    Cheers!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Study

  20. Really interesting article and experiment, but…

    1. You need a larger test base

    2. You need a longer test base

    3. You need multiple double blind trials, for example normal food vs normal food 2 weeks later. And of course giving someone a placebo along with normal food.

    1. This is not a double blind trial. A double blind trial is when both the person taking part, and the person administering the trial do not know whether the subject is in the control group or the alternative group. A double blind trial would mean getting something similar to Soylent and testing it against Soylent while neither the participant nor the administrator knew which group anyone was in.

      To do a double blind trial with normal eating versus ingesting Soylent would be very difficult indeed.

  21. Reading Michael Pollan’s “Cooked”, which covers the opposite spectrum from Soylent as a nutritional “solution.” The processed foods in our diets are nutritionally deficient because they need to be shipped long distances, stored for long periods, mechanically processed, and stored for even longer periods. Agricultural specialists have breed strains (some of them now GMO) that meet these demands, rather than nutritional needs of the human body. Our food is bred, processed, delivered and consumed for the purpose of industry, not nutrition.

    One of the most relevant issues possibly related to Soylent is the seeming failure to incorporate fermentation, live cultures and not, into its product. The microbial components of our food are essential to our well-being. Soylent doesn’t appear to address those needs, but maybe that’s just a result of the information available for or in this article.

    The real life hack on food in our culture today is to eat whole foods, locally grown, in season, in your own kitchen or one that prides itself on these priorities.

  22. Hi Shane,

    I haven’t read through all the comments below, but I did not find the word “ketone” mentioned anywhere in your post or the comments. Ketones are the body’s natural response to starvation. You mentioned that you felt “noticeably great” on the 4th day. This is not some miracle produced by Soylent, but the increased synthesis of ketones by your liver that peaks around the fourth day during starvation. The fact that your body goes through the starvation cycle indicates that Soylent *is not* providing sufficient nutrients for your body.

    Your laboratory data confirms this: your glucose decreased, your serum kidney function markers (BUN/Creatinine) increased (indicating decreased renal function), and you lost mass.

    Studies have also documented that being in starvation mode *does not* affect your cognition. Any perceived gains or losses in starvation mode are usually not significant.

    Source: I’m a medical student.

    1. Soylent contains creatine, and Shane didn’t eat meat before this experiment. Couldn’t that explain why creatinine levels went up? I’m not medically trained, so correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. Hi Martin,

        Yes this is a definite possibility. Without knowing more about his normal creatinine levels I can’t say for sure whether it is just an excess creatine intake effect.

        Aaron

  23. Heuristic for eating starburst without heavy stomach pains:

    Chew it up and suck out the sweetness, once its worn down, dont just swallow the super soft wad, spit it out like your gum. Imagine that goop sliding down your tubes…

    You can eat more this way and its as enjoyable as any normal starburst binge, with half the pain.

    1. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/12/eaten-only-crisps-for-ten-years

      Emily in the above link lived on crisps for ten years, more data, more side effects, more convincing then soylent, but also means survival is not so hard, probably possible on soylent, ensure, starburst, gods know what else these miracle machines can use to rouse themselves every morning.

      I imagine a day i’ll be eating a prime rib eye alone in a restaurant, thanks to the multitudes of self sacrificing gentlepeople who switched to full time muck.

  24. You say that “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.”

    It has been, repeatedly. Take, for example, a landmark article that appeared in Nature in 2000: “Nutrition—Antioxidant Activity of Fresh Apples,” (Eberhart MV, Lee CY, Liu RH, 405[6789]: 903-4, 22 June 2000). That paper and subsequent studies, show that an apple is healthier than the sum of its parts. These researchers were looking at cancer, which most would agree is at least as important as the near-term results you measure.

  25. I can see using a product like this as and in between, but replacing food across the board, I have to agree, is a dangerous prospect at best. As you said, you have to account for individual leaves of health and fitness. No doubt all of us could use a supplement to mass produced, zilch for nutrition foods that are being grown and processed to death in this country.

  26. As a veteran juice faster what intrigues me is that Shane’s energy and feelings of wellbeing followed the same arc as they would in a fast even though he was ingesting so many calories. I;m always looking for some way to extend that day 4-10 feeling indefinitely. Three glasses of vegetable juice a day is not sustainable but it looks like this could possibly be.

  27. Hi Tim, my name is Norwood i’m leaving you a comment today because I view you as a very intellectual, organized and efficient individual and think that your time could be more wisely spent. Not to say that you aren’t already spending your time wisely for I can’t think of many other individuals in todays day and age that spend their time half as wisely as yourself.

    My friend introduced me to some of your discussions recently and ever since I listened to a postcast that Joe Rogan and yourself did I’ve been hooked on listening/reading all sorts of information you have available.

    I’m currently a student at the University of Montana with a year left to graduate and over the past couple of years have developed quite an open mind and an advocate for new ways of thinking and learning for I know that the current educational system and reasons as to why most individuals choose their line of work are drastically flawed, whether it be because of a financial situation or simple ease of responsibilities. I aim to accomplish many things with my life and throwing it away to a retirement fund or an artificial image of an American family are fare from.

    Back to the reason i’m contacting you though. Over the past years as I entered college I’ve had time to develop interests of my own and a relatively open mind as mot college students d in their early twenties and late teens. I like to think that I pursue my open minded ideas more so than most others and it’s led me to the field of energy production. I’ve accepted that we live in a flawed world and accepted the reasons as to why it’s flawed. Once I did this I started looking into how I could better not only the physical world but all the people that inhabit it as well. I started thinking about proper education of all fields and topics from history to health through a diet to energy production. I realized that if any world or society is to sustain itself in a state that allows it’s people to thrive to the fullest it must first be able to have some sort of energy source that does not require the constant rapping and pillaging or the land and people in which it neighbors. After doing a short bit of online research and eliminating the otherwise improbable options for sustainable energy sources I found a video which spoke about an element called thorium and its capabilities within a nuclear reactor.

    Thorium is my main topic of interest as to why I am contacting you today. Like I said prior I view you as an extremely intelligent man with a drive to better not only yourself but those who fallow you. You’ve already conquered the body and nearly all of the minds capability to learn and retain information so I now challenge you to enter into the world of energy production and apply all you know about the minds ability to retain information and the bodies ability to expend energy in the field of Thorium research.

    If there is one practical method of sustainable energy production that is easily accessible in todays day and age and not just some crack pot theory it is Thorium research.

    Thorium is an element found in nearly all soils simply varying in quantity depending on the soil type and geographical area. You need about a golf balls size worth to power a single humans energy needs for his/her entire life time and a reactor that is powered off of Thorium has already been built (but since been shut down due to typical backward politics). Thorium is considered a liquid fuel that is not weaponizable and poses no harm or danger as opposed to typical uranium fuel reactors. If the reactor were to loose power completely the fuel simply drains down into a storage tank or solidifies in place merely damaging some of the equipment involved in the circulation process.

    China in currently investing some time and energy into developing one of these reactors on their own but it would be nice if the U.S. did the same knowing the inefficient and wasteful processes typically used in the U.S. energy industry.

    There are numerous books and heaps of online material pertaining to Thorium and it’s capabilities for your own personal research if you wish to pursue this.

    The reason I chose to contact you instead of some sort of state official is because I know the fallowing you have and the type of people that chose to listen to what you have to say and consider them fare more influential than any political figure or person of “power” in todays day and age. For I know that if you start to show interest in this field others with fallow. And as complicated as our teachers made physics and chemistry in high school and college the science behind Thorium is elementary when looked at in detail.

    It’s time a change is made in the field of energy production and it’s sure as hell not going to come from those who have been elected to govern us but I believe from people such as yourself. Those motivated enough to strive to constantly learn and spread the knowledge in which you have acquired.

    As a wise man once said, “If you build it, they will come.” I find this to be the perfect analogy referring to building the interest of easy sustainable energy production with the help of individuals of your type.

    Thank you for your time and I hope you pursue this further for it will only benefit you and everyone who chooses to listen to what you have to say.

  28. I’ve cured diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, allergies, and discovered a variety of things through “effective” application of the scientific method; however Its hard to find others to interact with because of all the noise.

      1. pick one and I’ll give you some experiments to find the cure path; so far every success has taken less than a week(keep in mind there are 10+ failures to each success).

  29. I haven’t looked through all the comments, but one thing I didn’t see mentioned in Shane’s or Tim’s sections (but thought of immediately when Shane said he felt “like a camel had kicked [him] in the intestines”) is that liquid diets cause atrophy of the oesophageal muscles (and I’m guessing the subsequent gastrointestinal muscles). I would hazard Shane’s awful feeling might in part come from giving his insides a workout after two weeks of complete laziness.

    I might suggest soylent offer the same thing in a cake/bar form (just as easy/time saving) to promote muscle use in the GI tract.

  30. Dig the experiment! I’d like to do a 30 Day Experiment with Soylent-

    The name’s gotta change- Soylent is a better name for a brand of diapers! Not a food product!

    1. Soylent is the perfect name for this product. Watch the movie Soylent Green. In the movie the rations are said to be made with “high-energy plankton”, while I am guessing that this product uses soy and lentils in some capacity. At least that is what we are led to believe…

  31. Re: probable explanation for the acid reflux and canker sores.

    I’ve had problems with yeast overgrowth in my GI tract and have done yeast-cleansing diets for 30-day periods (no wheat, yeast, gluten, or sugar – even fruit: typically referred to as the “Cadida Diet”). The first few days of the these diets will cause me to feel nauseous, lethargic, etc. and I experience things like pimples even though I’m not 16 anymore. I’ve read and been told by others who’ve also done this diet that this is common the first few days, as the yeast in the body is dying and releasing toxins which then make me feel sick. Maybe something similar could explain your condition? I don’t know how it would effect acid levels, and you likely aren’t killing all your GI yeast because you’re still consuming sugars, but maybe other nonessential / shitty intestinal bacteria / something are dying? WHO KNOWS.

  32. I read your story and would be interested in being a one month tester. My diet consists of vitamin supplements and one large meal which is at a caloric deficit. The diet is a form of intermittent fasting. Lost roughly 50 pounds in 6 months. I am interested in other ways of consuming nutrients while maintaining an exercise schedule. Sounds promising.

  33. I’d like to know just one thing, and I’m completely serious.

    What were you stools like when you were in Soylent?

    And sorry to rain on your parade, but “nutritionism” is not a science more than homoeopathy is.

  34. I’d like to try this for awhile. I manage a vacation rental in Santa Teresa Costa Rica. I have a lot of free time on my hands. But, I spend about 5 hours/day prepping food, cooking, eating, and cleaning up. I eat very well, mostly fresh fish (which is cheap & awesome here) fresh fruit smoothies, eggs, and veggies. I feel great with my current diet, but there are lots of other things I’d rather do that aren’t food related. I can cook my own food better & cheaper than any restaurant, so I’m unwilling to outsource all my food/nutrition needs. If there were a viable replacement for food, I’d try it. I have my vacation rental marketing work, as well as a couple of other web projects I’m working on, and feel like I’m getting close to getting a real muse business going that is not dependent on time & place. But, I spend so much time on food, that it slows down my progress. I want to try Soylent for 30 days to see how much more I could actually get done. I would alternate it with Dr. Schultze Superfood and still eat hardboiled eggs in the morning, drink green tea, and cook fish or make ceviche sometimes. How would it be to live almost totally on a meal replacement system, and still do a cheat day like in the Slow Carb Diet? Would binging once a week make you sick? I’d like to do this experiment on myself and find out.

  35. The same boring drink day in and day out?!?! Who gives a rat about body health when you’re mental health will take a massive hit from this drudgery. Not one bit healthy IMHO.

  36. Hey Tim, a new article in one of my local papers in Korea talks about how it is possible to eat junk food and still lose fat. I thought you might be interested in reading it, seeing as it is diet related and goes against conventional thinking like a lot of life-hacking ideas – “As Heat Wave Continues, Could Ice Cream Help You Stay Cool, Lose Fat, and Feel Happy?”

    Judging by the photo in the article the author looks like he is in decent shape. I searched him and it looks like he is involved in ice hockey in Korea, so i suppose he is not only interested in looking fit but also being fit.

    http://theseoultimes.com/ST/index.html

    Cheers.

  37. They just need to add a Spirulina element to the existing powder and that would more than cover a person’s daily protein needs.

  38. Did anyone else think of the film The Matrix when they read this? Soylent looks just like the “warm snot” that the humans eat on the hovercraft that contains, “everything the body needs.” This is madness. Only a body unattached to a mind and spirit could live on this crap. I just don’t see the point of this, except as an experiment. The act of selecting, preparing and sharing food with family and friends is a gift to our lives. Why are we seeking ways to deprive ourselves of it? Also, the argument that America is filled with unhealthy food choices is also laughable. The outside aisles of every grocery store are filled with a ridiculous abundance of healthy, whole food choices. It’s your choice to avoid them.

  39. I’m so bored with food anyway. Most people eat the same things all the time anyway which are usually unhealthy choices. Why not have something everyday that tastes the same that is actually nutritionally sound. Not every meal mind you. Anything has GOT to be better than McDonalds/Wendy’s/etc which people do EVERY DAY! As far as world hunger-we ship bleached white rice which basically has NO nutritional value. It just tricks the body into thinking it’s full & STILL needs possibly unclean water to prepare. If everyone could grow their own food, they would but unfortunately weather happens & unusually destroys whatever crops they could have had. I see alot of ney-sayers on here but if a major catastrophe happened & there was not a food supply, wouldn’t you want something like this to fall back on? It’s better than C-rations.

  40. Am I the only person that nearly spit my coffee out when I read ” Carbohydrates: 400g”?!

    What?!?!

    Maybe that’s why his weight went down and his body fat % up.

    1. @Gil Friend – there already is an efficient way to have sex: IVF for example, and yes it does have it’s uses, even though you might not be in need of them, some people are.

      Possible uses for Soylent :

      Space food

      Armies & War Zones

      Poor Countries

      Hospitals

      Weight loss

      Body Building

      Busy People

      + it doesn’t HAVE to replace ALL food, it can just be an extra source

      This is just the first stage, first test, first batch. But having an efficient, and cheap method of getting nutrition has LOADS of benefits to individuals and the human race. In fact add farming to the list above, we can also help all animals and pets.

      My two cents anyway.

  41. First of all, I’d like to say that this product is extremely exciting. With that said, I would love to test it out, but I’m wary of a few potential obstacles: I am only 15 years-old, I know I’m not done growing yet, I work out quite often and I am very active, so would I need extra protein supplements to go along with this? As I previously mentioned, I am stoked about this, but would it be healthy for me? Also, I was wondering when this was posted and if there is any further research that has been conducted?

    Thanks for the interesting subject,

    Jake

    P.S. Tim, I am a huge fan of 4HWW and 4HC! And also of how you are practically a human guinea pig, yet you don’t seem to have too much wrong with you! I would read 4HB, but I’m not quite done with 4HC yet, so I will once I’m finished! Anyways, thanks for having this awesome website–I made it my homepage; brownie points? Haha, just kidding. But not really, I seriously look up to you.

  42. Hi, I really take my hat off to you. I once attempted a juice detox diet and lasted all of one day. I guess I just enjoy my food to much. Congrats on finishing the full two weeks. Yo have more will power than me.

  43. First, I just don’t understand why on earth it would be named “Soylent” especially for those of us who still remember the movie “Soylent Green.” I wouldn’t eat it just for that reminder alone and the fact that many people might automatically think it’s made from soy (as seen from the comments above from those that missed the intro). Second, glad to see that Shane tried something different than his normal diet. At least it got him to stop drinking soda! 🙂

  44. Really? A 24 year old benefits from eating right? C’mon, give this to a 40 or 50 or 60 year old with preexisting conditions and a history of bad health choices.

    The Afterwords from Tim are dead on: “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.”

  45. I am intrigued by Soylent, and have purchased a months worth. I’m looking forward to trying it. I don’t see it as a long-term solution, but i do see it as an excellent way to reset my diet. There are a number of food allergy possibilities, and instead of doing complicated diet modifications and tracking the results to figure things out, I want to just stop everything for a month. I know from past experience that simply by breaking the cycle, a lot of food addictions (usually caused by food allergies) simply fall away. Another benefit is will-power. It’s a lot easier to simply stop everything than to moderate your diet. I am quite excited about this, and may plan on doing one month per year as a Soylent diet.

  46. The 30% increase in Shane’s creatinine stood out to me due to its kidney implications. It would be interesting to see how this would play out in longer term studies. Could this be accounted for by initial die-off or detox symptoms? Would creatinine levels return to normal after a few weeks? Would they continue to rise?

  47. Was anxiously awaiting your thoughts about Solent. I’m constantly in a weight battle. When I eat carbs, I have serious control issues. Have had great success with your slow carb diet but sometimes tough to get back on the wagon after falling off. Solent looks like it would work very nicely with weight control especially if only used in two to four week cycles.

    Maybe down the line,if the data around the world continues to come in good, the cycles would be extended in length.

    The only disappointment I have with Rob is downgrading the stainless steel shaker to the plastic bottle

  48. If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s an “experiment” involving one solitary individual. What on earth is the point? What does it ever prove? Nothing.

    The article is incredibly subjective. He thinks different coloured “poop” is purifying? Matter of opinion, nothing factual at all to suggest it’s true. Or that any reactions he had were/weren’t the result of the experiment.

    Feed world hunger? Dishonest stance. We have plenty of food in the world. We have more than enough to feed anyone. The issue is that we’re selfish. And no, I wouldn’t feel good to think that not only do the poorest of our society miss out on educational opportunities, but now don’t even get real food. Nor can they even begin to understand the long term impacts on health.

    Slimfast is a meal replacement option. How is this new/different as a concept? The ingredients are almost irrelevant as they’re both artificial/processed. Although we have made big strides forwards in terms of technology etc, we, as humans, have not mastered creating food.

    Cooking it, yes. Growing it, yes. Creating it, no. Everything we have created – whether white sugar, or white bread or beef burgers – anything processed by human, is as good for us as whole foods! We know this. Even when we congratulated ourselves for creating vitamin pills, we still need whole foods in order to absorb them (and the jury is still out on whether vitamin pills help/hinder health, but all sides agree that you’re better off getting your vitamins from fresh fruit/veg.

    What’s changed? Nothing’s changed.

  49. Tim, I so appreciate your careful and thoughtful approach to this topic. “We don’t know what we don’t know” is an important factor. For instance how does what and how we eat (that which fundamentally nourishes us) affect how we think and feel? I can’t prove this in a scientific way, but I put it here for consideration: that in the same way we take a deconstructionist approach to our food, breaking it down into (what we think we know as) its basic constituents, rebuilding it and then consuming it, so our thinking and feeling begins to follow suit over time, becoming harder (and colder?) in clarity and the super-acuity of analysis certainly, but less tolerant of mystery and the numinous. And we can’t even recognise this happening to us, because over time we begin to lose the capacity to see it. What becomes of the aesthetic experience of food, the warmth of enjoying the sharing of it, the energy imbued in food we have prepared ourselves which could be seen as additional ingredients providing nourishment in themselves? These are the unmeasurable aspects of food and nutrition which shouldn’t be discounted just because they cannot be counted.

  50. It is no surprise that Americans want their meals faster and easier than they already are. This kind of product could be great if we knew that there were no side-effects, however it is just too early to know. I would love a product like this but I am not willing to consume a product I do not know to be safe in the long run in order to simply save a little bit of time. Also, after the creators rebuttal to this post, I am much less likely to give it a whirl.

  51. There is a whole movement initiated by Ashoka Innovators for the Public which is advocating for a new “Nutrient (rich) Economy” that promotes this sort of solution, leveraging off of a product called ePap, which is a very high quality (though odd tasting) all in one food as well, but for the poor. ePap is a South African invention that was formulated by a scientist called Basil Kransdorff who is also an Ashoka Fellow.

    So nothing really new here, Im afraid.

    Like Hydroponics, this sort of food solution is Hi-Tek and requires “white coat” labs and factories to make in bulk. Although Soylent (what an unfortunate name) is clearly a superior product devised by a super bright and cool dude young scientist, so very sexy to boot.

    Its good for survivalists, famines, emergencies and wilderness camping. I will keep a stock as soon as I can lay my hands on it in case of war or revolution and of course, for wilderness camping.

    *But, please do not forget* : like Hydroponics, which promotes itself as the highest volume production agri-system on the planet, it needs (for the moment at least) SOIL & raw NATURAL ingredients to make .

    Further, it promotes a clever laziness of soul that willingly agrees (out of “boredom” in this case) to dump all human food culture and be “free” . In short, a future beckons, where human beings will float disconnected from all old cultural and natural contexts, reliant on production-lab-factories for their nutrient supply, hugely clever and enhanced as a result, but devoid of all meaning and embedded historical context, with zero spiritual-cultural wind in their sails. We could become Very Clever Animals who value physical life and “objective applied science” above inner culture. New Barbarians descending into a kind of savage “freedom for the fittest”.

    Besides, as with everything to do with such an infinitely complex subject as the Human Being, we will only really be able to test the effects in generations to come. Like GMO and Nuclear reactors, we have yet to come to know what the true effects will be of our huge cleverness born of emptiness of soul and richness of wit.

    As for me, I will buy Soylent gladly if it is certified 100% Organic or preferably Bio-Dynamic.

    Finish en Klaar.

    Rob Small

    along with

  52. Props on the experiment.

    I’d be curious to see the impact of the same two weeks, using same test variables (BF, blood lipids, etc), on someone with a different nutritional baseline, and different body composition.

    It dawns on me that that improvements may actually simply be a result of the REMOVAL of other junk, rather than the substitution to Soylent. The base diet seems poor to start with. So exclusion of dodgy nutritional choices would perhaps have a significant impact, moreso than the “benefits” claimed by the Soylent dev team, which might in fact all be due to abstinence from bad food.

    ala via Negativa (from Nassim Taleb)…

  53. It seems to me that a simpler, safer and more durable solution is available. With this product you will be getting the exact same nutrient combination and taste profile every single time. So why not just draw up a list of actual food ingredients (nuts, vegetables, fruits, etc) that provides the same nutrient content, put it in a big bowl and eat? Wouldn’t you be able to generate the same effect? In fact, you might enjoy this route more since there would be different flavours than powdery-oatmeal. People might still suggest this takes more time so why not sell pre-packaged real food in REALLY big bowls and sell that. This is most likely an inherent bias of mine but I reject almost out of hand that a synthetic food product that has been processed by people interested more in making money than the health of it’s customers will ever be a healthier alternative to a carrot. That’s like someone saying here’s this great, amazing powder shake that gives you all the nutrients and benefits of carrots. Sure you could eat it but why take the risk that some guy in a lab overseen by the FDA staffed principally with executives from major food companies (Monsanto) has done it right when we already have products we know work….those products are call “food”.

  54. I’m curious what your opinion on Shakeology from beachbody is, I had a similar experience with it. I think the difference is it leans more towards super fruits than meal replacement.

    It gets a lot of the same sceptism. I’d love to hear your opinion on what shakeology brings to the healthy dish and if rob rhinehart would ever offer what it does.

  55. I think Tim summed it up at the bottom. Met-Rx and many others have already done this (and in my opinion much better). It would be the same thing as someone inventing a car – guess what – we already have them.

    I see nothing of note here, except a really nasty looking MRP that someone is “claiming” can replace food. We need food (fiber, nutrients, phytonutrients). While someone could possibly “survive” on this pseudo food – is that not exactly what americans are doing already? Barely hanging on while pilling in mounds of white dough and non nutritive garbage? I think so, but at least those people occasionally accidentally eat some vegetables.

    Jay Scott

    1. Tim please consider a book on IF with Martin Berkhan. I am ready to buy it! You helped me with my first 2 muses and I am having so much fun. I think you and Martin would knock it out of the park and create the definitive book on the topic. He might even lean you out a bit.

      Thanks for all that you do sir!

  56. I have a feeling, entirely unsubstantiated, that when a human being feels good, it matters less what it consumes.

    Vibrant health is already secured because by feeling good, the right foods will be consumed, when needed, naturally.

    When the same human being doesn’t feel good, it matters less what it consumes, because no matter how good the food, it will not make it feel good.

    Fraser

  57. There are people who need to be on liquid diets from time to time to deal with something called gastroparesis. (I’ll leave you to research it.) I wonder if this would be something they could benefit from.

    Then there are the subset of those patients who are on tube feeding. Maybe this could be used for someone coming off tube feeding. I wonder if Rhinehart looked at the formulas for tube feeding when he was researching for this.

  58. We have developed an organic whole foods version of Soylent. We call it Ambro. The usage philosophy is similar to Soylent (powder), but the ingredients are completely different.

    Ambro consists of high grade ingredients such as organic nuts, organic brown full-grain rice, home-grown berries and organic cocoa. Our protein comes from organic nuts and high quality whey protein guaranteeing an ideal amino acid profile.

    We haven’t used synthetic ingredients (except whey protein). In general, we haven’t made any compromises on the ingredients as this is something we also use ourselves on daily basis. We’ve did best to source the best quality ingredients and have to admit that the result is a bit pricy. Also, Ambro is a great breakfast or a meal, but we don’t recommend people to replace their diet fully with Ambro.

    Would be great to hear people’s feedback on our work — is our organic approach something people find more appealing? Do you have some comment to the recipe? We’re also looking to expand our private beta. Check website and contact me if you are interested.

    1. Now this sounds a lot more interesting as it’s the same concept, but with real powdered food. “We don’t know what we don’t know” starts to have less effect when it’s real food from healthy sources you are ingesting.

      Mikko, I didn’t see any ingredient list on your site. Also curious as to the fiber content.

  59. This was a very interesting read. I have been on and off of low carb diets for many years(inspired by Dr. Atkins) and as of late have supplemented BioTrust Protein powder to support since I was living in China and don’t trust most of the available protein sources there. I eat a 2 egg breakfast with a side of salad and then have a 300 calorie BioTrust shake for dinner and lunch and then a normal low carb lunch or dinner on the week end. My total caloric intact per day was less than 1000 calories on average, I felt fine since I lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle and work in an office. I lost 1 lb. per day consistently and am near my target weight of 185 lbs. from 236 lbs.

    I am a firm believer in food substitutes as long as you take the correct medical precautions and supplement with multi-vitamins.

    1. To: Tim Burton

      I have done a bit of similar diet changes myself.

      What don’t you trust about protein sources in china? I’ve heard chinese tilapia eat their own feces.

      presently I’m experimenting with a nutrient rich ketosis diet with high intensity training. Hopefully it maximizes benefit and minimizes time required.

  60. I’m not able to adequately describe the disgust with relying on a source of nutrients that makes your poop “very sticky and off-white” and when spilled “dries like paper mache”.

    Food is medicine down to the cosmic level of preparing food with good intention. There will never be substitute.

  61. Why anyone would want to bring such a terrifying post-apocalyptic product to life is beyond me… and don’t tell me it has nothing to do with the film.. the guy has actually called it soylent, which is a deliberate reference to the film, and the book.

    Honestly, I don’t really care what anyone says… it’s a damn slippery slope when we start manufacturing products like this… food needs to stay food, and instead of trying to create man-made alternatives, we should be working our asses off to save our planet… and to get back to a real food diet, not compensate with vitamin-filled, over-processed protein drinks.

    Let’s teach our kids about gardening, about conservation, about sustainable living.

    I hope to god no one funds this guy. I’m aware this is not a popular opinion, but there it is. Could it make a difference in impoverished regions? Perhaps. But again, it’s only a band aid covering up a very complicated problem. At best it will allow an already unsustainable population to continue growing, compounding the problem.

    Boo, soylent. Boo. Hand me a beautiful salad, please.

    Watch the movie, then make up your mind. Watch it before you go buy this stuff.

    1. I don’t, in any way, fault you for your opinions. In fact, I applaud them. However, you do a disservice to yourself by ranting, repeatedly, about the movie Soylent Green, and the associated novel “Make Room! make Room!” In the former, Soylent was indeed made from people, and was a typical Charlton Heston over the top melodrama. In the latter, however, Soylent was not people. Separate it into its constituent parts, and Soylent is a steak made from SOY and LENTils meant to feed a populace too large to support meat production.

      It is this latter version of Soylent that the founder of this company is referencing. Why? It is most likely some hipster thing to increase a feeling of superiority. You know : “I knew about Soylent before it was a movie, because movies are so mainstream!” kind of thing. Also, because Soylent was supposed to be a total food replacement as well.

  62. BTW, I’m aware this kind of soylent isn’t actually made of people like Soylent Green (from the film), but the whole ‘mass produced food product’ premise remains the same.

    –I would like there to be trees and animals in our future… along with real food.

  63. In addition to the other problems Tim mentionned (or potential problems), I’m going to make a guess that the body needs some randomness to achieve full health. If this is true, then each Soylent meal needs to vary in composition from the others. Variations should be small most of the time and big from time to time. This needs to be true randomness, in addition to adapting the meal to the day’s task (heavier workout, more protein & carbs, etc).

    As a side note, there’s a difficulty in crafting the composition which is defining the “target” of healthy health markers. The truth is that we don’t know whatthoseare. Weknow what the norm is, but not what it should be.

  64. This is a great article that will surely raise controversy on many different fronts. Being a health enthusiast myself, I am wondering if the feelings of elation and higher energy are similar to those I have experienced while fasting and only eating cabage soup for 2 weeks and drinking protien/vegi mix (I have not done any tests on myself). I am curious to see if this will be nothing more than a passing fad. On the otherhand, if marketed appropriately as a meal replacement/weight loss drink, but not as an entire diet replacement I can see it doing quite well.

  65. As a broke college student, I have been pretty excited about the manufacture of soylent. While mostly optimistic, I did have some hesitation and uncertainty. Seeing the results of an unaffiliated individual was really encouraging and reassuring for me.

    I don’t expect soylent to be a perfect product, but it is almost certainly better than my current diet. I’m really looking forward to its production.

    Thanks for doing this study.

  66. I haven’t read all the comments here but one issue i feel is being ignored or just not brought up is that of the digestive system and how it is affected by not having to process whole foods and fibers. Sure you can mix fibers in liquid but it’s not quite the same, and you essentially skip a few steps in the digestive process when only consuming liquid.

    Im no medical expert but i do not believe, until i see proof who states otherwise, that consuming only liquid is good long term for all the different parts of the digestive system.

    What about bacterial culture? It is something we are very much dependent on and we don’t really know much about it.

    Like Tim says, it is dangerous to state that something is all you need when we know very little of the complex process involved in fueling our bodies and how all the different systems interact.

    Giving the required nutrients, sure, satisfying all the needs, probably not. We are not “put in nutrients, get energy and health” machines and should not be marketed as such.

  67. I live a life of “cut out”. Coming from a country where 80% are addicted to alcohol, I just this year realized I need to stop drinking (and I did). I stopped cigarettes about 2 years ago. I cut out deodorants. I cut out processed foods a year ago. I cut out washing powder 6 months ago, replaced it with detergents made from natural soap. I was a vegetarian for many years, and now keep meat to below 2 servings per week. Now I want to cut out bread. And later sugar. I’m looking into beans. Pitfalls everywhere, e.g. high levels of Aluminum and Bisphenol-A in canned food. This soylent seems a great project, but I wonder about pesticides, chemical residues, gmo.

  68. I would love to try it. I love love Isagenix protein shakes and Isagenix’s whole health program – but it is SO EXPENSIVE…I think the Soylent is affordable.

    I love to get up in the morning – make a shake and take off – not standing at the kitchen sink trying to decide to eat bacon (bad), egg mcmuffin at mickey d’s, the half hour it takes to make Steel Oats ….SOYLENT sounds like a great health kick of the future – count me in!!

  69. Seasoned, thoughtful registered nurse here. I was obviously intrigued by the idea of an easy way to “eat” every day so that sustaining the body with nutrients didn’t take up so much time. It is, has been, and will probably continue to be, an intriguing idea. However, after reading this article and researching the history of this idea, one has to wonder, “what’s the point?” Is the idea to allow more time to make more money, to give more time to our business, our employers? Or is this just another money-making product designed to appeal to those who haven’t figured out what life is all about yet?

    What is one to do with the time saved by not having to think, plan, eat real food? Are we really that time-crunched on a regular basis that we need to spend time and money (and the truly brilliant minds who think of these things) to devise a time-saving food substitute? Yes, it would be nice to save the world from starvation, but is that really the aim of the Soylent creators? Has it REALLY been the aim of all the other food substitute products? I don’t think so. The idea of having something to fall back on when one has more things to attend to than time, and not having to worry about taking in nutrients is a real necessity. Being offered or promoted as a long-term solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist is insulting and potentially dangerous.

    There is an idea that already exists in practice, that is proven healthy in a life-sustaining way but that could use some brilliant minds working on it to make it more practical in a time-saving way. This practice could be transformed (rather easily) into a money-making, time-saving food substitute if only someone would mass produce and market. I wish I was in a position to make it happen.

    If interested, please contact me and lets discuss my idea. I’ll not only invest, but be the first in line to buy the product with a long line of others behind me.

  70. Unfortunately, It is bad that his creatinine and BUN went up and his GFR went down. The GFR is a measure of how well your kidneys are functioning.

    According to the testing his Kidneys were not as effectively filtering his blood after two weeks of Soylent resulting in increased serum creatinine and BUN.

  71. I realize I’m likely in the vast, vast minority here but… I can’t wait for Soylent because all my life, I’ve wished I could do away with food entirely.

    I hate food. I hate smelling it, I hate hearing about it, I hate seeing it. This is a visceral reaction and I eat only because if I don’t – I fall down. The more “organic” something is, the less I want to have anything to do with it because it simply squicks me out. Yes, I have “issues”. Whoop.

    I’ve been a non-meat-eater my entire life (family says I refused to eat meat from 2 years old and nobody knew exactly why) and every doctor who has ever examined me or discussed my diet has said “meh – if you’re concerned take a multivitamin. I hear nothing to worry about.” (I’m almost 41 now, btw.) Soylent isn’t the “magic pill” I would personally prefer, but a homogenized “vanilla shake”-like substance that is cheap and requires little to no preparation? SIGN ME UP (literally – I’m in for a month’s supply already).

    “Foodies” are snobs and I can’t stand them. Yes that’s a massive generalization but I stand by it. Even close friends and people that I work with on a regular basis that describe themselves this way, completely get on my nerves with their “food snobbery”. It’s gone the total reverse of how it was 20 years ago, where nobody much talked about food but the “health nuts”. Now everyone & their brother has to regale all those around them with endless diatribes about whatever they cooked last night. Some of us Just. Don’t. Care. And we really don’t want to hear about it.

    So yes there’s a ton we don’t know about nutrition. There’s also a ton we don’t know about the ocean, outer space, the center of the earth, and our brains. But someone has to make pioneering efforts, and I applaud the Soylent team for not letting the naysayers and foodies get or slow them down.

    December can’t come quick enough. Bring on the soylent! Myself and my other half both cannot WAIT to stop dealing with “real food” completely. Hurray!!!!

  72. Even if Soylent claims to replace other foods, sn’t it likely that most users would not eat only Soylent, but use it part-time instead ? (because of getting bored mostly I would say). I think it looks like a good alternative to snacking, I can see myself having a bottle of it in my bag to get through a long day or to skip a meal once in a while.

  73. That was fun to read,

    thanks for being so thorough

    at some point, I just stopped counting calories and ate whatever went through the least processing i.e. lots of fruits, vegetables, everything else processed minimally with water, added olive oil (same fat from Soylent). wasn’t much of a carbs or meat person to start with, despite being a young and female. however, you start craving the things you deliberately avoid, including the things you never really like. and that explains where the phrase “eating like a bunch of emotionally distraught women” comes from.

  74. so you consumed soylent + your lean muscle mass and felt better because you cut out veggie oils and gluten.

    if you’d done this longer, you would’ve depleted your stores of fat soluble vitamins that you have stored and would’ve experienced a constant malnutrition-induced hunger.

    any increase in mental acuity can be explained by your production of ketone bodies, which you could do by a low carb diet and/or intermittent fasting.

    i’m glad you took the time to write this up!

  75. Just wanted to say, I am glad you included the info about your bowel movements. While reading about Soylent, you are the only person I have found that included that information. Thank you!

  76. Sorry but you ate crap before your trial, muscle milk, burrito and diet coke, come on that’s not food. Rendering this “trial” total inaccurate for someone that eat real food.

    This is kinda fun: “Carbohydrates: 400g”

    Who cares how your skin look when diabetes kicks in?

  77. hello. read the artikel about Soylent and in interested to try it. Im 46 and a triathlet so i am aware of my body and traine avery day. Do you know were to by it ? Do you have a adress ore a website? were to find it.I like to have it shipped to Sweden

  78. As a 46 year old I would love to try this on a 60 day basis. I’ve been watching my carb/protein/fat macros pretty closely over the past 2 years, and this looks like something that would go well with my workout and sport schedule!

  79. I just wanted to register my shock at $9.00/day being considered cheap. I’ve lived on the food stamps level of $4.50/day (and that’s in San Francisco, so the food’s-more-expensive-in-NY argument isn’t a very strong rebuttal). Perhaps that $9 includes all the equipment, licensing, etc., for a start-up company, but if that’s anywhere near what it costs to make…

    That’s a profoundly unrealistic price for using this product to make a dent in world hunger.

  80. I’m curious about how the Soylent formula compares to what starving children are being given by Feed the Starving Children. This charity travels to various communities in the US and elsewhere to invite community members to help pack the food that they then ship to refugee camps and other places where starvation in endemic. The formula i helped pack consists one large cup of rice, one slightly smaller cup of soy- mineral-vitamin powder, one small scoop of dried veg, and one small scoop of chicken flavored soup base. Children who receive this get little if any other food.

  81. Is anyone else disappointed at the lack of “people” in this mixture?

    Also is “Soylent” not a term with copyright already held by Harry Harrison the author who created “Soylent Green” back in the 70’s? (If not then awesome choice of product name)

    Anyway let me know when it contains people and I will embrace the future of food.

  82. Hey interesting read!

    Quick question though.

    You have those concerns at the end about it not being sufficient if people use it to completely replace their meals, but wasnt it the idea that you only replace like a meal a day or something with it? (like you still have breakfast and lunch but just replace dinner?) THought i read that somewhere

  83. To give people a reality based heads up on finding what works. Get a $12 blood glucose tester at Walmart, eat some of this stuff and then test your blood glucose every 30 minutes.you will measure an unhealthy insulin spike.

    Yea science

      1. that is incorrect

        I’m gonna guess you haven’t used science and instead have read some report.

        Do the experiment several times with different types of foods and you will discover you are incorrect.

        One of the many great things about the scientific method (implemented poorly by most) is the fact that a schmoe like myself, can refute the world’s leading experts with a well designed experiment.

  84. I don’t know about rest of the stuff but $9/day isn’t going to make food affordable to any significant number of people. Even if they sell it at one quarter of US rate, it would come out to 2.25$/day. In Indian currency, this translates to 150 INR/day. This is how much a middle class person would spend everyday if he eats out at non fancy places. Cooking at home is definitely cheaper than this. Approximately 40% of India’s population lives on less than 1.5 USD/day. I don’t see them queue up to buy Soylent.

    This may be a good business idea but let’s just drop the grandiose notions of ‘changing the world’ and ‘solving the world’s food problem’.