Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Soylent and me

Like thousands of others last year, I saw the Soylent crowd funding last summer and the concept rang true to me. Sometimes you just need to eat. And if you are just going to eat to address your biological need to eat, it doesn't make sense to spend more time, money, and effort than absolutely necessary. Enter Soylent, which is intended to be a nutritionally-balanced meal replacement powder. How balanced?

Look at that nutrition information!

Why Soylent?

Over the last year or so, my wife and I have been fortunate enough to first have her mother stay with us to help take care of our child, then for us to find a nanny within a few days of the mother-in-law going home. Both my mother-in-law and our nanny are ethnic Chinese, but who lived their lives in Malaysia (our nanny having come to America about 30 years ago). Also fortunately, both are very good at cooking authentic Malaysian-Chinese food (the nanny having owned and operated a Chinese restaurant for 15 years), so my wife has been very happy.

Unfortunately for me, I'm sort-of a picky eater. Which isn't to say that I don't eat many different types of food (I like at least a half-dozen dishes from just about every type of cuisine that has a restaurant in Los Angeles), it's just that I'm very opinionated about the food that I eat. And when I'm confronted with flavors that are different enough from what I enjoy eating, I acknowledge that the food is not for me, and I find something else to eat.

When you take a picky eater (me) and add authentic Malaysian-Chinese home cooking 5-6 nights a week, you get a predictable outcome: me making my own dinner. But I am also very lazy, so most nights (4-5/week) I end up making myself a peanut butter and honey sandwich. It was getting a bit old last summer when I saw the Kickstarter for Soylent, and my thoughts were: if it's any good, I've at least got something balanced enough to mix it up a bit with the PB+H sandwich.

How is it?

I received my 1-month supply of Soylent yesterday, after the pitcher and measuring scoop arrived last week. It would seem that for some reason or another I chose the "vegan" version, which differs from the non-vegan version by a lack of a supplementary oil included in the package. Not a huge deal one way or another, but great for me because it arrived yesterday as opposed to mid-May or later.

For some taste context, over the years I've bought and consumed a variety of different types of protein powders (mixed with water, watered-down fruit juice, or a watered-down sports drink), typically just before or after going to the gym. If you've ever had one of those protein shakes, you probably already know that they are pretty awful.

Long story short: Soylent is better than any protein powder I've ever eaten. (note that Soylent is not a protein powder)

Overall, the taste is fairly neutral, but still has a small tinge of what I'm going to call "whey uck". If you've had one of the whey protein powders compared with a non-whey powder, you will know what I mean. I won't say that it's a deal-breaker, perhaps being on the order of 5-10% as strong as the weakest-tasting uck I've had in a whey protein powder, but it's still there. Note: the 'whey uck' taste goes away when the drink is cold.

Texture-wise, it's a bit grittier than I would have preferred, but it's not unpleasant. Note that if you let it sit in the fridge (or anywhere else), it will start separating in a few hours, so be prepared to shake or stir before drinking if you are going to let it sit.

So far I've had two 12-ounce glasses. A glass and a half yesterday for dinner, and half a glass today with a steak+salad+glass of milk the wife decided to make for us. Surprisingly, I wasn't particularly hungry yesterday evening after drinking the Soylent (roughly 6:45PM), and I ate a typical-sized snack for me (11:45PM-midnight) before going to bed (about 1AM).

Being that I've not been eating it as my only food source, and I've only been eating it for the last 2 days, I can't say that I'm experiencing any physical or mental changes that some others have reported after long-term consumption, but it's also entirely possible that my diet (which normally includes 24-36+ ounces of milk/day) was balanced enough for my particular physiology and metabolism for it not to make a huge difference. Time will tell.

Final thoughts

As a very balanced meal replacement, it's definitely passable in terms of taste and texture. The dump + add water + shake process makes it difficult to beat in terms of preparation. Cost-wise, I'm not sure you could cover all of the nutritional bases that Soylent does with regular food at the ~$3 per meal price.

So far I've had a positive experience, and I hope that I don't grow to hate Soylent like I've grown to hate protein powders.

Update November 18, 2014:
For roughly the last 5-6 months, Soylent has actually replaced my breakfast of raisin bran + milk in the mornings during the week. I can get a little over 5 glasses of Soylent out of one package/pitcher mix, which gets me M-F on one pitcher. I know, the packaging says "consume within 48 hours", but I don't and I'm fine. It gets thicker later in the week, which gives me a little extra for my tough gym day during Friday lunch.

On the occasion where I have had cereal in the mornings since switching, I will usually get halfway through the bowl, drink the milk, and toss the remaining cereal. I don't know if it is the taste, but it feels like my body is telling my brain, "this crap isn't worth your time".

In terms of dinners, I will still sometimes have my PB + H sandwich (along with my requisite glass of milk), and even occasionally some Soylent,. But the wife has started to push for a bit more variety in her diet as well, so a few nights a week I'll get something more Americanized at home and/or pick up some takeout on my way.

I opened my last box a couple weeks ago, and I've got a few more packages left, so I need to buy more. I still don't feel substantially different in my energy or otherwise that couldn't be attributed to my going to the gym consistently for the last 10+ months, and on the occasion where I don't eat Soylent in the mornings for one reason or another, replacing it with something else (leftover pizza, ham + egg + cheese sandwich from the Trimana next to my work, 20 ounces of milk, cheesy scrambled eggs, ...) doesn't leave me feeling any worse than when I eat the Soylent.

No comments:

Post a Comment