Soylent: Is it Really Food?
Meals. They are necessary, can be fun and nutritious at times, and sometimes enjoyable even. But they can also be a pain in the neck, messy, time consuming, expensive and not very tasty. I am one of those folks who likes to lean toward fast and convenient when it come to my meals, but for me fast and convenient usually means unhealthy, which is why I set out to find a solution. Of course, I had an ulterior motive to disrupting my dietary routine. I was traveling East to visit family in New York and waned to drop 7 - 10 pounds before I went. I needed a sustainable crash diet without adding too much to my exercise routine, so I decided to give Soylent a try.
First a little background. I tried Soylent a few years ago when it first came out. It was pretty simple: you made up a batch of the mixture, using the Soylent powder along with a small vial vegetable oil ( I guess this was to satisfy the human body's fat requirement). I was provided a nifty plastic jug that help roughly a day's worth of the mixture. That jug sat in the fridge waiting for consumption. Easy, convenient and no mess. The Soylent guys had accidentally invented a replaceable nutrient formula while working on a software start-up. They were running low on their initial seed round cash and needed sustenance to get them through the last few months of their product development. Very Silicon Valley. Anyway, they researched what exactly the human body needed, and engineered a powdered formula, that when mixed with water (and a little oil) yielded a complete dietary supplement. I imagined it to be a hi-tech version of astronaut food or camping food: freeze dried and yucky. But is wasn't yucky, it just wasn't very tasty and I didn't make it through my fist box of around 35 meals. But, in the last year I have been keeping tabs on Soylent and saw that they were offering up new products (pre-mixed 8 ounce bottles) and new flavors like Cacao and Strawberry. It was time for a second attempt.
Days 1 - 5
For the first few days I carefully measured out each one of my 'meals', which was 1/3 a cup of powder mixed with 3/4 a cup of water. There is no vial of oil for formula version 1.9. At 400 calories per serving, I was able to maintain a pretty manageable program of 2 cups of black coffee in the early morning, followed by meals at 10am, 2pm and 6pm. Sometimes I had a 4th meal during the course of a day, depending on hunger and exercise, and ate a handful of protein (chopped up chicken breast) a few times. All told, these first 5 days went fine and I had dropped three pounds. I consumed no alcohol during these first 5 days, and began to feel the onset of ketosis around day 5.
Days 6 - 10
I began dispensing with the careful measurements and just started eyeballing the mix. Dump some powder in a glass, fill it with water, stir in some ice (it tastes better chilled), and drink. A meal in about 3 minutes. I was starting to notice that I felt less bloated during this time. I was eating no real food, so I was consuming no extra sodium, which meant I drank less water. My total weight loss by the end of day 10 was about six pounds. As with any diet, much of the success depends on the dieter's ability to fight through the hunger pangs, which I did by staying busy with writing and other work related projects. So far I was pleased with my efforts.
Day 11 - 14
While consistently fighting off the hunger, I felt good toward the end of my experiment. I had on 'cheated' a few times and had lost some weight. I had four meals a day during these last few days and felt like I could sustain this new diet I had conceived. I drank almost no alcohol during the 14 days, maybe 2 glasses of wine, and I suspect drinking more would mess things up. I believe this won't work for people who drink a glass of a wine a day or even 5 drinks a week.
A Soylent meal contains 20 grams of plant-based protein and I think this works even thought is strays from the dietary guidelines suggested by the US Government. I would recommend at least considering this diet if you don't have the time or patience to prepare healthy meals in your kitchen. I found Soylent to be functional, and even good tasting. As always, do your research and check with your doctor.