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.

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

  1. It’s no surprise that the typical American diet doesn’t contain adequate nutrients for our body. Regardless of how “healthy” you think you are, it is extremely beneficial to supplement with a quality nutritional supplement. The can of diet coke made me cringe, but I try to avoid pop all together, diet or otherwise.

    Certainly a neat experiment, but my advice to people trying to live a healthy lifestyle is eat whole foods, fortify nutritional intake with quality natural supplements (acetyl glutathione, coq10, vitamin d3 and others) and lead at least a moderately active lifestyle (even a 20 minute walk everyday). This story is sure to stir up some opinions and hopefully warrants further study into complete nutritional alternatives.

    1. It’s unfortunate the capitalist system we live with doesn’t foster a healthy environment for people to live in, making sure people have access to quality food. I’m optimistic things will change though.

      1. Capitalism doesn’t offer people access to quality food? Try living in Soviet Russia, North Korea or Feudal Europe and tell me capitalism is bad. Look at the levels of food produced in capitalist and non capitalist societies and tell me that capitalism is somehow denying people access to quality food.

        1. Politics aside, the soil simple doesn’t contain the nutrients it did even 30 years ago. Paired with highly processed diets it is no wonder nutrient deficiency is so widespread, even among “healthy” individuals.

        2. Hahaha, you compared American Capitalism to Soviet Russia, North Korea and MIDDLE AGE EUROPE… Damn, your statement clearly shows where this American Predatory Capitalism (Unfortunate Status Quo) belongs. Among the worst systems in the history of humanity. If you look at Asia and Europe, South America and so forth as an average, they offer much much healthier food than corporate America, that is for sure. America haven’t been a true capitalist country in decades, I hope you wake up.

        3. I do agree with Matt Myers on this one. Maybe worded a bit differently. It’s not so much that capitalism denies access to healthy food, but unfortunately like water running down hill, just follow the flow of money. Whether it’s the government subsidizing corn farmers and making Dorito’s a home run financially, or making it much more profitable for corporations to sell high sodium high shelf life foods than healthier foods, the water flows to higher profit not so healthy foods. Combine that with a general lack of education regarding nutrition, and you have a perfect storm. Unfortunate. Maybe not a direct correlation to capitalism, and I’m not suggeting that communism or something in between would be better, but the problem is real and seems to be getting worse….

    2. Jeff- I couldn’t have said it better! It’s scary to think we have to start coming up with alternative nutritional choices because of the quality of our food (or lack of food). I agree this needs further testing and experimentation!

      1. Agreed it needs more testing than 1 person’s story but what a fantastically well document experiment!

        Fair few people find excellent results by cutting out food (like 5:2 diet attached) but having all nutrients you need makes more sense to me instead of just IF.

        In future I would imagine your Soylent could be tailored to your exact body’s requirement, how awesome would that be!

    3. Jeff – agreed. I do see this product having great potential for 3rd-world countries that have limited food and resources, but for the typical American or 1st-world person, I don’t see the appeal over whole foods other than ease of preparation.

      For people with money and access to real food, why choose “Frankenfoods” over some hearty steak, greens, and fruits? (And lets not get started on “red meat causing heart attacks” – http://www.brainbodybelly.com/2013/02/05/red-meat-and-heart-attacks/ – <— This states my thoughts exactly.)

      1. if soylent is costing USD 3.10 (190 rupees) per meal then its very expensive for 3rd world countries to afford. in India one can get a decent meal for 20 rupees but soylent would cost almost 10 times. its an expensive substitute at current rate.

    4. @ jeff look at what a typical college student eats – mostly junk food. it’s amazing that the human body is able to consume such crap and still function. I think soylent is a excellent idea – however it’s just a new positioning in marketing and not really something totally new as meal replacements have been around for a long time. The novel idea is consuming only a meal replacement and no whole foods. That is the controversially.

      1. This is the root of the problem in a sense, most people eat junk regularly. They know better, they understand it is unhealthy, but they choose to do it anyway. It is not enough to simply know what is healthy and what isn’t, most of the time it takes a severe health condition to open their eyes and prompt dietary changes. I run into this problem daily through my health blog, I promote a total immune health supplement that is simply outstanding, an ingredient list that is bar none. But regardless of how remarkable this product is, and highlighting just what it can do for your health, people have a hard time coming to terms with spending the money on their health. Now bring that full circle to making wise dietary choices and the same problem arises, people don’t want to make the effort or spend the money on their health. If you simply focus on prevention and make healthy choices before your health is compromised you can not only prevent these health conditions from arising in the first place, but you can dramatically improve your well-being and quality of life.

      2. Soylent isn’t a new idea and it isn’t not a food. It’s a rebranding of existing ideas that gives nerds a little thrill because they feel like they are living in the future. It’s bland and has a grotesque texture, but that just means its in the same category of food as rice cakes and ensure. Biohackers might revolt at this dose of reality, but we cannot and should not attempt to separate ourselves from our history. All of the nutrients in Soylent are not pulled from the air, rather they emanated from agriculture, like all foods.

    5. In fact, the real problem is super population, that and obviously the system. But the system is just a part or consequence of the problem in fact, only “rich” or maybe “more fortunate” ( economically speaking) people can afford such things as “quality food”, call it education, profitable production, etc. Centuries ago, the “strong” individuals where the ones able to survive. Nowadays “strength” is traduced to “wealth” and that into “education” and possibilities of accessing to better ways of living. Our system is based on the survivance of the wealth, rich people exist because poor people exist and the ones at the “top” survive because the ones at the bottom die first.

      We are not able to access to the “quality” products our ancestors (or even our grandparents) had, simply because we’re a whole lot more people than there were in the 30’s, 20’s, etc. And we consume thrice (or way more) people back then used to. So obviously the earth is not able to produce that much food naturally, and that’s where “technology” enters. In fact it’s just the rules of the “game” are way more crude they were centuries ago.

      And Politically speaking, and just because I’d like people to remember. This system hasn’t been there not even for centuries but has done to the earth (which took billions of years of evolution to even exist) the damage of thousands of years . And it’s not “capitalism” the problem, the problem is called “unnecessary consumism” . And that my people is what is eating us alive, socially and biologically speaking. It would make you good to remember that they are not the same, even if we are educated to look at them like that, capitalism could be less nocive had it not rooted itself in excess.

      The world hasn’t always been this polluted, this sick and this damaged. This are just the consequences of the excess, unnecessary excess. America wasn’t always “capitalist”, and “capitalism” has its roots in even more antique systems.

      So when you proceed to compare America to Soviet Russia and North Korea. I’d ask you to not go that far and just compare America nowadays to America a hundred or maybe two hundred years ago, it’s not that difficult to see the obvious changes, even in people’s health disorders.

      So people, just think twice about your own future when you decide to “buy a little more” than what’s really necessary, eventually our descendence or even ourselves will be dealing with the consequences, real horrible consequences.

      1. *”I’d ask you to not go that far and just compare America nowadays to America a hundred or maybe two hundred years ago, it’s not that difficult to see the obvious changes, even in people’s health disorders.”*

        People are healthier and have longer life spans. Conditions such as obesity are caused by increased consumption, not the economic system, unless the system that causes the general wealth to be increased is to blame for how that wealth is consumed. Even if some diseases can be connected to increased consumption as a result of an increase in the standards of living which cannot be prevented, (even though it easily can be), virtually no one would prefer to live in a non-capitalist system for that reason alone. It’s possible that people in socialist countries have different diets primarily due to the sense of nationalism and regard for diets which would make them less healthy and more of a burden on society in their old age or as a result in increased diseases, but as far as I know, people will generally eat what they like and enjoy if they can afford it. The populations of some countries eat better than others despite potentially having the same choices of food, but this has more to do with cultures than the economic systems. If people were more conscious of the effects of their diet on their health, the capitalist system wouldn’t prevent that. It would add a negligible increase to their food budget, and it’s likely that the more people interested in healthier diets, the more likely the capitalist system would seek to satisfy their need. I don’t know how healthy the salads from McDonalds are, but they’re certainly more so than their most popular items, their burgers, bug they’re only being provided because of a developed interest in healthier food choices. Numerous well-known organizations have issued warnings about the sodium content in foods, especially fast food, but this has less to do with the capitalist system as such as the enjoyment of the taste of salt in various foods. Perhaps these sort of foods are more prevalent and consumed because the capitalist system has spawned numerous venues from which people can consume this sort of food, but in this case, the effect is also the cause, and these venues are only supply people with what they need. The solution is either to have governments supply food based entirely on the health of those who consume it, enact regulations forcing all possible venues of food to restrict unhealthy choices, or attempt to change other people’s perceptions of the food they eat to be more healthy. The first two methods might be more appealing to those who are more protectionist and statist in their political persuasions, but the other method is more consistent with liberalism and personal choice. As I said before there are countries with standards of living and liberalism in regards to food venues that essentially identical to the United States or are are equally capitalist, but the people are generally less overweight or subject to diseases that are causes by poor diets. The natural conclusion is that it’s the culture or perceptions about diets that determine them primarily and not the system, at least when it comes to the choice of diets when standards of living permit larger freedom to the average citizen. Someone might condemn socialism or communism for the poor nutrition of citizens, but that directly relates to the lack of choice or standard of living afford to these citizens. Aside from perhaps increased nationalism in socialist and communist countries that encourages citizens to eat healthier to serve the state better, (I think a minor element), capitalism would only cause similar problems because it provides more choices in regards to their diets. Once countries where the standards of living only allow for limited choices of diets, resulting in malnutrition, are eliminated, the determining factor becomes culture and not how capitalist the system is or perhaps even other factors. Obesity affects. The UK has a well-known problem with obesity which exceeds that of France, Sweden, Germany, and Spain. I’m not sure how the NHS in UK compares to those other countries, but I know they have similar levels of capitalism, yet the UK is leading in the levels of obesity, and while the obesity levels of France are increasing, they’re far below the rest of Europe, for no other reason I can imagine but their culture of eating more healthily.

        In conclusion, capitalism is not any more to blame for the poor diets of Americans than any other economic system that would provide them the choice of healthier vs unhealthier diets.

    6. @Lain

      Eastern Europe has one of the healthiest foods in the world. How many Americans do you know that could live to an age over 90 years ?

      America is importing quality food from all over the world on high prices and maybe you should try food in Eastern Europe before speaking. Take tomatoes for example in Western Europe and in the US they taste like a plastic. Awful!

      And comparing Soviet Russia with North Korea… Really ? They have nothing in common.

    1. Yes, the article was written in March and is about the same guy, Rhinehart, the product just hasn’t hit the market until now.

  2. Fascinating post, Tim and Shane. Tim, after reading your argument against plant-based diets in 4HB (“we don’t know what we don’t know” about the body and nutrition), I’d be up in arms if you didn’t say the same thing here. Glad you did.

    I can’t see how this can possibly be good for long-term health, but then again, I’m a whole-foodist. But for helping provide bare-minimum nutrition in situations where it’s inconvenient or impossible (or unaffordable)? I think that’s where Soylent could prove extremely useful.

  3. First!

    Is it primarily derived from soy? I am not a big fan of soy products and think it should be avoided most of the time. I used to be a big fan of making homemade protein drinks as they can be easily digested, but for me having carbohydrates such as berries, bananas causes me to feel very bloated.

    From personal experience and also research I think that people need different amounts of micro and macro-nutrients depending on a number of factors which are hard if not impossible to calculate or find out. I know that personally since I deal with a number of uncommon health issues which are primarily genetic that I need extra amounts of b vitamins than other people. Also many vitamins/minerals have several different forms which people respond to differently and some are better absorbed than others.

    For example vitamins/minerals which are oxides are not easily absorbed and are the worst form to supplement with. Also supplements with with sulfate or sulfur compounds in them (thiols) can cause problems with a number of people. Other examples such as taking folic acid (the synthetic form of the b vitamin) are not recommended and people should supplement with the methyfolate form or other forms of folate.

      1. The body can tolerate it but it has no advantages over other foods. Soy should be avoided mostly due to the polyunsaturated fat, the fact that its likely GMO, and the anti-nutrients/phytoestrogens it contains.

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

        2. GMO does not equal bad. GMOs are fighting malnutrition and deforestation. Can we please stop blending agricultural monopolies with GMO production.

        3. @Matt

          GMOs may be causing a different kind of malnutrition since the body does not know always how to process it, and deforestation can be solve many other ways (urban sprawl restrictions, more stringent rainforest protection, less eating of meat since it takes 7 pounds of corn in to create one pound of beef out, etc).

          My perception is that Richard’s comment is valid to consider.

      2. And what if soy products make up a substantial part of a persons diet, not just a small serving here and there?

        I understand that journalistic sensationalism has exaggerated the entire ‘dangerous soy’ notion.

        But, lots of products nowadays contain soy and therefore many people aren’t even aware sometimes when they ingest it. I mean it was a shocker to me once I realized how many Whey products contain soy, not to forget protein bars and other bodybuilding products.

        Also isn’t this a contradiction?

        “If you even reach a level where soy is causing you problems, the problem is your overall diet, not soy.”

        If soy is causing you problems how is it for sure be your overall diet that is messed up, isn’t that individual? What if a person eats only healthy whole foods, like veggies, fish & eggs, except he or she also consumes a large serving of soy protein powder every day, are you saying this couldn’t possible be a problem, and IF the person has problems it must be the overall diet that causes problems?

        Sorry if I misunderstood you, but your wording was very confusing to me.

        1. You are again confusing the little amounts in day to day food as if they add up as “toxins” that will get you sick.

          That’s not how it works.

          Plus, soy is heavily treated. The “phytoestrogens” that everyone freaks about is irrelevant.

          The link I put in already covers it, but here are the specifics: http://examine.com/faq/is-soy-good-or-bad-for-me.html#summary6

          This isn’t even a matter of focusing on the tree in a forest, it’s more like focusing on a sapling in a forest.

      3. Ummm.. the phytoestrogens can be quite harmful..as they can create make hormones unbalanced esp for women. Plus, can’t digest soy. Soy was never ever meant to consumed in large

        1. Now, that really depends which study you read isn’t it?

          There’s also plenty of evidence that increased soy consumption in Eastern countries is a contributor in lower cancer rates.

          There is really a lot of nonsense going on about nutrition and for nutritionists and researchers, it’s frustrating because sometimes results aren’t published or made public just because it’s not “breaking news” or what the public cares about. So it’s still far too early to say soy goes one way or another. Like another comment mentioned, we still don’t know enough about the human body so nothing is really for sure. All we can do is eat as healthy as we can, enjoy the food (or lack of) and not argue over little details. If you’re not a big fan of soy, then don’t eat it. If you hate blueberries, then don’t eat it. It’s really as simple as that. Is forcing yourself to eat something you don’t like really worth the small risk reduction in cancer some time down the road? Especially if our biggest risk for cancer is already hard coded into us?

          Here’s a great paper (if you’re into the science) that summarizes a lot of what we know on soy.

          Non-isoflavone phytochemicals in soy and their health effects

          Authors: J Kang; TM Badger; MJ Ronis; X Wu

          Published in: Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 2010 Jul 28; 58(14): 8119-33

          (Sorry I can’t link to it, I found it on an academic database. But probably available wherever you can find this journal)

    1. If you read the entire article you would know that it is NOT made with soy or people. But seriously, I think the way this product will be used is not as a complete meal replacement where whole food is not consumed at all but as a meal supplement. The majority of people will not give up eating food entirely but instead use soylent as a meal supplement in addition to solid food. I’ve been using muscle milk as a meal supplement for a long time. It’s very convenient.

  4. I’m all for food alternatives… But there’s a problem with Soylent – and it’s in the name. It’s primarily made with soy. Soy by some is touted is a miracle food – yet others say Soy intake leads to increase estrogen levels in men and also tends to lower your testosterone levels. The lack of estrogen and the testosterone are two key ingredients to make men men… Increased estrogen and decreased testosterone make it more difficult to add muscle mass and worse super simple to lose it – as demonstrated in your documents. As a guy in his 40’s when test levels start to drop naturally this is a really bad thing. As a guy in his 20’s doing this wouldn’t necessarily be a good idea. Of course, being smaller is better because there’s less stress on the body and the organs but less muscle could lead to all sorts of issues down the road… Less testosterone will also have a long term cost. Just things to consider. Now substitute soy with some other ingredient, change the name and you could have a winner. 😉 (It’ll be a winner anyway I imagine, but I won’t be partaking…)

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

        1. soy lecithin is in pretty much every other processed food. Dont freak out because you read the word soy somewhere luddites!

    1. Except that there’s no soy in Soylent. The name is a play off the famous Charles Heston quote “Soylent Green is people!” and that it was “everything the body needs”.

    2. you realize that there’s actually no soy in there right? But I guess it might be a good idea for them to rebrand simply because there will be people who wont bother to find out and assume that it contains soy. Because reading is so last century!

    3. “Soy intake leads to increase estrogen levels in men and also tends to lower your testosterone levels. The lack of estrogen and the testosterone are two key ingredients to make men men”

      Yawn. This is simply not supported by evidence.

    4. John, John, John, Did you read the article? Soylent contains very little soy. Soylent is named after the Charlton Heston cult film Soylent Green. Soylent Green was made up of human beings, yum!

  5. Good cautionary statements. I want to point out that a lot of people are mistaking a sudden burst of energy as proof that soylent works – if anything, it likely means you were missing some critical mineral/vitamin and soylent was able to fulfill *that* deficiency. I would not be surprised if Shane had originally been deficient in a combination of Mg, D, and/or Zinc (Mg is a common deficiency). On the flip side, it may be creating deficiencies that will not rear their head well down the road.

    I also think the amount of protein is still a bit too low – that Shane thought he was getting “tons of protein” shows how much confusion there still is on the importance of protein.

    Lastly, I’d point out that the vitamin RDAs are based on staving off diseased states (D = rickets, K = hemorrhaging, etc). If soylent is indeed going for optimal, it should be dosing D (and other minerals/vitamins) at a higher level.

    1. I agree. The boost in energy and mood he experienced might very well be due to the omega-3s he said he didn’t think he got enough of.

    2. Great reply, Sol. Thanks for taking the time to touch on this even though you have much bigger issues you’re covering. Love your site and the new Supps reference guide!

    3. The “getting tons of protein” comment was referring to having four servings of Muscle Milk per day instead of Soylent. That would be 4x34g = 136g of protein. Definitely not tons, but more much than the daily dose of Soylent provided.

  6. Agree with your analysis and think they should think hard about your questions.

    To me, the whole premise of Soylent seems flawed – trying to reverse-engineer a magic pill from our current (limited) understanding of nutrition. Very reductive and coming at things from entirely the wrong angle.

    As you say, history is littered with examples of magic pills that were magic up until someone realised they weren’t. (and were in fact poison.)

    Until nutrition is an exact a science as physics or chemistry, we need a different approach: look at healthy people, see what they’re eating, start from there, and iterate as necessary.

    A wholistic paleo-ish philosophy makes infinitely more sense than Soylent: look at the populations that were highly physically functional, fertile and disease free, see what they ate, and see what happens when we eat like that.

    Test and tweak as necessary, informed by biochemistry but guided primarily by the diets and lifestyles of cultures that were healthy.

    1. I think your requests here for reverse engineering “populations that were highly physical functional, fertile and disease free” are borderline impossible – to the best of my knowledge, we don’t have especially good information on the history of nutrition, especially when it comes down to precise quantities of nutrients.

      Personally, I think the additive model (as per Soylent’s approach) is much better than the subtractive model – start with the absolute minimum that we know is required by the human body, test, measure, then add things as deficiencies become apparent. Yes, this is a little risky because it means people will risk nutritional deficiencies (though so many people already have these – how many people are actually getting blood tests to measure their basics? I’m sure as hell not!), and needs to be carefully monitored and controlled, however I think it will lead the best overall results in the least time. I think this is in concurrence with your notion that nutrition should become a more precise science.

      1. We have plenty of data on healthy and comparatively disease-free (heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc) societies. Kitivans, Aboriginals, Inuits, American Indians. And there were big variations in their diets, which is great – it shows there are many ways to support a healthy body. So let’s start with one of those diets, then test, tweak and iterate. This is the Paleo approach and it works amazingly well.

        Reductively trying to piece together the right balance of nutrients is folly because we don’t know anywhere near the whole picture of what nutrients are important.

        The whole approach is wrong. How about eating what we’ve evolved to eat, rather than reverse-engineering the magic pill then finding out too late that it misses a huge chunk of critical nutrients that we didn’t even know were important. Or that digestion of solid food is important. Or that certain nutrients compete for absorption and need to be consumed at different times. etc etc etc.

        The Soylent approach is vulnerable to all sorts of black swans. Eating in the way that ancient healthy societies ate, however (or approximating as best we can with modern foods) is much more robust.

        “It’s not the beta-carotene… it’s the carrot”.

      2. if it isnt the beta-carotene it isnt the carrot. it’s something else inside the carrot. after all theres alot in the carrot we dont need and cant digest. what you need to do is find out whats in the carrot pull that out and feed it to people. thise whole food thing is bunk, nutrients in food ARE atomic theres nothing magic about the molecules plants make.

    2. Rich I agree with you and I think Tim you would too. Rich referred to study healthy people and copy what they are doing to get healthy and ‘tweak’ for individual needs.

      Just like Tony Robbins studied successful people and modeled their behavior and created success, to hack the food issue we need, for example, to model communities of healthy people like people who live on certain Islands off Japan and hack their behavior by coping their diet of sweet potatoes etc.

      I believe Tim has shown food preparation can be a joy and not a burden when you are well organized. Meal preparation can be a celebration not a chore (and it helps free the mind from the constant focus on work activities)

      Shane,

      We all know a small sample size is not science but I give you Shane credit for your willingness to share and be criticized by the community, this takes courage.

      However, I think Shane you know drinking out of plastic water bottles, milk as breakfast and fast food for any meal is not an ideal base diet. Tests of effectiveness need to be based on subjects that like Tim already know the core habits of healthy diet and practice them.

      Worth noting: I see Shane you have a Culligan filter on your tap, good idea. I recommend you switch from plastic water bottles to choose stainless steel. Get a stainless steel water bottle for children you know as well.

      Tim, thanks for the post I had not heard of Soylent.

      Have a great day,

      David

  7. We need to first think about his diet prior to the Soylent experiment… vegetarian. This is not a healthy or balanced diet, no matter how you look at it. This is analogous to saying that someone with a standard American diet is going to benefit by going to vegan/vegetarian diets. Of course. Does that mean “optimal” for the human body? Never. Could you survive on Soylent? It appears so. The question to be asked and tested is can you THRIVE on Soylent.

    1. “We need to first think about his diet prior to the Soylent experiment… This is not a healthy or balanced diet, no matter how you look at it.”

      Because it’s missing meat? lol

      1. Yes. I believe it is extremely difficult to have a well balanced diet without addition of animal products.

        Not to mention he regards himself as being “health conscious” yet is binge eating awful foods on the weekend as well as eating refined and processed foods on a daily basis.

  8. All you’ve done is avoid anti-nutrients, which is why you’re feeling much better (and consequently felt like trash after you started on food again). This will not end well in the long term as you’re missing a lot of minute cofactors. We could tweak the formula to adjust for them though 😉

    1. Other problems you’ll run into are different ingredients in your current formula will inhibit the absorption of others. Zinc inhibits the absorption of copper, for example, and this is not something you’ll notice a deficiency in over a period of two weeks.

      I agree you don’t need a nutritional background to formulate something like this, however, you do need to ask more questions of the formulation.

      No Vitamin K2? Hmmm… I wonder what effect a deficiency in that will have? Better hit Google, because I guarantee you will want to add it into your formula!

      Which then poses the question “is it water soluble?”

      I’m a product development Chemist. If you want a hand in actually formulating a superior product, let me know 🙂

      1. Hi Aaron,

        Agreed that there are definite limitations with both water solubility and — as a consumed liquid — flavor profile that consumers will tolerate. Neither factor necessarily optimizes for nutritional content, and both can force sacrifices.

        It’s a tough problem, and kudos to the Soylent team for at least attempting to deconstruct it.

        Tim

        1. It can be tackled, Tim. They just need to think outside the box regarding product delivery. Do you think you could put me in contact with them to help the product? As you’d know, there are specific emulsifiers that double as nutritional bonuses, like phospholipids that could help with the fat solubility.

        2. Tim,

          Interesting read. Just a note: the Inbody 230 uses DSM-BIA technology (very different from BIA). I would link the research, but a quick google study will afford you the same knowledge. Best….

  9. Many comments that I would add, I’ll stick with this one: I believe there’s something inherently good with the process of food preparation; from growing, to harvesting and cooking into marvelous pieces of art. There’s a philosophical aspect to food, and a spiritual one. It makes our culture, culture makes food.

    As a replacement for a couple of meals a week, this is an excellent idea, if done correctly. I can’t buy into the idea of humans drinking food out of a bottle for the next centuries though.

    Like you Tim, I wish them the best of lucks in trying to figure it out.

  10. I agree with the above comment, for the most part. I think the inventor of this drink took an overly simplistic look at what the human body ‘needs’. I would speculate that even a biochemist does not know the exact nutrients, both macro and micro, for the human body. I would not have as much as a problem with this persons experiment if he’d atleast admit his own ignorance in creating such a product. This is not to be taken as harmful criticism, even a nutritionist/biochemist would not admit to understanding all the mechanisms of the human body.

    The problem is at the end of the article his data shows that he lost more muscle mass than fat! That should not happen under most circumstances. If it did humans would not have been able to survive some 10,000 years ago.

    In addition, some of the numbers are a little ambiguous, and I doubt he even understands what they represent; this is not to say that I understand all the data either. For example, the data showed that his white blood cell count (basophils and monocytes) went up, as if that was a positive outcome from his experiment. However, you could argue the very opposite and claim that his body was under stress from a unfamiliar diet which caused his white blood cell count to rise, which is actual a more reasonable claim.

  11. My takeaway is that this isn’t a zero sum game. While these types of “all Soylent all the time” tests are interesting, I assume the average consumer isn’t looking to replace all their food with Soylent, but instead use it as the odd meal replacement. I.e. I don’t have time to go out and get breakfast, so I’ll just have a Soylent. Just doing that I’m sure will be much healthier than the current “I’ll just skip breakfast” or snacking on junk food.

    1. Hi Adarsh,

      Totally agreed. However, they need to ensure the product is safe if they’re positioning it as a potential full-time meal replacement. I know plenty of people who will take that literally and pay whatever price (known or unknown) as a result.

      Cheers,

      Tim

  12. I am just so skeptical of this. And I also don’t know how it’s going to fix world hunger when you need access to water, refrigeration, and a blender. I do like the idea overall, and Shane’s results are promising.

    1. I could be missing something, but I don’t think it requires refrigeration, which makes it perfect for shipping and storing in poor countries. The access to clean water thing (and it was mentioned in the post) is valid: we need to be developing that too. Blending things is easy enough without electricity, so that’s taken care of.

      Solving water would be fantastic in itself, but having a cheap nutrition to add would probably save a lot of suffering.

      1. I believe that the reason it is pictured in a fridge afterwards is because after being made up (by adding water) it should be refrigerated… Or possibly it just tastes/feels better when cold, not luke warm! Again, the blender is helpful, but you can shake it and mix it properly, he was just being lazy!! They addressed these issues on the Soylent creators’ blog page.

  13. My greatest concern is around the lack of understanding of everything the body needs. Beyond even Vitamins and Minerals which have been discovered, there are thousands of phytochemicals (and very likely tens of thousands of phytochemicals) which our body needs.

    We have absolutely not discovered all of the phytochemicals and other compounds which we need in our diet. The only way to get all of these now is to eat fresh foods – fruits and vegetables mostly.

    As a supplement to a regular diet, I see little issue with Soylent, but as a total meal replacement, I agree with you Tim – this is potentially very dangerous. Thanks for bringing to the attention of the public.

    Regarding a number of the results, I’d say you get the same results from intermittent fasting, including the increased mental clarity. It’s a great write up on Soylent, I’m glad we all get to share in it!

    1. I think you make a good point on the intermittent fasting. It seems to me as though during the test he may have expelled some yeast (white matter) half way into the trial. This could explain the rise in mental clarity.

      1. how does expelling yeast cause that and how the hell would yeast likely survive the digestive tract anyway. yeast isnt exactly a harmful microbe

  14. It seems probable that soylent is better than much of the manufactured food on the market. It also seems unlikely that soylent is better than quality whole food.

    I take a Talebian approach. We don’t know what we don’t know about food. I’d like to address two of Shane’s points:

    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. (Shane links to the naturalistic fallacy)

    It’s true that nature doesn’t prove something is good. We can nonetheless have a strong presumption that the body does best on whole foods.

    We have thousands of years of history of humans doing well on whole foods, and zero evidence that the human body can do as well on artificial foods.

    Nassim Taleb would tell us there is a presumption in favour of natural system that has stood the test of time. Human biology is very, very complex. If whole foods serve it well, they may do so for reasons we can fathom.

    One problem for Soylent is that it would have to prove itself safe on the timescale of a human lifetime. That’s very, very hard to do.

    Shane’s second point

    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?

    See my point above. How can you test that Soylent is better than whole foods? There is a massive potential for false positives.

    With natural foods, if something seems effective, it probably is. We would have discovered poisonous or second order effects long ago.

    With an artificial food like soylent, it could appear effective for, say, ten years, while introducing a variety of malignant effects.

    Or maybe it is totally healthy. I have no idea. How can we know? You can’t prove a good is safe without using it for a long, long time.

    That said, I would expect soylent to be better than a diet of pure artificial junk food, as many americans eat. They’re also engineered foods, but in that case we can positively identify the harm.

    One additional problem of soylent: the designers assume we need a steady inejection of the same macronutrients every time we eat.

    We know positively that this is false. Bodybuilders have long known that carbohydrates are more effective after a workout. As with increased protein after a workout.

    1. Solid comment, Graeme. Thank you. I should also say that — in my opinion — the burden of proof should fall on the party making the claim.

      Thus, Soylent cannot prove their product is safe by countering with “No one has proven Soylent unsafe.”

      Tim

      1. That’s not an opinion, Tim. The burden of proof is always on the claimaint, whether the claim is positive (i.e. Soylent is safe as a meal replacement) or negative (i.e. Soylent is not a sufficient meal replacement). Curiosity implies skepticism of the negative claim, and concern over lack of evidence implies skepticism of the positive claim, and at the moment both are warranted.

    2. That is the key point when talking about safety.

      Safe compared to what? The average american diet? I think they really have to screw things up to come up short in that comparison.

      I believe the majority of americans would be better of going all in on soylent compared to the “safe” processed sugary fatty food they over indulge in causing them all sorts of health issues.

      Put the average american diet as a comparison as opposed the ideal diet that no (or very few) people actually eat. A comparison to the perfect diet isnt very interesting in my view.

    3. I have to disagree with Graeme on his thinking here. To paraphrase, “Nothing that hasn’t been tested for (what, centuries?) can conclusively be called safe, and must therefore be avoided at all costs.” If that’s your heartfelt belief, you best get off the internet right away. It’s only been tested for about 30 years, and shows every sign of causing numerous health issues. New things must be tried an tested, or nothing can ever change. Even foods that we have been comfortable with for ages can have detrimental effects – peanuts seem to be trying to kill more and more people every year, despite over 7000 years of tests.

      Some injuries may result from the testing and fine-tuning of this new product, as they do from every new product. As long as it is not overtly dangerous, and changes are made to address issues as they are found, I can’t imagine any reason to abandon this idea just to cling to the status quo. Personally, I hope to be included as part of the test group to use this item as an attempt to replace whole foods. That’s been a hope and goal of mine for years, and I doubt I’m alone in that.

    4. i dont understahnd what this thing about whole foods being special is about. molecules are molecules the molcules plants make arent any different from those same molecules made in a lab. if you get the right molecules in the right ratios into a person by whatever means they should do just as well as they would on actually grown food.

      that being said there is an arguement to be made that while not every chemical a plant makes is used by the body we may not know every chemical made by any plant that is actually used. nor may we yet know what role they play and which ones may be essential.

      and i say chemical because thats what they are. a vitamin is a chemical a protein is a chemical heck water is a chemical and chemicals are not by default bad or poisonous

    5. something you’re not really taking into account is soylent is largely a mix of actual food stuffs. flour oats fish oil other such ingredients, these are not artificial.

      secondly there is no presumptive bias really and i wouldnt tolerate one anyway because for the LONGEST time humans COULDNT make this stuff in a lab we didnt know enough and our technology wasnt sophisticated enough. what you’re saying is “because we couldnt do it before and we survived anyway we should never ever do this” that simply leads to a dead end.

      thirdly even whole foods arent complete, the clostest thing you get to a complete “whole” food is an egg. sausagees are made out of whole food home grown cows but sailors who tried to live on them discovered scurvy.

  15. Fantastic data. My main original concern about Soylent is verified by the cholesterol data – this stuff does NOT have enough natural fats to sustain normal hormone and steroid production.

    To see why this is important, go read the Sexy Time Steak section of Tim’s 4 Hour Chef book: you F’in need fat. Period.

    The nurse said regarding cholesterol: “When your levels are high this is a concern, but low cholesterol is not anything to worry about.”

    She is dead wrong, and in fact, the complete opposite is true. Low cholesterol is associated with hormone imbalance and low IQ. High cholesterol is necessary for everything from testosterone to Vitamin D production.

    So I suspect long term use of Soylent will result in many of the downstream metabolic issues of low fat diets or strict vegetarian protocols – and this bloodwork should ideally include a hormone and Vitamin D spectrum to really see the whole picture.

    But fantastic article either way!

    1. Co-sign. To add on to this, where would they get the fat source from? Something cannot be created from nothing. Adding a fat source would raise the price for Soylent and reduce the “positive” effect globally that they are going for.

      1. I can’t see it being too tough to incorporate some oil into it to incorporate some fats. Perhaps some MCT or Coconut oil even.

    2. This is why nurses are NOT supposed to interpret lab results. There are serious issues with cholesterol being too low, and when I saw the ingredients listed a big, fat 0 for cholesterol my first thought was “this can’t be good”.

    3. I was under the impression dietary cholesterol is not essential, because our bodies manufacture it on our own. And that diet can influence this process, but not in the direct consumed-cholesterol = blood-cholesterol sense.

      So if his blood cholesterol is low, maybe his body is not be making as much of it for some reason, or it’s staying in tissues rather than floating around in his blood. A Soylent diet may be affecting these things in ways that have nothing to do with consumed cholesterol. Correct me if I’m wrong?

  16. I think Soylent is an excellent attempt at an incredibly difficult task and I am excited to do my own experiments with it. A formula based on the recommended daily intakes will have too much for some and too little for others based on their own specific body codes (genes, bacterial colonies, allergies, etc). I love the idea of tailoring the mix. That will allow for people to work with their doctors, trainers, and nutritionists to match their meals to their health goals.

    One question I have on the long-term health effects is what will happen to gum/teeth health without the act of chewing?

    I wish Soylent the best of luck and I hope that people who are unaware of what their body needs stay away from v1.0 so that the company has a better chance to study and continue to improve the product before it is truly mass-marketed.

    A question for Shane: do you think you’ll keep Soylent as a part of your regular diet? Even for 1 (on-the-go) meal per week?

    1. Now here is an idea I like….

      Get the components/ingredients into a 3d-printer/mixer device…. Regularly adjust the formula depending on the person at the time. Regular checkups, monitor devices and blood panels could adjust for individual issues. It could also be tailored better for time, making sure certain chemicals that can’t be digested with others are properly taken into consideration… As time progresses we could build more and more rules/improvements into the testing and formulations over time or based on allergies/reactions etc… Certainly would be better then a big-mac diet…

      1. Funny, I was thinking of the same 3D printer/mixer idea. This, along with a simple blood tester (something like an epipen which you’d maybe use weekly) that would feed its results back into the mixing algorithm would make a great kickstarter project to go along with Soylent.

  17. So… you started off as a fat out of shape vegetarian and ended up a fat out of shape vegetarian. Great. I see little, if ANY, difference from eating this to eating say, Myoplex Deluxe 2 – 3x a day, except Soylent is cheaper(?), tastes worst(?), and has less nutrition…..

    And this raised how much on kickstarter?? Seriously?

    1. PS. ‘Normal’ ‘Paleo’ cholesterol levels should be 200-300TC, not <200. Your going to die from CVD even though you don't smoke, just like most vegetarians.

    2. Hey now, I wouldn’t go as far as “fat.” 🙂 I’m in the “normal” range on the chart (and as you could see, actually a few pounds lower without the heavy jeans). Out of shape I will cop to.

      Thanks for reading, Will!

      1. The thing that struck me was you describe your diet as healthy. Drinking muscle milk, cans of soda, and no meat is not a healthy diet. Go Paleo, man.

  18. I like that they’re making a go at this, but I think they will definitely be( and are) missing ingredients that are useful for the human body. An example for the Tim Ferriss clan, what about myristic acid?(something Tim has claimed upping helped his energy. It also helped mine) I know it’s a work in progress, but there are probably dozens of small little things like this that might help.

    Also small annoyance. I think the pictures are cheating in a way. I mean, come on dude. In the first picture you’re wearing a dark shirt, in crappy lighting, looking depressed. In the last one you’re wearing a pink one, in good lighting, smiling. I get you’re trying to show how you’re feeling or something, but changing the lighting and whatnot makes it look like you’re trying to force a point, and doesn’t really give a good objective measure. It raises the question of how much of this was a placebo affect.(i.e. that you already wanted/expected it to cause an improvement)

    1. @Marshall

      Yeah, I worried about that as I was putting the post together. I took the photos at the same time every morning. My window screen wasn’t pulled down to block the sunlight on the last one, but that wasn’t intentional. By the time I wrote this up, a week had transpired, and I realized that was the best picture I had. I considered lightening the other ones up, haha, but that would have been weird, too.

      Indeed I was feeling much more springy in the morning. However, you are absolutely right it could be placebo effect. OR it could be that I wasn’t eating crap right before bed every night.

      1. I think that the photos are impressive. See my separate comment on this. It isn’t the shirt or the lighting. The face is less bloated (looks thinner) and less saggy. You look significantly healthier, even your eyes shine. It’s not the lighting, or the color of the shirt, I don’t think.

  19. A friend of mine who was vegan for over a decade became deficient in one of the minerals provided by meat ( I forget which one, sorry). He was then forced to eat meat to repair the damage to his body that had been caused from being deficient of that mineral for so long. The problem was that his body didn’t produce enough stomach acid to break down the meat that he was reintroducing to his system because he was vegan for so long and was forced to take pills of sulfuric acid to digest the meat. Not pleasant.

    I could potentially see this happening with Soylent.

  20. Interesting post and idea. I think we can take in the food we need in multiple ways but i don’t know if this can be “the way”. There isn’t enough fat for someone in a colder region (think eskimos) to get what they need to keep from wasting away from this mix. I guess they could have different serving sizes with different calories, protein, fat, etc. depending one the users needs and geographical location. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

  21. Tim, you echoed my one big problem with this idea by way of your Taleb reference. To that I’d add more Taleb, namely that I’d bet that nutrition is too complex a field to permit the rigorous testing of changes in anything less than a lifetime. We know that nutrition can have chronic affects that take decades to manifest, so I am really hesitant to be an early adopter of something like this. That said, I agree with you that it’s great that someone is making the effort. I applaud their willingness to put themselves on the line in their investigation, and they deserve the spoils and the laurels if they succeed even a little bit. (That goes for the testers, too, even if the payoff is just the improvement to their lives that the rest of us risk missing out on.)

  22. I agree its been done before, not to mention keen new bodybuilders have subsisted on p-shakes for weeks on end.

    I’ve never seen anyone frame the argument in the way Rob has, to treat world hunger as a logistics problem.

    It’s a good concept, and in the context of dying of starvation or possible not having perfect nutrition from Soylent… the Soylent is the winning option.

    I’ve been trialing something similar, but its gets a *lot* easier in terms of micro’s if you incorporate some normal meals into your diet. When soylent comes out I guess i might not *have* to do that, but I still will.

  23. Love that he did this, and that Rhinehart is developing this…even though I’m a dietitian who loves food. More options/exploration = better since everyone’s food needs (physical and cultural) are different.

    Points: the biggest things that stick out to me are 1) Tim’s note that we can’t be sure it has everything because we haven’t even identified the “everything” we need with certainty; this is obviously only a problem if it’s a complete diet replacement for an extended period of time. 2) the problem with going to “100%” of RDAs, since Sol’s right and those aren’t based on optimal function, just what we think seems like it probably definitely doesn’t cause deficiency diseases in most of the general population based on trials from the past 50 years (and some have way better research than others to back them). Also to this point, not sure where Rhinehart got his #’s for nutrients, but some vits/mins are different for women vs men and also change with age, so that will have to be addressed, unless he’s only targeting men 20-55.

    Noticed that intake on Soylent was about 600cal higher than on a muscle milk/burrito day…? Just curious why it’s being formulated to 100% of RDAs and 2400cal, I guess…

    1. Also, I need to see the list of nutrients but, besides basic compounds,what about enzymes and more complex nutrients? I understand these can be syntheized by the body from basic nutrients but it is so good when one gets them from food sources. Does my question make sense?

  24. Oh my god, where to start. ’80’ grams of protein per day is PLENTY ENOUGH to maintain LBM (especially in you), but its ‘use it or lose it there’ and your data points have margins of error that far exceed the ability to draw a conclusion that you lost actual LBM as opposed to water/glucose.

  25. Don’t know why it cause fireworks, unless its one of the my way or highway foodies getting bent. As you said, it is just another meal replacement drink. Pretty well researched over the last 20 years, with a large sample size. The only reason most of them allowed a meal at night was for behavoral compliance, not because you need a solid. People are fed with IV for weeks…….. and they are fine for nutrition.

    But interesting, hope they do well, and listen to your advice. Especially about underselling potential claims……

    1. I’m a nurse and will tell you that IVF is not fine nutrition. Preferable nutrition would be gastric feedings. But regular foods is the most preferable. You can only live so long on IVF’s, btw.

  26. Since their crowdfunding campaign launched I have been avidly observing the discussions unfold. One particularly great resource has been the forum that they set up for their customers and curious hackers to talk about every single issue and idea.

    Personally I will be happily purchasing soylent as soon as I can and subsisting off of it as fulfills my perceived needs. I believe soylent will quite possibly change the world and be a billion dollar business. In fact I would dearly love to go work with the team.

    Thanks Tim for featuring this guest post, have been awaiting your views on this for quite some time.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nathan. Just out of curiosity, how do you think Soylent differs most from past attempts at meal-replacement powders? Or is it better use of social media, etc. and not a better designed product?

      Tim

      1. I’m not aware enough of the previous product attempts to say how it differs in terms of nutritional value and the like. The timing and positioning of Soylent however has created a perfect media storm. Previous attempts as well probably didn’t have the advantages of crowdfunding or YC-engineer-founder types behind them.

        What fascinates me is the reaction from people to the concept of soylent. I’ve been pitching it to friends for months and it ranges from laughter to anger to asking where to send their money.

      2. Okay, I didn’t see Nathan’s reply until I refreshed (posted the comment).

        I remember seeing Met-Rx in running and tri magazines in maybe the late 80’s early 90’s? Then lots of other products that were brought to market but the reach wasn’t there (internet + advertising platforms, blogs etc).

        Now we have this huge “food problem”: what is the correct way to eat? Why am I so tired all the time? High-carb, low-carb, meat, no meat? Apps like DailyBurn are helping people to become aware of their macro-nutrient intake.

        It seems we have a larger, primed market (not just the Met-Rx crowd) and a larger platform (not just magazines) to reach the people.

  27. Soylent seems very interesting, I feel the same way he did with the hassle of preparing regular foods. Even if Soylent isn’t 100% healthy, I’m fairly certain it’s healthier than what myself and many others eat.

  28. Hi,

    Looking at the nutritional data, I can’t see that you’ve covered all nutritional requirements. Where are the omega fatty acids? CLA?

    If this is supposed to be a total food replacement, you literally have to include EVERYTHING that I need from food.

    Not convinced about this.

  29. I want to see this repeated actually using WellnessFX’s baseline. I think it has a lot of very interesting markers that were not left out on the panel Shane’s nutritionist recommended.

  30. 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?) <<>>

  31. I tried Veganism for one month and it was a lot of work, I was eating these huge portions (like salads for 15 people, lots of juices), and always eating always washing veggies, juicing, etc. I felt I had not time for anything. It may be healthy but extremely time consuming. This is so appealing to me because it takes all the work out of eating while still healthy. I’m going to wait until next year to try. Healthy food w/o the work, I’m on it!

  32. when you start a fast of any type your body starts to dump toxins that have accumulated in your body. The canker sore and acid reflux could be related to that some how.

  33. I am totally disgusted. Basically, what has been done here is this. Someone who knows little about anything in real world concocts an MRP (meal replacement powder) but does it by re-inventing the wheel like its 1970 again, labels it ‘Soylent’ (after Soylent Green) and markets it as a cure for world wide hunger.

  34. Tim,

    When Soylent started circulating around SV and the tech world my biggest concerns were the claims that they were making. People were reacting as if the Soylent team had stumbled across something new and spectacular. As you pointed out, meal replacement drinks and powders are nothing new. In the strength and fitness world the velocity diet is marketing by T-Nation as a body transformation diet and consists of mostly protein shakes with supplements added to cover nutrition needs.

    The American diet is notoriously poor and is in need of improvement. In the long-term, maybe Soylent (please change the name) can be a part of healthy diets. Currently, I seriously doubt the formula would cover my dietary needs. Until it does, combining a healthy, whole food diet with exercise should be the goal for all of us. Thanks for posting this!

  35. Yeah, so, remember when that 2 wheeled contraption came out 10 years ago and was all like, “we improved walking.” No one cared. Testing the market via Kickstarter may be an approach that seems to suggest that people want a product that says, “we replaced food” but I can remember so few fond memories that didn’t involve food that I would guess people are just kidding themselves. I’ve often said to my wife, “Let’s move to Thailand!” Then the sobering reality that we would be leaving ageing parents, life long friends, familiarity of language/scenery, and the distance factor that would mean we would truly be alone, pulls me back down to earth reminding me that it would be nice, inspiring and awesome, but in the end, not for us. This may sound like a lot of rambling, but seriously – replacing food? Not likely.

  36. If Soylent contains soy… and therefore, GMO soy… That’s not starting out well, nor will it end well. Also, homo sapiens currently have under-developed jaws and all kinds of crooked teeth problems because we do not gnaw and chew meat as our ancestors once did. Imagine what the jaws of a generation of humans on a liquid-only diet will look like.. scary 🙁

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

      1. Hi Tim,

        On the subject of “cleanses”/fasts have you done any and or documented your experience? Probably a much asked question though I haven’t seen you comment on it.

      2. Off-topic, but impossible not to comment: I´m testing 1mg of finasteride 2x per week for that (trying to minimize sides of chronic reduction of DHT). Perhaps even 1mg is too much, but It´s have been working, apparently, and no sides (I have with daily use). I intend to do a before/after of the scalp in a few months.

        Tim, if you want, I’ll keep you posted.

        Best self-test that I found on this besides me:

        http://www.baldtruthtalk.com/showthread.php?t=9577

        Specially the final posts by the author. He could be into something.

        What caused me to test – this old graph:

        http://www.propeciahelp.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1170

        Everything leads to believe that 1mg daily is exceedingly much.

  37. I’ve been curious about Soylent for a while, and this post adds a lot of value.

    The 400g of carbs is the biggest head scratcher in my book. How can alertness and focus be improved so dramatically if blood sugar and insulin levels are on a constant roller coaster? Would think that an internet savvy young founder would be a little bit more suspicious of the USDA food guidelines these days. The e-paleo/crossfit/bulletproof/4hb/etc blogs are teeming with good info that should be more integrated into the formula.

    A solid reimagination of the MRP concept, but for constant use over the course of weeks seems disastrous. The whole “feeding the world” bit comes across as naive and overblown at this stage as well. Remain profitable for a year selling to 6-figure early adopters first, then ship it out overseas. Good job bootstrapping after that first post went viral though. Hope things work out for them.

  38. Sadly reductionist thinking behind this! Fine I guess for a rare emergency meal on the go but completely lacking in the thousands of (mostly as yet uncharacterized) micro nutrients in whole plants. Whole plants i.e. vegetables (fresh or frozen) should make up the main part of your diet by volume. Those micronutrients are what our bodies need to stay healthy long term, prevent all sorts of health ills and disasters. If you want research and detailed info read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s recent “Super Nutrition”. Tons of research citations in the footnotes at end of book. This is the sort of thing where you won’t likely notice problems, except crazed food cravings, for perhaps quite awhile. Then mystery of mysteries, you start to slowly fall apart in perhaps undiagnosable ways. Or maybe develop a serious cancer that your body would have eliminated without it ever bothering you. That sort of thing.

    1. Vegetables are good but they’re not the holy grail people make them out to be. They contain polyunsaturated fats, goitrogens, anti-nutrients like oxylates and estrogens. Fruits = sugar = fuel. Brewers yeast, bone broth, grass fed milk, cheese, butter, and liver will make up for missed veggies. For the last two weeks I’ve been living off of these foods. 200-400g of carbs per day – primarily from sugar and I’m losing weight and feeling more energetic than ever.

  39. It’s obvious to me that it lacks A LOT of nutrients and stuff we probably don’t even know about food today. It’s synthesized food. And liquid food has been around forever. I just don’t see what these guys have done that are so amazingly special.

    It’s scary, because people are so want to believe it and want to go the “lazy” route. Hell, if I get to pop a pill loose weight and get healthy.. I would do it!

    I am so done with the ‘next thing’ fad that is always showing up. I am sticking to my veggies, meat and staying away from too much preserved food for now.

    I think Tim got it right with 4 Hour Chef and I am really appreciative for the hard work he did for us all. Finally someone with influence came out and said something. Tim is right.. People can die! Get of the bandwagon!

    I’m not ready to be the guinea pig for this experiment! If you want to potentially sacrifice your health.. know your risk! Maybe something will come out of this eventually…

  40. The biggest issue is the lack of a proper trial. Some guy on a blog is not a proper trial.

    This phrase in particular shows a worrying lack of understanding with how any sort of scientific or medical research is conducted: “It hasn’t been scientifically tested by anyone but the founder. I want to test it.”

    What you’re done has a sample size of 1. It is not being scientifically tested. If Soylent want to assure people of its safety, they’ll pay for an independent trial that has a decent sample size of people to account for variations in the population, and removes the placebo affect using a blind or double-blind set up. That is, having a control (eg. normal diet), a diet replacement that isn’t soylent, and soylent.

    Until this is done I’d personally steer clear of Soylent. They haven’t accounted for any variation in the requirement of people’s diets, underlying medical conditions, and so on. Their claims are based on self-reported, small sample size tests.

    That said it is a good idea, even if it isn’t an original one, but they way they’re approaching it is concerning.

    1. @NickE

      Absolutely right about the sample size. Did you see the sections called “Potential Weaknesses In the Data” and “What I’d Do Differently Next Time”? This is indeed one data point where many are needed. I hope it was an enlightening read anyway!

      1. Oh yes, definitely a good read. My criticism was more for Soylent than your post. Bit worried about potential issues when a whole bunch of people stop eating and use a product that hasn’t been properly tested…

  41. Questions for Shane:

    Did you miss chewing?

    Did you feel satisfied/full?

    What did you do when your blood sugar dropped, drink more Soylent? And did that help to stabilize your blood sugar? Or did you just power through it and hope you didn’t pass out?

    Did you ever get hungry? Especially, did you ever get hungry after you’d drank your daily supply of Soylent?

    You comment that it didn’t taste bad, but what about smell, feel, and appearance? Did you ever look at it and think, “man, I want some food, some real food.”?

    If Soylent were readily available would you give up food entirely?

    1. @Molly

      I didn’t really miss chewing, but I did chew mint gum once in a while, so my jaw wouldn’t feel weird.

      When my blood sugar dropped, I drank more Soylent and shortly felt much better.

      I did get hungry in the early days especially, but once I started drinking more earlier, the hunger didn’t really happen. If anything, I felt a little too full most days by the time I finished it all. And a couple of days I drank a little less than 2 bottles (which is how I ended up with 1/2 a bottle left at the end).

      It didn’t smell bad (kind of nice, actually), but the texture was odd at first. It certainly isn’t as appetizing looking as food, but once I had weened myself off of food sufficiently, I honestly was shocked at how easy it was to not care about “real” food. That’s perhaps one of the most surprising things I didn’t expect.

      I would not give up food entirely, but I would consider doing 6 days of Soylent, 1 day of gorging myself a la Slow-Carb Diet. Actually, what I would probably do is drink Soylent for breakfast and lunch, and then have a proper dinner. That would appear to be superior to my current routine.

      1. So a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and then a sensible dinner? You could call that the Slim Fast Diet. Maybe Tommy Lasorda will endorse it!

        The only thing the “data” in this post shows me is that you didn’t die. N = 1 studies are garbage, especially short-term experiments. You could fast for two weeks, take good multivitamins, and drink lots of water and experience similar results (though more weight loss, probably in better or the same proportions).

        Seriously, what is the point of this remarketed idea? To forget the enjoyable process and the social accoutrements involved in food preparation and consumption? Oh, to cure world hunger? Then raise money through a non profit.

        Almost every claim made by the company is suspicious (thanks for being honest, Tim). Longitudinal studies would be needed to verify a lot of the claims with any degree of statistical meaningfulness.

        Here’s an example of what I mean: The “experimenter” suffers an ill effect and blames his broken blender. Is there any real data supporting this causal relationship? No. This whole thing is Mickey Mouse.

        The idea of this being useful for most people interested in nutrition is absurd. Body builders and marathon runners need different food inputs. Besides, changing things up can often help people achieve specific desired results. There is no one size fits all.

        C’mon Tim . . . . I always read your stuff, but help us all protect our attention until meaningful data is available.

      2. Cool. Thanks for the reply, Shane. Fascinating. I wondered if maybe it might be best used as a replacement for one or two meals a day rather than replacing food altogether. Food, and eating, is way too good to give up completely. Too bad it’s so expensive, and for some, hard to come by.

  42. So, I see Soy is an ingredient. Couldn’t find something cheaper I suppose? Soy is an estrogen mimicker and is less ‘natural’ than any other product like it (whey,casein,etc). .001% of the population may actually have an ‘allergy’ to whey or casein, but I am sure just as many, if not more, people have an allergy to soy. Except only soy is an estrogen mimicker but whey,casein,egg,etc is not. And, also, but not least, Soy Lecithin contain MSG. So this ‘wonder food’ has MSG. Lovely.

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

  43. Interesting article but this is one product I wouldn’t guinea pig myself on. I’m quite certain the only reason he was seeing any sort of boost in energy and performance was because he was vitamin deficient and dehydrated prior to Soylent. His diet was terrible. Muscle Milk for breakfast? Takeout for lunch and dinner? Soda?

    Good effort to the Soylent team, it we can solve world hunger with products such as this then the world will be a better place but I think this is only the tip of the iceberg.

  44. very interesting but i can assure you i will not be partaking in any personal experimentation with this product, as Tim stated and other have also commented our understanding of the body is so limited and if a product is being designed off suggested RDI then it is likely to be flawed as one size does not fit all.

    it also does not take into account other environmental factors which may leach nutrients out of the body, or stressors that may lead to higher requirements than those “recommended”.

    I am a Trainer not a nutritionist but i do have a massive interest almost obsession with the workings of the human body and believe there is so much more to food and nutrition than just its simple chemical components.

    I can however see potential for this product in short term situations for sustenance when food is not or cannot be available in abundance but that’s it a short term solution.

    The claims are pretty outrageous and once again i commend the team for tackling this, and the way in which it has been marketed is quite ingenious, but if anything is to be said it would be to tread carefully. As Tim said there is potential for people to die, which really has little benefit for the brand image.

  45. Soylent may be better than this guy’s regular diet but the guy is getting his daily vitamins from muscle milk. Synthetic vitamins may or may not meet dietary needs but studies show these can be dangerous at times or may not do any good.

    The soylent diet is completely devoid of phytonutrients. It may contain antioxidants but as has been noted by the author there is some concern about whether these cause cancer, but nobody has suggested that with food based antioxidants.

    Soylent contains grapeseed oil which is an unsaturated fat and these fats are highly unstable and typically rancid after processing. These form free radicals in the body and promote inflammation and premature aging. This diet is not high enough in sugar or saturated fat.

    I think long term this could lead to potential health problems.

  46. I just recently went on a juice detox diet, and Shane’s experience doesn’t seem too different…. first day feeling hungry, by the third day feeling great, feeling of “cleanliness”, increased alertness, weightloss (but through combo of fat and muscle) etc.. But I personally would much prefer to eat a diet of juice than some weird oat/chemical mix!

    I truly believe the benefits on these sorts of diets is giving your body – digestive and cleansing systems- a break and a chance to “catch up”.

    But here’s my issue: what’s so wrong with Shane simply eating a healthy, balanced diet of FOOD for two weeks? I’d like to see the results of THAT trial.

    Who’s he kidding? Muscle millk, burrito and thai red curry is NOT a healthy diet buddy!

    I completely echo Tim’s comments – the human body is far too complex and misunderstood for the sweeping claims that Soylent have made.

  47. As someone who is not a fitness expert and/or nutrition freak, I have to laugh a bit at the focus on the small points.

    My career focuses on process efficiency and speed delivery in service and manufacturing industries . presuming you have read Tim’s 4hb you are aware of Pareto distribution. Why do I get the feeling that comments to date are focusing on the 20%?

    Personally, I the salient fact I took from it was that after the two weeks, he found it easier to move towards a better diet. Anyone who wants to pick at the finer points must stand back and ask is the meal replacement better or worse than what 80% of the population eat day to day? Does it create progress towards a better end result? Can McDonalds create a McSoylent [kidding]

    Tim – In your afterword you mention variation in users weight bf etc. Ironically these are all consequences of not getting it right to begin with. In my line of work we call this failure demand, where work is created because it wasn’t done right the first time (time spent fixing something that wasn’t done right the first time round). This is compared to value demand where if done right first up, it is high profit/benefit.

    In saying this, if we all eat right from birth, the issue and industry as a whole would not exist. Worth a thought?

  48. I think this is well intentioned but it does sort of highlight the key differences between an article written as an information piece and actual medical research.

    No way is 2 weeks is long enough to evaluate the effect of the diet. When I tell patients to make specific diet changes to improve cholesterol they need about 3 months before I repeat blood tests. I think you need to do at least that long.

    Most of your data is not helpful. I know its important to log how you feel every day, but so much of that is subjective its difficult to quantify. Hard endpoints are always better, so its good you have blood work, but the mental tests and other things less helpful. I think you need to read the science based medicine website or some James Randi. A lot of people that take a placebo report feeling amazing–if they think its going to help. And terrible if they think its going to make them feel bad. That seems to be the bulk of the early reporting. Not helpful.

    there is a way to account for the subjective data–you need to study LOTS of people and compare changes in cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, body fat, visceral fat, more HARD data points. Ideally with enough people you can see key points and trends amongst populations, not individuals. Populations are much more important.

    You nailed a major issue with testing diet interventions–its often difficult, unethical or impossible to do blinded evaluations of different foods/diets because some are dangerous, or its just not possible to conceal to the test or the subject what they are eating.

    Food is amazingly complex. We always seem to think we know what the key things are, put them in vitamin form and eat them. Most studies on vitamin supplementation are not good–ie taking lots of vitamins may not improve health and in some cases may be dangerous. When I was in med school I saw a cardiologist frantically calling patients to have them stop their Vit C and E supplementation since the big NIH showed that patients had HIGHER mortality, not lower. People love OMega 3 but research on heart disease is less than exciting–was it in omega 3 in fish that was key or maybe the Omega 7? Don’t know. Better to eat the fish.

    So I’m more skeptical of being able to load something like soylent with the best parts of food since lots of of the identified vitamins/nutrients out there may be wrong.

    For a vegetarian I’m shocked at your intake of muscle milk and relative lack of veggies? I eat more broccoli and cauliflower than you! And burrito–does that mean wheat/tortillas/white rice?

    1. Hi David,

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. You wrote:

      “I tell patients to make specific diet changes to improve cholesterol they need about 3 months before I repeat blood tests.”

      Why did you pick three months? I’ve seen some fairly dramatic shifts in 4-6 weeks, but this often includes supplementation (niacin, etc.).

      All the best,

      Tim

      1. Tim thats a very good question. I will have to check lit on that. I think its probably more out of convenience in the modern medical system–most primary care docs are busy. Patients are busy and diet changes are tough–what you can do for 6 weeks might not sustain for 3 months. I guess it is a random number. At least in my mind. 6 weeks certainly would be better than 2 weeks. 12 Weeks maybe not as good.

        And to finish with 1 more comment–I think anecdotes like this article are interesting. But its very dangerous to extrapolate the experiences of one person over 2 weeks into a broad statement on the benefits of Soylent. Thats why medical studies are done with many people over many months or years. Medical articles rarely have a good narrative or tell a good story–so people tend to listen to the anecdotes since its easier to process. But an N of 1 would make for a terrible study.

        I have my own concerns about Soylent and I think Tim you raised some very good points. It is close to an unregulated experiment and if a large amount of people got seriously sick on soylent, would they have any recourse? do they know the risks of trying it? Informed consent people!

  49. Most of the subjective experiences you mentioned here are familiar to me from fasting, or drastically reducing and regulating my food intake. The longest I fasted (only water) was 12 days, and my experience was almost identical (in the early days food cravings, etc.) Except for the poop thing (that was rather gross when fasting and not white at all).

    If you’d drastically reduce your food intake and make very healthy food choices, I think you’d have pretty much the same effect as what you mentioned with Soylent, and probably in a more sustainable way.

    Also, after a diet like this, you really shouldn’t have started with a fast-food indulgence. Of course that creates a sharp contrast that makes you feel terrible.

  50. Interesting experiment. I’d love to see more data.

    I would suggest one more lab to add to for future testers interested in the long term effects on micronutrients.

    Spectracell’s Micronutrient Test

    http://www.spectracell.com/clinicians/products/mnt/

    I agree with Ben’s assessment that the body needs more fat and that low cholesterol can deleterious in the long run. Look at the steroidogenesis pathway… the first step is cholesterol:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steroidogenesis.svg

    Last point (small correction)

    EGFR is not epidermal growth factor, its a calculated glomerular filtration rate (a kidney function marker)

    Quest should probably list it as eGFR instead of EGFR.

    http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/gfr/tab/test

  51. It is common among endurance athletes who eat a lot of simplified (manufactured) food for easy absorption (like cyclists during the Tour de France) to end up with weird digestion problems. The “gut rot” experienced after a summer of hard training and extended used of these manufactured foods, is likely due, in my opinion, to a lack of key nutrients and fiber making its way to the microbial flora of the lower intestines. This results in a lower diversity of microbes, which means less vitamins and hormone regulation (by products produced by the microbes), and poor nutrient sensitivity, and potentially chronic inflammation. I always recommend more fruits and veggies to help counteract this. I wonder if the same reduction in gut microbial diversity might prove true with extended use of Soylent.

    1. Derek, I wonder if inadequate mastication in the mouth could also be a factor here (one of many), given the role saliva has in breaking down carbohydrates?

      Limited enzyme breakdown of the foods in the mouth alongside a lack of enzymes from the food itself wouldn’t help the situation.

      Another factor is a lack of fats to lubricate the system.

      Perhaps Soylent products could come with a sachet of liquid beneficial bacteria to add to the powder?

      Watered down Kefir comes to mind – over 30 strains of good bacteria and yeast in a lubricating yogurty consistency. Enzymes, bacteria and necessary fat all right there!!

      I hear also that good bacteria survive best in a liquid medium. Many die in the encapsulation process.

  52. I think Soylent is conducting an unregulated and illegal clinical trial. I can’t believe it’s not shut down yet. Even if it turns out to be 100% safe and the next best thing since sliced bread (lol) – the way it is being marketed is irresponsible and dangerous.

    1. Better than shutting anyone down, in a free society, wouldn’t it be better if people educate themselves and make their own choices and decisions?

      1. Sure, we live in a free but regulated society. There are laws around food and drugs for people’s safety. If drug companies could offer their experimental drugs to desperate patients then many would take the drug and many would be seriously harmed. That’s why there are processes in place to make sure testing is ready for humans and only certain patients are allowed to participate in trials under very strict regulations that are reviewed by the FDA (at least in the US).

  53. I’m glad Tim weighed in with sensible comments,and correctly noted that Soylent is not the first meal replacement formula, and it may not provide all the nutrition one needs.

    Personally, I prefer to make my own meal replacement shakes with real food, including veggies (powdered moringa- one of the most nutrient dense foods, nettle, chickweed, kales, etc.), a little bit of fruit, vegan protein powder, spirulina and the occasional addition of medicinal mushrooms & almond milk.

    Granted, it’s not as cheap in the short term as Soylent (and it doesn’t always taste that great), but I think I’ll save money on medical bills in the long term by using high-quality, whole food ingredients.

    I do, of course, eat solid food; I just use my replacement shakes as a supplement to my diet for a nutritional boost and when I am busy on the go.

  54. Tim!

    I’ve been waiting for this article. Thanks.

    Your comments are a great example of why I love you.

    I planned to supplement my diet with Soylent as I tend to skip meals and I’m already on the skinny side. However due to their website having issues, I never ordered. After reading this article I’m ever more curious as to wether adding Soylent to my regular diet would would help or harm.

    Looking forward to a follow up.

  55. I really love lifehacks, and limited, safe experimentation on yourself. Love the data, but it’s not near enough. Get creative and come up with more ways to test performance and body composition results. The one conclusion I came away with was that Soylent is woefully lacking in a whole mess of things; when the data didn’t lead me to that conclusion. Agreed, just eliminating the negative parts of your diet may have done everything positive in the results. Diet Coke isn’t just a caffeinated beverage, it’s a chemical cocktail that no one in their right mind should consume. The same scrutiny could be applied to the other parts of your “normal” diet. You eat out a lot, and restaurants don’t stay in business by feeding you healthy food. They stay in business by feeding your cravings and addictions. Agree with Tim on the claims. They should never even hint at being a complete replacement for food, forever. If you do, you now take on the liability for every health issue your users ever have, whether or not they stick to your usage recommendations. Meal replacement is the only logical level to talk about. I’d love to see a redesigned formula that includes more fats and proteins, and a comprehensive test by more than one person.

  56. Interesting article.

    Correction for the blood work section:

    “Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor dropped 27%; ”

    EGFR in this context is estimated glomerular filtration rate, which is a renal function test calculated from the creatinine level, age, gender, ethnicity and body surface area. The 27% drop you noticed, as well as the increase in creatinine are compatible with mild dehydration (although one would expect the BUN to increase in that setting, but not necessarily so…)

    Regardless, we can’t conclude much from a single “patient” self study. Tim’s comments are really important here. I’ll echo his “fears” in saying that we don’t understand the body nearly as well as we would like to. The interactions are just too complex.

    The marketing seems to be key here, and I certainly hope they have good layers to get their wording right.

  57. Am I the ony who notices that the most basic stuff on this product is dead wrong? The idea is good, but:

    Carbohydrates: 400g

    Protein: 80g

    Total Fat: 65g

    Too many carbs, WAY few proteins for males who do any sports and not enough fats aswell.

    Plus the protein (all of it) seems to come from soy, which isn’t as bioavailable as other sources of proteins, not to mention many of the other side effects soy has on males.

    The only reason to use soy for protein is because its cheaper; at least try decent sources and add a decent whey/casein blend.

    1. The protein in this version was from rice, not soy. I believe that they were originally using whey protein. The most recent update in the forum was that they moved to a mix of rice protein and pea protein. The only ingredient with “soy” in its name is soy lecithin, which is an emulsifier.

      I would like to see a lower carb version (with higher protein and fats to make up for it). Supposedly they are going to offer those eventually and this first run is just going for the most generic baseline possible.

      Someone mentioned the only person living off this is the creator (Rob). FWIW, this is not true. He has a group of about 50 “beta testers” IIRC. There is also a forum full of people at discourse.soylent.me that have been making their own versions of this stuff at home.

  58. It may not be Soylent Green, but the name still creeps me out, as it would anyone from my generation (baby boomer). That said, the complaints about poor nutrition strike me as rather like the Bloomberg’s City of New York outlawing giving food to the poor because the City can’t verify its salt or fat content. Yes, there might be consequences of subsisting on Soylent, but there are even more dire consequences of subsisting on nothing.

    On the other hand, starvation in many parts of the world is not from the lack of available food sources, but a matter of politics. There is an abundance of good food in the world; it’s just not always possible to get it where it’s most needed.

  59. This is an inevitable evolution of the way humans feed themselves. Yet I don’t think it’s going to “replace” food any time soon.

    The more likely result will be that people use Soylent as the *backbone* of their diet (perhaps drinking just 1 to 3 shakes a day), while they consume the rest of their calories in the form of traditional, delicious food.

    Because of this, I think the perfect name for this product would be *Staple*. The team should spend whatever it takes to get that URL. If you own that, then you own people’s mindshare in this product space. Because that’s exactly what this is: the potential *staple* substrate of humankind’s future evolution.

    Good luck guys. Let me know how I can help!

  60. I think the initial improvement in health metrics would merely be from the avoidance of a persons normal diet.

    The ingredients list doesn’t give me much confidence as being a viable long term meal replacement. There are numerous things that we get in a natural diet that are missing here. There is something like 90 essential minerals and vitamins (not including other nutrients like EFA’s and cholesterol), you need all of these in precise quantities to survive. The ingredients provides 100% ROI’s for a lot of these but misses many (selenium, vanadium, manganese etc).

    The fat source is entirely new to the human diet as well and I don’t see that working long term.

    Paleo soylent anyone?

    If the ingredients were made from whole foods ground up, then I think it would be viable but mixing and matching single ingredients is a dangerous way to do it and will ultimately lead to deficiencies.

  61. Also, it would be cool if the model evolved to a subscription service where they send you packages of FRESH ingredients to mix with the basic Soylent powder, on, say, a weekly basis. Since low-prep time is an important selling point, it would be great if I had a packet of neatly cut celery, carrots, blueberries, sliced bananas, or whatever else they thought would go nice in a Soylent smoothie.

    This would help ease all the “but it’s not whole food” critics while giving the consumer some weekly *variety* as well.

  62. Interesting case study. The diet you were previously on certainly wasn’t healthy (at all). Many of the benefits you noted might have simply been from your body going through a natural detox, getting rid of the crap accumulated for years.

    Also, just because a label says you’re getting X amount of vitamins doesn’t mean it’s good, or that it’s the real thing.

    The food industry has deceptively lobbied and it’s very hard to trust food labels from processed food or restaurants.

    I actually do extended water fasts a couple times per year and have guided a few hundred patients through the same thing. I’ve also used some specifically formulated rice based formulas from time to time.

    The human body is always trying to return to a homeostatic norm. Extended fasting is a great way to detox and accelerate this healing.

    I’d advise against going right back into processed food after a liquid diet like this or a true water fast. It can hit your body hard and make you feel like you’re hung over.

    Did the Soylent make you healthier?

    Ehh… it’s more likely that because you reduced the total toxic load, your body was able to do what it was designed to do… ie, heal itself.

    Improved mental awareness, better concentration / focus, better digestion, weight loss, heightened physical senses, and intestinal healing are common benefits of a fast.

    Many times reflux is because the standard American diet is devoid of many necessary enzymes / probiotics that break-down food. You don’t have enough acid so the food sits in the stomach and putrefies.

    Then, the gas burns as it goes up.

    Americans have a bad habit of not giving the stomach a chance to digest everything before putting another snack in. Or, just not chewing thoroughly.

    You might like a fantastic book called “Fasting Can Save Your Life” by Herbert Shelton. It’s very old, but chock-full of wisdom from a practitioner that’s guided thousands through fasts.

    Anyway, congrats on looking and feeling healthier!

  63. Search the piece for ‘reword’ < you meant to reword some stuff.

    Also, a 1 paragraph conclusion is missing – very few people will read this whole thing.

  64. I’m curious about the pH measurements. Did the experimenter measure saliva and urine pH before and after? Also, I’d like to see what the water (pH 6-7 most common) and the Soylent together would have been once blended. Hopefully the drink is overall alkalizing…with its minerals that may be the case.

    (I would keep in mind that sometimes pH falls initially on a alkalizing diet if the theory holds true that an alkalizing diet will first pull acids out of tissues, which I myself also experienced.)

    Also, what type of water does the Soylent team recommend?

    I’d also like to see pictures of the blood before and after a 3 month test to see red blood cell shape…would the red blood cells be spiky-looking due to bad protein digestion (one theory), looking like donuts due to bad nutritional uptake (one theory), and I’d also want to see the white blood cells as well.

    Interesting study, and as an MBA/entrepreneur myself, I don’t think as much about where this won’t work as much as I do where it will work initially. Definitely, I can see a niche, and as Soylent refines the process, it can then add market share into other niches. Should be exciting to watch. Great post!

    –Kevin

  65. I only focused on a few lab results — I’m a family doc, though, and was curious to see what happened.

    When creatinine doubles, it means you lost half your kidney function. So going ‘up 30%’ would generally mean that you had lost significant kidney excretion function.

    This is too short to know what it might mean, obviously.

    What does a scientist call a failed experiment? Data. Thanks for trying to supply some data!

  66. Really interested in checking out Soylent once it is available. Glad to see they’ve improved on the taste from what the early adopters had been saying about it.

    One thought to add. Soylent doesn’t have to be a binary choice. Just because you can subsist on Soylent alone, it doesn’t mean you can’t add in a protein shake for your extra protein, or Muscle Milk. Not to mention switching to two meals a day as the founders expect most people will. It will be interesting once it’s released to see what the early-adopters do and their results with various meal choices.

    Finally, I would expect there would be many different options. I believe one of the biggest things about Soylent is its released as one of the first “open-source” foods. From that people can build their own “paleo-lent” or 4HB-lent or any other variation to fit certain diets. I expect if Soylent becomes successful you’ll likely see hundreds of these options come up from different competitors.

  67. I wouldn’t switch to this completely, but it sounds like a great way to help out with intermittent fasting.

    Hopefully we have more case studies like this one done. The cognitive function improvement alone is interesting.

  68. Funny how this just came out. I have just started my own experiment were I combine a low carb high protein diy version with Tim’s slow carb diet. I have a cheat day & a very small bowl of soup or chili a day. I am 400 lbs plus and decidied I needed to do something bootcamp like. And frankly doing it this way seemed like it would be fun. People should also google The Velocity Diet that bodybuilders use. Look in Dan John’s book Never Let Go or on the T-Nation site.

  69. This can be good for time poor people. Very efficient, but do not want to lose the proper excuse to enjoy a long meal with the loved ones.

    Good for the disadvantaged. No need to cook or go grocery shopping in the near future? and possibly no need to go to the dentist (since our teeth will lose their original function and degrade over time)? This provides huge savings on time and money, but cosmetically we will look awful… but who knows, the benchmark for beauty might change over time.

  70. I ordered a 1 month supply to test it out, but I intend to use it as one piece of a more customized diet. No way would I ever risk replacing my entire diet with something like this…there is no one size fits all with nutrition, and some of the numbers are totally out of whack (2400mg of Sodium? Only 3500mg of Potassium? And Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium…not the right quantities or ratios on any of those).

    FDA recommended dietary allowances are a very poor place to start a formulation like this, in my opinion.

  71. I notice that iodine is listed among the ingredients. I’m allergic to it, so I know that iodine allergies can be potentially very dangerous. Apparently they’re common enough that iodized and non-iodized salt has always been clearly labeled–Soylent would be well advised to follow that practice. I don’t know if the iodine-allergic population is large enough to warrant a version of Soylent without it added, but at the very least there should be a conspicuous notice somewhere on the front of the package.

  72. I’m glad that they are trying, and I will certainly give it a shot when it hits the market. I don’t think it will be better than traditional food for a while, if ever, but it can certainly be better than the alternative: convenience foods and fast foods etc.

  73. This seems really interesting!

    As an engineering student myself, I do agree that we often like to take things to extremes.

    Perhaps there is value in doing an experiment where Soylent replaces one or two meals a day, instead of all three?

    Given the ease of preparation and relatively high cost of typical breakfast foods (breads, cereals), it seems like a great breakfast replacement.

  74. Could you please adjust the author’s byline so we know who is actually writing the article.

    I assumed I was reading an article by Tim Ferriss until I read, “then, I asked Tim Ferriss,” Ugh.

  75. Hello,

    Great works. I’m 46 and I am tired of eating 3 times a day… A thing that worried me about Soylent, is that being predictable is to be vulnerable (to bacteria, virus or disease). I think pseudo random eating protect us, but I may be wrong there are animals that do always eat the same thing and survive well.

    Best regards,

    Gilles

  76. I’d be keen to take on soylent as part of my diet, but not completely replace it. I think it’s too early for people to commit that fully to it just yet. Especially if you don’t regularly monitor your blood stream.

    I’d also be hesitant about the long term effects on teeth without having anything to chew on. By making food obsolete, you’re also making your teeth largely obsolete, calcium or not, I can’t imagine that being all too positive.

  77. I am doing something similar every now and then with a meal-replacement product which appears relatively similar. Main difference is probably much less calories from carbohydrates. The effects are great. Complete Fasting is an even more drastic change, MRPs aren’t as bad/good as that.

    I’ve heard bipolar people complaining that they have a tendency to switch phases on such a diet. Which can be quite dangerous…

    Tim Feriss’ warning seems a bit ironic since in his first book he talks about selling overpriced nutritional supplements with exactly the same thin kind of evidence he condemns here.

  78. One thought that came to mind a out cost and time especially related to world hunger are; 1. A refrigerator is required 2. A blender is required 3. A lot of water is required for both the drink and the washing of the bottles/containers. All of these items would dramatically impact the cost and feasability making it a non starter for having any impact in third world countries

    1. Refrigerator is not required, it is just more pleasant to drink something cold in the summer. The powder does not require refrigeration to store. The total amount of water should really be the same as with normal water intake and less than normal dishwashing.

  79. Similiar “shakes” have been available in Germany for quite some time. One example is BCM which is great tasting and also offers things like bars. I have tried it myself for weeks in a row – although sometime cheating with a piece of chocolate, a non-alc beer or a few peanuts :).I can fully corroborate the positive effects AND my health measurements (and weight) improved a lot. The only thing is: the manufacturer doesn’t recommend to use it for more than a couple of months in a row.

  80. I don’t understand why they’d go to all the trouble of making this stuff out of a gazillion processed ingredients, there’s already long established evidence of a pure meat diet covering all nutritional and energy needs indefinitely (http://highsteaks.com/carnivores-creed/vilhjalmur-stefansson/adventures-in-diet/) and you can get it for much less than $9 a day if that’s your issue.

    Find a way to make a steak and egg smoothie with a hint of liver in a cheap and sustainable way – BAM – world hunger and 90% of neolithic diseases are solved, baby.

    1. @Ash,

      The article you mention says that of the Eskimos that die of old age, they die 10 years younger on average than an industrialized country.

      I like that you including liver in your argument. I would consider liver to be a larger staple if you are moving to an all meat diet, but meat also introduces acidity of around 2-3 pH into your body that takes more for your body to regulate (perhaps this is part of the reason for the Eskimos nice quality of life, but earlier demise?). First the body adjusts to acid as best it can, then the food goes into the blood stream, then the blood has to immediately filter out the increased acidity into the tissues to maintain a high 7.36 blood pH, then the acidity in your tissues can cause problems later…perhaps cancer…which is always present with a specific type of acid. I’m ignoring the idea that meat also digests slower and some health experts believe it begins the putrification process still inside the body.

      Also, for an all meat diet, you would also want to eliminate all non-organic, non-pasture raised and non-grass finished meats as best as possible to eliminate endocrine disruptors and other issues from added hormones and antibiotics. Basically, it is very difficult to live like native Eskimos, even today, as many of them have now embarked at least partially on the western diet.

      But if you do, grass-finished organ meats like livers may be a good way to do it. So yes, add that to Soylent and see what happens!

      1. “The article you mention says that of the Eskimos that die of old age, they die 10 years younger on average than an industrialized country.”

        This has been done to death, but much of this data is due to modern medicine – ie they have increased infant mortality and deaths from stuff western hospitals could sort out simple enough, combined with the fact western folk live longer under palliative care.

        Dunno about you, but even so I’d rather live 10 years less than the average folk but completely healthy than have the last 30-40 years of my life fighting sickness and decrepitude.

        “I would consider liver to be a larger staple if you are moving to an all meat diet”

        Not really, it’s more a hedging bets thing. In the absence of *anti-nutrients* and such that are prevalent in pretty much every other plant-based food we eat, a diet of primarily muscle meat covers the bases quite well.

        “meat also introduces acidity of around 2-3 pH into your body that takes more for your body to regulate”

        Nah that’s all bogus BTW, it’s time to retire the acid/alkaline diet myths, it’s been vegan propaganda for too long and doesn’t stand up to critical thought nor evidence. Chris Kresser has a good couple of articles on this that cover more than I can here.

        “I’m ignoring the idea that meat also digests slower and some health experts believe it begins the putrification process still inside the body”

        This is another silly vegan propaganda myth. Meat and fat digest FASTER than carbohydrates, and the idea that they putrefy is utterly retarded, PLANTS are what ferment, meat is liquified in around an hour, plants can take several hours to digest and still often come out the other end in the same format they entered. Search [ meat rots colon gnolls ], great article debunking that malarkey.

        “Also, for an all meat diet, you would also want to eliminate all non-organic, non-pasture raised and non-grass finished meats as best as possible to eliminate endocrine disruptors and other issues from added hormones and antibiotics”

        I do agree that I would want my food to be as natural and healthy as possible, but the hormones and antibiotics argument is still shaky and lifted way out of proportion. A CAFO beef steak is still a gazillion times better for you than any modern “food” on the supermarket shelf.

        “add that [liver] to Soylent and see what happens”

        As mentioned in my OP, I don’t get why we need all the processed BS that they’re trying to stick in this product – I’m more a “remove everything until you’re left with only what’s good” instead of the usual folk who are “let’s add healthy stuff to crap stuff and call it a balanced diet”.

        But I think we’re getting somewhere…

        1. Hi Ash,

          I enjoyed the article you mentioned. I found it, and then I started to realize I think you are using the terms rot, ferment, and putrefy interchangeably and I think that is a little confusing. I used putrefy, not rot or ferment as your post and the article used. So, if you can cite the research that shows the level of decay from meat in the intestines and colon and the constituents that have decayed undigested, I would be eternally grateful as I’m trying to write blog posts on it.

          It would also be interesting to find out how long Soylent stays in the gut…a future study with more comprehensive info would be nice…we’ll have to wait for it.

          To sum up, the article you stated does not provide decay information and transit time…only that the body can handle some fats and proteins in meat.

          The article does seem somewhat logical in its approach, though, suggesting (but not showing) that some of the meat does get digested, which is my strong belief as well. Dr. Furman and others also seems logical to me. Furman claims (and cites some research) that meat slows down digestion, and that meat is also correlated to more cancers. Furman also makes the case that meat (due to high haem) destroys cells lining our digestive tract. So the more meat you eat, perhaps the less able you would be to digest other foods, like plants or beans if you start on them after eating a primarily meat-based diet.

          For some who have had meats their entire lives, perhaps Soylent would be better for them initially than trying other foods that take more to digest like plants. Perhaps this is a niche for Soylent.

          Furman also goes on to state on Eskimos – “I have not lived with the Inuits or the Massai but I have read many thousands of scientific articles on nutrition in the last twenty years and my conclusions are that the preponderance of evidence is irrefutable that more green vegetables, fruits, seeds, nut and beans in the diet and less processed foods and less animal products is disease-protective (especially cancer and heart disease) and lifespan promoting.”

          Furman goes on to state that he has researched over 2500 studies to determine his thoughts. Sure, it’s possible he’s biased, but he is a MD and has done lots of research, much more so than both authors of the articles you provided.

          So I wonder if Soylent will have the same effect…if it can capture all of the nutrients of the diet Furman advocates. At the very least, Soylent could potentially be more healthy than the standard american diet, and could be especially useful in short-term detoxes, though green juice detoxes may work just as well if not better (just cost more).

          The article you mentioned also doesn’t talk about Americans and compromised livers and gall bladders, possibly filled partially with gall stones, due to processed foods, hormones, antibiotics, binge alcohol, GMOS, or anything the body isn’t necessarily accustomed to throughout evolution. Once the body can’t produce bile as well, hydrochloric acid suffers as well, and digestion becomes worse and worse and worse. So in an optimal body without anything processed or fake ever, with no pollution or other disruptors contributing to your liver difficulties, meat may digest relatively well if eaten sparingly, especially if grass-fed, anti-biotic free, no hormones, happy animal, etc.

          How Soylent affects the liver would be one of my big questions. If it reduces liver capabilities over time, that sucks.

          Also, I read nothing in your post to debunk that low, acidic pH foods leads to greater acids in the tissues, which leads to greater chance for cancer (all cancers have an acid present).

          I would like to see Soylent talk more about the pH. (And yes, if you have pH debunking articles from reputable scientists or research, I’d like to learn and blog about it.)

          For liver to hedge your bets, liver (and natto) has high K-2 which helps calcium be assimilated. Without K-2, if you only eat meat, the theory goes that more calcium is released from bones to help reduce the meat inflammation…leading to bone density loss, osteoporosis, etc.

          I would like to see if Soylent has studied how well it helps calcium absorb…or to see if it causes calcium and minerals to be lost from bone like other processed foods.

          I’m a truth seeker so I’m happy to abandon any of the information that has contributed to my thoughts, but your posts haven’t lead me to abandon any of them. The use of the words “malarky”, “propaganda”, and “retarded” get in the way of the substance. I don’t have the answers, but I am researching them and be happy to provide you information on what I find in the future.

          I’m very keen to find out what the Soylent team finds through their research as well.

  81. Nice try, but I found the 2 week period to be unreasonable.

    If you know juicers and other eaters, you know the Master Cleanse, where you eat nothing but Lemonaid, Cayanne Pepper, and Maple Syrup for two weeks. Most people I know who have done it say experiences like yours: better energy on a lot of days, worse on some, the body adjusting and then losing weight, then even better energy when finishing.

    But no one would consider that these three foods make a long term hack to the system. The body has enough free energy – and can synthesize enough of everything else – to survive two weeks.

    A reasonable test would be about 2 months.

  82. I’m not sure whether I believe it will work, or I just WANT it to work. I read the initial blog posts back when Tim first posted them, and was super intrigued. And frustrated, as I’m sure many were, that I couldn’t just get my hands on some right away. I think they need to not make any health claims, just put it on the market with a well integrated feedback system. Based on the buzz it has surrounding it, I’m sure people will buy it. We’ll soon find out what the results are and how to tweak it for a mass market, rather than one dude mixing it in his kitchen. Oh yeah, and choose a different name!

  83. I love that these guys are trying to solve a problem of this size. They just have to be really careful what they promise. Of course of you are dying from hunger this is a very good alternative to starving.

    Regarding the experiment, it is not very precise and well conducted, and even if it was I am sure the exact same things results could be produced just be fasting with water for 14 days. I even consider some of the health benefits of fasting to give even better results than ingesting powder mixes.

    Of course this is not the case for someone who already didn’t eat for 30 days because of not having food avaliable.

  84. Is soylent actually made with soy? A bunch of people in the comments began debating if soy is a good food or not, but I didn’t even notice it being listed in the article… there is only one instance where “soy ” appears, and that’s not even talking about soylent directly

    I’m pretty sure that the only reason it is named that is because it’s a hilarious reference to “Soylent Green” from the 1973 movie of the same name… or because it’s made of people – either one.

    1. This recipe version has soy lecithin (an emulsifier), but the product is not soy-based. I don’t know if the final version will even have the lecithin. They seem to be tweaking things still, and probably will continue to do so right up until they have to start manufacturing and shipping the initial orders.

      The creator said he got the name from the book the movie was based on, and the whole “Soylent Green is people” was added to the movie. Soylent was not made of people in the book. A lot of people complain about the name, whether for or against the general idea, but I think the name is responsible for much of the publicity it’s gotten, and therefore much of its crowd-funding, pre-ordering success. Had he called it “nom” (yes, he actually considered that), he probably wouldn’t be getting the same level of free publicity and public interaction.

      Disclaimer: I do not work for or with these guys. I’m just interested in the product (my current diet is crap, this almost *has* to be better) and have read all the blog posts and nearly every forum post on discourse.soylent.me.

  85. I’ve been following Soylent from the original blog post to the Kickstarter-like campaign, to the Popular Science article. It’s peaked my curiosity so thanks Shane for giving it a try for 2 weeks and letting us know how it went.

    I have been wondering (from the start) why this concept was considered “new” and I’m glad that Tim called Rhinehart out on that. For example, there’s a product now used for malnutrition called Plumpy’nut (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumpy'nut) that was developed in France and doesn’t require clean water, refrigeration, or preparation. It’s basically peanut butter, veg. fat, sugar, and milk powder (sounds like a cookie I used to eat as a kid). It may not be the most well rounded meal out there but it isn’t filled with maltodextrin (a starch mainly derived from corn in the U.S., that unless organic, is made using GMO corn) or soy.

    Speaking of soy- like many other commenters stated, soy is no longer considered a health food (but the opposite) by many of us in the health industry. The USDA reports that soy, cotton and corn are the most highly sprayed (with chemical fertilizers) crops in the US. Congratulations, you put 2 out of the 3 in your drink- the ONLY food that you’re going to ingest for how long? Add to that, but both of those ingredients are also genetically modified (and the results aren’t fully in on GMO’s yet, so you’re already a lab rat in that experiment).

    Shane, you asked about thoughts on the acid reflux and canker sores. My first thought was that those likely could have been the by-product of detoxing. We can all agree that Diet Coke is filled with nasty stuff (chemicals, colorings, additives, caffeine, HFCS to name a few). Chipotle is notorious for its high salt content, and red Thai curries actually contain a lot of sugar. So, just detoxing from excesses in those areas, could have caused both the reflux and the canker sore.

    As far as Soylent goes, I agree with Tim. People love to take things to the extreme, so you’d better be darned sure that the claims you are making are followed up with hard data. Otherwise, max out your insurance, b/c lawsuits will follow, and people will die. Using humans as lab rats is risky business.

    I’m glad you’re back on the 4HB Shane, I just hope you’ll ditch the soy and add some pasture raised meat into the mix!

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

  86. I think that the gastric reflux can be attributed to soy; I get gastric reflux from soy products because soy is usually hard to diggest. That it went away, IDK. The canker sore could be a detox thing. Sometimes if your body cleanses, it may have a healing crisis which can be expected. The one thing I’m most impressed with are the photos of Shane through out the days. He looked terrible at first and his face looked amazing towards the end. It could be that not having the pizzas, the doughnuts, the cokes and some others may have made that difference alone but it was impressive.

  87. Great comments and points at the end, Tim. Definitely very exciting ground but I agree this is one area where humility will be best for everyone. Having moderate claims don’t need to be seen as a weakness or not believing in the mission.

    “All we know if that if we take them out, the cell dies.” Very haunting quote.

  88. By any means this is an interesting experiment worth doing. Anything that gives us further understanding on what body needs, doesn’t need, is or is not beneficial or harmful is worth doing.

    There are some things things that bother me:

    1. Diet before that was really bad.

    Diet coke, m&m’s … I think it can be categorized as ‘junkfood vegetarian’. Just not eating that will improve many things.

    2. Changing the habits.

    Regular sleeping in itself has meaningful effect on life.

    3. Results

    Described cravings, mood changes, energy bursts and other are a lot simillar to what you get on water or a juice fast or detox. Eating nothing can provide you with similar results.

    It would be interesting to see further experiments with this in mind.

  89. Ok. My big problem in this is the fact that thw human body will crave what it needs to survive. There are women who eat clay because they require the mineral because there body isnt getting enough. Unless Soylent can completely rewrite what humans need then it will not and can not be a one size fits all

  90. You weren’t kidding on your Facebook post. This debate will be heated.

    My main concerns are personal, but I think it’s a proper concern: obviously safe does not mean allergen-free. There are too many celiacs who cannot handle grain out there to call this a cure-all. The formula needs to be interchangeable, so that even those who can’t eat certain vegetables could still get all they need from the formula with substitutes. In most cases, the primary formula would keep a subject alive, but a subject with celiacs or some other type of hindering allergy will not be a happy camper on this, and it may affect their lifespan and even diseases.

    In spite of all this, I agree that it’s worth the study and experimentation. This has the potential for a lot of things, though I dare not say what, though I doubt any of them bad. The testing required for each part, parcel and piece of an interchangeable Soylent formula seems nearly insurmountable though, at this stage. Perhaps that is just MY lack of creativity.

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

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

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

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

    1. Why would you like to compare this to someone eating a perfect diet? People eating a great diet are not very likely to use something like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Awesome article. thank you Tim and Sean.

    Alan

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

  98. Dear Tim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        A healthy body doesn’t need supplements.

  99. I think you should provide nutritional data for the average american as a comparison. Compare things to what is theoretically recommended is fine but most americans diets fall pretty short in that comparison as is now.

    How does it stack up to the real average american diet is what is interesting since that is what the results will come from. Not by comparing it to some theoretical recommendations that less than 10% of the population follows.

  100. Tim,

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

    Cheers!

  101. Great article and good points, Tim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    and…

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

  104. As a French guy I take lots of pleasure from cooking and eating, I’m not interested at all by food replacement approach.

    Several scientific studies have already figured out great eating habits.

    Soylent food can for sure simplify the life of ultra busy people that don’t take pleasure out of food for now. It can even save decision power like Zuckerberf strategy to dress himself every morning.

    But I’d rather promote the importance of choosing and preparing your food well.

    It will unlock a special huge source of satisfation: cooking a meal for your beloved ones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    In society being right is mostly a source of pain

    because being right is half the battle.

    And, If you can’t be heard while youre right, you are

    worse off then if you had shut up.

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

    Sound yucky? Would you listen to “you” being right the way you sound?

    example: this post

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

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

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

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

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

    Physiology is equally important aspect to consider.

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

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

  113. Hi Tim,

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

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

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

    Thanks

    Victor Björklund

    VictorBjorklund.com

  114. Tim,

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

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

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

    Placebo effect: Engaged

    Best,

    Alex

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

  116. Hmm

    From my POV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  121. 1. What Tim said

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

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

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

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

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

    1. I fully agree. It is easy to see the author has some food issues considering he ate horribly before his soylent experiment and that he’s a vegetarian tells us a lot.

      The problem I see is that he is falling for all the old, dated information on diet and health. The fact that he says low cholesterol is not a bad thing says it all. He has no idea what the role of cholesterol is in the body.

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

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

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

    1. @Pier

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

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

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

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

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

  126. I’m unsure as to why this doesn’t need to go through the rigorous tests that baby formulas do.

    If this is all you eat and it turns out it is missing something important, you might find out about it too late.

    I think it is a great idea in general so that it can be used in special situations, but consumed daily, as the only item on the menu, by people who don’t feel like preparing food, eating out, getting a take out or just having something delivered seems a bit too much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  132. Can I get this as an IV drip and prop it up next to my World of Warcraft station?

    That plus NASA diapers and I’m set for an awesome gaming session!

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

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

    Argument: We don’t know exactly what the body needs/what combination.

    Response: If we don’t know, then it stands to reason that food manufacturers don’t know either

    Argument: Nutrition isn’t one size fits all.

    Response: Yet we treat it as such by eating “muscle mile for breakfast, chipotle for lunch, and takeout for dinner”. Taking a look at the ingredients at least STARTS the conversation about customizing nutrition.

    Argument: We don’t know if a finite list of what the human body needs will work.

    Response: So many people are eating modified foods for every meal of the day. How can we know that isn’t basically a finite list.

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

  135. I just discovered the studies about antioxidants.

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

    Are you planning to stop using them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Great post. Great comments.

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

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

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

    How is that not good?

    cheers,

    Jonathan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  146. Super interesting.

    I seem to have an inherent skepticism of messing with Mother Nature, and lean toward organic whole foods.

    Long-term independent studies would be critical for me to even consider becoming an adopter.

    Whatever the stated problems that soylent addresses, from lack of time to world hunger, I can imagine that there are multiple possible solutions both on a personal and a cultural/societal level.

    I’ll be curious to see how this evolves.

    Tim, as usual you make some really key points that shed light on the issues (e.g. meal-replacement powders are not new, what’s potentially provable and what’s not, etc).

    (To the world hunger claim, I would also add that I’m skeptical of the assumption that an undernourished person in the middle of a “3rd world” rural area would be able to depend on a blender, for example.)

    Thanks, Tim, for always keeping it interesting and informative.

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

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

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

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

    Ditto vitamin A.

    Ditto vitamin E.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  152. 1. 400 carbs a day? Pretty high… Not in line with the slow carb diet or the vast majority of leading health theory (specifically, diets high in fat AND low in carbs as the way forward – i do realize that the soylent diet is fairly high in fat but it fails on high carbs)

    2. Couldn’t agree more with TF about us not understanding how the body operates…. By simply taking all the daily requirements of vitamins we know about, we are still potentially missing vitamins and minerals that we don’t even know exist yet.

    3. would love to see more blood tests done (what happens to testosterone here?)

    4. Strength / conditioning tests would be great to see as well

    5. (EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – even if they customize, they will fail to account for people with genetic mutations such as mthfr c677t. someone who has these mutation (which many people do but dont know), their body cannot process normal b-vitamins (dramatic simplification here) thus they NEED methylated b vitamins or they will likely die early (lack of b-vitamins is linked to high levels of homocysteine which is highly correlated to cardiovascular disease. scary stuff!)

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

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

    Some people have mentioned that you need to have fruits and vegetables in your diet to acquire some of the phytonutrients that are required to survive. My diet before Soylent was extremely poor, in the fact I did not consume any fruits or vegetables, unless you consider ketchup, french fries or starbursts fruits or vegetables. I lived on that diet for 30 years, and I was well above average on my health. At least according to my blood tests and my over all fitness.

    But I too am not convinced that Soylent is not lacking something, so in my recipe I have added ginseng and kelp (powders), in an effort to add some of those phytonutrients. Not perfect by any means, but it also shouldn’t hurt.

    I will adjust my recipe as I need to, to compensate for anything that I am missing based on symptoms or things that I learn about.

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

    So yes, you still need to chew.

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

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

    Also some of you have said that the RDI is the bare minimum, and not the optimum. Do you have any links, articles or studies that support this? I am not doubting what you are saying, I just want more information, so that I can adjust my recipe accordingly. If those numbers are incorrect, then I need to learn what the correct numbers are and adjust.

    Also some people have been concerned about men vs women. There are 2 formula’s, one for men and one for women based on our different needs.

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

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

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

    There was some comments about Cholesterol though, that have me vaguely concerned. My cholesterol has been plummeting since I have been on Soylent. It hasn’t concerned my doctor yet, but he wasn’t too interested when I started anyways. I will do more reading on cholesterol though, and maybe adjust my recipe based on my findings.

    There were a couple of articles that I read that if your diet does not contain cholesterol that your body will produce the amount that it needs. I forgot what the process was called, or the “ingredients” needed for said process. But obviously I have not done enough research into that matter.

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

    There were some concerns about fats and Omega 3. I may get this backwards, so forgive me. Omega 3 was touted to lower your chance for heart disease, while Omega 6 was said to increase your chances of getting heart disease. There have been a couple of studies that have shown that increasing Omega 3 increases your risk of colon cancer, while increasing Omega 6 decreases your risk of colon cancer. So there appears to be a balancing act that must take place between the two.

    My fats come from Olive Oil, Fish Oil capsules, protein, oats, and flaxseed. I have 2 grams of Omega 2 and 9 grams of Omega 6 in my diet.

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

    Shane, great right up by the way.

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

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

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

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

    1. Hi Judi!

      Speaking from a nutritionist point of view, I’d suggest you go see a nutrition expert (such as a dietitian) before you try Soylent as a weight loss treatment. If your caloric intake (now) is higher than 2404kcal/day then yes you will see weight loss. But in the long-term, I’m not sure how long you want to stay on Soylent. Instead I suggest you change your current diet to a “healthier” diet (meaning, more fruits and vegetables and less fast foods, pops and snack foods) because these provide nutrients while being lower in calories. If you can keep this up over the long term, weight loss is certain.

      Another key factor is exercise! You mentioned you’ve struggled with weight all your life, well, then your issue is probably genetic. By lowering your calories intake, your body may think it’s suffering from starvation and lower your metabolism which can mean lots of weight loss for the first month (or so) then you’re stagnant (or even putting on weight). Exercise is a way you can “trick” your body since it actually increases metabolism. You don’t need to go to gym daily but little things like taking the stairs, parking further away, doing housework, doing extra trips to carry groceries to the kitchen, can all add up and help with the weight loss.

      I wish the best of luck for your weight loss journey! And I hope I’ve helped with some of your questions!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Tim

  167. An important factor to consider is the human microbiome. We’re coming to realize more and more how important the organisms that live on and within us are to our well-being, how intricately connected they are to our health, both mental and physical. Studies link different gut microbiome make up with conditions ranging from obesity to autism.

    Changing your gut microbiome is not so simple as getting a fecal transplant because maintaining a certain balance of microbes involves various factors. What you eat, what you’re exposed to, together with your genes and gene modifications seem to affect your microbiome.

    Raw lettuce, or even food that’s made from whole ingredients, probably have more and/or different bacteria than soylent. So–say you only eat soylent. What are you doing to all the organisms in your gut? How long must a trial go on to see these effects?

    As you and many others have said, there are SO many interacting factors that affect your health status. And defs necessary to formulate different powders based on activity level.

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

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

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

    1. Hi Kaetje,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Some thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Excellent article Tim!

  174. 1. Interesting.

    2. Would be interesting to know how your stool output over the intervention changed compared to your normal pre intervention- eg., less often? stool consistency? etc

    3. Would be interesting to know how this impacted your gut microbiota. The highly processed nature of the diet might suggest less substrates reaching your distal colon. This ‘might’ suggest that your colonic pH shifted towards a more alkaline environment which might lay the ground work for a growth in proteobacteria – maybe not such a good thing. But who knows.

    Things that make you go hmmmm….

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

    1. Hear. Hear.

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

  176. Great post,

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

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

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

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

    I have dry eyes and a smart person said she uses restasis, but quick search

    finds complaints of respiratory illness and large red blotches in eyes.

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

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

  178. 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.

  179. 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.

  180. 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.

  181. 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.

  182. 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.

  183. 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?????

  184. 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.

  185. 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.

  186. 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 🙁

  187. 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.

  188. 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.

  189. 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.

  190. 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

  191. 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.

  192. 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.

  193. 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!

  194. 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.

  195. 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.

  196. 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

  197. 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.

  198. 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.

  199. 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

  200. 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.

  201. 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.

  202. 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.

  203. 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.

  204. 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.

  205. 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).

  206. 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.

  207. 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…

  208. 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.

  209. 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.

  210. 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.

  211. 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.

  212. 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.

  213. 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.

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

  215. 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.

  216. 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.

  217. 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.

  218. 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.

  219. 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.

  220. 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! 🙂

  221. 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.”

  222. 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.

  223. 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?

  224. 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

  225. 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.

  226. 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.

  227. 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.

  228. 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

  229. 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)…

  230. 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”.

  231. 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.

  232. 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!

  233. 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

  234. 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.

  235. 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.

  236. 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.