Soylent: What Happened When I Stopped Eating For 2 Weeks

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Shane Drinking Soylent

Tim Ferriss Intro

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

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

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

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

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

Except me.

Naturally, we had to do an experiment.

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the fireworks…

Enter Shane

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

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

Bottoms up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shipped me two weeks’ worth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutrition Facts–Grand Total:

Calories: 1862

Total Fat: 74.1g

Saturated Fat: 24.5g

Trans Fat: 0

Cholesterol: 19mg

Sodium: 4,277mg

Potassium: 1,395mg

Carbohydrates: 199.5g

Dietary Fiber: 34g

Sugars: 45g

Protein: 88g

Vitamin A: 96%

Vitamin C: 139%

Calcium: 105%

Iron: 84%

Vitamin D: 35%

Thiamin: 35%

Niacin: 35%

Folate: 35%

Biotin: 35%

Phosphorus: 35%

Magnesium: 35%

Copper: 35%

Vitamin E: 35%

Riboflavin: 35%

Vitamin B6: 35%

Vitamin B12: 35%

Pantothenic Acid: 35%

Iodine: 35%

Zinc: 35%

Chromium: 35%

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

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

 

Total Cost:

$24 / day

 

For two weeks, I traded that in for this:

Shane Holding Soylent

Ingredients:

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

 

Nutrition Facts:

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

Calories: 2404

Total Fat: 65g

Saturated Fat: 95% of daily recommended value

Trans Fat: 0

Cholesterol: 0

Sodium: 2.4g

Potassium: 3.5g

Carbohydrates: 400g

Dietary Fiber: 40g

Sugars: ?

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

Vitamin A: 100%

Vitamin C: 100%

Calcium: 100%

Iron: 100%

Vitamin D: 100%

Thiamin: 100%

Niacin: 100+%

Folate: 100%

Biotin: 100%

Phosphorus: 140%

Magnesium: 112%

Copper: 100%

Vitamin E: 100%

Riboflavin: 100%

Vitamin B6: 100%

Vitamin B12: 100%

Pantothenic Acid: 100%

Iodine: 100%

Zinc: 100%

Chromium: 100%

 

Cost:

$9 / day (at the crowdfunding campaign price)

 

Observations

 

Day 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Days 1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Days 4-6

(Me. 7am. Still looking haggard.)

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

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

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

 

Days 7-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Days 10-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Aftermath

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

And the next day I felt gross.

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

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

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

 

Data

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

Weight / Body Composition:

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

InBody 230 (BIA) Scan, BEFORE:

(enlarge)

InBody 230 Scan, AFTER:

(Enlarge)

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

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

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

 

FitBit WiFi Scale, BEFORE:

FitBit WiFi Scale, AFTER:

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

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

 

Blood Panels:

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

 

Bloodwork BEFORE:

(Click either of the below images to enlarge)

Bloodwork AFTER:

(Click either of the below images to enlarge)

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

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

Mental Alertness:

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

(Enlarge)

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

 

Vital Signs & Steps:

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

(click either of the below to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

Cost:

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

Soylent diet: $9/day

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

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

 

Potential weaknesses in the data:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What I would do differently next time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t long before I did.

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

 

Open Questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afterword from Tim

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

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

And with great audience comes great responsibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

Posted on: August 20, 2013.

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

  1. And with great audience comes great responsibility

    World Hunger is a term that is used by oxymorons. Dandelions are more of a complete food that ANY powder and it grown in the cracks of sidewalks world wide.

    World Hunger is a term the UN and other death complexes use to bring war and famine to resource rich defensless soverigns – like the one the author portrays in real life.

    Food was mud and dirt for the lost boys of Africa – who were running from the UN death machine and their “ENEMIES”. Look at how physically beautiful they are.

    Author should be living more like an oligarch as he is pushing their agenda at the cost of his credibility to reality.

    Try a juice feast if you want to see what real nutrition is. Ever put your mind or bodynon living food vs dead food?

    Liked by 1 person

    • While dandelion greens are a fine source of micronutrients, they do not have significant levels of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats: the macronutrients which are most important for our bodies. A diet of only leafy greens will result in death. World hunger is very real. For example, “poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year”. Try living without caloric staples for a while, and you will see what I mean…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent article and cost / benefit outline. I’ve been considering Soylent, but it just seems too….extreme to me. I would be interested as a simplification of food, not as a time or cost saver – it would be far more efficient, and easy, to rely on one food source, than have to purchase and choose various foods for every meal. But what if I wanted to go out with friends on the weekend, and have a ‘normal’ meal, while depending upon Soylent M-F? How much would that screw up my system? Is choosing a Soylent diet an all-or-none proposition?
    As for Soylent addressing world hunger, good luck with that. Access to clean water is a more pressing and basic problem than access to food, and water shortages and quality will just become more serious as the years pass. Plus, areas with severe food shortages have blenders and electrical power? In a way, Soylent reminds me of a comedy bit I saw years ago – two survivors trapped on a desert island. One survivor says “Don’t worry, we have all these emergency rations I saved. All we have to do is add water.”

    Like

  3. I applaud Rhinehart’s efforts to minimize nutrition management. I did a similar experiment last year that lasted 8 weeks where I took nothing but plant-based food (mostly organic) and blended it all into a nutribullet shake. That was my entire diet for 8 weeks. No beer. No solid foods. I was also working out like a mad man doing mostly cardio, so it’s hard to totally attribute the results to just the nutrition, but I experienced a significant change in my life. Better sleep, reduced fatigue, no more dry skin or dandruff, increased energy. I dropped 30 lbs during that time as well. 195 to 165.

    I also agree that each individual is unique in their dietary needs and there will never be a one size fits all nutrition program. Hopefully advances in personalized medicine will bring personalized nutrition. How cool would it be to totally understand the body’s mechanism for self producing certain vitamins and minerals and absorbtion rates for those that we require from external sources.

    As for Soylent, I plan to try it for 8 weeks as well to compare it to my previous efforts. I’d be interested in working with other users to compare results.

    Like

  4. Nutrition is a contraversial subject and there are so many meal replacements on the market already (so the real situation is really the marketing to a new group of consumers) who may not be overweight or bodybuilders, but busy techies. If I were going to formulate a meal replacement that was to be the only nutrition entering one’s body, it would have the absolute best ingredients possible, not what I saw above. Also the muscle loss was concerning and therefore they could at least add an amino acid complex to the mix. Manufactured food will never come close to the wonders of real whole food and our bodies’ infinite wisdom and healing power. Manufactured food will however help those who take no time to care for their health. Marketing is powerful so I’m sure they can succeed if its done right. While I am all for supplementing when needed, I am not for replacing all food. Nature knows best, it is man who will be the downfall of our world. Just another meal replacement, and not even a high quality one. They will need their marketing.

    Like

  5. Please see : “baby formula” and “the Twinkie diet”.

    This will work well for generally healthy people in their 20’s that have gained a little weight and help remove the “stress” they feel about food and eating.FULL STOP.

    Give a man a fish ,feed him for a day.
    Teach a man to eat bags of highly processed powder , feed him for life?

    Or is the end goal to teach us how to manufacture this stuff small scale in our own kitchens?

    Like

    • I agree. I was at first curious to try Soylent, but with a history of kidney disease in my family the large spike in creatinine levels makes me wary. I’m lucky to know what genetic skeletons hide in my DNA closet but not everyone might be aware of family health histories. I wish the makers of Soylent luck with their product, but I think more time needs to be invested in health trials before open marketing.

      Like

  6. I am wondering how much cutting out sugar helped. You claimed you were ingesting 45+ grams a day. Plus the artificial sweeteners in diet soda which are worse for you than sugar. 45 grams is close to twice what is recommended. It’s one of the main reasons for obesity in this country and the food industry spends billions to try to keep that info from us. And you run. Alot. Cardio exercises are just muscle killers. I wonder if lifting weights while on a Soylent diet would keep away any muscle loss. I am very interested in trying this myself. I love food too, but the hassle and cost is annoying me as well.

    Like

    • 45 grams may be more than the recommended amount, but those recommended amounts are made for lazy people. i easily ingest over 100grams of sugar a day. the fact is that people need to exercise more. Did u know that eating one banana puts u over the recommended daily amount of sugar. if u do cardio for 20 minutes a day, u can consume 75grams of sugar extra per day without gaining any non-muscle weight.

      Like

  7. The claims made by Soylent are hardly dissimilar than those made by countless other names in the meal replacement industry. Alas, the claims are far too grandiose. The claim that “Soylent provides all the energy and nutrients the body needs.” appeals dangerously to the assumptions of mostly unassuming consumers. Think “Despite my more important medical predispositions, I can purchase 100lbs of this and never eat real food again.” There’s so little to support this claim that Matt and his team should ruminate deeply over this, even as mere marketing copy, as the foundation of their literature and materials.

    Soylent, so far as I am interested in it, might find a better niche in the market as a geopolitical protest to capitalist food distribution shortcomings. We’ve all heard the claims: “50% of all food produced in America is thrown away.” being the most popular. Whether the claim is true or not, supported by data, and so forth, the underlying argument is apparent: we have starving, malnourished people when we, as an advancing species, should not. Soylent could shed some light on the ease and simplicity of a solution to ending world hunger. Meal replacement powders aplenty, Soylent could serve as a more altruistic beacon in the market, rather than a cheap no-thrills meal replacement powder hocked to Silicon Valley types yearning for the next micro-bubble. Met-Rx represents good marketing, but even more so, an uninspiring product. Soylent could do the inverse–avoid the cheesy ads in Muscle&Fitness and focus their appeal on surpassing what global governments are willing to do to solve hunger and do it on their own accord. Soylent could do with nutrition what Blake Mycoskie intended to do with shoeing the impoverished; the important question is whether or not that altruistic measure will appeal more than venture capital injections into another hackneyed meal replacement powder pretending to be a game-changing solution.

    Like

  8. This is a laughable product, by hackers that don’t have a clue about health or mother nature. Didn’t these guys see what hacking the food system has done in the last 100 years? The chemical synthetic food system we have no is a big failure. Everyone is constipated and backed up and this product make it even worse! You should be taking a dump 2 to 3 times a day if you are healthy. There is nothing better that natural organic whole fruits and vegetables, or whole real food. If this kid is to lazy to make himself good food, why is he here? This stuff isn’t even organic and it has GMO soy lethicin in it. Synthetic will never beat mother nature. The human body is far more intelligent than the human brain/mind. This will lead to dis-ease just like the paleo diet. The paleo diet is whole foods. But there are a lot of dumb and unhealthy people out there that will jump on this fad and pay a deep price, because it is unsustainable just like the chemical scientific food system, that poisons and causes dis-ease to it’s users.

    Like

      • I don’t agree with him, but I agree with you. His grammar is atrocious.

        (To say why I don’t agree with him: all the food that is existing (assuming that we can list it entirely and exhaustively) and be reproduced in the atomic/molecular level. We can’t reproduce life (yet), but we can imagine that it will be possible. So theoretically, there is no provable impossibility in synthesizing the EXACT same food as “mother nature” does. In practice, though, I agree with the fact that the food industry is lying way too much, for example around the marketing of “fibers” that are not actually all equivalent, and so on. But please keep your religious beliefs away from science. All that has to be remembered here is: as far as science goes, we don’t know enough yet, so the safest path STILL is the natural one, as of NOW. There are absolutely no warranties that this will always be the case, regardless of your religion. Also GMO, like everything else, is only bad when abused without conscience. So please stop vomiting such bullshit on the Internet (GMOs save lives everyday), and focus on fighting what’s REALLY dangerous: misinformation and industrial abuse in the name of “progress” and “profit”. To continue on, the “intelligence” of the human body, as you call it, is merely the result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. It is a fantastic machine; but no matter how fantastic is a machine, calling it ‘intelligent’ because you cannot understand it is a religious practice again. So as a bottom-line: think. That’s how to do it right. Stop copy/pasting shit and claiming religious ideas in a scientific debate).

        Like

  9. Great article. Way to put yourself out there Shane!

    However, it seems that you essentially went on an elimination diet — certainly one containing more nutrition than previous (despite the delivery system).

    You may have seen similar (or even better) results if you were, say, lactose intolerant and then stopped ingesting milk products for two weeks. Or went on a strict paleo, vegan, slow-carb, etc. diet. Or if you tested your vitamin and mineral needs and then supplemented where deficient to restore balance over time.

    Soylent, despite good intentions, seems like a quick fix for the fast-twitch set. Personally, I think humans evolved to eat a variety of foods, not sip the milkshakes on the WALL-E mothership. I agree with Tim that it has great potential to kill the ignorant.

    Like

  10. Tim’s analysis of this product is spot-on. I’d add that many ingredients are likely sourced originally from China (as with many supplements) and we all know the dubious record that country has regarding the purity of its products (my dog almost died from contaminated Chinese chicken treats).

    Also, these kinds of products seem to appeal to Americans for some reason more than other countries. Perhaps it’s our broken relationship with food. If you eat organic, real non-GMO food your body will get all the nutrients it needs…and the food will taste great too.

    My prediction? Like other fads that regularly occur in our dysfunctional food system this will burn brightly and then flame out quickly. Then most Americans who try it will go back to their lousy eating habits (we eat 16 acres of pizza every day!).

    Like

  11. I thought this article was fascinating. I’m curious to see more. I don’t have any comments of concern. Many foods are nutritionally incomplete, so I think criticizing that aspect may be out of order. That said, there could be modular additions to address certain varietal needs if that became seen as warranted. Iterate. Pivot. Iterate. Claims can always be said to be too optimistic. People have to monitor their own health in the end regardless of what they intake. From a practical standpoint, if you were solely consuming this stuff and not having noticeable bad health effects as measured by yourself as well as your doctor, then chances are it’s at least as nutritional as any other base diet producing the same results. Age and existing health issues are sure to play into any scenario, but all we can do is keep experimenting. I’d be happy to have this stuff available. I’m a person that fantasizes about bringing my lunch, but I don’t because I like to use the excuse of lunch to get outside. Still, sometimes I just go to Jamba Juice, and get a smoothie. This product would make bringing lunch a real possibility for me. Minimal prep. Portable. Perfect. Then I could walk around town for my lunch break.

    Like

  12. This is a terrible product! First, nutrition facts list is not the ingredients list. Plus, this is an MSG laden, GMO chem bomb that barely resembles food. The ingredients that are NOT on the label would be nice to know. Full disclosure…transparency in our food is important. Uhhh..artificial flavor. What is that? Canola oil and soy…where does it say non GMO? The vitamin E is synthetic. Manganese sulfate is a chem…read the safety data to see that “May cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure” and “toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects”.
    http://www.numinor.com/files/SDS%20Manganese%20Sulfate2010.pdf
    I would never suggest this to any of my clients at Santa Rosa Strength and Wellness. Anyone care to comment? Tim? Soylent? Beuller? Anyone? We need to understand our food better…

    Like

    • Why would anyone comment on your BS?
      MSG is in itself not dangerous and even healthy in proper doses, just calling it “MSG laden” doesn’t mean it is.

      “GMO chem bomb” implies GMO is a bad thing, when the reality is that the only thing the anti-GMO movement has going for it, is that it hasn’t been proven to be healthier than non-GMO products. That said, there’s also no proof whatsoever that GMO is less healthy than non-GMO products.

      The Vitamin E is an extract from sunflower oil, which of course is very “synthetic”… As if it had any meaning in itself to call something synthetic.

      Aaaand finally Manganese sulfate is a mineral found in nuts, grains, seeds and green vegetables. Just like any other mineral, it’s harmful if you overdose it. Now that said, the FDA has an RDI for it, so give some thought to how relevant an Israeli chemical production company’s liability waiver is for this.

      All in all, no, no one cares to comment, because you’re full of shit. And as a final word: No one ever pretended Soylent was an “All natural, hippie-mainstream-buzzword-bingo product”.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. It really angers me to have Rhinehart hide behind world-hunger as his motivation for creating soylent. It’s beyond crystal clear he created this product for his own benefit (by his own admission, and for others like him). The issue with world hunger is NOT the unavailability of food; it is the unbalanced distribution of food and resources across the planet. It’s well documented that there’s more than enough food on the planet to eradicate hunger overnight IF the awareness and will was there at all levels; Heck, in the U.S. alone we spend in ONE DAY (!!!) – Halloween – and for pure entertainment – enough to solve the hunger issue in Africa for AN ENTIRE YEAR. That’s 239 million people fed for one whole year [or a quarter of the hungry worldwide] JUST from what Americans spend on Halloween!

    Mr. Rhinehart, if you really want to solve world hunger – I suggest you stop wasting your time on a hip venture that’s entirely narcissistic, and go spend your energy on improving the awareness for world hunger around the globe – everyone will be richer for it!

    Like

    • And what are you doing to solve the problem as you exhibit anger towards someone who is creating and following a dream, regardless of their intentions being in agreement with yourself?

      Shall we all consult you before we attempt anything in this world?

      Please give you your list of verifiable and meaningful contributions to world.

      Like

      • John,

        I didn’t realize I needed to have a list of contributions to quality to voice my opinion and observations. It certainly speaks volumes about your values and how you feel about freedom of speech. (and FYI, I have contributed a lot more to the plant at this point than Rhinehart has with this soylent venture).

        To be clear – I have no issue with his venture or experiment. My issue is that he’s using world hunger to paint his cause for Soylent as altruistic whereas he’s already admitted he came up with the idea for his own benefit. He didn’t wake up one morning and decided to come up with a solution to world hunger because cost of food isn’t the real problem.

        Like

    • I can’t check your facts (That the money spent in Halloween would solve the hunger in Africa for a full year) since you didn’t provide a source.

      However, if it is true, what you wrote makes a lot of sense.

      Like

    • You are right that world hunger is a redistribution issue. But why not keep producing the hip energy drink and at the same time use the publicity to highlight the distribution issues. It doesn’t have to be either…or?

      Emma

      Like

  14. Love the experiment! Just wish it were longer. Now that the product has been on the market for a while now, have there been any well-designed “human trials” done that are beyond 2 weeks?

    Like

    • You´re absolutely free to eat what you want. Soylent is aiming to give you all the nutrients your body requires, based on the three-meals-a-day scheme that most of us are used to.
      You can replace a meal with Soylent anytime and therefore you can also replace Soylent with a meal anytime.

      Unless you´re paying a lot of attention to your nutrient-consumption, you´re most likely to get a way healthier meal when drinking Soylent.

      Like

  15. Shane Snow’s pre-test diet of Chocolate Muscle Milk ( I’m not familiar with that but it sounds vile) and endless Coke ( with various chemical flavourings ) and his love of regular pizza is a harsh assault on the body. Any balanced regime as an alternative is likely to be an improvement.

    One downside to committing to a pre-packaged diet is the need for constant supply. What happens when you travel? One of the joys of food is the ability to sustain yourself where ever you are as much as possible from local ingredients, and the discovery of new tastes.

    Just preparing and cooking food is a pleasant, relaxing way of spending time whether with friends or something playing on the internet. I spent 6 months in Germany working my way thru a an Indian recipe book usually while listening to Christopher Hitchens’ debates on YouTube

    If Soylent’s approach is found to work it’d be great for back-packing or perhaps a change of routine to nudge the body out of poor dietary habits.

    Like

    • Maybe we’ll find out early aging, some diseases are caused by eating raw foods (cooked or uncooked) from the nature, we are taking in bad stuff as well as the good stuff. Man has never got alternatives until now, some day we’ll only see today’s foods in museum.

      Like

  16. I visited the Soylent website and found their video shall I say hilarious? Food happens to be one of the main joys in life so there discussion about completely eliminating food so you can do the things you really enjoy is – shall we say odd. Not only does food provide physical pleasure, its a social bonding thing as well. I also doubt many people can stick to it long term. That said, soylent could be useful as a one or two meal a day replacement and I’m willing to give it a try (but they currently have a 12 week shipping time – seems like bad business management there). An aside – the authors total cholesterol was around 125 which he dismissed but in fact several studies in the medical literature have shown total cholesterol below 160 can be dangerous and those with cholesterol that low while they have reduced heart disease risk they have overall higher death rates. Keep in mind the liver does make cholesterol. It wouldn’t be making something you don’t need.

    Like

  17. I’d like to highlight one flaw in your reaction time experiment. At least one of your results has overlapping standard errors, showing the results are not significant. This therefore means soylent did nothing for some of your reaction times on particular experiments. I would however like to praise you for highlighting potential flaws in your experiment although I would probably try to add a few more. Basic things like how long did you conduct the experiment for? Did this therefore allow your body to adjust sufficiently to soylent? Did you repeat the experiment more than once to obtain reliable data? How large was the sample size in order for the data to be representative? Well I guess you did highlight that but rather in the context of placebo effect rather than sampling.

    Like

  18. As a quick note this isn’t really a double-blind anything, the overall definition of double-blind would be obtaining something similar to Soylent and doing A to B testing, with control (Soylent) vs. (X), wherein the subjects do not know what they’re receiving.

    Thanks for the great read, I’ve seen Soylent written up in many places.

    Like

  19. With all due respect, I’d be interested to see the same experiment done by someone with a healthy, balanced diet, then see if anything improves in their test results. ;)

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  20. Just wanted to say that this is definitely the most comprehensive review of Soylent I have seen yet. One person’s experience isn’t proof but it is a valuable look at a new product and potential lifestyle.

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