Soylent 2.0: A Better Meal Replacement?

A Little Background

I enjoy eating sometimes but oftentimes it is more of a chore. Unfortunately, eating is a necessity if I want to be healthy, energetic, productive.

Soylent 2.0 being poured into a glass.
Photo of Soylent 2.0 from official Soylent site.

I’ve written about Soylent, a meal replacement drink, in the past here and here. I’ve tried other meal replacement drinks like RAW Meal and Shakeology (also here and there, and up there and down here).

I’ve written about and regularly consume Ensure, I don’t care that I’m not the target audience.

When Soylent started out (and when I first began consuming it) it was a powder which one mixed with water and then added some bottled oils to. It only took two or three minutes to make a days worth and I thought it tasted decent – much less grainy than either RAW Meal or Shakeology – but much more grainy than Ensure.

I Try 2.0

Recently Soylent announced and then began shipping Soylent 2.0 – which comes bottled similar to Ensure. Now there is no prep time, just take a bottle out of the fridge. I purchased my first twelve pack and have consumed them all. I’ve now upped my order to 24 monthly, which will cover almost one meal a day. I expect, if I continue to like it, I will up my order to perhaps 48 bottles/mo., which would make almost two a day.

While I didn’t have a problem with the old Soylent’s taste, the new Soylent is significantly better. It tastes and has the texture of almond milk.

At first I thought I would need to mix something with it to drink it with great consistency and I tried some chocolate syrup as well as some V8 juice – the latter worked rather well. But as I have continued to drink it I find my taste buds developing more and more of a liking for it and I don’t see myself needing to mix anything else into it.

Why Else I Like Soylent

Besides Soylent providing me an alternative to meals there are a number of other techie reasons I like them.

First, their recipe is open source and this has resulted in a cottage industry producing similar products. I’m a huge fan of open source.

Second, they provide release notes with each version as well as providing detailed blog posts about why they do what they do and when problems arise. I am especially fond of the latter.

Third, they are constantly iterating on Soylent. 2.0 is great, but I’m sure 2.1 will be better!

But Dave…

“But Dave, this can’t be as good for you as eating real, organic food for meals.”

You are absolutely correct – thing is, I don’t eat real, organic food for meals. Soylent is a healthier alternative to a lot of the standard American diet / standard Dave diet. So, while not perfection, it is a step in the right direction…

And I won’t stop eating real food altogether. In fact, I may eat healthier the rest of the time b/c I am drinking Soylent. I always feel so time constricted – so much more I want to accomplish in a day than I can – if I feel a little less time constricted I may be more willing to invest in a meal (no promises, but hey, it’s possible!).

Shakeology, Garden of Life, and Vanilla.

I’ve written a few posts about Shakeology in the past (Three Days on Shakeology, A Little TMI – Five Days on Shakeology, Shakeology – Almost a Month Later). It has been nine days since I last posted about Shakeology (don’t worry, I plan on slowing down the pace of Shakeology posts, I’ve just been focusing some energy and effort on it, since I am trying to figure out how to get the optimal diet for 2014) and I have a few things to report.

First off, don’t buy the Strawberry! I know I said it isn’t that bad, but I received my shipment of Vanilla a few days ago and I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to go back to Strawberry. In comparison to Vanilla, Strawberry tastes like sand! I have no clue why this is – the ingredients seem fairly similar – my only guess is that for some unknown reason Shakeology is using a finer milling process for Vanilla than for Strawberry (if this is the case, PLEASE Shakeology, make Strawberry more finely milled).

Many thanks to Liz West for publishing this image of a basket of food under the Creative Commons license.
Many thanks to Liz West for publishing this image of a basket of food under the Creative Commons license.

Secondly, I’ve been looking at what my other options are as fall as meal replacements. Shakeology is a bit pricey. It runs around $4/shake plus the cost of Almond Milk and Frozen Fruit. I’m guessing this adds another $1/shake – so $5/shake. This isn’t horrible – but it isn’t great either. I looked at IdealShape, but most of its ingredients seemed artificial (like Ensure) and I don’t think I’m going to be able to go back to that sort of synthetic meal replacement. I also looked at Garden of Life RAW Meal (Vanilla). I had tried RAW Meal perhaps a year ago and found its taste to be quite sandy (I couldn’t finish the container I’d purchased), I’m not sure if this again can be attributed to milling process and/or whether their flavored versions would taste better (I purchased the original, unflavored). I’ve included below a comparison of the ingredients in Shakeology Vanilla and Garden of Life RAW Meal Vanilla. Note, if you really want to compare apples to apples, you should double the Shakeology numbers – as their serving size is half that of Garden of Life’s (but then you’d be spending $10/shake!).

I also continue to look at Soylent, which is really taking shape – but they haven’t released their 1.0 spec so I am unable to provide include them in this comparison – but I hope that will change and I can update this chart within the next few weeks.

For ingredients the numbers indicate the order of the ingredients on the packaging – which is supposed to be in descending order of quantity (e.g. the first ingredient, should be the ingredient there is the most of). Please let me know if I made any mistakes or if some ingredients are the same but the two companies use different names and I’ll adjust the chart accordingly.

One final comment – Shakeology powder costs around $125 for 30 servings. Garden of Life powder costs around $70 for 28 servings. It can be a little tricky at first – you have to note that while you get more powder with Garden of Life, there are only 14 servings in a container – so you’ll need two containers to roughly equivocate Shakeology. In other words, Shakeology is around $1.50 per serving more than Garden of Life.

Company:

Shakeology (Vanilla)

Garden of Life (Vanilla)

Serving Size

35 g

80 g

Calories

130

310

Fat Calories

15

45

Cholesterol

5 mg (2%)

0 mg (0%)

Sodium

200 mg (8%)

120 mg (5%)

Dietary Fiber

3 g (10%)

10 g (40%)

Sugars

7 g

7 g

Protein

16 g (32%)

34 g (68%)

Whey Protein

1

Pea Protein

2

Pea Fiber

3

Maca Root

4

Chia

5

13 (Sprout)

Flax

6

10 (Sprout)

Yacon Root

7

Cherry

8 (Acerola)

22

Camu-Camu

9

Pomegranate

10

Astragalus Root

11

Bilberry

12

Blueberry

13

Goji Berry

14

Spinach

15

Acai

16

MSM

17

Himalayan Salt

18

Ashwagandha Root

19

Cordyceps

20

Enzyme Blend

21

25 (and Probiotic)

Maitake Mushroom

22

Reishi Mushroom

23

Lactobacillus Sporogenes

24

28

Luo Han Guo (Monk Fruit)

25

Citrus bioflavonoids

26

Grape Seed

27

Green Tea

28

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

29

Rose Hips

30

Schisandra

31

Cinnamon Bark

32

Apple Pectin

33

Barley Grass

34

19 (Sprout)

Ginkgo

35

Kamut Grass

36

Moringa

37

Sacha Inchi

38

Spirulina

39

16

Non-GMO Fructose

40

Natural Vanilla Flavor

41

15

Xanthan Gum

42

Stevia

43

26

Brown Rice Protein

1

Brown Rice Sweetener

2

Amaranth Sprout

3

Quinoa Sprout

4

Millet Sprout

5

Buckwheat Sprout

6

Garbanzo Bean Sprout

7

Lentil Sprout

8

Adzuki Bean Sprout

9

Sunflower Seed Sprout

11

Pumpkin Seed Sprout

12

Flax/Coconut Blend

14

Oat Grass Juice

15

Chlorella

17

Alfalfa Grass Juice

18

Wheat Grass Juice

20

Strawberry

21

Blackberry

23

Raspberry

24

Brewer’s Yeast

27

Company:

Shakeology (Vanilla):

Garden of Life (Vanilla):

Vitamin A

500 IU (10%)

30%

Calcium

300 mg (30%)

35%

Vitamin D

200 IU (500%)

100%

Vitamin K

40 mcg (50%)

100%

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

1.5 mg (100%)

100%

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

1.5 mg (100%)

100%

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

5 mg (25%)

100%

Vitamin B6

2 mg (100%)

100%

Vitamin B12

6 mcg (100%)

200%

Pantothenic Acid

5 mg (50%)

100%

Zinc

6 mg (40%)

100%

Manganese

2 mg (100%)

100%

Molybdenum

30 mcg (40%)

100%

Vitamin C

180 mg (300%)

100%

Iron

2 mg (19%)

100%

Vitamin E

15 IU (50%)

100%

Folate

200 mcg (50%, Folic Acid)

100%

Biotin

90 mcg (30%)

10%

Magnesium

80 mg (20%)

30%

Selenium

15%

Chromium

60 mcg (50%)

100%

Phosphorus

250 mg (25%)

Copper

0.8 mg (40%)

Iodine

52 mcg (35%)

Three Days on Shakeology.

I’ve been drinking a lot of Ensure nutrition shakes recently. Andrew Vogel suggested that I try Shakeology. It is fairly expensive – $130 for 30 servings ($4.33/serving). Ensure is less than half this expensive – but Shakeology has a good reputation, its ingredients are certainly exponentially superior to Ensure, and home-made meals aren’t as cheap as one would think. So, I jumped and gave it a try…

A picture from Shakeology's site portraying their drinks.
A picture from Shakeology’s site portraying their drinks.

I ordered it last week and received it on Friday. I started consuming it for breakfast on Saturday and have consumed it each day since then (Saturday, Sunday, Monday). I chose the tropical strawberry flavor. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and while vanilla is okay, I prefer strawberry.

I had read that chocolate and vanilla the best flavors with tropical strawberry coming in third, but I saw their money-back guarantee which states that they’ll refund me even if I use the entire thing and don’t like it…so I figured why not start out with the least-tasty one and then move to more more-tasty ones if that one didn’t do it for me.

The first thing I don’t like about Shakeology is that it is a powder. An Ensure I can remove from the fridge and drink at a moment’s notice – Shakeology I have to put in a blender, mix a fluid and ice, and spend 5-10 minutes in preparation/cleanup. Bahh, humbug. This is on the upper limit of my tolerance for meal preparation (I know, I don’t have much tolerance at all!), but I’m making the sacrifice. I also realize that when Soylent is released I’ll face the same dilemma.

The next challenge I faced was figuring out how large a scoop was. The package said to use one scoop of Shakeology for each shake I made – but how big is a scoop? 42 grams? Great, that doesn’t really help me! I googled it and discovered I wasn’t the only one struggling to appropriately measure Shakeology. Thankfully, I also discovered there was an easy remedy – a pre-measured scoop inside the bag! Unfortunately, the scoop was buried so I had to fish around a bit (wasting powder which floated into the air and clung to my hand) – but at least they included a scoop. Still, I have to wonder – why include other materials in the box (e.g. instruction booklets) outside of the bag and not include the scoop outside of the bag? This would prevent A LOT of confusion (especially for less tech savvy users who might not use Google to quickly find the answer) and also would avoid unnecessary waste.

Nope, I’m not done complaining. I want to let you know all the bad stuff before I talk about the good. The next issue was using the scoop. First off, it is really tall and it doesn’t have any external numbering on it. It has a line that divides the scoop in half – is that saying that 42 grams is to the halfway mark or is to filling it to the top? I still don’t know the answer – I’ve been too lazy to google it and am currently just filling it to the very top – assuming that when they say “one scoop” they mean “one scoop.”

The scoop is also inferior. Because of its depth it doesn’t usually get a full scoop – there are air pockets. Try as I might I can’t get it to fill entirely with Shakeology powder. So how many powder am I getting? Did they account for this so I’m still getting around 42 grams? Or am I getting 32 grams?

Again, this is an easy fix. Make a regular sized scoop and tell us to make our shakes with two scoops. This should resolve the air bubble problem and doesn’t significantly increase our labor.

The first day I dumped in my powder then 12 ounces of almond milk followed by some ice. I learned that putting the powder in first isn’t the best idea – it doesn’t seem to mix as well and it makes it more difficult to measure out 12 ounces.

I also was frustrated that there wasn’t any indication of how much ice to add – just add ice. Unfortunately, I added too much and ended up with sludge instead of a shake…but I still drank it.

On my second day I used Lactaid fat-free milk (12 oz.) then added the shakeology powder and finally some (less than before) ice. This shake turned out fine.

Today I used Lactaid fat-free milk, the powder, and a bunch of frozen mixed berries. Again, the shake came out fine.

So how does it taste? Hmmm….Sandy? I thought at first the issue might be that I hadn’t added any other ingredients besides the liquid to the powder – and so today I tried adding the berries (a significant number), but the taste was still sandy. I feel the powder granules getting stuck between my teeth, in front of my gums, under my tongue. For somebody with OCD this is a quite unpleasant experience.

I’m using a normal, run-of-the-mill blender by Hamilton Beach – so I’m not sure if it just doesn’t do a good job or completely mixing the ingredients (I doubt it) or if the sandy composition is just inevitable. It doesn’t make it undrinkable – but it certainly isn’t as tasty or pleasant as Ensure.

So my thoughts overall? Well, I’m going to keep mixing and see if I can find anything out about reducing the graininess of the shakes. If I can’t, I’ll probably return it and try vanilla. If I don’t find vanilla to be better flavored, then I’ll likely continue with some sort of nutritional shake – but not Shakeology.

I’ve tried Garden of Life’s RAW Meal previously, which also had a grainy consistency, which caused me to discontinue using it….but if that is the way all these shake powders are, then I might as well go back to RAW Meal which is around 1/3rd the price of Shakeology but still uses high quality ingredients.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Alternatives?

P.S. One other thing I don’t like is that Shakeology is somehow associated with Team Beach Body. Ummm…I’m not looking to form a beach body – just want to be healthy. I don’t really want to go about talking about “beachbody.” I know, I know – not that big of a deal…I’m just saying, not everyone who is using this product is looking to get their “beach body” on.

Ensure Nutrition Shake or Ensure Complete Nutrition Shake?

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Soylent…but it seems likely that it will be sometime later in Q1 2014 before I’ll get my hands on it. In the meantime I’ve been drinking a good bit of Ensure. It is a nice, easy way to get some caloric and nutritional content without a lot of work. How good is it for me? Hmmm…I’m not sure.

I recently saw they had a “Complete” product which is supposed to provide support for muscles, heart, immune system, and bones…but it is significantly more expensive. You can buy a six pack of Ensure for around $9-$10, a four pack of Ensure Complete runs around the same. So which should I buy? I decided to do a side-by-side comparison – and since I’m doing it, I might as well share it with you.

 Product: Ensure Ensure Complete
 Calories:  250  350
 Fat Calories:  50  100
 Total Fat:  6 g  11 g
 Cholesterol  5 mg  5 mg
 Sodium  200 mg  240 mg
 Potassium  370 mg  560 mg
 Carbohydrates  40 g  51 g
 Sugars  23 g  20 g
 Protein  9 g  13 g
 Vitamin A  25%  25%
 Iron  25%  25%
 Vitamin K  25%  25%
 Niacin  25%  25%
 Vitamin B12  25%  25%
 Phosphorus  25%  35%
 Zinc  25%  25%
 Manganese  60%  60%
 Chloride  8%  2%
 Vitamin C  50%  60%
 Vitamin D  25%  40%
 Thiamin  25%  25%
 Vitamin B6  25%  25%
 Biotin  25%  25%
 Iodine  25%  25%
 Selenium  25%  30%
 Chromium  25%  25%
 Choline  15%  15%
 Calcium  30%  35%
 Vitamin E  25%  30%
 Riboflavin  25%  25%
 Folate  25%  25%
 Pantothenic Acid  25%  25%
 Magnesium  25%  25%
 Copper  25%  25%
  Molybdenum  50%  60%
 Amino Acid Metabolite HMB  No  Yes
 Omega 3’s  No  650 mg ALA
 Probiotics  No  Yes

Based on this analysis, I think I’ll stick with the regular nutritional shakes. I wouldn’t mind the Amino Acid Metabolite HMB, Omega 3’s, or Probiotics…but I can get these from other sources. Everything else seems fairly minor or something I don’t necessarily want (e.g. extra calories)…and the lower price of the regular shake makes more financial sense.

Any thoughts? Do you use nutritional drinks? If so, what kind and how frequently? I’d say I use them on average once a day – though sometimes twice…and of course, there are the odd days where I don’t use them at all.