Soylent Day 1

My first package of Soylent arrived on Friday, August 12th. It was a small box with seven pouches; each pouch contains one full day’s worth of nutrients. I was excited to start, but I’d made my decision (see previous post) that I would eat with my family when I’m spending time with family. I *do* enjoy food, and I *do* enjoy making food, and I think that food can be a very social thing: making breakfast for my girls is an act of love; eating at a new restaurant is a shared activity; enjoying food is an intellectual exercise. So I waited until today for Soylent.

I should point out that I’m 5’10” and moderately muscular at about 190 lbs. I try to weight-lift in the evenings, but I have precious little time to do so—in fact, at the moment I’m going on about 10 days without a workout. It’s not uncommon. We’ll see what Soylent does to me.

6:45 AM

I got up this morning and made a day’s worth of Soylent: 2 Quarts, 2000 calories. It wasn’t quite as neat and tidy as I thought. The powder comes with a 2-Qt mixer, and you’re supposed to fill it up halfway and then dump in the powder. Well, the powder fills it the rest of the way up and will “puff” out over everything if you aren’t careful. Mixing is disappointing, too—there were plenty of small clumps in my first batch.

I had added a little mixing ball from a protein shaker, but I’m not sure if it helped.

First impressions: it’s surprisingly creamy; a thick off-white liquid that pours like milk. It tastes very mild and a bit like oatmeal. It reminds me of “gruel,” actually, but it doesn’t taste bad at all. Despite being thirsty, it took me several minutes to drink 16oz because it is fairly thick. That was 500 calories of Soylent—my first “meal” of the day.

7:15 AM

To help it mix a bit, I put some ice cubes in (instructions say to keep it refrigerated, so the ice cubes were also to help transport to work). I stuck it our work lunch room refrigerator. We’ll see how ‘full’ it keeps me.

10:10 AM

So I noticed that I have a curious feeling of fullness this morning. It’s not that I feel ‘heavy’ or ‘slow’—I feel pretty alert and physically capable. But my stomach feels quite full. Maybe 500 calories of the stuff off the bat was not the best way to start. So far no hunger pangs—though I did have a LOT of food this weekend, including a barbecue picnic late Sunday afternoon. It’s not uncommon for that amount of food to keep me from being hungry throughout the next day.

10:55 AM

First hunger pangs, so I went and pulled the Soylent out of the refrigerator and had 12oz (measured by a Solo cup). Should be 375 calories—maybe better approximating a meal. It was surprisingly creamy after being refrigerated, more like cream than milk. Still the same bland oatmeal taste, but goes down fairly easy. I’m back to the curious full feeling, though I don’t feel heavy or slow. I’m expecting to have to ‘eat’ again around 3:00 PM.

12:40 PM

Day is going pretty well, physically. No notable tiredness or hunger (though I should say that I got about seven hours of sleep last night, which is two more than normal). All I have is that curious full feeling. I’m thinking maybe tomorrow I’ll make only what’s needed for the day; i.e. only 1500 calories. It should make the mixture smoother and help me measure it better. Still expecting to ‘eat’ again at 3:00 PM.

1:15 PM

I suddenly got hunger pangs and drank another 12oz of Soylent. I’m surprised to see that I have about a third of the 2qt bottle left (remember I’m only supposed to drink three quarters of it, or 1500 calories, today). If I do the math, I’ve consumed 400z today so far or about 1250 calories. Not bad for halfway through the day, but I’m not actually halfway through *my* day–I’m only seven or so hours through my usual 18 hour day. Takeaway here is that I have only 250 calories left, which works out to 8 oz. I expect to drink that around 3:00 PM, at which point I’m done with Soylent and waiting for dinner.

3:45 PM

Took the opportunity between meetings to drink my last 8 oz of Soylent. I didn’t particularly feel like I needed it, but as I drank it I felt a little empty inside. Literally, I stress, literally. I still have a sort of full feeling, so maybe the emptiness I sense is just because my body is used to full picnic weekend food. I did start getting sleepy around 2:30, but I was in a meeting then so it might have little to do with the Soylent.

I took some time between meetings today to calculate out tomorrow’s need. So if I drink four 12 oz  servings of Soylent tomorrow, that will be the 1500 calories I need. I just need to space them out between 7:00 AM and 6:00 PM, which is the (early) window of dinner for me. I figure if I take a glass every 3 hours, that will keep me full–that’s 7:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 4:00 PM.

Also, I note a delicious (pun intended) irony that I tried this experiment so I could spend less time on food, and the result is that I spend all this time thinking and planning and writing about it. We’ll see where I end up tomorrow.

5:00 PM

It’s time to go home, and I’m feeling the hunger a bit. I don’t note a decrease in physical or mental performance, which is nice, and it could be due to the utter lack of solid food. I also could be low on water, as I have mostly drunk coffee today (and every day). I’m going to make up the remainder of 1,500 calories in my bottle for tomorrow when I get home so I can get a smoother mix. First day was relatively successful–we’ll see how I feel in the morning.

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Life improvement attempt: Soylent

While browsing Facebook I encountered a post titled, “Proudly Made with GMOs.” It was posted by two conservative-leaning friends of mine, one of whom is a scientist and another who is very scientifically literate. It’s a provocative title, especially given the current collective disapproval of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and biotech companies like Monsanto who produce them.

The article was very enlightening. I have it linked so I can refer back to it. But the fact that it was written by Soylent also intrigued me. I had heard about Soylent before, and how the creator was frustrated at the difficulty of eating well while very busy (and often ‘cooking for one,’ as they say). So I checked the website to see what this engineered food was really about.

The website, it turns out, had only very basic information. I know the food is genetically engineered for maximum nutrients, sustainable production, and that it is vegan. I understand that it’s designed to require minimum time and effort to prepare for the busy person, and that it’s sustainable and inexpensive so that it may one day help end world starvation. Both laudable goals, but lacking in practical information.

Google helped me to find some testimonials of people who went food free, subsisting entirely on Soylent for a period of time. In fact, there was a wealth of data to include medical information from before and after the some of the trials. Some were conducted by moderately active people (that’s me!) and some by very active people, including a pretty serious runner. Mostly the reviews were positive.

At this point I became immensely attracted to the idea of simplifying food. I am married with three young children, I run a manufacturing plant that operates 24 hours a day, and I am in the process of getting my EMBA from a nearby university. I am very busy. And my daily work does not have structured meal breaks. Like many people in my position, my eating (and sleeping) habits tend to be the first to turn unhealthy when faced with so many obligations. So if there’s a food that is portable, convenient, and nutritious–that’s something I’d like to try!

I know, by the way, that if I just decided to do it, I could eat better with real food. I could, for example, make sandwiches ahead of time. In winter I often spend an hour on a weekend making chili which I refrigerate at work to eat throughout the day. But given the choice between spending time making lunches ahead of time, or waking up early to eat breakfast, I would rather spend my little time at home with my wife and children. Trying out Soylent is purely a decision of convenience.

So I ordered a weeks’ worth, and I’m waiting for it to arrive. I’m eager to have a week where I’m not wondering, “Do I have time to drive out to lunch today?” I want to keep a record of the trial here, too, for memory; also as a testimonial if anyone is ever interested. So we’ll see how it goes!

I think it’s important to note that I have decided not to replace ALL food with Soylent; I plan to take it as a substitute for all weekday meals except dinner. This is so I don’t screw up my digestion with only liquid food, and also because my wife and I try to do family dinners together. This is mostly so we spend at least some time as a family in the midst of our busy lives. But also I think the family dinners will provide some variety in my diet and allow me to continue to demonstrate good eating habits to my children.