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Two Months of Soylent (robrhinehart.com)
265 points by caublestone on Mar 18, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 242 comments

After reading the first Soylent post, I felt inspired to try and come up with a recipe for a "nutritionally complete" soup. I used an online tool that calculates the total nutrients for a recipe and came up with this:

3 potatoes 1 onion 500 grams of wild alaskan salmon 1/2 cup of mushrooms 3.5 tbsp of olive oil 30 grams of sunflower seeds 1 tbsp of dried parsley 2 tbsp of ground thyme 50 grams of parmesan cheese 3 cloves of garlic 20 grams of sesame seeds 1 medium oyster (from a can) 1 tbsp of ground mace 1 tsp of cod liver oil

To cook it I just added everything to boiling water in order of cooking time, starting with the potatoes and onions and ending with the salmon.

I tried making it last night and ate it for dinner and breakfast, and it was delicious! I also feel amazing. I guess I should track the effects of the recipe on quantified-mind.com. :-)

I was actually surprised by how hard it was to fit all of the daily nutrient requirements into a recipe with about 2000-2500 calories (while also avoiding nutrient overdoses). It would be great if someone would create a website for "nutritionally complete" recipes, especially recipes that are cheap and easy to make with a good blender or crockpot.

> I was actually surprised by how hard it was to fit all of the daily nutrient requirements into a recipe with about 2000-2500 calories (while also avoiding nutrient overdoses). It would be great if someone would create a website for "nutritionally complete" recipes, especially recipes that are cheap and easy to make with a good blender or crockpot.

I hit the same wall when I overturned my eating habits and tried to fit all my nutrients into my three-meals-a-day habit. I succeeded by tweaking things but then it dawned on me I could spread out all the nutrients on a week. It made recipes composition much easier.

It wasn't some kind of soylent though but "regular" meals.

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing as I was making the recipe. That brings up an interesting question: Is it fine to get 200% of your daily requirement for Vitamin A on one day and 0% the second day and let things average out, or will you be healthier if you get a steady stream of your daily requirements throughout the day? Maybe there are some nutrients that are easily stored in the body (like fat-soluble vitamins) and some that aren't?

I'm not a biologist but many vitamins are water soluble. They may stay in your body long enough but chances are you'll urinate most of the unnecessary vitamins out.

This is in fact why multi-vitamin pills are a useless generic habit. Vitamins are trace compounds/elements by nature, and your body is very careful to eliminate excesses (since they can catalyze all sorts of side-reactions which can be otherwise harmful).

The classic example is if you take multi-vitamins, you usually have noticeably different colored urine. That's no coincidence.

Yeah except you might be deficient in some vitamin, and in that case you're screwing yourself over by not taking a multivitamin that has just 100% of the RDA's. Not everyone can afford to eat a world-class, healthy diet, and obtain all nutrients sans a multivitamin.

It is medically very difficult to be vitamin deficient. Modern food is fortified in so many ways that its now almost impossible unless you do something like eat exclusively exactly 1 food product. Even then.

It's not about a healthy diet - it's about the fact that vitamins are trace components that your body holds onto what it needs and discards the rest. This is very different to the general nutritional needs of the body (carbohydrates and the like - all the things the Soylent maker is principally concerned with).

Multivitamin pills are an expensive "worried well" type supplement. Very very few people need them. They're not "generally a good idea", and if you can afford them you should be using that money to buy better quality foodstuffs because they certainly won't surrogate for poor nutrition in the major groups that you do need in large quantity.

People do still get scurvy simply by mostly eating cooked foods. It's still rare, but not that uncommon among collage students.

The sad thing is while vitamin deficiency is actually fairly common it's often a slow process and the body can cope fairly well so it's less noticeable.

Vitamin deficiency to the point of ill health effects is not "fairly common".

The persons who claim this are usually trying to push nutraceuticals at the same time.

By common I mean it's something that your average General practitioner doctor will encounter. Pregnant and Nursing mothers are often told to take supplements with good reason. Also of note absorption issues are just as important as diet which is one of the reason B12 shots for example are used to treat deficiency.

With that said, taking a daily multivitamin is often overkill taking it weekly is often just as useful. It's just that they are cheap enough that trying to figure out the ideal dose is generally a waste of time.

"By common I mean it's something that your average General practitioner doctor will encounter"

Well, sure, but that's during specific cases where the person knows that there's something wrong with them. It's not commonly "accidentally" discovered during the course of your regular physicals.

> Very very few people need them.

Women who want to become pregnant, or who are already pregnant, should be taking 400 micrograms of folic acid (from before conception to at least 12 weeks conception) and 10 micrograms vitamin d, but avoiding anything with vitamin a.


People who are forced to eat ramen breakfast, lunch, and dinner are not going to be able to afford multivitamins. Your idea is severely flawed.

In the US, multivitamins commonly cost a few cents per day. You could probably reduce your ramen consumption by 5% and pay for the multivitamins.

>you usually have noticeably different colored urine. That's no coincidence.

Personally the only substance I've noticed cause substantial colour changes is high doses of riboflavin (the infamous neon yellow...).

Several of the vitamin B's are often found in energy drinks and various pre-workout mixes in very high doses as well (e.g. it's not uncommon for pre-workout mixes to trigger niacin-flushes as well as riboflavin-neon color). The motivation seems to be that the potential benefits might be good enough and the risks low enough that it's better to dose high and maximize what is available to the body, even if most ends up being excreted.

Not many other supplements tends to be dosed at such high multiples of RDA's as some of the B-vitamins often does.

Your description sounds like a good thing, i.e. it makes it sound like it's not possible to overdose via a vitamin supplement.

You'd have to also declare that it's impossible for people avoid these vitamins in everyday life before they became useless.

However, I though the general advice was to make sure you get your vitamins from your normal diet (as you'll get other benefits too).

vitamin A is not water soluble. a significant excess of vitamin A is not fun.


The point is not so much that "megadoses" are healthy, the point is that at BEST they're wasteful.

Vitamin A & D are fat soluble, so in theory your body can store it. (Some vitamins are toxic in overdose!)

Neat experiment. If the cod liver oil's for vitamins, I think cooking will mess that up.

It would be really handy to have a table of common raw ingredients, the temperatures at which they become safe to eat (if applicable), and the temperature at which their various nutrients denature.

> the temperatures at which they become safe to eat (if applicable)

Most modern food can be eaten raw. Or lightly seared to kill surface bacteria. Modern food safety is pretty neat. It probably won't taste great though.

NB this does not apply to raw processed meat - for example, ground beef/pork/chicken is probably a bad bet. Surface area to volume ratios are key.

Tuna to the rescue. Delicious when seared but raw inside. If it wasn't for the mercury content...

Agreed, my two servings a month hardly count :(

Probably could add some lemon to cut the flavor I suspect.

No harm in having something that tastes good, and cooking is one of the best hacks there is.

Thanks, that's a great tip.

Could you share the name of the online tool you used? Thanks

I also came to this realization and quickly built out http://saiko-chriskun.github.com/nutricount. Working on plans to make it into a more complete product with recipes and such :).

Nutritionally complete recipes? I think George Mateljan has been trying to do just that. Here's his 7 day healthiest menu plan. http://www.whfoods.com/hwep.php (His site could use do-over)

scale this up, freeze it in portion-size bags, repeat with other recipes, have healthy, quick, delicious lunch for weeks.

Vitamin C is destroyed by heat.

I'm not sure where the iron is?

Is it safe to eat wild alaskan salmon every day?

Crazy name. Grab-bag, ad-hoc nutritional doctrine. Still, I'm glad such fringe self-experimentation happens.

My biggest concern would be that healthy adaptive systems benefit from variety, challenge, and chaos.

Intermittent fasting is good. A little contamination from things that are normally unhealthy is good. (See, for example, the hygiene hypothesis or the idea of hormesis.) Chewing is good -- as is the somewhat random mix of very-chewed or less-chewed foods you swallow. Triggering your body's reactions (including your gut biome's reactions) to different extremes of nutrient mix will keep the systems 'practiced'...

..unless you're sure you'll spend the rest of your life like a brain-in-a-vat, and then you might as well take nutrition by IV.

Talk about an ad-hoc nutritional doctrine.


Taleb's new book "Antifragile" talks about this, though his conclusions about medicine are borderline absurd.

"Intermittent fasting is good."

Can you provide a reference for that and define what you mean by "intermittent", "fasting", and "good"?

"Fasting" is not eating. It's usually done for the span of a few meals, or a full day (24-hour period or simply daytime), or even a few days.

"Intermittent" might mean fasting once every few weeks, or once a week, or every other day, or even every daytime (as for Muslims during Ramadan).

"Good" means a longer life with fewer diseases and less physical or mental decline.

Some references:




Thank you.

Did you really need someone to point that out for you or were you being difficult?

Always keep the http://lmgtfy.com link in a copy/paste buffer for these kinds of emergencies!

The Wikipedia article on Intermittent Fasting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_fasting) says that there is evidence which suggests it may increase longevity.


Check a few articles on most popular.

Via Wonkblog:

For those of us who generally don’t like food, consider it an annoyance, and yearn for a way to avoid eating it, Soylent sounds immensely promising. But is it safe?

Surprisingly, the answer from nutrition experts seems to be, “Yeah, probably.” Jay Mirtallo is a professor of pharmacy at Ohio State and the immediate past president of American Society for Parental Enteral Nutrition, which focuses on the science and practice of providing food to patients through both intravenous injections and feeding tubes. His main concern with Rhinehart’s plan is that he’s making the concoction himself, rather than buying it from reputable suppliers.

“He basically made medical food,” Mirtallo says. “If he wanted to switch to a liquid diet, those are already available.”

Indeed they are. Companies like Abbott Nutrition and NestléHealthScience sell dozens of medical food products.


I asked Mirtallo if I could live a healthy life just drinking medical food from here on out. “You can completely,” he says. “But I don’t know why you’d want to. There are so many social aspects to food in what we do.”

One potential downside is cost. Rhinehart claims that he only spends $154.82 a month on Soylent. By contrast, a case of 24 eight-ounce cans of Jevity 1.5cal, a high caloric density product Abbott sells for feeding tube patients, costs $57 from Abbott’s Web store. As each can has 355 calories in it, you’d need six cans a day to top the 2,000 calorie a day mark used in FDA nutrition data. So a 24-pack would last you about four days. That works out to 7-8 packs a month, which could cost up to $456.


Previous discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5369778

Nestle produces something called Modulen specifically for people with IBD. The idea is for people with Crohn's to switch to a liquid diet during bad flare ups to settle things down as digesting food causes inflammation.

It is rather expensive. Luckily for me, my insurance covered it (I'm from Israel, so YMMV). The hard part is that you have to pound a dozen glasses of the stuff every day. Some people can't even drink that much water and this is a heavy drink.

Soylent may be an improvement in terms of price and preparation because Modulen comes in powder form and doesn't mix well with water and goops up quickly. It is simply not easy getting it down.

To those of you suggesting this sort of thing can solve world hunger - doubtful. I'm the only one my doctors know of who actually was able to adhere to a liquid only diet for a stretch of multiple months, people simply don't have the willpower.

You miss food quite badly and are never satiated. What I think Soylent could possibly be is an ultimate supplement, like a protein shake - in fact, fitness companies like Beachbody (P90X) hawk all kinds of dubios concoctions, it is a lucrative market. One that actually works would be neat.

> I'm the only one my doctors know of who actually was able to adhere to a liquid only diet for a stretch of multiple months, people simply don't have the willpower

My experience was due to jaw surgery: 1 week clear liquid, 4 weeks completely liquid diet, 1 week extremely soft food (baby food).

I lost 30 pounds over that 6 weeks (incidentally, more than should have been possible on a complete fast. Healing is energetically expensive.) . I actually found by the end that I didn't really want to go back to solid food - it was extremely convenient having everything set up for me.

On the other hand, I also essentially lost my sense of taste for that six weeks too - probably made it easier when there's functionally no incentive.

However, when I did return to solid food (after my sense of taste returned), dear god the first bite of mashed potatoes were the best food I have ever eaten.

Abbott Nutrition has a range of nutritionally complete drinks called Ensure. If you just can't be bothered eating that's probably the best way to go.


No idea how much it costs though.

Ensure is available over the counter. About 200 calories per dollar, if you want to do the math that way.

At the costs given, Soylent provides over 500 Calories/dollar.

I don't think anyone is advocating going an all liquid diet, I like metaphor that meals become like a movie. We all like movies, but we don't want them 3 times a day.

Also plenty of people have awful dietary habits precisely because they're either hurried or bored by the process of cooking and simply aim for the easiest thing - which in our society these days trends far away from "nutritionally complete" and usually has serious problems with providing satiation.

And that's the question that's gone unasked, because we're focusing (understandably) on the health implications first:

Could Soylent be scalably produced to feed 10% or more of the world's population? Would the material prices skyrocket in response to demand?

Let's set aside the physiological consequences for a moment, what are the potential economic and environmental ramifications of Soylent?

The counter question is how cheaply is Abott's liquid food product produced?

The profit margin on their product, I suspect, is pretty large.

Why aren't liquid foods like this being supplied to under-nourished children in the 3rd world already? Because they are not a profit source.

The world is optimizing to the wealthy. Whole Foods isn't cheap for a reason.

Why aren't liquid foods like this being supplied to under-nourished children in the 3rd world already?

Probably because it doesn't keep or ship well.


My mother just passed of cancer, she was on a feeding tube for 8 months consuming this Abott liquid food. It was shipped in cases just like anything else - cardboard boxes - and delivered via foil-boxes just like the portable milk that you see at any starbucks, though it required no refrigeration.

However, this substance was not made for taste buds and it smelled fairly bad.

They have different types depending on what caloric intake was prescribed by the doctor.

As stated in Steko's quote above, that costs ~4x as much as soylent. Note also that the numbers for soylent don't include packaging or shipping. If you made a commercial version with preservatives etc. the price might be comparable.

I am still skeptical of that stement: the medical cost of Abott's product is high. That does not mean the manufacturing cost is high. In fact, as I mentioned, I think the margins are what is extremely high.

The packaging of this is ubiquitous in many many other products (milk, juice, etc) and I am sure is a very very low cost factor.

Yes, this -- manufacturing Soylent at scale (including a well-managed supply chain with much-lower-than-consumer pricing) would make it far cheaper than it is now to make.

Also consider that Soylent isn't primarily optimized for price, but for quality nutrition and taste.

ALSO consider that anything normally paid for by medical insurance has hugely inflated prices... Abott's probably costs a fraction of Soylent's cost to make. The rest is profit.

>Note also that the numbers for soylent don't include packaging or shipping.

Sure they do. He says he's buying them in personal-size containers, and the price includes shipping. Someone is already buying the ingredients in bulk and reselling them in smaller containers, it's just not the soylent guy. Once he's buying in bulk I would expect costs to drop, even with the added expense of packaging and shipping.

"Why aren't liquid foods like this being supplied to under-nourished children in the 3rd world already?"

There is an abundance of food, it just doesn't get to where it needs to go because the rest of those governments' infrastructure need to be fixed along with the starving children.

Plumpy'nut [1] is food product specifically designed to be consumed by malnourished children. Given that the cost of it is around $30/mo I would actually guess that the barriers to adoption are political and social in nature and not technical.

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumpynut

That sounds pretty good, actually! I do love good peanut butter.

It can be even cheaper than $30/month as well, since the manufacturer allows local production of the paste (in peanut-growing locales) with no license fee payment required.

Oh great. "The poor don't need solid foods. Just feed them this mush. That'll be a kick in the pants to get back into the work force too."

The current costs are also way too high. Most of the world survives on much less than $150 a month for food. I spend less than $150 and i live in the USA.

The problem is that Jevity, for instance, is absolutely disgusting. It's meant to be pumped into a feeding tube. You can't drink it.

This guy is effectively popularising something that has existed for ages in the medical/weight loss industries: namely medical food/meal replacement drinks. The difference is that he is using them daily, without paying the premium for an off the shelf, tested, and regulated version by doing it himself.

My question for those more experienced in this area is:

What well tested, off the shelf, medically regulated products could I buy today that would allow me to eliminate the consumption of solid food altogether - and of those products, which ones are the best value for money?

I really can't be bothered doing all the leg work required to make my own meal replacement drink (reasons being: the chance of not measuring correctly + work + forgetting nutrients + risk) - I'd like to just grab a product every month or so and just go.

I've done 3-5 month stretches (multiple times) using Sustagen (the Hospital Formula[1] one from chemists, not the supermarket variety).

It was during cancer surgeries and therapies, and recommended to me by the hospital + various specialist doctors, so that's the only vote of confidence I needed that it was OK.

I had no side effects while on it, didn't lose or gain weight, and actually quite enjoyed not having to worry about shopping, cooking, washing up, etc. I also slept better, and all-round "felt" better.

I've considered trying it longer term voluntarily, maybe try 6 months or so, and get the full gamut of medical tests done before and after, to see what they say.

[1] http://www.sustagen.com.au/products/sustagen-hospital-formul...

Could you please go into more detail with what your Sustagen regime was like? Number of drinks per day? Taste? Cost? Preparation?

No problems if you can't - but I'd love to hear it from someone that's been through it before (under cancer no less! hope you got better).

The website you shared says that it's merely a nutritional supplement - I'd just like to know what a full regime of meal replacement would be like over say a day (do you have breakfast? or do you just drink whenever you are hungry?).

Pretty much what was your daily eating schedule like during those liquid only stretches.

Pretty much drink it when you're hungry. I usually had 3-4 serves a day at random times. A serve is 2 tablespoons of the powder mixed into a glass/tumbler of water.

Keep in mind I was nearly 100% dormant for those months, so I wasn't exactly building up an appetite. The most exercise I'd get would be a trip to the bathroom. I rarely got hungry with 3-4 serves a day.

Occasionally I would try eat some fruit and (real/natural) yoghurt. Just for taste/sanity more than health/hunger. Maybe once a week or so, and about a coffee-mug sized portion at most was all I could handle.

I believe the websites say they're a "supplement" for legal purposes? I'm not sure. The doctors, nutritionists, and specialists all agreed I could live indefinitely off it.

(Thanks for the well wishes, but there's no getting better from my particular case, just a matter of prolonging it now)

This all kind of sounds like the Jevity that they gave my dad in ICU. Apparently you can stay on it for quite some time. http://abbottnutrition.com/Products/jevity-1_2-cal

Or Scandishake which appears to be a popular brand in the UK. I always remember trying to get my grandfarther to drink some when he was in the hospice, I used to bribe him by talking about an analogue circuit from the Art of Electronics, as he was mostly still in the mind of valves, but only if he finished the drink. :(

My grandmother spent the last 1.5 years of her life on some high-calorie nutrient powder/drink. Even put on a bit of weight for a while.

Ensure and Ensure plus are one brand that come in a variety of flavours.

> Some people tell me going "ketogenic", or reducing carbs is healthy. I am now skeptical of this claim as lowering carbs makes me feel hungry and tired, and the drink taste less sweet. Perhaps it would be possible after an unpleasant transition period, but I don’t see the ultimate gain...

Their advice seems to fall in line with the paleo/primal philosophies—in a nutshell: man only started eating a significant amount of carbohydrates after the agriculturalization of cereals (grains) about 10,000 years ago. They argue that wasn't enough time for us to evolve enough to adapt.

But to your point about feeling hungry and tired—I think it's because you're addicted to carbs and sugar (like almost all of us are), but you don't NEED carbs, at all. I tried primal for a month, and yes, the adjustment took a few days (maybe a week). However, after I got over the sugar/carb cravings, my energy levels where much more even throughout the day, sans-grains.

"in a nutshell: man only started eating a significant amount of carbohydrates about 10,000 years ago."

This is a myth and patently wrong. Anatomically modern humans evolved on a diet of cooked food, the bulk of which was tubers and other root vegetables.

EDIT: 'tubas' -> 'tubers' derp.

This is also patently wrong; a paleolithic human could not have subsisted on a diet of tubas, as they were not invented until the mid-19th century.

Parent said "modern", not "paleolithic". You are not a paleolithic human, and if you are, welcome, time traveller.

Modern humanity evolved to eat tubers in the last few centuries?

We evolved to drink milk in only about a thousand years. It was evidently so successful that huge swathes of the population are now lactose tolerant - but only if they descended from particular groups which had access to it.

Yes. We evolved to cope better with bubonic plague in a matter of decades. It all depends on the amount of evolutionary pressure.


I stand by my point; that while copper and zinc are both important trace elements, paleolithic man could not practically have gotten them through consumption of tubas.

He might not actually be a time traveller.


I like how your typo first gave me a hilarious mental image of a man eating tubas, and then a hilarious mental dialogue of Arnold Schwarzenegger saying your sentence

It's not a tuba.

"tubas" should be replaced with "tubers"

"Carbohydrates" should be replaced with "grains".

Also, the 10,000 years thing is old info. We found evidence in 2009 that man was harvesting and milling grain 100,000 years ago at least.


10k years is plenty enough: http://www.salon.com/2013/03/10/paleofantasy_stone_age_delus...

In fact, 10k years is enough for dogs to have evolved to digest carbs a lot better. There's even specific genes that are known to help that.

Just because those genes exist doesn't mean they're evenly distributed. For example, look at the spectrum of lactose tolerance: some people do just fine, some people get a little gassy, some people get severely ill.

Yes but that mostly is distributed according to dairy consumption from around 500 years ago. Grain consumption is widespread across the globe in almost every culture.

10K years hasn't been enough for cats, apparently. Plus, the lifespan of a dog is ~7 times shorter than the lifespan of a man, which will give them at least 7 generations more to adapt.

Obviously there has been some adaptation to the change of diet, and it is also obvious that this diet was not letal to human (or nobody would have adopt it), but this does not implies that it is optimal for human consumption. Most people in my region are not lactose intolerant... but do you know what? I threw up every time that my mother had me drink a glass of milk because it was "healthy" and good for my bones. If adaptation depends that much between humans (the % of lactose intolerant or lactase persistent is not the same in the US than in China or Africa, for example), trying to correlate anything with animals seem completely off to me.

Cats are obligate carnivores, canids aren't.

More like 2-3 times shorter. Humans have barely gone past 30 years of age for most of the last 10k years, and I don't see how dogs' lifespans were improved in recent centuries.

Humans lifespan was that low since the high mortality rate the first months of life. After the first years, the expected lifespan increased dramatically. A humans need a few years to be able to reproduce and those who were able to have a longer lifespan. Even if the dogs didn't improve their lifespans (which honestly, I doubt they didn't) we are still in a similar ratio.

What question is really being asked - did we evolve the ability to digest carbs? We've apparently always been able to do that. Or did we evolve the ability to eat large amounts of carbs without risking various ills like type II diabetes and heart disease?

The paleo hypothesis is that we haven't adapted to carbs to the point that they don't cause disease. Carbs aren't dangerous enough to kill us before we reproduce, so why would we expect the genes to be selected out?

Gene selection isn't that simple.

Population members aren't useless to preserving genes once they're done having babies.

Elders use and share collected knowledge (particularly skills that take a long time to master), care for babies while the parents are hunting/etc., help with gathering/cooking/cleaning/etc.. If they are all sick & dying instead of doing this work, your group isn't going to do as well as the competing group whose elders are in good shape.

Fair enough, but I still don't think we can show that humans have evolved to the point of achieving optimal health on a high carb diet in a few thousand years.

Grain eaters are still overall pretty healthy, so they can still accomplish the beneficial things you describe, allowing their less-than-optimal genes to carry on.

I don't eat sugar sugar anymore, but consume plenty of fruits, so I wouldn't consider myself addicted to sugar.

However, I simply could not eat enough calories through the day to fit my lifestyle without eating carbs. I tried, it didn't work. Burning ~400 calories every day before breakfast and adding another ~900 calorie burn at boxing practice every two days ... just nope.

I can't even fulfill my caloric goal when eating carbs on the days I have boxing. My stomach can't process that much food.[1]

When I was strict about avoiding carbs, I lost about 5 or 6 kilograms quite quickly. Took me about 11 months of grain eating and concerted attempts at a caloric surplus to gain back the weight.

[1] One of the strangest feelings I have ever felt is being hungry while having such a full stomach it feels eating another bite will make you vomit. This often happens after boxing when I mess up my "every 3 hours" eating schedule and haven't eaten enough calories before going to practice.

Since it's relatively easy to eat 4000 kcal a day without trying (in fact, just by not trying to not do so), I can only imagine how much you must be eating. 6000 kcal? 8000?

I'm curious what your diet looks like such that you have to take care not to consume 4000 kcal a day.

When I was cycling 100 miles a week, I found I needed about 3500 kcal / day to sustain myself, and it wasn't easy. On a typical day, I ate 3-4 normal breakfasts throughout the morning (a bagel w/ cream cheese, a smoothie, 2 or 3 eggs and toast, maybe a bowl of oatmeal). Dinners were typically a massive serving of lasagna or similar pasta. Lots of snacks throughout the day. The only days where I would say that I easily got enough calories were when I gave in to the temptation of a fast-food hamburger and milkshake. However, as long as I was cooking at home, it was quite a bit of work to keep up with the calories I needed.

Two racks of baby back ribs. Bam, 5k calories, and that's not even all of the food I could eat in one day.

Damn I love me some ribs.

Or nuts - a cup of peanut butter has 1500 calories. Doughnuts, pastries, cheesecake, pancakes... Hell, a beer. Have 2 beers a day, you've burned through a good 500 calories. Real cream in your coffee, real sugar in your drinks.

If you're burning serious calories, you don't get to eat prissy. Look at what they eat in Antarctica.

> Two racks of baby back ribs. Bam, 5k calories, and that's not even all of the food I could eat in one day

I'm not sure how you figure that's 5000 calories. While there's undoubtedly some variation, it would appear that's more in the range of 2-3000 calories.


> On a typical day, I ate 3-4 normal breakfasts throughout the morning (a bagel w/ cream cheese, a smoothie, 2 or 3 eggs and toast, maybe a bowl of oatmeal).

That's a lot of different things to prepare 3-4 times a morning... but my guess is you meant all those things to be 3 or 4 breakfasts, rather than an example of a normal breakfast.

When I'm trying to lose, I do low carb or intermittent fasting, or both. But if I'm not paying any attention, my diet might typically be three meals and some snacking: an cheese and bacon omelet with coffee for breakfast, a 4oz bag of avocado-oil kettle chips and plate of rice and chicken curry for lunch, a quart of chicken lo mein and three spring rolls for dinner. The snacks might something like 10-12 double-stuf Oreos, or a pint of peanuts, munched on over the course of an hour or so.

It's really easy to exceed 4000 kcal, and not hard at all to exceed 5000 kcal, all without ever feeling too full (or ever feeling hungry, of course...).

Interesting. Honestly, the sheer volume of food you're talking about would be challenging for me to ingest. A _quart_ of chicken lo mein? A _pint_ of peanuts? I'd consider a handful (2-4 tablespoons) of peanuts to be a normal snack.

This is an interesting lesson in the effect of food choices, I suppose. Because, my experience is that as long as I avoid soda and beer, it's really easy to consume <1500kcal a day, also without feeling hungry.

> That's a lot of different things to prepare 3-4 times a morning... but my guess is you meant all those things to be 3 or 4 breakfasts, rather than an example of a normal breakfast.

No, I really mean that I ate 3-4 times every morning. I was working from home at the time, though, so it made it much easier to prepare multiple breakfasts while stuff was compiling :-)

It's relatively easy to eat 4000 without trying? How many meals do you consume a day and what do they consist of?

When I did weight resistance training in tandem with intense cardio training five days a week it was still difficult to reach my needed caloric content (which hovered more or less around 4000).

I mean, I'm not saying you're lying, but how is it easy for you?

What do you eat? Eat more butter. More olive oil. More nuts.

A cup of peanuts has 800 calories.

Hell, eat meat - a rack of ribs has 2500 calories. Something akin to that every evening, with a couple beers and some broccoli and cheese, heavy on the cheese, is 4000 calories in one meal.

There are burritos at Chipotle that have 2k calories for one burrito.

As a fatass rather than an athlete, trust me, it's just a matter of training. A pint of Ben and Jerry's is over 1200. A large milkshake approaches 1000. A liter of Coke is 4 calories and two of those per day is doable. Now you're at 4000 calories without even a bite of real food!

The physiological satiety response just isn't as strong or effective in some people. To further complicate things, once obesity sets in, it creates a degree of insulin & leptin resistance, and losing control of these signalling devices even further reduces the negative feedback available to establish a hunger / eating cycle, when ad libitum food is available.

To some degree, it takes acts of deliberate control several times a day, for years, for people who are biochemically prone to overeating, to eat a normal amount given a Western diet... on top of their actual psychological habits.

Aside from this, an obese person deals with larger caloric maintenance requirements in the first place, and views the world through the same hunger-tinted glasses that everyone else does when eating below these requirements in order to lose weight.

A Chipotle burrito with guac & sour cream, and a side of chips, with a 32oz root beer (& 1 refill), will run you about 2400 calories, and represents the approximate amount that in a past era, I was able to eat before getting a subtle, non-painful signal to slow down. Alternately: a normal bag of double stuff Oreos, 2100 calories, 2500 with a decent amount of milk. Nacho Cheese Doritos Family Size: 2400 calories, or 3200 with a 2L of Coke. Digiorno Rising Crust Pizza: 2100 calories, or 2900 with a 2L of coke.

I'm way below my peak weight, but somewhat horrified that this kind of binging isn't out of the question, in the heat of the moment. I'm taking it one day at a time, counting calories, trying to eat small portions, and I've completely removed 'snack foods' and soda & fruit juice from my diet... but it's not easy, and if I don't focus on how much I'm eating, a single meal can destroy a week's worth of dieting.

And for a person who is genuinely hungry? The fastest I've ever lost weight was three weeks in my teens where I had a very controlled diet, and a strenuous 12hr/day backpacking activity. I shed 40lbs in 20 days and had significant related medical problems by the end of my term, so I feel this represents a reasonable approximation of 'starving' (although still at a relatively healthy weight). Midway through, a resupply opened up our food rations for return or immediate consumption. It turns out, 5lbs of cheddar cheese (9000 calories) goes down very easy; I was snacking on granola not an hour later. Stories of Holocaust survivors dying the day after rescue of GI problems aren't particularly surprising in light of a reality like that.

I've never been competitive about eating. I enjoy food, but I'm hardly that unusual: even at my peak weight, a solid 2% of the country had a higher BMI. The pathology is a function of our modern food system's emphasis on fat, sugar, and salt, our culture's value-for-money proposition of ever-increasing serving sizes, and differing physical susceptibility to these things on a personal level, not solely individual psychology. What's an absurd amount for you is the result of absentminded snacking for someone else.

Yes, this matches my experience, though I've lost more weight with fewer health problems: I once lost about 100 pounds in 3 months, but I was 19, and probably couldn't repeat that now at almost 40.

You must've really been fucking up because I've been able to maintain 5,000 kcal per day intakes or more and be mostly comfortable and happy about it. Every 3 hours is part of it...how much fat were you getting if not carbs?

I'm 5' 9", 240lbs (108kg) and lift. I know powerlifters that bulk/eat harder than I do and I've never heard them bitch about something that extreme, even if the protein intake can get tiresome sometimes. The fat though? That's always fun.

I've known bodybuilders to be able to jerk their weight around pretty hard too.

If you were to do so -- you'd need to re-examine the role that fat played in your diet.

The technical layman's reference would probably be "Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" by Phinney/Volek. (or possibly the Performance one for athletes)

You didn't eat enough fat. If you cut carbs you must increase fat intake because that's the only other source of energy.

Only: fat is quite filling. So it's hard to eat enough calories from fat alone. (At least I found fatty meat quite filling. Gulping down cream or double cream is easier.)

Honestly the only two things I'm missing on low carb are ice cream (that's okay though) and coke (which is why I'm searching for a pure stevia alternative). I had way less problems then I would have expected.

edit: a) I'm in Germany, not that many products available here. b) I always steered clear of Coca Cola, Pepsi and so on, those were too sweet for me and the caffeine level was rather low anyway.

Have you tried just the fizzy flavored water you can buy at the grocery store? The taste takes some getting used to (not really sweet when compared to cokes) but I've found that what I liked most about soda is the fizz.

After dropping soda I can't even drink half a can because of the sweetness but YMMV.

You could try plain soda water flavoured with a small amount of concentrated cordial/squash.

I like the slightly bitter taste of cola and of course the caffeine.

You should try making your own. The Coke recipe is actually pretty simple -- most of the "super secret formula" stuff is for marketing. A quick Google will bring up a bunch of different versions, like the ones on this[1] helpful page.

You can order the ingredients whenever you're sure you want to try it (most of them keep for a long time). Then, when you get a few hours free on the weekend, you can make a batch of soda syrup. You can experiment with the ingredients and fine-tune it to be perfect.

If you want to try something slightly different (which, unfortunately, requires processed sugars AFAICT), you can try making ginger ale at home! Here's a simple and practical guide[2] that I used to learn how to make some, which serendipitously was written by a San Francisco tech startups guy.

[1]: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/427/o... [2]: http://tashian.com/carl/archives/2009/03/ginger_ale.php

You may have found this but http://www.zevia.com/ for Stevia based Soda options.

Yeah, found it. Sadly I'm in Germany :/

Will probably get one of my friends to bring me some when they visit home the next time.


and it tastes good! in fact i like all their products :)

Sadly they feel the need to still have 5g of sugar / 100ml. It tastes fine but I could easily do with it being less sweet and sugar free.

That alternative would be Zevia. I get them at Trader Joe's or Sprout's - YMMV.

Why not just drink diet coke?

You seriously suggested diet coke to someone wanting a non-sugary alternative to coke? Ok, so that's unnecessarily snarky, but diet coke is pretty much the farthest away from the non-diet colas you can get with the diet variations. These days at least I believe it's that way on purpose, as it's created a distinct market for itself.

Coke Zero is a lot closer, but Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max are both vastly better approximations to their non-diet versions.

RC Light, though, is the only diet cola I've tasted that ever got close to fooling me into thinking I got the non-diet version. It's worth a try. But RC tastes quite different to Coke (much stronger caramel taste) so someone looking for a diet alternative to Coke might not be happy with it.

Yes, Coke does seem to have gone way out of their way to make Diet Coke and Coke Zero taste very distinct.

I miss Diet Pepsi (can't get it in Norway) - Pepsi Max is ok, but it's not the same. Since work ditched Pepsi I've cut way back on the amount of soda I drink. I suppose that may be a good thing, but I still miss the taste.

Fun fact: Coke tried adapting the Diet Coke recipe to use real Coke. The result? 1985's ill-fated New Coke.

Diet Coke and Coke Zero are only two of their diet colas. The original was TaB, which is still sold today.

Because it tastes disgusting :D

I switched from sugar in my coffee to stevia about 1 1/2 years ago, it was the first non-sugar sweetener I tried I didn't find disgusting.

Diet Coke contains HFCS, and is no better for you than regular coke. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/11/diet-soda-diabetes-...

Diet Coke does not contain high fructose corn syrup. (http://www.livestrong.com/article/258491-ingredients-nutriti...)

Semaphor lives in Germany. They don't really do HFCS there anyway.

I would suggest not using HuffPo for "science" and "health" advice.

Coke Zero? Works for me, but I'm fine with the taste of aspartame

> I am now skeptical of this claim as lowering carbs makes me feel hungry and tired,

The initial tiredness is known as keto-fever or induction flu:


Goes away after a few days.

The first time I low carbed on Atkins, the cravings and bad feelings built up for about a week - but then on the 8th day, it was like I had passed some invisible line. I felt great.

It's really worth pushing yourself past this point - for no other reason than to gain the experience of what it's like to burn fat as your primary energy source to see what people have raved about.

I felt very lightheaded most of the time, but I did feel more energetic. It was very strange feeling. It's not something I'd do for the fun of it, but I'd certainly do it again as a diet because it seemed to work.

Probably your brain's glycogen stores were exhausted, and not enough fat there to power the brain. I feel like this all the time when I go low-carb - I suspect I have fat malabsorption or something.

I'm on Keto now. The biggest change that I noticed while being on Keto is that I eat a lot less and I get fuller on smaller portion sizes.

Typical breakfast is 3 pieces of bacon (yummy) with peanut butter. Large cup of coffe with 1~2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

Lunch is a small $3.50 salad at the salad bar.

Dinner is typically cheese and deli meat with more peanut butter.

I drink about 60 oz. of water a day plus 2 large coffees.

I'm only tired because I'm staying up late and not getting good night of sleep. Hopefully ASMR will help with that.

just curious what, if any, training you did during your primal trial month?

Sorry, but after reading the following (elsewhere on that blog), I'm hard-pressed not to dismiss this as an elaborate troll.

"I read a book on Number Theory in one sitting, a Differential Geometry book in a weekend, filling up a notebook in the process."

The whole thing is hilarious. Sorry, but nutrition is not like math or C++, where you can teach it to yourself by googling things and reading textbooks. Has he even read the massive body of research on food replacement in the form of parenteral and enteral nutrition? For those people it's a matter of life or death, since many patients are incapable of eating. They have to do a lot better than he does.

He's not stitching the molecules for Soylent together atom by atom - he's mixing up various nutrients based upon his ongoing research.

Given the complete crap that many people eat and manage to live on, his attempt to educate himself and take control of his nutrition this way is worthy of respect and emulation - not derision.

That's a strawman. There are plenty of people in the food world to respect and emulate. It's not a matter of just this guy vs. junk food eaters.

>Sorry, but nutrition is not like math or C++, where you can teach it to yourself by googling things and reading textbooks.

That's probably true, but hopefully one day nutrition science will be on that level. Perhaps then a much smaller amount of people will have things like obesity and type II diabetes.

"hopefully one day nutrition science will be on that level"

No other field of hard science is, anyone who offers an alternative is probably selling you snake oil.

To develop an "app" You need a good "emulator". Organize world's medical info into intuitive human body simulation. Who wouldn't want to pay for using human body simulation?

I'm not sure I agree. For instance, I think I could get a pretty good understanding of chemistry, physics, or astronomy by doing nothing but studying textbooks.

How is that implausible? He's an engineer by trade, mathematics is close enough to computer science that most half-way decent programmers should be able to read that level math casually given a good 'brain day'. I spent most of my twenties neglecting math, decided one day to learn calculus, found it pretty easy.

Comparing basic calculus to number theory is like comparing long division to calculus. Saying "oh I know how to take the derivative" is a bit different than knowing how to take the derivative of a complex expression by applying a taylor expansion to estimate the rate of change within .01%.

For number theory, there's a few things you could pick up fairly easily, like understanding what 1 and 3 mod 4 primes are, but there's no way you could do the homework in 1 weekend unless you've aced real analysis, and then maybe you could finish 10-20% of the homework (proofs) in a book in a weekend or so.

Many engineers I've met can't even handle using proof by induction to solve a proof.

If you read his words carefully, he said he "read a book on number theory." He didn't claim mastery. Ditto for differential geometry. He simply absorbed source material and took notes. Quite feasible.

It's not the proof by induction is a hard concept, though.

Rather, writing out any formal proof is monotonous, tedious, lengthy, and prone to minor screw-ups, and to someone with an engineering mindset, not useful in any practical sense.

How does »acing real analysis« help understanding number theory? As far as I'm aware they're not really related at all.

I agree.

One thing: How does acing real analysis help with number theory?

Firstly, you don't read a textbook (especially a math textbook) in one sitting. If nothing else, books like that have problems that the authors expect you to go through. They are also often based on lectures for courses that take at least a semester to absorb.

Secondly, number theory is not calculus; it requires you to be familiar with college-level math courses (e.g. abstract algebra) before you can even start making sense of it. It's certainly plausible that an engineer might pursue it as a hobby, but it's rather unusual, and certainly not for the faint of hear (it requires major commitment in terms of patience and time).

The same goes true for diff. geometry, although it may be more approachable (e.g. many undegraduate math syllabi have it, while number theory is usually a postgraduate course).

Well, clearly nobody could ever do it then.

Wait, no, people study those things all the time. They're difficult, but maybe he has unknown prior background in math, or is gifted in that regard.

It's not as though he achieved something that no human ever has before. It's a reasonably routine though difficult task - akin to perhaps completing a marathon.

Wait, no, people study those things all the time. They're difficult, but maybe he has unknown prior background in math, or is gifted in that regard.

Sorry, but reading a textbook like a novel is not studying. I've met a fair number of mathematicians but I have yet to see one that can tackle a postgraduate textbook in one sitting (unless they are already intimately familiar with the subject).

Using your marathon analogy:

A marathon is usually run in about four and a half hours. The best marathon runners in the world (i.e. current record holders) ran one in about 2 hours.

The university that I'm at has about 45-48 hours of classroom instruction per semester; you're expected to spend between two and three times that preparing; that's an assumption of between 135 and 192 hours of work per semester. I find that for my upper level mathematics courses (first year graduate), I spend about 2-3 hours outside of class working on problem sets and reading the material. This is also, as far as I can tell, about how much the other students in my courses are working. My understanding is that this is the expectation across most high tier universities and math programs.

If we assume that the average marathon runner is roughly equivalent to a normal mathematics student in terms of experience, saying that you learned (and completely understood the implications of) an entire semester of mathematics in a day (16-20 hours) is equivalent to claiming you are able to run a marathon in 40 minutes. For the record, that's a rate of about 1 mile every minute and a half.

This is an imperfect metaphor, since math has the same benefits that CS has of being able to absorb material faster the more you already know. On the other hand, my experience (and what most professors I have asked also say) is that most hard math requires a sort of 'processing' time to really start to get it, so the actual case might be worse: I don't think you'd actually learn much math if you just spent 135 consecutive hours (with sleep as required) working on learning math.

Suffice to say: I don't think what he claimed to do is within the realm of reason.

Personal bio, as to why I'm a semi-reputable source: I'm currently both finishing an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a masters in math at highly ranked public university (in general and in math). Most of my time is currently spent learning math, either in class or self taught (for a seminar). The professors I interact with regularly are about as mathematically talented as it is possible to get.


The above being said:

I would, however, say that someone with a good handle on multivariable calculus and differential equations, along with a really good background in math, could learn a decent amount of applied differential geometry in a weekend. Similarly, you could learn/memorize a lot of the results of number theory in a weekend.

Both of the above could give you the illusion of having learned all of a subject without building a deep understanding of it. Both are also in line with the 'hacker tendency' to be able to stuff a lot of information in your head in a short amount of time. The computer science equivalent would be learning that there exists an algorithm called quicksort that runs in O(nlog(n)) that doesn't work well on sorted data without modification, but without learning how to implement it.

The take away is that it's very easy to fool yourself into thinking you've learned a lot from a math book when you're reading it like a novel. In practice, though, if you aren't doing the exercises (or if they don't exist, working through your own), then you probably aren't actually engaging with the material in any deep and significant way.

I actually think this is in line with many of his other claims: he seems to be a person who seems to believe he has learned everything important about a field in a relatively short amount of research time, without having a deep background in it already, either through reading a single textbook or by spending a few hours/days/weeks researching and reading. I think most of his claims should probably be considered in that light.

> The take away is that it's very easy to fool yourself into thinking you've learned a lot from a math book when you're reading it like a novel. In practice, though, if you aren't doing the exercises (or if they don't exist, working through your own), then you probably aren't actually engaging with the material in any deep and significant way.

Agreed. That doesn't mean he didn't read it and glean a little from it though.

> I actually think this is in line with many of his other claims: he seems to be a person who seems to believe he has learned everything important about a field in a relatively short amount of research time, without having a deep background in it already, either through reading a single textbook or by spending a few hours/days/weeks researching and reading. I think most of his claims should probably be considered in that light.

Agreed, it just smacked of elitism to say that it's not possible to read a textbook without interpretation or instruction. That sort of doctrinaire thinking is just bad policy.

I agree that he may have gleaned something (possibly even a substantial something) from it. As I pointed out, it's easy to learn the applied parts of differential geometry in a day or two: curvature, fundamental forms, etc. are fairly simple, fairly intuitive ideas for someone with a good grasp of multivariate calculus and differential equations, particularly when you're restricting yourself to three dimensional manifolds.

I'd note that that's different from having a rigorous understanding of arbitrary dimension differential geometry, and being able to rigorously show new (if simple/uninteresting) results.

I wasn't trying to imply that you can't read a textbook (or any math text, for that matter) and not learn the material at as deep a level as anyone who's main reference is that text. It's a bit like reading someone's code after very heavy optimization, though: it's easy to miss little parts of how or why the algorithm works, and if you go over it once, without trying possible inputs/etc., then you're likely to miss something.

Instruction and interpretation are like comments in code when you're dealing with specific proofs (they make it easier, but it isn't impossible without them). The thing that is harder (but not impossible) to get without some sort of feedback is a deep understanding of when a proof is rigorous and mathematical aesthetics.

"Agreed, it just smacked of elitism to say that it's not possible to read a textbook without interpretation or instruction."

The persons who mention that in order to impress others tend to not be the ones who learn the most.

"That sort of doctrinaire thinking is just bad policy."

Is it impossible? No. Is it likely considering the context? No.

> Well, clearly nobody could ever do it then.

Almost nobody, yes. Not in one sitting.

If by calculus you meant Calculus 1, 2, or 3 as taught in the first year or two of college, they are a far cry from subjects like number theory and differential geometry. If you meant something like real analysis, then I seriously doubt that you had an easy time.

Anyway, I just read the paragraph with the sentence quoted by geoka9 (it's in the "How I Stopped Eating Food" post), and I call BS on it, too.

Textbook authors assume mathematical maturity after a point - rather abruptly, actually, since there's a marked difference in pedagogical style you can't leaven in.

I have the feeling that he was already an exceptionally gifted individual.

Did he actually say he read textbooks? I was under the impression that he was referring to something that would be more suited to the average or even just uninitiated reader. I know a bit about the concepts of quantum mechanics, just from reading various books of varying difficulties on the subject, but I wouldn't claim that it was equivalent to actually taking a course on them or going through a textbook, even when I did take notes.

I realize it's right next to when he says "[I] can read my textbooks twice as long without mental fatigue", but that seems coincidental juxtaposition, rather than him referring to the same books.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't really seem that implausible, if that's the case.

This is just a marketing ploy - otherwise, the ingredients and instructions as to how to make it would have been provided for free on the blog. And no, I don't buy the excuses that have been made as to why the list of actual ingredients can not be provided.

Not disagreeing, but a previous post does list the ingredients: http://robrhinehart.com/?p=424

Exactly. This is most likely a marketing ploy, but the ingredient list is there, anybody could mix that up and try it - no magical sauce here.

I have to admit it's interesting to follow this experiment, though. As bootstrapped marketing schemes go, I've seen much worse.

> anyone could mix it up and try it

Some people have. He says as much in the blog entry that various folks have let him know they've replicated it and tried it.

Marketing for what? There's nothing being sold, he lists the items he uses and amounts. Why would a marketer give away the secret sauce.

And I like how open he is about it, it was not supposed to be a scathing criticism. There is probably a market for this stuff, because not a lot of people would go through this trouble of producing it themselves.

He just gives nutritional information, not an ingredients list.

In the latest post he mentions that several chemists have figured out how to make his concoction, but he explicitly states he's not making the recipe public yet.

He gves a list of ingredients, each with the precise amount used, doesn't he? I thought that was pretty self-explanatory. Sure, he didn't say where he got them from or how he mixes them, but someone dedicated would be able to figure it out. It's not rocket science, uh, chemistry!

Maybe, but Im not sure it started off like that.

I think the author has definetly started to see real business potential, especially after all the exposure (both here on HN, and in general). That being said, he's probably not a legal expert, and is probably treading carefully (gathering data slowly, not immediately selling the mixture, etc).

Personally, I wish him and his future (potenial) business well. Its definetly a product Id buy. Eating healthy (especially when your choices are very restricted, eg school), can be a pain in the ass. Quick, very healthy, potential food replacement (Though, id probably only totally replace meals with it occasionally) sounds really, really great.

You are correct that this does smell. I'm also dubious that this fellow will be able to scale up production without people replicating this at home.

Related: I'm sure most of us don't care upon the soylent formulation per se as long as we could easily make our own meal-in-a-shake-form.

Does anyone have any suggestions/ideas about how to produce something similar?

He lists all the ingredients on his blog, and talks about why he chose each one. He also discusses effects he felt when experimenting with the proportion/amount of certain nutrients. There's no "magic" in this at all.


Thats the link for the ingredients. Blog posts around there discuss some modifications that were made here and there.

As for production, I think many things like this can be replicated. However, I'd love to just buy this, or at least a "base version" rather than sourcing all the various nutrients and powders, then measuring/mixing them, etc.

If you have a digital scale and some time to read supplement labels, even the measuring/mixing doesn't seem that bad.

The whey protein and olive oil you can get anywhere. The maltodextrin means picking up a giant bag from a brewery supply store once every few months.

I'm coming up with two scoops of protein, eight scoops of carbs, and a third cup of oil, and a bit under half a gallon of water. After that it's just a teaspoon of salt and a few supplements/multi-vitamins and you're set for the day.

He mentioned earlier that it takes about five minutes to prepare the next day's batch, and he doesn't need refrigeration or much in the way of kitchen utensils. That's a fairly tight upper bound on complexity.

I have a great deal of respect for self-experimenters, no matter how crazy they seem.

That said, I'd like to see him compare two months of Soylent to two months of eating solid meals with a similar nutritional profile. Most of the benefits he has experienced are probably just a result of extremely well-balanced diet, not anything specifically related to Soylent.

> Most of the benefits he has experienced are probably just a result of extremely well-balanced diet

That's rather the point of Soylent, to deliver a well balanced diet.

> not anything specifically related to Soylent.

This statement makes little sense, he merely claimed Soylent was a way to achieve good nutrition, not that it was magic.

> That's rather the point of Soylent, to deliver a well balanced diet.

Comparing a well-balanced diet with Soylent is not a waste of time: if nothing else, it's evidence for the debate about whether all the micronutrients and random stuff in 'real' food is subjectively noticeable in the short-term or whether you really can get away with just macronutrients and a few other chemicals.

I don't see how what you said related in any way to what I said. Where did I say anything was a waste of time?

To recap, m_d wishes to see a comparison at the same protein+fat+carbs (normal non-junk food) vs. soylent.

gnaritas objects.

gwern supports m_d.

gnaritas has an opportunity to qualify his objection, but chooses not to.

(fwiw, I'm also extremely interested in all manner of "are there valuable yet-to-be-identified substances in real food" experiments.)

Bad recap, I didn't object, try again.

Or perhaps anybody that eats somewhat healthy and runs 7 miles (a day?) is likely to be in pretty good health.

His main issues with solid food are the time and energy devoted to acquiring, preparing, and eating it. This cuts down on all of that, as well as cost.

Nutritionally, being equivalent to a well-balanced diet meets his goals.

"I didn't give up food, I just got rid of the bad food."

After reading the 1st HN abut this I was skeptical, but this sentence fully convinced me that Rinehart is on to something. Imagine a world with a quick, healthy, affordable lunch substitute that negated the 'need' to eat fast food when you feel pressed for time at work... Thankfully this only happens to me 2 or 3 times a month , but I'm guessing that for most of America that's more like 2 or 3 times a week.

Couldn't you just fast those days? (And I mean you as in you, not those other Americans.)

How exactly does Soylent solve world hunger? I've heard we produce more than enough food to solve hunger already, and much is wasted. Is the food too expensive?

Is Soylent much more shelf stable?

The components of Soylent (as listed in an earlier blog post) are chemically stable at room temperature. (caveat the probiotics). (this from looking them up in the 'rubber bible' [1]) I would expect you could spoil them if they got too hot (oxidizing) but other than that doesn't look too bad.

Assuming the $150/month calculated, that's still pretty pricey for someone who makes $1-$2 a day in wages. Its not clear to me how to calculate how that cost compares to sending sacks of wheat or rice.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRC_Handbook_of_Chemistry_and_P...

If I could keep myself fully nourished for $5/day ($150/month), I'd be pretty damn happy. We don't even have to talk about the third world to see possible benefits. We're always hearing about how America's poor don't have time to prepare food and are thus "forced" to buy, essentially, McDonald's. Well, you can feed yourself 3 sandwiches off the dollar menu a day on that budget, or for $5/day you can get (theoretically) everything you need with no more effort than mixing up a glass of Tang.

You may or may not be old enough to remember "instant breakfast" [1] but it was a "week 2" meal in my dorm in college, meaning if your stipend/outside income was limited to a bi-weekly paycheck you could "get by" if some of last few meals in week 2 were just instant breakfast. Rice/beans/tortillas were a better choice but had more prep time.

That said, it's an interesting question on the market for food products the broader desirability for a product like Soylent. As a minimalist I'm intrigued, as a foodie I'm appalled :-) But could it put a dent in the McFranchises of the world? Perhaps. Could it, or a similarly engineered product provide the missing nutrition for at risk populations? If so what prevents it? (I'm watching for similar ideas to appear on the market if this gets any more press than it has)

I note however that 'feeding the poor' with a product like this might not get the reception an engineer/scientist might expect. As others have mentioned there are some cultural stereotypes built up around food and meals which are not well supported by an engineered food product that is designed merely to be nutritious.

[1] http://caloriecount.about.com/tag/food/instantbreakfast

Yep, I've had "instant breakfast", it can even be tasty if you don't have it very often.

When writing my comment, I wasn't really considering the sociological implications of where I was going, I was simply thinking that I, if living on a $5/day food budget, would be pretty happy with something like Soylent, especially since I presumably wouldn't get that general feeling of malaise that overtakes you after a few McDonald's meals in a row.

You're right, you can't simply go in and say, "Dear poor people, please consume this nutritious gloop". It could be effective as a form of rations in case of emergency, but attempting to put it out there as a basic staple food would be more challenging.

If Soylent is actually as awesome as the creator makes it sound, and it were available in a tub or in pouches at the grocery store, I'd definitely buy it.

You can easily. Rice, olive oil, frozen vegetables, almonds, bananas, oatmeal, cheap bread, salt, sugar, margarine, cheap spices, multivitamin. You can even splurge on canned soups (chunky even) once a day, with real meat in them. If you had to you'd figure it out.

Junk foods should not be buyable with food stamps. Though food industry lobbying results in that restriction not being abided by in a lot of cases.

Oh, I used to feed myself on about $5/day. It wasn't fun but I wasn't starving. But life's a lot easier if you just have to mix this powder into some water.

Are $1-$2/day wages common in the US?

That $150/month cost is a cost incurred in the US. It would be a different cost to source the ingredients in every country.

Also the price is entirely dictated by the market... If everybody was drinking soylent the price of the ingredients would go up.

That's a bit of a reach. Maybe long-term, if the whole world were drinking Soylent and it relied on some severely limited resources, this could happen. But in the short/medium term, if demand increases, it's very likely Rob will find someone who can produce/mix the ingredients in large batches, and economies of scale will kick in, making it significantly cheaper.

> Is Soylent much more shelf stable?

No, actually, it's less so. But apparently it can be made out of "very common [mostly vegetable] ingredients growable in every place on Earth", unlike most other "complete" diets.

The "[mostly vegetable]" aspect would, in theory, also reduce stress on water supplies because raising animals requires a fair amount of water. I don't have a definitive source at hand, but there's an interesting interactive exploration of the matter on NatGeo: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshw...

I would guess that the main problem is distribution of said food. Since most food spoils quickly, that presents a huge problem.

If Soylent powder preserves well, then distribution should be substantially easier.

I'm confused. Is soylent the same thing as soylent green? In which case, this is a satirical post (but I don't find it very funny)...

If not, isn't soylent just about the worst possible name for a real food product (with unknown/nonspecific ingredients), because of the movie?

The movie glossed over some details. In the book, Soylent was a variety of different things, with a soya and lentil base (hence the name), and only Soylent Green specifically was the problematic one, it being the newest release. (I haven't read it myself, just summarizing what was discussed in the last thread.)

I can't find the link where I read this now, but apparently Soylent was largely composed of soya and lentils in the book version. See also the published list of ingredients to assuage your fears.

Soylent green is people.

Couldn't you just buy Ensure or some other meal shake at the local pharmacy?

You could, but what fun would that be? :) In seriousness though, much of OP's intent was to make Soylent as affordable as possible. To that end, a quick cost comparison:

You can buy 24 8-oz Ensure drinks on sale from Amazon for $42.50. Each drink contains 350 calories, so: (24 * 350) / $42.50 = 198 kcal/dollar.

Rob claims to get 2629 calories a day from Soylent, and his monthly costs were $154.82, so: (30 * 2629) / $154.82 = 509 kcal/dollar. Soylent is 2.5x cheaper than Ensure (based on calories alone).

That's WAY overpriced. I live a good part of my life on the stuff (swallowing problems arising from Parkinsonism) and at local pharmacies it's regularly on sale for $9 for a six-pack (bottles, not cans—they're almost always more expensive in cans, and the cans and bottles are the same size), or $36 for 24. But that's if you buy the Abbot-branded stuff; most of the large pharmacy chains sell a house-brand version for a little less ($7/six-pack, or $28/24, in Toronto is not unusual for Shoppers' Life Brand, and there's a President's Choice version in the Loblaws chain as well). Note that there are three versions: regular (intended as a top-up supplement for people who are eating, just not well), "plus calories" (mostly more fat), and "plus protein", each of which is aimed at people with different requirements.

And no, it's not an adequate diet replacement for the average case. If you really don't like food and consider it an inconvenience, maybe—but that ain't normal. And it's not just a matter of getting used to it (goodness knows I've had enough of the stuff); normal people actually enjoy the tastes and textures of good food.

I can't wait for the Kickstarter.

But, it seems strange that this is coming from one guy rather than big companies. If it is possible to sell food/food replacement for cheaper this way, why hasn't anyone jumped on the chance to outsell others by selling for less?

This is a good point. My thoughts are that Soylent and other cheap concoctions have a large acquired taste that most consumers can't get over.

"I also stopped running 7 miles, which is really unnecessary and potentially harmful to the heart and joints"


Even more interesting is moving from running 7miles to pi miles

I found this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1837113/pdf/bmj0...

Long-distance running is reported to predict hip joints degeneration. But it does not find out which distance is good and which is bad.

I think he was after information concerning the heart and running as join degradation from running is, afaik, common knowledge. I was under the impression running improved heart strength.


Such articles state that endurance running (as opposed to sprints) , or any edurancy activity, increase heart attack chance.

No exercise is purported as the greatest heart risk, so perhaps high intensity low endurance is best for heart health? I'd imagine it wouldn't build stamina.

This guy is becoming a prominent fragilista.

This is an interesting comment, prompted me to look up what that term 'fragilista' means.

So you're saying he fails to anticipate a future negative consequence of present behavior? I guess we'll find out!

I wonder if this guy realizes his teeth are going to fall off. Since he has very little chewing action, the gums and underlying bone are going to go soft and eventually the teeth are going to begin falling off.

But who cares, right? He doesn't really need his teeth.

He should be prepared to accept a new and maybe uncommon physical shape.

Someone proposed chewing gum as a way around this. This gives the jaw some exercise as well.

Bubble gum could help here.

>I wonder if this guy realizes his teeth are going to fall off.

I wonder if people who say ridiculous stuff like this realize that there are already lots of people living on liquid diets, feeding tubes, or IV nutrition because of health problems. And their jaws don't magically turn to mush and their teeth don't fall out.

All this talk of chemical drinks and medical foods and intermittent fasting reminds me of the saying about another diet regimen: "Do vegetarians live longer, or does it just feel that way?"

I think the biggest thing I want to remark here is that he needs to go to the doctor frequently while he's running these experiments. Once every couple of weeks or once every month. He could be doing serious harm to himself and he won't know until it's too late. Blood work might also give some interesting insights, such as "his bad cholesterol levels are lower than I've ever seen, this is amazing!" which would be useful in helping to push his encouragement of it.

In his previous blog posts, he discusses doctor visits. His cholesterol levels were unhealthy before he started the diet, now he is in the normal range. In order to sign up to be a tester, you must provide blood test results.

I see he has done his homework by adding choline. well done.

Other HN thread from a couple days ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5369778

Easy version (not nutritionally complete but a decent meal replacement) if anyone is interested, comments welcome. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjA38cUd4BZBdG5...

I always add whey to this for additional protein, which I didn't list because composition varies and it is micronutrient poor anyway.

OJ version. I like this better. With vanilla whey it tastes like an orange julius. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjA38cUd4BZBdGZ...

Is he using whey right now? I think it'd be insanely cheap online.

2-3cents/gram of protein is usual if you shop by price. The whole shake comes in around $2 with a scoop (25g protein) of whey.

Been getting ~50% of calories from this for the last year. Blood panel so far looks very very good, but I'm due for another one.

While your project is crazy, you've inspired me to try eating 1/2 of a 600-calorie sandwich every 3 hours. The points about disconnecting our energy source from our entertainment resonates with me, and I'm becoming more aware of the benefits of a consistent calorie supply.

The FDA recommends a crazy amount of potassium. Most people don't get that much potassium in their diets.

Interesting. Why would you want to have a constant calorie supply? Our bodies are very adapt at buffering. (Especially if you abstain from the simpler carbohydrates.)

I don't question the premise here, but I question the research and specific formulation.

I'm more specifically intrigued by the formulation behind something like Chori bar. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Chori-bar-nutritious-pu...

The problem with this idea long-term is that the body will 'plateau' and what may happen is decreased immunity and inability to adapt to natural seasonal and/or drastic weather changes. The body is not so simple as to be relegated to some normalizing diet. Food is as much about energetics than just protein/carbs/calories.

"Scars that I'd had for years are barely visible now."

Anyone have any idea whatthe root (ingredient) of this subjective observation may be?

Agreed with lilsunnybee, but these claims make it incredibly hard to take the rest seriously. The author is an unreliable narrator.

Delusional psychosis? confirmation bias?

Hopefully moving to San Francisco in a few weeks. Very keen to get in touch and try it out.

This product would never work for me (I can't speak for everyone else) because such a thin, denatured substance transfers into the intestines (digests) rather quickly. This leaves the stomach empty and me feeling hungry. My brain starts to make me feel bad at this point. Even if I have consumed 4000 calories, it does not care. My brain wants some food in there.

This is one of the same reasons why babies who can't eat solids yet need to eat so often? They can't even sleep all night because they wake up hungry. The day you start to feed them some cereal for dinner, they sleep much longer.

Have you tried going on a low-carb diet? I found that after passing through the induction phase, my very healthy appetite was dramatically reduced. It was like flipping a switch. Suddenly, a normal salad felt satisfying and enough to be considered "a meal".

I do something similar but I mix it into jello instead of just water. I find that helps with the fullness feeling, and it doesn't taste horrible.

All the time you "save" with this sort of bullshit diet will be spent in a hospital sooner than later.

You need your fucking vegetables, you need fruit, you need to chew and you need to sleep. It's as simple as that.

> For those of us who generally don’t like food, consider it an annoyance, and yearn for a way to avoid eating it

Words fail me

It's people?

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