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Soylent Month Three (robrhinehart.com)
238 points by septerr 1427 days ago | hide | past | web | 197 comments | favorite

I'm concerned less with the long term health effects of this diet as it relates to missing nutrients, and much more concerned about quality control of the individual ingredients themselves. Who's actually checking that, say, the vitamin A palmitate coming from a supplier actually contains the dose requested, and additionally that it contains no other contaminates?

The supplement world is like the wild west as far as this goes. And as attracted as I am to a meal replacement like this, the worry about getting accidentally dosed with high levels of arsenic or lead from a shitty supplier really concerns me.

You reminded me of the consumer reports review of whey.. not just small companies... EAS (a $300m division of Abbott labs (a $38b company)) exceeded the limit of arsenic and cadmium: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2010/06/protei...

I would be most concerned about overdosing some vitamin or mineral powder, taken in miligram range.

Just one pinch can cause serious and painful injury.

Will it always be mixed evenly?

Apparently this was one of his concerns in not releasing precisely what he was using.

"Several individuals experienced in chemistry have already figured out how to make it on their own. I'd like to keep it this way for now, as I trust them to measure the ingredients properly."

- http://robrhinehart.com/?p=474

Presumably this is a problem that's been long-solved in scale up manufacture, and something you should just be concerned with on the small scale.

Generally though - yes - anything water-soluble is pretty easy to get very controlled concentrations of, since you can dilute until your in the operating range of your weighing machine.

I'm not much of a biologist and I may just be spouting what I've heard in the past, but I think all the water soluble vitamins and such are totally safe and impossible to OD on, it is the fat-soluble ones where there's the potential to OD.

EDIT: Mostly correct! Fat-soluble vitamins build up in the fatty tissues and are much slower to release and are almost always responsible for Vitamin Poisoning, water-soluble vitamins are easily excreted in the obvious way.

There are exceptions though, you can overdose on some of the B vitamins which are water-soluble, I didn't follow up to find out why that is.


Nothing stops you from using a lipophile solvent rather than a hydrophile in preparing these dilutions.

This is a major concern for me as well and one I haven't found out how to mitigate at all outside of just testing most of the components to find out which suppliers are good and which aren't.

He missed the sixth most abundant element in the human body, and, now that it's there, he is sure everything is OK? I can only say, "Wow".

I really believe that if an actual scientific study[1] was done on this, it would rank right next to a pure fast food diet. It's not that it isn't theoretically possible to make something that is "perfect" nutrition, it's that we don't know enough today to say definitively whether carbs or fat causes metabolic syndrome[2], much less how all the various micronutrients interact with macronutrients, gut biota, and phases of the moon.

Until we understand every piece of the nutrition puzzle, this is just dangerous. That he wants to take it out to others is even more frightening.

Until we get to where we really understand what the body needs at an individual level, I'm sticking with whole foods. I really hope this guy doesn't do long-term damage to himself, or anyone else, for that matter.

1. Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to double-blind whether you get a Big Mac or a cup of gray stuff. This isn't just a problem with Soykent, it is a problem with every attempt to perform nutritional experiments. It is really hard to perform good, predictive science in this space.

2. We need to know like chemists know how chemicals will react and physicists know how forces will behave. We don't.


I'd take the drink over the junk an average American eats any day. I'd take it over my own well researched eating regime every other day if it seemed to be working for me.

You underestimate the power of self experimentation. With a drug which if you took 40x the daily dose you might die, or a drug that might cause significant harmful side effects at normal dose, you need careful studies to prove a benefit and quantify risks. With a dietary change, the risks are orders of magnitude lower. I'd be surprised if the average American wouldn't improve their nutritional status doing this for a while, with an existing diet likely low in magnesium, copper, zinc, vitamin c and d and probably more.

I like what this guy is doing and find offense in all the negativity shown in news.ycominator. For a forum which is supposedly full with self called "hackers", some comments really amaze me.

Sure, his experience is not scientific in the least, but then again, history is full of these 'crazy people' who dared to do something that was considered stupid, senseless and plain wrong at their time.

A very important fact is that the guy is documenting the process, and at least it will wake interest in the idea of getting the necessary day-to-day nutrients for living in a single-dose drink.

I'd take the drink over the junk an average American eats any day.

Me too. But just because junk food is worse, does not mean this is good. I for one would not take this over: Eat food, mostly plants, get exercise and lots of sleep.

I have to agree with you, but I wonder will it ever be feasible to really understand that in a way that helps individuals? There's an amazing amount of hidden complexity.

For me this experiment is a testament to the variety of human individuality, and the resilience of the human organism.

I can't imagine wanting to replace most of my food with a powder shake, and I drink them fairly regularly post-gym. Beyond that, I think the author's self-testing and self-evaluations are so lost in noise, and so subjective, that they have virtually no measurement value. Finally, his method of picking out what he needs seems ad-hoc and partial.

While we can show lots of things are wrong with chronically bad diets, the human body is surprisingly good at dealing with sub-optimal quantities and qualities of food. The 'perfect' diet is a curious notion really, since the body is a dynamic system that responds to input.

Anyone who ate this every meal for ever based on the current level of evidence is nuts sure.

But this is awesome research. He is trying to do something awesome, at great personal risk.

He has shown some integrity in not providing the recipe until it has been verified, and has stated that he will proceed to large scale trials before commercializing.

I'm not saying I don't expect him to damage himself (and anyone else who eats this full time), but I don't really understand all the heat he's getting for trying.

If this yields something cheap we can eat ~80% of meals in the long term, then that's a really great thing. There are people who eat an unhealthy and monotonous diet due to cost, even in the west. If that could be partly replaced with something a bit more healthy, that would be very socially valuable.

Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to double-blind whether you get a Big Mac or a cup of gray stuff.

Are you suggesting that your metabolic response changes if you know what you're eating, or don't know? Otherwise, why does this matter in this context?

"surely we can make food that is tastier, cheaper, and more nutritious than anything that exists naturally."

This premise assumes we understand, with no uncertainty, how the human body functions and utilizes nutrients. Since this is still a huge mystery to science (and much of what we "know" currently is just guesswork) any 100% simulated food diet will only prove to be "better" by a stroke of luck.

We've seen his posts before and discussed it to great lengths, but the bottom line is if he's created something that is truly capable of sustaining health for the lifetime of a person he should be rewarded, but without scientific proof of longterm health this will never, and should never, be taken unquestionably.

So the way I look at this critique is that most people in the US are running a parallel experiment with their bodies, only instead of the input being Soylent, it's garbage like fast food. It's true, we don't understand how the human body operates - whether you're eating McDonald's, or organic, or Soylent. So given that the baseline seems to be an equally untested and probably more detrimental food choice, this completely voluntary experiment doesn't seem so bad, it's not like the govt is teaching us to eat a certain way (which they have been known to do incorrectly). In other words, Soylent vs theoretically ideal diet (which we don't even know) - sure, bad choice. But the reality is for the target audience (such as myself) its Soylent vs pizza and burgers, which doesn't seem that bad.

I think for this parallel to be valid he'd have to be eating McDonalds or what-have-you every day. The point is variety (mostly) ensures we get everything we need from somewhere. I think it's almost assured that in the long run 100% (or so) soylent will turn out to be more detrimental than even the 'average diets' out there. BTW, I'm kinduva healthy eating nut myself, but this just isn't 'healthy eating'.

Right, thats precisely my point: I think you underestimate how many people eat McDonalds or what-have-you every day. The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that I think it takes place all over the spectrum: the poor do it as well as the rich. Perhaps you do not see this as much because you are a self-described health nut (and thus this diet probably isn't for you, the same way an Alienware computer isn't for someone who knows how to build a PC), but in my developer circle I see eating trash food every day for all meals quite often. And what I've found is often the problem is that you forget about food and then are starving and make a bad decision so you can keep working, not necessarily because you love pizza or whatever. If Soylent can deliver on immediateness, then it has a chance of competing with this lifestyle. And, if the end result is people thinking more about what they eat, it may be a win either way.

haha, I really hope you are right about the problem space. I'm currently building a company that hopes to solve exactly the "forget about food and then are starving and make a bad decision" problem. Not ready to say more yet, but again, sure hope you're right :-)

Anyway, if it's that thing to have on stand-by, I'm sure its ok, but so is an Ensure, a Balance Bar, a Slim-Fast, etc, so again, no real innovation here.

Note that your argument began with "It's too radical, it won't work!" and ended with "It's boring, there's nothing new here." When I see this particular pattern of cognitive dissonance, I take it as a sign that the phenomenon being dismissed has real merit. Not to single you out, either--this pattern describes perhaps the majority of arguments I've heard against Soylent.

to eat one thing 100% of the time "is too radical it won't work". yep. To eat one thing as your 'go-to' filler is fine. but neither new nor radical. One addressed one argument, the other addressed a different one.

Do you have a sign up form yet so I can get notified when your product is up?

I'd also be interested in a signup form

If you email us at previews _at_ fudi.st , we'll be happy to keep you updated.

I recently started using a meal replacement shake as my primary food source and this is exactly how I respond to the nay sayers.

The same thing happened when I became a vegetarian (how will you get your protein??). When you do something abnormal like this people tend to have ill thought out emotional reactions.

The biggest valid criticism is the QA process. But it's an issue with all meal replacement shakes.

May I ask specifically which meal replacement shake are you using? Which brand or are you making it or something?

yeah! I'm using something called "ultimate meal": http://www.amazon.com/The-Ultimate-Life-Meal-powder/dp/B0001...

Thanks. May I ask what are some of the results? I don't mean weight loss necessarily but more health effects. Do you feel like you're lacking anything, are there any negative side effects?

I'm not doing controlled research which is part of the reason for buying a premise solution. I hadn't noticed anything negative that I can attribute to the stuff. I've only been doing it for a few weeks.

If proper studies were done on this, we could actually know if it is better or worse than burgers and pizza. From what I know of how the human body works (serious amateur interest), I'm exceedingly doubtful.

I really believe the combination of long-term liquid diet and an extreme uniformity of diet will be the cause of significant health problems. I also think we will find a bunch of "nanonutrients" that are critical to long-term health that we have no idea are important today.

There is no easy answer today for nutrition. If there was, the thousands of food technicians working everywhere from universities to food companies to NASA and the military would have already come up with it. They all have compelling reasons to try.

> There is no easy answer today for nutrition. If there was, the thousands of food technicians working everywhere from universities to food companies to NASA and the military would have already come up with it. They all have compelling reasons to try.

You have to start somewhere[1]...

[1]: http://xkcd.com/397/

I would say a century of study of this specific topic is "starting somewhere". Now, while I believe Zombie Feynman would go far, far more hungry in a group of nutritionists than he would in a group of string theorists, it doesn't mean that there isn't a lot more knowledge than what is contained in a single, undergrad text book (witness the lack of sulfur) that espouses thinking to has begun to be significantly altered by new science in the last decade. To completely ignore that isn't "starting somewhere", it's blindfolding yourself, spinning a few times, and stumbling off.

I'm all for experiments with n=1 in nutrition (I do it all the time), but call it what it is. Don't pretend that, even if it works for six months or a year on you, that you really have any info that is relevant to the rest of the world. Increasing his n with others is a good start, but it will still take 50 years or more to know if this stuff is poison or panacea.

Indeed. To sum up some of the basic issues with his research so far:

Sample size is 1.

He's still eating, just much less often. Some nutrients are only required in very small amounts, which he may still be getting from his occasional meal.

Three months is a very short time frame on which to evaluate a diet. Even something as simple and well-understood as scurvy can take three months to develop. In other words, he could have forgotten something as basic as Vitamin C and still lived this long.

He has something to gain (even if just recognition) from this diet working. He also wants it to work. The effects he reports could be psychosomatic.

>Sample size is 1.

No. He has a group of volunteers who are testing it with him, see the second post: http://robrhinehart.com/?p=474

Not to mention the community that's sprung up around it, on http://discourse.soylent.me and elsewhere

I haven't followed very closely because I don't really have interest in it (I like food, cooking, etc.) but I have to ask, if he's pushing this as a product after such low levels of reliability does he garner any liability should it prove to be damaging long term?

He isn't pushing it as a product, he asked for volunteers to help test its suitability as a food substitute. This is research, not marketing.

He isn't pushing it as a product

Everything has been pivoting into a kickstarter campaign. He is trying to turn this into a business.

Which is all very weird. There are a number of "nutritionally complete" meal supplements on the market. I do not understand why this particular one, with rather quackish supporting claims, gets attention here.

I think if you thought about it for a moment you would realize that he is appealing to the concept of hacking. In this case, hacking diet, something everyone on this site can relate to. This is why it gets attention.

I'm on the fence as to whether I'll to wait and see how this turns out, with his volenteer base or to even hit up the Kickstarter to try it myself, as I personally am at a pivot point where I could change my diet significantly and benefit. If Soylent proves the easy route, so be it.

I also believe a lot of us are just curious.

I think if you thought about it for a moment you would realize that he is appealing to the concept of hacking

Absolutely. Timothy Ferriss has made good bank doing something similar, hacking various aspects of his life.

What earns criticism, though (this is a discussion board, and we aren't here to blanket applaud everything), is the pseudo-science: The "I ate a normal meal and my cognitive process degraded, etc". There is zero scientific validity to those claims, and they give it the rank stench of snake oil (again, exactly like energy bracelets, good aura, or the tactics of the anti-immunization crowd). It may be entirely well-meaning, but such are a million quack remedies and claims.

Well, since he hasn't actually made the kickstarter page we can't tell his true intentions, however the statements he has made previously are that the purpose of the kickstarter campaign is to fund a larger study than the limited local volunteer population he's currently using. The goal is of course to eventually make a commercial product ASSUMING that the research doesn't uncover some kind of insurmountable problem. So yes, this is still research, but the hope is that given some more time it might eventually lead to a product. I know I'm certainly hoping for it, and I'd probably contribute to the kickstarter in the hopes that it bears fruit, and I believe it will based on the results he's achieved so far.

At the end of the day, this is all still experimental, caveat emptor and all that, but everything I've seen so far suggests to me soylent can't possibly be any worse than the garbage served at any number of fast-food restaurants every day.

As for the "nutritionally complete" meal supplements, I think that you can find your answer in the last word of that, "supplement". None of the various "food shakes" that are available commercially are designed to be truly nutritionally complete, rather they're designed to include some of the vitamins and minerals that tend to be lacking in the average diet. Further they tend to be a "one size fits all" affair which out of necessity will be less than optimal for nearly everyone in an attempt to be marginally useful to everyone.

It's probably more like he's trying to turn it into something that can sustain himself while he works on something he's passionate about, which happens to take the form of a business because there aren't many other choices at the moment.

Could be a sham. He's (as far as anyone can tell) dogfooding though, which is, in this case, behavior you'd expect from either a very dedicated sham, or someone who wants to make sure something that they think is a potentially very good idea isn't going to make people terribly sick in three months time.

> In other words, he could have forgotten something as basic as Vitamin C and still lived this long.

Survived, yes, but he'd have had bleeding gums and a host of other serious issues. Just fwiw.

You're right about many nutritional deficiencies, though, for example lack of niacin causes pellagra which takes longer than 3 months to appear.

Some of them take a very long time to appear: the human liver can store up to five years' worth of vitamin B12!


If you read the article you'd see he did miss something important, sulfur, which he has corrected. He's tweaking the formula as he goes, carefully monitoring his health and vital statistics (at a level I might add that seems way more involved than just about any "health nut" I've ever heard of), and doing research on various health and nutritional studies that are ongoing. Give him another year and a reasonable selection of volunteers to help test a wider audience with and I'm convinced he'll have something that will blow every other "diet" or nutrition shake out of the water.

> This premise assumes we understand, with no uncertainty, how the human body functions and utilizes nutrients.

It really doesn't. Whatever knowledge we do have can be applied, with whatever degree of certainty we have, and that is likely to be better than what we do currently, because what we do currently is basically nothing. Most people, most of the time, eat what they feel like, combined with some vague ideas about calories and fat, and whatever they read in a magazine last week if they're particularly conscientious. In other words, guesswork. Except this is guesswork that's almost totally uninformed. No, we can't be certain about this stuff yet, but what you call "guesswork" i.e. Our best hypothesis given all the information we have about the functioning of the human digestive system, is almost certainly going to be better than the current state of affairs, which is pretty much stab-in-the-dark randomness. It's really not hard to beat.

> any 100% simulated food diet will only prove to be "better" by a stroke of luck.

If you manage to find an optimal diet by choosing foods you think of as 'healthy' and trying to avoid cookies, well that's a stroke of luck. Deliberate scientific optimisation by adjustment, experimentation and measurement? That's not luck.

We invented vaccination more than half a century before we had even accepted the Germ Theory of disease, and the history of science is full of such things. You don't need full understanding with no uncertainty in order to figure out what works. Science is neat like that.

What's it called when a person has an irrational preference for the current state of affairs? Look it up, because you have it.

>This premise assumes we understand, with no uncertainty, how the human body functions and utilizes nutrients [but] this is still a huge mystery to science

If "no uncertainty" was the golden standard, we'd never do anything new (except perhaps mathematics). Yes, there is uncertainty in what he's doing, as there is always when trying something truly novel. But I'm sure glad someone is making the attempt. Nutrients are not a huge mystery to science - there are entire college courses on biochemistry and such.

It is really easy to figure things out at the cellular level because you can easily build experiments containing controls and the turn-around time on iterations is fast.

The human body has trillions of cells and even more symbiotic bacteria. We are clueless how the system functions as a whole. We know some simple things (iron and calcium compete for absorption in the intestine), but only the "big" stuff.

Maybe if you eat 20% of your RDA of Vitamin E at every meal, it makes your intestines toxic to a particular strand of gut biota that regulates half your body[1]. The space we know nothing about is huge, and jumping in with a product for the masses with so little respect for that is, IMO, very dangerous.

1. There is evidence that people suffering metabolic syndrome have significantly different gut biota than those who aren't and when "normal" biota is reintroduced, their health improves. My hypothetical is not an impossibility.

If you set yourself on fire, your flesh will burn and you will eventually die horribly. It is less clear what happens if you expose yourself to repeated small amounts of radiation. See the problem with your logic?

You are more or less describing the process with which we discovered x-rays.

Er, no? People repeatedly expose themselves to small amounts of radiation all the time. X-rays, sunlight, airplanes, astronauts, living anywhere with large quantities of granite rock . . .

Really, that seems to be totally irrelevant to whether or not this guy is on to something. (Personally, I think he's probably running a long con. But making stupid arguments against con men is just a way to send them more victims. Ask for some evidence instead - arguments screen off authority.)

It's not clear whether you mean to imply vitamin D production or cancer, which makes your reply much less cutting. :)

> if he's created something that is truly capable of sustaining health for the lifetime of a person he should be rewarded

Why? The world isn't short of food. Food is just poorly distributed, or contaminated, or with insufficient micronutrients. None of those problems are solved by this type of feed.

Sometimes there's a need for crisis feeding of a population - during a famine or feeding lots of people in a evacuee camp or somesuch. Again, this feed is of minor use there.

I guess he's having fun doing this stuff, but it's of no use to wider society. Especially because complete liquid feed of high quality already exists, made by different companies and subject to very high levels of quality assurance.

"Reward" was the best term I could conjure up while writing. I'm not much of a word-smith. My thoughts are more of the idea that if he does this, and it is a great food replacement then he deserves any praise, fame or riches that come his way. He's taking a huge risk making himself the guinea pig for this experiment and if it pays off that's cool!

If I recall correctly though is motivation is that he's simply not a "food person". He has no interests in the finer parts of dining and sparking the palette of the human taste. I'm not one to judge him because I'm quite the opposite. But for people like him who's to say such a goal is wrong? Something simple, quick, and effective marketed well would be a huge success. I just don't want to see innocent people swept up in the moment and getting hurt.

What's this "high quality" you speak of? None of it is FDA certified.

Tube feeding in hospital need "high quality" products and I'm sure it's FDA certified... http://abbottnutrition.com/categories/adult/adult-tube-feedi...

> This premise assumes we understand, with no uncertainty, how the human body functions and utilizes nutrients.

It seems mostly to assume that health follows rules that you can discover and which aren't particularly unstable.

To believe that you have a decent chance of hitting on it assumes that we have a broad understanding of what's in what we normally eat I suppose.

But, you know, this is why people mess around with this sort of stuff. If it goes great then fantastic, and if it doesn't then we only lose a couple of people here and there. The risk-reward is almost certainly going to work out in its favour. It probably sucks for him if he gets it wrong but, well, that's his look out isn't it? It's not like anyone's taking advantage of him.

I suppose to be strictly ethical you'd go and feed it to starving kids and feed the others your best natural diet, so everyone seems likely to get a bit of a win out of it even if eventually it turns out to give them cancer or something. But that seems a bit beyond DIY studies.

Soylent is certainly polarizing on HN, and pretty much everywhere else as well. This will only be resolved once it's widely available and people can confirm/contest Rob's results.

Personally, I'm very curious to give it a trial run. It certainly can't be any worse than what I eat now. Rob said it best:

>I'm touched so many people are concerned about my intake of possible unknown essential nutrients. No one seemed to worry about me when I lived on burritos and ramen and actually was deficient of many known essential nutrients.

No one seemed to worry about me when I lived on burritos and ramen and actually was deficient of many known essential nutrients.

This sort of nonsensical dichotomy seems to infect discussions of this. Yesterday I had a Burger KingTM Whopper (it was, after all, Whopper Wednesday). The day before I had a spring-mix salad with added tomatoes, green onions, and cucumber, and a cucumber dressing, in a day that I also had a peanut butter sandwich...

...and on, and on. Such is any normal diet where people tend to eat lots of varied things, any of which, if the singular source of nutrients, would cause concern for anyone.

The nonsense argument that it is either this or fast food, or ramen noodles, or whatever, just highlights how utterly ridiculous this is.

Except its not nonsense - doctors deal with people with this type of narrow diet all the time. Or, not sufficiently varied diet on a day to day basis.

Humans are also awful statisticians - fat people don't think they eat much. Thin people think they eat tons of food. Nobody accurately assesses what they do and don't eat, and our entire society is negatively geared towards maintaining healthy eating patterns anyway (your above example of variety will get blown to hell for most people past a few stressful weeks).

Yes, technically this is unnecessary but that's hardly the point.

I think the point was less that people with healthy, varied diets should all switch to Soylent, and more that a potentially healthy meal replacement diet beats a definitely unhealthy fast food diet, hands down.

At the risk of stating the obvious - this is all good and the experiment he's running is very interesting, but - no. I really like eating tasty food. Not for the nutrients, but for the experience. Similarly to how I really like sleeping in a comfortable bed and taking a hot shower daily even though, technically, I can rest as well on a bare floor and shower once a week.

To each his own, but some things are just too unorthodox.

"This automobile business is all good and interesting, but - no. I really like riding in a horse buggy. Not for the speed, but for the experience. Similarly to how I really like candle light and wearing a top hat even though, technically, I could do as well with a baseball cap.

To each his own, but some things are just too unorthodox."

You are very forward thinking. Soylent is in the aisle one.

Comfort and pleasure are subjective irrational metrics that have a lot of inertia, but that change with time. I'm sure it's plausible that people would love soylent just as much as a freshly baked croissant, but it takes time. The way things stand right now, soylent solves a problem that few people have and it comes at a price that is awful. So, yeah, it's unorthodox.

Even freshly baked croissants were once an odd novelty.

I encourage you to research what a croissant is and then find and devour one. This comment makes me feel like you're missing out on that.

A croissant is also about the most amount of butter you can possibly fit into a pastry.

I think that dubious honour probably belongs to the "buttery" from North East Scotland:


They are basically lumps of butter and salt held together with a trace amount of flour. The versions available from mainstream stores (e.g. M&S) or from recipes online are fairly tame - for the real effect they need to be purchased from a small local baker in some remote fishing village.

Best butteries I've ever had were actually on a trawler in the North Sea - where they were served hot awash in molten salted butter.

You'd be hard pushed to find a buttery actually made of butter these days. Even the local bakers are using vegetable oil and fat. Still, they are beautiful, flaky rolls of salty tastiness.

This should be the OED definition.

Don't forget about the Iowian "Deep Fried Butter on a stick"

mm, i don't think that's an apt comparison. cuisine doesn't develop in the same way that mechanical conveyance does. there's no objective basis for saying one example of food is superior wrt that basis than another, at least not one that isn't trivial. with a car you can say you can go this many miles per hour, or this many miles per dollar, that you require only this area to house the car, that its emissions are relatively benign compared to horse shit, etc. what people look for in food is the subjective, aesthetic experience. even when someone's eating for utilitarian reasons, they'll still make aesthetic choices, like the article about the north korean refugee who described the variety of foods made mostly from rice that you could buy at the market in a time of mass starvation, where all eating was utilitarian.

you know what'll happen if this catches on (which i don't think it will but anyway)? people will tinker with it, trying to make it more palatable, making different varieties for different occasions, or moods, or just for the sake of variety. this idea for replacing food will just become new kind of cuisine, at best. a style of cooking that seeks to provide all or most of the nutrients a body needs would be cool, but markedly different to the shift from horse drawn carriages and automobiles.

when automobiles came along, they replaced horse buggys rather than becoming a new kind of horse buggy.

This seems to be a common complaint, and the response seems to frequently be: you don't need to replace all your food intake. 50% of the time you eat you might find it tedious and boring, so you can leave the other 50% for pleasurable eating and cooking or whatever else you enjoy about non-clinical cuisine!

Finally, someone else gets it! This drink has the total package, much more so than any ensure or power bar. If I could wipe out breakfast and lunch, and enjoy normal dinners, and be healtheir, hell yeah. or skip lunch, and eat a light dinner, and a glass of solyent in hte evening, money. You don't need to go whole hog on this, but it's a fantastic idea to try to optimise you nutrient intake regardless. Plus ease and connivence, win win win.

> 50% of the time you eat you might find it tedious and boring

  - I hate cats. All that fur, the smell...
  - Oh, you just don't know a good recipe
Learn to cook, damn it :)

Unfortunately, learning to cook doesn't make it not tedious and boring if all you want is to get something in your belly and move on to the night's activity.

I know how to cook, but don't often have time to cook. I don't even always have access to a kitchen!

I used to have more time, and might again in the future - and if that happens, I'll go back to spending a few hours preparing dinner. Until then, I'd absolutely love to be able to eat a magic nutrition pill instead of grabbing a badly-made sandwich from the nearest shop. Especially if it's cheaper, too.

He addressed this point in the interview posted a month or two ago. He compared it to going to the movies. You can love movies without wanting to go see one three times a day. He still eats real meals occasionally.

I don't think that's a fair comparison. What if sleeping on the floor and not showering made you think better and your body healthier? It's not simply a privation technique, he seems to be doing it to hack his body for better performance. Although kind of anecdotal evidence, the article mentions several mood and energy changes when not on the soylent diet (I think those things could just as likely be a change in environment/routine though).

What-if I'd exercise and drink less coffee? It would help me both feel and sleep better. Am I doing either? You bet I don't. Point being that people derive pleasure from things that aren't rational, so rationalizing a soylent diet ain't going do a thing to facilitate its adoption (which was iirc one of his stated goals). It's a truly interesting experiment, but it's from the same category as a polyphasic sleep.

What if sleeping on the floor and not showering made you think better and your body healthier?

There is almost certainly someone, somewhere, claiming that sleeping on the floor and/or not showering makes you think better and your body healthier ("The Cave Man Sleep Technique....we didn't evolve in cushy beds now did we?")

99% of these sorts of stories are outrageous pseudo-science looking for an easy fix. Mood/energy changes from diet are interesting reading, but hold astonishingly little value because of the Hawthorne effect, and the simple reality that again people want easy fixes: His description of the perilous decline of his mental capacities when he regressed to normal food sounds like the standard nonsense you hear from people pushing energy bracelets.

Like the GP, food is one of the glorious luxuries of life. Next he'll be chemically castrating himself to save the annoying time waste of sexual congress.

> There is almost certainly someone, somewhere, claiming that sleeping on the floor and/or not showering makes you think better and your body healthier ("The Cave Man Sleep Technique....we didn't evolve in cushy beds now did we?")

On the internet, of course there is :) http://www.paleodietandliving.com/paleo-living/sleep/sleep-w...

Oh and showering to often is linked with everything from fungal infections, dandrufs, psoriasis and acne. Definitely not healthy according to lots of lifestyle strategists out there.

Like the GP, food is one of the glorious luxuries of life.

The great thing about having values is that each person can value what she/he wants. You and GP value food, soylent green dude seems to value experimenting and optimizing his body/brain with food (lack/substitution of food?). I'm not hating on either one of your values, but pretty much everyone thinks "food is good" (to put it simply) so that isn't really gonna pique everyones interest like soylent green guy over there.

I created my own version of soylent (primarily made of a combo of hemp and whey protein powder, canola oil and vitamins, chocolate flavored and sweetned with sucralose and stevia) because I liked the idea so much. Its a great tasting chocolate shake and I look forward to each one. A liquid shake lunch doesn't have to taste bad.

I think you are missing the point. Rob is using this as a replacement for boring food. The same stuff you eat every day for breakfast and lunch.

When he does choose to eat a tasty meal with friends or family, I think those meals would be even more delicious.

I really like eating out at restaurants, but I mostly eat at home, and even if I could afford to eat out every meal, I wouldn't. There's no incompatibility with enjoying one thing while mostly choosing to do another.

You might not have read the whole post but the OP mentions that he's now enjoying the regular food experience more than ever.

* “Bacon is high in Oleic acid, the principal component of adipose (fat) tissue so it is great for increasing body fat.[...] By the way, an acid is anything that donates protons. Only a few have corrosive properties like sulfuric acid, and bases can be corrosive too.”

So now I'm thinking, ‘does this guy even know what fats are, or how fat digestion, assimilation and metabolism works?’.

* “We no longer live in a hunter-gatherer society. I have no use for bulging biceps. No one in the United States plows fields or hammers steel. It has all been automated. We need mental strength.”

Well, y'know, that's true until you're caught in a car accident, or a bombing, or a fight, or any kind of natural disaster which actually tests your ability to survive. It's simplistic and naïve to suggest that we've evolved beyond the need to even try to survive.

* “If people had more self-control obesity would take care of itself.”

There's just so much incorrectness here, I don't know where to start.

- - -

Anyone can go ahead and try an experiment like this for themselves, and I support their right to document and share the experience. But seriously, anyone ignorant enough to try subsisting 100% on this 'soylent' concoction, in its current or future form, deserves all the health problems that await them.

"I have no use for bulging biceps."

For the past two years, I've relied on the fact that I walk a lot to take care of my exercise needs. But last year I started experiencing crippling neck and shoulder pain. A visit to the doctor and a referral to a physical therapist revealed that my upper body had atrophied to an alarming extent. Strength in the upper body affects your posture among other things. Muscle mass also affects your metabolism in a positive way. Now that I'm rebuilding I feel much better.

Plus I look better!

>We don’t live anything like our ancestors. We don’t work like them, talk like them, think like them, travel like them, or fight like them. Why on earth would we want to eat like them?

>After three months I should be finding deficiencies, and I did. I started having joint pain and found I fit the symptoms of a sulfur deficiency.

I like the doublethink here. Reductionism works fine except when it doesn't. And surely the only important components of food are the ones I've identified after a few months of experimentation.

You know, we should eat like our ancestors because that's what we're adapted to. When you try to invent your own environment to live in, there's a good chance you won't be well adapted to that environment. Rhinehart's logic is like asking "why should we want the same gravity as our ancestors? Wouldn't life be better without the hassle of gravity?" Actually, no. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-does-sp...

>If we can make transistors that are cheap, fast, and low power, surely we can make food that is tastier, cheaper, and more nutritious than anything that exists naturally.

This highlights the confusion. Does anyone think for a moment that a manmade device like a transistor is anywhere close to the complexity of a biological one such as a cell? This is laughable. A transistor is literally a device with THREE terminals.

>When you try to invent your own environment to live in, there's a good chance you won't be well adapted to that environment.

I guess this statement would necessarily include wearing clothes, living in houses, using glasses, taking antibiotics, and anything else we do to actively counter forces of nature. I'd say we do quite well at that.

I'd like to point out that the rest of that paragraph is simply a strawman argument and is of absolutely no value to this discussion.

Finally, you obviously do not come close to understanding the complexity of transistors if you think that it can be summarized by the number of terminals it has. That is like saying the programming behind an API is simplistic because the API only consists three functions. I've taken multiple semesters of classes specifically on transistors and logic design have never even come close to using the mathematical and physical techniques they use for designing single transistors, let alone large integrated circuits consisting of billions of them. I agree with your point that the complexity is not on par with biological systems, but you are trivializing something far more complex than you think. We are not that helpless.

>That is like saying the programming behind an API is simplistic because the API only consists three functions.

Actually, that's pretty close to my argument. I'm not saying the mechanisms underlying a transistor are simple. I've taken (and struggled with) a microelectronics course. I have a good idea how complex they are.

I'm saying that the metrics for success are really simple because we have designed it to fit a very simple logical abstraction. If you want to make a better transistor, the process might be extremely complicated, but it couldn't be simpler to test what you have and see if it's correct.

On the other hand, it's simple to make food (I should, however, stop and point out that when Rhinehart is "making food", mostly what he's doing is mixing together other existing foods. Of course that is simple.) But it's orders of magnitude more complex to analyze the result of that food than doing the same for a transistor. Because now instead of plugging a black box we understand into another black box that we understand, you're plugging your invention into the human digestive system. Not only do you have to consider the interaction with human parts, you also have to consider dozens of species of gut bacteria. I don't think that is simple and I think anyone who claims that it is is quite confused.

> Does anyone think for a moment that a manmade device like a transistor is anywhere close to the complexity of a biological one such as a cell? This is laughable.

It's laughable only because it's a straw man. The claim is that FOOD is simple, not human bodies. Industrial process optimization for transistor production costs many orders of magnitude more than this experiment will.

A transistor is nowhere near the complexity of a neuron, but networks of them do computational mathematics faster then any human in existence can.

We don't eat cells - we consume relatively simple nutrients from them. Our bodies carry around a strong acid hydrolysis system for the exact purpose of obliterating all that "sophisticated" internal structure.

For that matter, we have no idea what our ancestors were adapted to. The human body has spanned the range and breadth of ecosystems on this planet, and the survivors of that have passed down what they think is safe to eat by tradition, not science.

A transistor is a device where the ability for electrons/electron 'holes' to flow across a material boundary depends upon how many electrons are in a nearby area. A transistor is a device which allows an abstraction layer of three variables over a very complicated solid-state reality.

Personally, I'm really excited to see what the end product will look like. Given he does enough trials beforehand, hopefully the purchase would look something like this:

1. Visit website. On the webpage, login and click "order 1-week supply."

2. If you're a new customer, then put in some basic metrics (height, sex, age, current weight, activity level, exceptional family diseases/allergies). Then, a "standard" supply will be shipped to you, optimizing the ingredients generally for what they think you'll need, with an ingredient list (how much of each ingredient is in one serving).

3. When logging in again, you're asked "Are you experiencing any symptoms?" Then, you can list anything that feels off, such as aching joints, cravings, etc. Then, the site would list common deficiencies/overdoses that would cause those symptoms, and give you the option to purchase, for instance, a temporary magnesium supplement, or recommend that, prior to receiving your next shipment, you consume one less serving per day. After using the supplement, you'd input whether the symptom improved, and the ingredient's quantity would be adjusted in your next shipment.

The tricky bit about this system would be personalizing everyone's orders, at scale. But it should be pretty possible (says the developer without an understanding of manufacturing), and for far less than it would cost to order a full meal.

I'm amazed with how much response this guy gets. This is nothing new. My mother used Herbalife protein powder back in the 90's and it was packed with nutrients, minerals and vitamins. It was advertised for weight loss but could also be your nutrition base depending on dosage.

I am sure they weren't the only company to offer something like this, there must be plenty.

I think a large part of its draw on this site is that he's packaged the ideas from the 'hacker' perspective. It's an interesting thought experiment to think of other slightly dated but mainstream activities could do with a similar treatment.

It must be because:

a. Somebody bothered to post the initial announcement of this guy

b. He describes his process in detail

c. He's a Software Engineer; it would be disingenuous to think that the fact that he's a peer for the members of this audience isn't a factor

I am positively frustrated that more people don't realize this. Amazon has hundreds of results for "meal replacement shakes" right now.

If I remember correctly, someone addressed this pretty early on with an argument that hinged on economics. I'm going from memory, but I think that living off of the prepackaged predecessors would be either unworkable (not comprehensive nutrition) or prohibitively expensive (treated as medical supplies rather than food).

> No one in the United States plows fields or hammers steel.

Wow. Talk about being disconnected from reality.

I was shocked when I got to that part. Even aside from the specific jobs he mentioned, he seems to truly believe no one in the united states does physical labor that requires physical strength. Even being charitable one would have to at best assume he meant 'almost' no one which is still is profoundly disconnected from reality.

The experiment as a whole seems somewhat uninformed, there are many liquid diets intended for long term use which have been developed scientifically and the results of which have been studied for decades. I guess this is good for his own personal discovery, but I think his goal is also around making money... in which case if I were in the market for a liquid diet I would rather something that was designed by nutritionists, taken by thousands of patients,and scientifically reviewed... rather than a learn as you go tested on one individual

The implicit "by hand" was pretty obvious to me, fwiw. I don't think that assertion is disconnected from reality at all.

There are many people in the US for who "work" necessarily means physical work. From NPR (through the programs Planet Money and This American Life) on how so many Americans are on disability (http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/):

Over and over again, I'd listen to someone's story of how back pain meant they could no longer work, or how a shoulder injury had put them out of a job. Then I would ask: What about a job where you don't have to lift things, or a job where you don't have to use your shoulder, or a job where you can sit down? They would look at me as if I were asking, "How come you didn't consider becoming an astronaut?"

"No one in the United States plows fields or hammers steel [by hand]."

Wow, talk about being disconnected from reality.

Genuine question, is there a truly significant portion of American agriculture that is based on plowing by hand? I was under the impression that most food comes from commercial-level farms that use machinery to plow. My dad works on a pretty small farm, and they definitely don't do anything by hand at this point. I suppose that you could be referring to people who garden as a hobby, but I don't know if I'd count that.

Plowing is not done by hand but picking is.

Sugar beet field weeding used to be done by teams of migrant workers with handheld hoes. I think they've figured out how to not have the weeds in the first place with better pesticides. Most fruits and vegetables are picked by hand.

You don't need big muscles to pick fruits and vegetables though, just endurance (I've done it for a couple of summers as a job).

I guess I didn't realize this was about muscles. I was just replying to the guy asking if agriculture was done by hand. Maybe shouldn't follow threads via the /comments page. I end up not knowing what the context is.

Makes sense. I guess I just was imagining corn and grains, stuff that seems like it'd be easy to pick mechanically. Didn't really think about stuff like beets. Thanks for the answer though!

There are still a lot of blue-collar workers.

Next sentence is "it has all been automated", so clearly he means "not directly".

I'd be concerned about the long-term side effects of having little diversity in one's diet. It's been alleged that diabetes is caused by overconsumption of processed sugar and heart disease is caused by overconsumption of red meat. Either of those things in moderation is fine.

Most people don't eat a consistent dose of for instance oat powder every day. It's likely that he's chosen at least one ingredient that is harmless in moderation, but is detrimental to your health over time.

It's also quite possible that there are other things he's underdosing on and hasn't discovered yet (like sulphur before batch #7).

But the whole point is that soylent is moderation. Everything in it is balanced, so if you eat only soylent, then (in theory) you shouldn't be getting too much of anything.

>It's likely that he's chosen at least one ingredient that is harmless in moderation, but is detrimental to your health over time.

Why do you believe that that is likely?

>It's also quite possible that there are other things he's underdosing on and hasn't discovered yet (like sulphur before batch #7).

Yes, this does seem quite likely. There is probably a significant number of necessary nutrients that nobody even thinks about because they're ubiquitous.

Because there probably hasn't ever been a person who consumed a particular batch of refined nutrients for nearly every meal, and we don't know nearly enough about how the body processes food considering how long we, as a species, have been eating it.

Admittedly, I don't know much about what's in soylent, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that eating refined XXX powder in every meal is bad for you, where XXX is an ingredient that he's using to get enough of a particular nutrient.

The problem with that is that fortification is already rampant in premade foods, and so most first-worlders are already eating these refined ingredients in every meal. Moreover, many people take one-a-day multivitamins which in a single dose, contain the same amount (and sometimes more) of the same refined ingredients in a day's worth of soylent.

Extensive studies have been done on the safety and efficacy of multivitamins, and while their utility for healthy people with balanced diets is a matter of debate, their safety (when taken at the recommended dose) is well established.

"Because there probably hasn't ever been a person who consumed a particular batch of refined nutrients for nearly every meal"


"Practically everything has gotten better over the past century but food has gotten worse."

I highly disagree. Food as an art form and as a science has gotten leagues better since 1913. Probably several orders of magnitude in whatever you're measuring.

Except the French. They had it right the whole time.

If you look at the extremes, the negative side of food has gone from shit (literally) to shit (figuratively) so not much change there either.

Have you tasted frog legs?

A guy on reddit who said he was a medical student (and sounded like he really was) said that the nutrients may be fine, but the digestive system needs solid food. Patients stuck on liquid diets tend not to do well long-term, and they try to get them on solid food as fast as they can. He had a technical explanation I don't remember well enough to repeat.

I asked how the Soylent guy would do if he converted the stuff into some kind of solid food bar, and the med student said "Probably much better!"

They've done studies yes. In Anatomy & Phys in college they noticed that recovering soldiers recovered mentally far faster from the solid food equivalent of a nutrient shake. In some cases, it was pivotal to survival.

From the subject post: "I made a rather significant change to the formula... I've replaced half of the maltodextrin carbohydrates with oat powder, which ... dramatically increases the fiber content ... I underestimated the importance of fiber in a diet, and went from consuming 1.2g / day to 40g / day."

Fiber mixed with a nutrient soup is not solid food.

> We no longer live in a hunter-gatherer society. I have no use for bulging biceps.

Pretty bad assumption.

Exercise is important, as building muscle tissue stimulates hormone production (GH, melatonin) that affect even cognitive performance.

This guy has a pretty extreme reductionist view on things like health and nutrition. No surprise he's trying to live on a nutrient shake, after all.

"surely we can make food that is tastier, cheaper, and more nutritious than anything that exists naturally."

You're not convincing me. The idea of consuming a nutrient shake on a daily basis doesn't appeal in the least. I like chewing my food; texture is important to me. There's a reason that we have teeth and powerful jaw muscles. If we had evolved to consume our nutrients as a puree then we'd have mouth parts, like flies who squirt digestive juices onto their food and then suck up the partially-digested goop.

I get lost in my work/play quite a bit and often forget about meals. I'd definitely be interested in trying soylent simply as a meal replacement, especially if ingestion/preparation of it is quick enough not to break my workflow.

You are looking for a product called Ensure. You can find it in every mini-mart in the country. It has actually been scientifically developed and tested as a meal replacement and is based on real research by people who know what they are talking about rather than one guy who is making a lot of guesses...

Except that it's really, really expensive per-calorie.

There are a bunch of different liquid feeds available.

Well known brands include Ensure and Fortisip.



These have the advantage of careful preparation and high standards of QA.

I would order Soylent right now if I could. So I'm pretty excited to find out about these. I had no idea they existed. FWIW, my diet now is like 95% red meat, with some cheese occasionally added in.

What are the downsides of these compared to Soylent? I mean, what's the motivation for Soylent if these already exist?

Dude, get a pack of baby spinach and throw it in with the meat.

And odd choice, since excessive spinach intake can lead to iron deficiencies.

Other green vegetables are better.

What are the downsides of these compared to Soylent? I mean, what's the motivation for Soylent if these already exist?

I swear that this Soylent thing is all, as some others have opined, a long troll.

But yes, there are a number of "meal replacement" drinks, some of them (like Ensure), very widely known and heavily advertised.

I guess the difference is that this guy is making the recipe available so you can tweak it to your requirements.

Ensure or other prepackaged products are a predefined set ratio, which may not be optimal for all consumers.

For example, highly active people will probably require a higher ratio of carbohydrates than less active people. Similarly, some people will be genetically predisposed to have higher/lower uptake of some nutrients/vitamins.

Ultimately, for any one person to succeed with a Soylent style approach, they will need to monitor their blood levels of a range of elements and compounds.

To my mind, developing a rapid, cheap, broad spectrum blood analysis to allow people to monitor their diet (soylent or not) is what should be focused on.

Your mileage and diet may vary...

Looking at Ensure, it's $42.50 for 24 bottles with 350 calories each. At ~2000/calories per day (6 bottles), it looks to be something that would cost ~$320/month to replace most meals with.

I'd imagine that Soylent's sales success will lie with its price point reaching around ~120-150/month price point. Going much higher than that, and the financial incentive would be lost.

$42.50 for 24 is just sloppy shopping. I get about half of my intake from Ensure (and its competitors), not by choice but because of a medical condition that often precludes normal eating, and $28-32 ($7-8 for a six pack) is an easy target to maintain consistently. The cases of 24 are aimed at institutions, are priced accordingly, and never go on special.

There's also Vivonex, which is a Nestle product and used in feeding tubes for Crohns patients quite often.

Those things aren't bad, but full of sugar and flavorings to make them palatable to the general public.

Consider SlimFast. Same sh#t, but in strawberry flavor.

The main problem with SlimFast, as opposed to soylent, is that almost all of its carbs are sugars. On the other hand, it probably has a slightly better Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio.

> The main problem with SlimFast, as opposed to soylent, is that almost all of its carbs are sugars

Does that actually matter? (I know nothing, genuinely curious.)

The main problem with sugars is that they have a high glycemic index, which means that they break down quickly and rapidly release glucose into your bloodstream. That's bad for several reasons. One is that it causes a strong insulin response, which can increase insulin resistance over time, leading to diabetes. Another is that it will give you a burst of energy initially, which will then fall off, leaving you feeling tired. Carbs with a lower GI will keep your blood sugar at a steady level.

But actually, looking again at the soylent recipe, he seems to be preferring maltodextrin as his carb source. He was probably mislead by the fact that it's a "complex carbohydrate", but in fact, the GI of maltodextrin is higher than cane sugar. In fact, it has basically the same glycemic index as pure glucose.

So I retract my previous statement. Unless you replace carb source in soylent, SlimFast is basically just a better option.

Is it me or does it seem like everything is now a giant lead into a Kickstarter marketing push? Is Kickstarter the new Internet marketing?

Good question; I am launching a kickstarter campaign next week to fund my next book, which will answer precisely that question :)

I'm really surprised by people who act like this is some kind of new or novel idea. Meal replacements have been around for a very, very long time. There are some really common ones you can buy at any grocery store, such as Ensure.

Want to replace a meal with something similar? Throw some milk, oats, protein powder and peanut butter in a blender. Drink it down with a multi-vitamin and a fish oil capsule or two.

> I'm really surprised by people who act like this is some kind of new or novel idea. Meal replacements have been around for a very, very long time. There are some really common ones you can buy at any grocery store, such as Ensure.

I read something yesterday that summed this up pretty much perfectly.

If there's more than one of something, it means that it wasn't done right the first time. See: Cars, Computers, Telephones, Light Bulbs, etc...

Or throw brown rice, lentils/beans, and mixed frozen vegetables in a rice cooker. Add a can of tuna twice a week. For breakfast, prepare a green smoothie with frozen fruit, kale, and maybe some flaxseed.

The only slightly annoying or difficult part of this is cleaning up.

Another shameless plug for Soylent Orange. It's gratifying to see him bump his recipe towards mine in switching to oats. If you've never seen this before SO is the off the shelf version. It doesn't quite hit the same optimal micronutrient profile, but it gets you close. I find this + one meat based meal per day works pretty well.


I have yet to do a proper min-maxing of ingredients for optimal nutrients/calorie.

The author makes a good point in that what is perfectly safe for one person may be deadly to another. Off the top of my head, one example of this is how some people are congenital 'super-absorbers' of iron. These people can develop iron overload from ingesting levels of iron that have no effect on ordinary people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_overload

Am I the only one depressed by this idea ? I mean I have no doubt one can craft a superior meal nutriment wise, but this is the fast track to abandoning cuisine and a huge part of my culture.

Spend more time making your dreams come true. Yeah right, more facebook or more tv time !

No, you're not the only one. To me, this is also a fast way of ruining one of the best things about life. If "making your dreams come true" prevents you from enjoying a nice meals (which is not that much time-consuming, anyway), it may be time to reconsider if those dreams are worth it. Don't live just for a future that might not come, keep in mind your daily life.

Some people enjoy coding more than dining. You are likely to find many of them here. While you are free to differ from them ("I enjoy cooking/dining way too much for this to work for me"), your insults (the idea causes depression, the slippery slope argument, your suggestion that dreams = facebook+tv) are quite uncalled for.

I continue to read nothing but cautious words on HN when approaching Soylent.

Let me remind you all that cautious and timid natures rarely pioneered anything throughout history.

While I would be more than a bit anxious that I miss some nutrient (just like the missing MSM/sulphur) because soylent is a blend of raw earths and isolated ingredients - Rob's mentions of increased focus and better sleep really inspire me to check on what major nutrients I could be missing, and fix that by either supplementing or changing food habits. [I understand that Rob's motivations for using chemically produced ingredients are political and economical (resource consumption), but I'd rather eat live food as long as it's possible :)]

E.g. I recently started increasing potassium (eating more lentils and potatoes, and the occasional powder/pill) and my focus increased so much. Two years ago, I discovered that keeping vitamin D up in winter stops me from getting sick all the time. And I think MSM helps me recover faster after workouts (interesting fact: cooking decreases MSM content radically, so one could eat raw stuff instead of drinking it in powder-form).

Next step: Instead of swallowing pills, incorporate food that contains all that stuff. And have a deeper look at Soylent's more exotic ingredients.

I've definitely noticed this. If at all anything it's really just provided a framework for thinking about the nutrition that we typically lack on a daily basis.

I can't figure out if this is just an elaborate troll.

Well, he's making something people want; I'm an existence proof, as are a few other commenters on this thread.

Will this be any different from Ensure or other meal replacement shakes but marketed differently? Is what he's doing any different from what's been done before?

I was looking into ensure after a few people mentioned it on this thread. Something ensure promotes is that it's good for in between meals but doesn't say outright that it is an entire meal replacement that I could see. I think the difference is Soylent is meant to be a complete diet replacement where Ensure is focused on being a supplement to your diet.

All the meal replacement shakes explicitly state that they are NOT full replacements but only as a part of a balanced diet.

What I'm wondering is if that means that they are not trying to include 100% all nutrients, or is it just a legal claim to pretect them, since noone knows 100% all necessary nutrients.

Nature has solved this for us long ago. Buy a handful of vegetables, vary them every week; slice them up, cook/grill/stir fry and eat them. Add meat once in a while.

This will take you 20 minutes/day, maybe less if you make food in batches and freeze it, and it's been tested for the past few thousand years with pretty good results.

20 minutes/day? 6.7 minutes per meal? I doubt it. Plus you forgot the time to buy groceries, wash dishes, eat (drinking something like soylent is 5x faster than chewing food), etc. The average adult probably spends 45min-1h per day doing something necessary for preparing food. The guy has a point: Soylent does save time:

"I used to spend about 2 hours per day on food. Typically I would cook eggs for breakfast, eat out for lunch, and cook a quesadilla, pasta, or a burger for dinner. For every meal at home I would then have to clean and dry the dishes. This does not include trips to the grocery store. Now I spend about 5 minutes in the evening preparing for the next day, and every meal takes a few seconds. I love order of magnitude improvements, and I certainly don't miss doing dishes. In fact I could get rid of the kitchen entirely, no fridge sucking down power, no constant cleaning or worrying about pests, and more living space. I just need a water source." Source: http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298

I used to spend about 2 hours per day on food. Typically I would cook eggs for breakfast, eat out for lunch, and cook a quesadilla, pasta, or a burger for dinner

It seems strange that it would take him 2 hours to cook a combination of eggs, a quesadilla, pasta, or a burger. These are foods that only take a few minutes to cook. Cooking either eggs or a quesadilla takes less than 1 minute. If cooked longer, they are ruined. One could cook a meal for two containing every one of those items in less than 20 minutes. He must have been taking a long lunch break.

Any claim that this project arose from a need for time savings rings a bit hollow, because he has spent an order of magnitude more time on this than any non-foodie bachelor programmer person has ever spent cooking.

..how are you cooking eggs that they're done in under a minute? The only way I can think of that stands any chance is by frying, which is hardly the healthiest option. Soft-boiling an egg takes me six minutes, plus the time to heat the water. About quarter of an hour all in, at a guess.

As for a burger, when I cook one of those it's an absolute minimum of half an hour start to finish - peeling & chopping the onions & garlic, dicing the bacon, mixing it all together with the beef, cooking it properly.. I can easily take up an hour.

You seem to be confusing "Microwave crap from a packet" with preparation of decent food.

> ..how are you cooking eggs that they're done in under a minute? The only way I can think of that stands any chance is by frying, which is hardly the healthiest option. Soft-boiling an egg takes me six minutes, plus the time to heat

I've got ~5 minutes here:

Boil water in kettle ~2 minutes

Place in pan on hot ring on hob with eggs, comes to boil ~.5 minutes

Boil until cooked ~3 minutes

- add a minute or two if you prefer hard boiled

And it doesn't require you to be standing over it so if you take away the time you can be absent that's going to take you down to more like 3 minutes.

A hard boiled egg is 10min in boiling water. None of your times include: time to clean dishes, time to eat and chew solid food, time to go out to a restaurant to eat, etc.

You guys quoting "X minutes to cook food" really don't look at the big picture of all the steps that are saved by just having to drink a pre-made substance.

> time to clean dishes,

Dishwasher, not worth measuring. You do it when you walk back to the kitchen after the meal.

And you'd have to clean the glass from your drink anyway. Or walk back to the kitchen to throw the bottle away and then you've got the time for throwing the extra trash away.

> time to eat and chew solid food,

Not mutually exclusive with that many other things that I'd be doing at home. Hard to really count it as a loss.

Frying is totally fine if you use no (or little) oil and a non-stick pan.

I wouldn't consider making burgers a fast-prep food, but you can chop up an onion and clean the board in under two minutes. Skip the bacon. Actually, skip the onion too, just slice it up and brown a little for use as a topping, the best burgers are pure meat. Grilling, browning the bun and assembly takes another 10 minutes. A good titanium pan is clean in 30 seconds. Freeze a dozen patties and you can have a lot of instant meals.

I do cook a lot so am used to doing things reasonably fast, but I can't really see the argument for soylent saving time. You need breaks from work/activities anyway; besides, cooking can be relaxing, and is a great time to catch up on a podcast/video you've been saving for when you have the time, so it doesn't have to be completely "wasted".

His "2 hours" does include "eat out for lunch". He is probably right. Sitting down at a restaurant = 20-40 min minimum.

There's no science here. This so-called experiment is worthless IMHO.

Feeding people all-liquid diets to keep them alive is well known. That's what happens to coma patients and lots of work in creating enteral nutrition products has been done. Given that people's lives depend on this that's a good place to start (take a look at, for example, Jevity [3]). And the people who make that stuff worry about keeping your gastrointestinal system working, the right balance of everything needed to keep a (in this case, sick) person alive, how to keep the product from spoiling, etc.

So, he's not creating something new.

The other argument against the existing products is price. Here's a quick comparison. He claims that it costs him $155 per month [1]. If he were to live on Jevity 1.5 he'd need to drink 4.2 cans per day at a cost of $57/24 per can (it's sold in packs of 24 cans [2]) or $9.98 per day which is roughly $300 a month. (If he ups the kcal to 2,000 a day from the 1,500 he was on then he'd need to drink 5.6 cans a day which is $400 a month).

So, he'd be spending 2 to 2.5 times what he currently is. But he'd be spending it on a product that's been quality controlled and tested.

Is there any indication that he can fundamentally change the economics of this type of food? I don't think so. Especially when you factor in all the work that the makers of Jevity etc. are doing at that price point (the QA, the distribution, the packaging).

And certainly not enough to meet all his other goals about solving world hunger.

If a market for soylent emerges then I'd imagine that companies that make things like Jevity would step in. Oh wait, they already do. There's Ensure etc.

Also, there's so much other crap in his blog posts about how soylent lasts forever [4], how no one need muscles anyway [5], how even stopping eating soylent for a week led to massive cognitive problems [5], that it's hard to take the whole thing seriously.

And then there's this [1]: "I for one would not miss the stereotype of the housewife in the kitchen. Providing diverse, palatable, and nutritious meals for an entire family every day must be exhausting. What if taking a night off didn't mean unhealthy pizza or expensive take out? How wasteful society has been with its women! The endless hours spent cooking and cleaning in the kitchen could be replaced with socializing, study, or creative endeavors."

Ah yes, soylent is not only going to solve world hunger, make us more healthy, save time, make us more creative, save money: it's going to emancipate women!

But there's more [5]: "We no longer live in a hunter-gatherer society. I have no use for bulging biceps. No one in the United States plows fields or hammers steel. It has all been automated. We need mental strength. We need creativity, patience, discipline, and humility. If people had more self-control obesity would take care of itself. Perhaps companies would be more productive if managers had more humility and employees had more discipline."

Yes, soylent will result in an increase in humility and all those fat people who lack self-discipline will be thin.


[1] http://robrhinehart.com/?p=298

[2] http://www.abbottstore.com/jevity+reg/jevity-15-cal-8-oz-can...

[3] http://abbottnutrition.com/brands/products/jevity-1_5-cal

[4] http://www.soylent.me claims it 'lasts for years'

[5] http://robrhinehart.com/?p=570

Jevity: "May be used for oral feeding of patients with altered taste perception."

Made me laugh. Not that I have any reason to think it tastes worse than his.

"If people had more self-control obesity would take care of itself."

Obesity might be partly genetic.


Partly in some people, but imho, ask a handful of people with obesity about their eating and exercise habits (and their psychological state etc) and do the maths.

Self-control, also, might be partly genetic[1]. Regardless, both obesity and self-control are influenced by environmental factors, so it's a noble effort that Rob is trying to do something about it.


Even, say, tendencies to sociopathy and violence are also partially genetic - if you have a genetic propensity towards obesity, it doesn't reduce your responsibility by a single inch, it simply means that you have to pay more attention and seriousness to avoid mangling your life.

Genes don't feed your face.

Neither does cold-blooded logic. Nobody can understand obesity unless they've had to ask themselves "wait, why did I eat all that?" Willpower seems to be finite and its relationship to blood sugar may be genetic. I've had pretty good luck losing weight using protein/fiber shakes between small meals to reduce blood sugar spikes and blunt cravings that were hard to control otherwise.

Enough of this. We should fight the acceptance of obesity and externalizing blame.

You alone are responsible for your weight, health, and life.

Yes and no. There is a thin line to walk here. On the one hand, there is a definitely harmful component to the fat acceptance movement as you point out. On the other hand, discrimination and humiliation of obese people is wrong and counterproductive.

But the fact is that there are some people for whom obesity is actually a medical problem that has nothing to do with self-control, and a statement like the one in the TFA demonstrates considerable privilege blindness.

Why is it so easy to make a food that dogs and cats can eat for every meal but so difficult for humans? Anyone know?

As a science geek I love this. As a marketer, this name is unfortunate.

Interested in the outcomes though. keep it up.

Indeed, you don't want people screaming "Soylent Green is people!"

You do realise that mastication is REQUIRED for healthy teeth and gums right?

You may not become malnutritioned, but you will suffer from various oral problems due to lack of mastication. This may take a year or even a few years to present itself - by then it will be too late to react.

Still sticking with that horrible name, eh? I guess if you don't care about a wider adoption...

"We no longer need big biceps". Well true, unless you want to attract women.

Honestly, odds are that if you're not a big bicep type of guy, you're probably not going to like being involved with the women that like big bicep types of guys.

Depends on whether you want to attract women that are into large biceps or those that think men with large biceps are posers spend too much time at the gym.

Luckily, there's a third category of guys who like being fit, and enjoy physical activity in general and strength training specifically.

Isn't it better to attract them all and then pick the ones you want? I am 50 lbs over weight just saying...

It's not possible to "attract them all", different people find different things attractive, and honestly I don't think "attract them all" is a very desirable predicament, better to have a deep connection with one person than dealing with many shallow connections. Besides, and I know this is a cliche by now, but repeated so much because it's true... confidence (not to be confused with arrogance) is the most attractive quality. Be healthy, sure, but ultimately be comfortable in your own skin.

Only people with big biceps have ever attracted women?

Those who say that this is wrong because humans should eat like our ancestors because we evolved to eat in this way are on the same level with people that say only man and woman should have sex because nature made it this way. Naturalists are wrong from the very root because of assumption nature makes everything on purpose and in the only right way possible. This soylent thing exposes all the ignorance of the people in this regard.

Futurama's Bachelor Chow

from the article: "No one in the United States plows fields or hammers steel. It has all been automated."

And, I presume, no one in the world is poor. Nobody struggles. There is no murder or injustice anymore.

Just which planet is this fellow living on?

This guy definitely will leave gene pool. I bet on diabetes.

My son and I watched Star Wars a New Hope this weekend and when that exact scene hit I thought of Soylent. Spooky!

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