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!).

Soylent: A Viable Meal Alternative?

The Journey to Soylent

On June 27th, 2013 I began anticipating Soylent, talking about Soylent, impatiently waiting for Soylent to become available. I signed up for a week’s supply of Soylent on June 10th and it arrived on July 22nd.

A picture of my box of soylent...and of course, my feet, b/c I'm talented with cameras like that.
A picture of my box of soylent…and of course, my feet, b/c I’m talented with cameras like that.

Inside was a long sheet with instructions…I’m not a fan of the big sheet…What am I supposed to do with this? Unless I hang it on my way there is no easy way to store it.

The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.
The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.

You can click on the above image to see how long the instructions really where, but it would have consumed too much space on the page for me to embed the image here.

Next we had the bags of Soylent and the bottles of oil. You can see a picture below.

What came in the first Soylent box I received - instructions, oils, and soylent.
What came in the first Soylent box I received – instructions, oils, and soylent.

Theoretically, I should have received a package before this one with my welcome pack – which was to include a stainless steel measuring cup and an airtight pitcher as pictured below:

Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.
Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.

 

The Soylent pitcher - yes, it is BPA free.
The Soylent pitcher – yes, it is BPA free. Ohh, and mine doesn’t look like this, the main body is clear, the handle and lid are green, and it is entirely unbranded by Soylent…I think there is a name of some other company on top…

But I hadn’t and I didn’t for quite some time. I attempted using some of my own implements to make Soylent but had mixed successes. If this was what Soylent tasted like, I wasn’t going to stick with it. After a few tries I decided I would just wait until my welcome package came.

Ohh, and yes, I sent an email reporting the missing welcome package on the 23rd and of course received the usual automated reply the same day. It would be August 9th before I would receive a reply from Soylent and then to be informed that “I have forwarded your concern to our shipping department…” Then silence. Finally, on August 18th I received an email informing me that my starter kit was on its way.

Okay, that is a pretty ridiculous wait…the organizational side of Soylent has been extremely underwhelming…I’m not sure all of what happened behind the scenes, but, honestly, I don’t care that much if Soylent is good and works and if they learn from their mistakes – which, it seems (I hope), they are doing.

On a side note, the disorganization worked out to my advantage as I received a second shipment of Soylent by accident and when I asked what I should do with it they told me to keep it. I was pretty happy about that (though I feel bad for folks who ordered far before me and way more and still have not received their Soylent).

But How About It, Is It Good?

Now that you have heard about the nightmare of procuring my Soylent, lets talk about Soylent itself. It is a very fine mix and comes in bags that each contain three meals. I found trying to make Soylent in smaller portions to be a hassle – not only because of measurements and so on but because the powder is so fine that it puffs up into the air and lands everywhere while scooping.[1]

In any case, I moved to making a whole packet at a time and it was so much easier. Okay, I know for those of you who cook, you are rolling your eyes – and yes, in the distant past I did sometimes cook – but the whole point of Soylent is to save time and improve nutrition.

Making Soylent was now simple – pour in the powder, add a bottle of oil, and then fill the rest of the pitcher with water. Screw on the air-tight cap[2] and shake for around sixty seconds. Place in the refrigerator, remove when ready to consume, shake for five to ten seconds, then pour yourself a glass and enjoy.

Soylent tastes a bit like a milk shake. It has a pleasant flavor, though one I can’t place. Compared to any other powdered drink (Shakeology, RAW Meal), the “graininess” is almost non-existent.

It tastes good, the texture is good, and its easy to make – sweet! Another surprising and positive note is that it uses water not milk or a milk substitute and yet tastes better than Shakeology with (in my case) almond milk! Seriously, if you didn’t see the batch mixed, you’d swear it had to have a dairy base.

So, I like my Soylent and I intend on continuing to consume it. Right now I average two meals a day of Soylent and one meal elsewise. I allow myself to eat whatever I desire for that third meal – but my cravings for unhealthy foods seem to have lessened somewhat (not completely).

Should you get Soylent? Sure. Just be prepared to wait a bit. I think organizationally they are getting there, but with the delays initially as well as the huge demand, and then the ongoing demand for resupplies, it is going to be a while before Soylent is working smoothly.

A Few Importantish Notes

It Goes Bad

One of the great things about Soylent is that it lasts forever (hyperbole) in powder form. Something I didn’t realize until I received my Soylent is that once it has been mixed with water it needs to be consumed within two days. Apparently due to the nutrient richness of the drink, even while being refrigerated bacteria multiply quickly. I would like to know more about the health implications of this.

I oftentimes eat food far past its expiration date – especially dairy alternatives (almond milk, soy milk) and don’t have any problem…so I’d probably ignore this warning except after posting on the forums I learned that the bacteria make the taste go bad quickly – so its not just filled with bacteria, it tastes nasty too.

Still, I’ve been consuming Soylent over a two to may three day period and haven’t experienced issues thus far…and making it in this size batch saves me from measuring, etc.

Don’t Forget The Oils!

Each time you use a bag of Soylent you are supposed to add the oils as well – which provide some important aspects of Soylent’s nutrition. Being ADD, I have on occasion forgotten to put the bottles into the Soylent. This doesn’t bother me, but it is a dilemma – what am I supposed to do with these bottles of oil?

Flatulence

There was a lot of discussion of increased flatulence when using Soylent which, it is hypothesized, is caused by the bacteria in our stomachs not knowing how to handle nutritional food and the replacement of some of these bacteria with better bacteria that do consume this food.

I had no intention of mentioning flatulence, b/c I really don’t like talking about it. I was never a fart guy joker…but I must mention it, b/c it radically increases flatulence and it smells horrific.

This goes away after a few days – but my recommendation – start Soylent when you aren’t spending a lot of time with people…and please, give your spouse a break and sleep on the couch…or at least let them sleep on the couch.

What Now?

My plan at this juncture is to continue Soylent 2x daily long-term. We’ll see if I grow sick of the taste…which is very possible.

I haven’t noticed any huge changes in my health, but that may come with time. I also am hoping to get my blood drawn and analyzed every quarter by WellnessFX so I can monitor my health, especially vitamin levels, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Wrapping It Up

Soylent is great – I’m exceptionally pleased with the product itself. The company has some work to do – and seems to be doing it. I haven’t noticed any amazing positive health effects, but I’m hoping over time it works positively. I’ll provide future updates as I’ve been on it longer and can analyze how I respond to the taste with continued consumption and whether I see any health changes positive or negative.

  1. [1]The reason I wanted to do smaller servings was b/c Soylent goes bad after it is made and I wasn’t sure I could consume an entire package of Soylent quickly enough.
  2. [2]I discovered it isn’t really, really, really air-tight. I didn’t have room to put the pitcher standing up in my refrigerator (it is a mini) so I put it on its side – this worked a few times, but eventually it began to leak.

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%)

Shakeology – Almost a Month Later.

I’ve been using Shakeology on an (almost) daily basis since November 8th. By the 11th I had experienced relief from an annoying health problem that had plagued me for two years, but I waited till the 13th to share this – worried that the effect might wear off. As of the 3rd of December (today) I can report that the issue has remained absent.

That said, I have skipped a few days of Shakeology b/c I simply couldn’t stomach another strawberry shake. Sure, I could have added in different ingredients to change the flavor – but that is getting beyond my desired complexity. I called Shakeology today and had them change my order from Strawberry to Vanilla. From what I have seen across the web – chocolate is the best flavor, vanilla second, and strawberry a distant third. I figured I’d start with the least favored first.

I don’t think it was the taste per say that got to me – but rather the same flavor over and over. I remember Rob Rhinehart (Soylent) talking somewhere about the need for a certain taste neutrality in these sort of meal replacements – so that the body doesn’t grow sick of it. I’m hoping the vanilla will provide this – b/c otherwise, I’m going to get sick of the taste!

So, I’m still all for Shakeology, it fills me up, helps with at least one health problems, seems extremely nutritious, and so on – but all that won’t do a hill of beans if I can’t stomach it. So, here’s hoping on vanilla. 🙂 (I’m not a big fan of chocolate, though I’ll probably give it a try if vanilla doesn’t work out).

One other minor annoyance. I called in to Shakeology this past Saturday (I’m not sure if they are open on Saturdays) to change my order to vanilla and was told by the auto attendant that I had about a five minute wait time. I waited for ten minutes and when no one answered, gave up. Either their wait times are incorrect or they don’t change their auto attendant to reflect that they are closed on the weekends – either is bad, the latter is worse.

I called again today (Tuesday) and was told I had a three minute wait. I was then dropped into some sort of hellish queue in which the same two “announcements” where made over and over in quick succession. When I was about to go crazy after 8 minutes of this craziness, I hung up.

I tried again a minute later but chose a different option (I think it may have been the option which dropped me into auto attendant hell – yes, it is a real place – Verizon once dropped me there for thirty or forty-five minutes, then abruptly said, “We’re sorry, we can’t take your call right now” and hung up on me!!) and this time I was able to get through to a real person. The estimated wait time was wrong again – one minute and I probably waited four…which isn’t horrible – I wouldn’t have even noticed if I hadn’t been placed in permanent hold twice before.

When I did finally reach a customer service rep they had trouble looking up my record b/c I gave my name as “Dave” instead of “David” (which is what the record said). This isn’t a big deal either, but whatever software they are using should have the simple fuzzy logic to check for variations of spelling in names to overcome this problem.

In the end they did find my record and I did get my order switched, and the customer service rep was polite and helpful. The call lasted less than ten minutes including hold time – which really isn’t bad….these are just a few minor annoyances I hope Shakeology will take the time to iron out. 🙂

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.

Soylent May Finally Provide the Diet I’ve Been Looking For…

I’m pretty excited about Soylent, a new liquid meal replacement, which has been successfully utilized by the founder for several months now and is being tested by a number of other individuals – to what appears to be largely positive reviews.

I don’t want to go completely to a meal replacement – but neither does Rhinehart, the inventor of Soylent – he still eats “normal food” but chooses healthier options and spends less.

This isn’t like a lot of other meal replacements which only partially provide the necessary ingredients/nutrients to maintain health, Rhinehart’s goal is something that could be used to entirely replace traditional foods.

I’m also excited b/c it seems pretty evident that the company is run by a bunch of young, energetic, intelligent idealists who I expect will take the company in some great directions – e.g. I’m psyched that they are releasing the “recipe” as open source.

That is about all I have to say at the moment. Product is supposed to begun mass delivery in August and I hope to have the opportunity to try it within a month or two thereafter…but I figured I’d write a short post so folks could explore what is currently occurring with Soylent if they so desired. 🙂

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