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Soylent: Manufacturing Update (soylent.me)
71 points by ph0rque on Oct 25, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments

I would like to see a controlled trial of Soylent against the all-raw-and-rotting-meat diet:


One of my favorite things about Soylent is that it provides a "reasonable" but consistent baseline for doing these sorts of tests. Until Soylent there wasn't a non-medical meal replacement that at least theoretically tried to be everything you need. Once Soylent has been battle tested for awhile, we can start doing actual experiments with controlled variables around diets. If we can get that far without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we will potentially upend how we do nutritional testing.

> Until Soylent there wasn't a non-medical meal replacement that at least theoretically tried to be everything you need

As far as I understand it that's because the knowledge to make such a thing does not exist and everyone in the field is confident trying to make such a product would fail. They are waiting for the pure research folks to learn more about human nutrition (either a bit more or a hell of a lot more depending on who you ask).

Ensure/Jevity/etc would certainly market their products for non-medical purposes if they could. But they are only used as last resort options during medical interventions precisely because of the results they've seen during those medical interventions.

A bunch of volunteers self experimenting is an interesting way to get around this (the ethics of this level of experimentation on human subjects that is). While the data will be too uncontrolled and biased to judge any positive effects you will probably get some very interesting data when someone gets sick (as long as they at least keep a detailed enough log of their diet).

Considering the ingredient list now includes snake oil like Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba I don't trust the makers enough to include myself in those tests but I am interested in how it turns out.

That's crazy talk. Plenty of other controlled diets, for which there are decades or centuries of experience, would be better 'baselines' for experiments than novel, radical Soylent.

Actual controlled experiments in diet are not currently blocked waiting for "a non-medical meal replacement that at least theoretically trie[s] to be everything you need".

In 10 years "eating the Soylent" might have a colloquial meaning very close to "drinking the Kool-Aid".

> Until Soylent there wasn't a non-medical meal replacement that at least theoretically tried to be everything you need.

Here are a couple that predate Soylent:



As a former Process Engineer in the Food Industry, I never thought I would see the day RFI would be mentioned in an article linked from HN.

why make your own from real food when you can have powders mixed by an idiot for twice the price?


I tried this, and here was my experience:

1. I am gluten intolerant, so swap out oat flour for almond flour. Swap out B complex supplement for marmite. Also, calling marmite "real food" is a bit of a stetch in my estimation.

2. After the first week, realized I was probably mildly allergic to casin, swapped to coconut milk.

3. After the first week after that change, noticed I am probably also mildly allergic to banana. Cut it completely.

So what I ended up with was a high fat low carbohydrate equivalent that isn't too bad. I actually drink this pretty regularly, and it is extremely filling. However, calling this guy an idiot is disingenuous to say the least; his work is going through considerably more scrutiny than Soylent Orange, and it contains considerably less allergens. Depending on who you talk to, up to 15% of people are gluten intolerant[1] and so, when keeping risks in mind, we should be cognizant of the dangerous of various proposals.

All in all, I actually do like (my modified) Soylent Orange, but ad hominem attacks are unnecessary and "real food" is a suprisingly slippery concept. Hell, coconut and almonds are common allergies too!

Oats do not contain appreciable enough amounts of gluten to bother anyone except those with celiac disease. Even some celiac sufferers eat oatmeal that has been processed to remove that last .01% of gluten. Doesn't regular soylent use oat flour anyway? also this: http://www.amazon.com/Bobs-Red-Mill-Gluten-22-Ounce/dp/B003L...

I don't have a citation either way, so I will just say that I noticed a reaction to oats just like a reaction to gluten. Could be that mine were contaminated, could potentially be that I am allergic to oats as well.

That's a lot more ingredients than "1", and many of those things spoil very quickly. Soylent is exactly one thing to buy, and keeps for >6 months, meaning that you can stockpile it and not worry about running out.

I already basically live on milk-based shakes now, and it's a pain having to replenish my milk supply twice a week. Soylent would solve that nicely.

You are incapable of buying more milk? Bananas can be frozen, everything else has a shelf life of months.

I buy more milk twice a week, so no.

I am capable of buying every single item in soylent individually and combining them. I am also capable of going to a farmer's market every single morning and cleaning, preparing, and cooking three fresh, square, delicious, healthy, nutritious meals every single day.

I just don't fucking want to.

Optimizing is saying no to things.

I think the creator of soylent put it best: "less time cooking and cleaning means more time for music and math".

Okay, so you don't agree with the approach. Doesn't mean you have to resort to name calling.

All you are pointing to is an alternative solution which basically has all the same issues in getting the right mix of nutrients, and more work on the consumers part. Convenience is at least part of the appeal of Soylent.

Fine, you prefer that approach, fair enough, there's no data that says it's the better one.

The guy misdosed himself due to ignoring stuff that could be found on the wikipedia page on human nutrition multiple times already. The fact that he has radically changed his stance on inclusion criteria with each iteration gives me little confidence in his decision making process.

You're asking why anyone would pay money to have a service performed for them?

Glad to hear you have never bought anything that was pre-made and can live your entire life assembling everything you need from parts yourself.

The insult seems a little snide and uncalled for, IMO.

Why bother eating at home when you can have an idiot conveniently cook your food in a restaurant at twice the price?

"Our number-one priority is that every person who has received their Soylent is able to reorder more for immediate delivery."

Odd. I'd expect their number-one priority to be "ensure Soylent is healthy and safe".

That's unfair.

The comment is made within the context of a manufacturing update. Besides, you could respond to anyone that says they have a priority, "I'd expect your number-one priority to be feeding orphans."

Dammit! Now it's January? I hope it doesn't keep slipping. It was supposed be August in the beginning but then popularity pushed it down to November, then December...I want wanna drink some fancy science!

I feel your pain every time I go to the grocery store.

I've even been trying various powder things that nutritional shops sell. They all leave me feeling hungry after an hour and I end up eating a sandwich anyway. :/

this is actually nice in how it gives a picture of what the ops/regulatory side of this sort of business is like...totally alien from my nerd side of the world...

I'm baffled as to why anyone would want to live off what is essentially tube-fed hospital food. But without even the benefit of medical expertise and monitoring to ensure safety.

Does anyone know if Soylent actually makes you feel full / satisfied after consuming it? Would the effect be similar to eating a bowl of soup or something? I recall many years ago I used to get something called Instant Breakfast, but I still needed an apple or a couple slices of toast to feel like I actually ate something (might be that psychologically, I need the recent memory of chewing action in order to be convinced that I actually just ate a meal).

On a related note, for those that are looking at this class of products due to lack of time / skills to cook at home, would anyone be interested in my list of "bachelor chow" recipes? Basically, this includes anything that can be easily prepared (minimal active preparation time, even if it has to cook all day in a slow cooker), along with the ability to be good leftovers for multiple days. Examples include chicken fried rice, ham/noodle/cheese casserole, "skillet" breakfasts, beef stew, etc.

The stuff that I've mixed up (not real Soylent, but from the HackerSchool recipe) has a significant amount of flour, which makes it very thick. The way I mix it it's more like a milkshake, and it feels very hearty. Whether or not I get hungry after mostly depends on how bored I am - I would have snacked anyways.

Yes, I'd read your bachelor chow recipes.

I have a similar question about it. Drinks go super fast into the blood stream. You could try combining it with some celery. I guess that'd work for someone who really, really doesn't want to make meals: use Soylent and celery.

I've been on a DIY soylent (diy.soylent.me) for over a month now and I feel full. I don't feel stuffed, I'm just not hungry anymore.

This is just nuts to me. Why aren't people doing one of the simple joys of life - cooking and eating delicious food, even simple recipes can result in really delicious food. Come on people, get back to basics!

I might eat this as snack food, or to replace an occasional meal, but the idea of eating exactly the same thing every single meal scares me a little bit. I guess I just don't have confidence that modern science has fully quantified everything that's needed in a complete human diet. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure Soylent is great stuff - I just think that I wouldn't want to completely give up 'normal' food for it (besides the worry factor, it also seems really boring).

Not sure, but I think this is the expected use case. Soylent is supposed to be something you can eat exclusively, but also, I don't think even soylent creators expect their users to eat it and nothing else ever. I plan to replace "mindless" meals with it, but eat delicious, healthy non soylent meals when I have time and inclination. Many times I eat stuff I dont want that isn't healthy due to time constraints.

actually, I take it back... what you're saying is not the expected use case. you want to use it as a snack food (maybe), when really its intended to be a default food, but that doesn't mean you should only eat soylent ever. They want to make something that you can eat exclusively workout endangering your health. I don't think they actually expect everyone uses it to only use it exclusively.

Its kinda expensive, $255 for a month?

Which equals $2.83 per meal.

I spend $300-$400 on lunch alone per month (flatiron nyc)

As a bodybuilder/powerlifter, I would kill to have packages geared towards my sport with the proper macronutriets. Would be cool if you could customize as well based on meal frequency and macro-nutrient requirements.

For example, I need to eat 6 meals a day @ 40g protein / 40g carbs / 20g fat in each meal.

Making it easy to do this is my goal with Eat This Much (http://www.eatthismuch.com), and before that, with http://www.Swole.me (the name being more bodybuilding focused before I added recipes and improved the algorithm to make something that would appeal to a normal, well adjusted person :)

If Soylent got popular enough, it would pretty much make my service obsolete. I doubt that'll happen anytime soon, but I'm still a huge supporter of what Soylent is trying to accomplish with taking the thinking out of what I should eat. You can actually use the two in conjunction pretty well by adding Soylent as a "custom food" on Eat This Much, making it take up about 80% of your daily calories, locking it in place, and then running the meal plan generator to fill in the last 20% of your calories with real food.

Here's an example where I added Soylent similar to one of their initial recipes, each serving being 1/4 of their daily recommendation (and a higher calorie target so I don't atrophy into nothing): http://www.eatthismuch.com/diet/802429276

If Soylent got popular enough, it would pretty much make my service obsolete.

Don't count yourself out just yet. Some people will always prefer to eat real food.

I've heard non-elderly, non-infirm people consuming the major brand product as a convenient replacement for meals.

Furthermore, all the existing makers have to do is launch another brand and Soylent is more/less boxed into an all but hipster lifestyle business. They would have to fight an uphill battle all the way as there is no real element of defensibly about it in a market where the existing players already dominate the key element: distribution.

As an example of branding nutritional beverages: as a kid, I like carnation instant breakfast because what kid doesn't like any excuse to have chocolate milk for breakfast? It's not quite the same as a complete nutrition product, but it's close enough to illustrate the point of branding. Most people dislike Ensure because it's associated with the infirm and the elderly. If one were to build a complete nutrition brand, it has to be associated with Olympians, military specops and so on.

>Some people will always prefer to eat real food.

I wouldn't count him out either. "Some" is likely going to be the overwhelming majority of people for at least another century.

I honestly hope I'm not around to see the day when actual food is too expensive for the average person to eat.

Does ramen, McDonalds, and frozen cardboard pizza count as real food?

I think actual food may already be borderline too expensive for the average person to eat. At least Soylent promises to make it somewhat healthier.

>Does ramen, McDonalds, and frozen cardboard pizza count as real food?


It is pretty expensive to eat good, healthy food all of the time, but I still think middle-class families can afford it (although its getting harder all the time). Sometimes the crappy, unhealthy alternatives are cheaper, but there are still meals that you can cook at home that are pretty inexpensive.

How is it expensive? Local farms market for fruits/veggies. Some meat shop/costco for meat in bulk.

Perhaps I need to find a farmer's market and a meat shop.

Haha of course, hence the "I doubt that'll happen anytime soon." Though I wouldn't be surprised if it became commonplace for people to swap out their breakfasts for something like Soylent in the near future. I already do something similar by throwing milk, protein powder, ground up oatmeal, and flax seeds into a blender every morning. The convenience is pretty overwhelming, and it has a much better nutrition profile than a bowl of cereal.

I do the same for breakfast, but I feel more comfortable doing so because most of those foods are regulated. I don't believe protein powder is, which is a little scary considering how often it's consumed. If Soylent is to be treated as a supplement (lack of regulation) that is consumed exclusively, it's even more unnerving.

PS - Are you Louis? We had a quick email convo last year. If you need help implementing some of the marketing aspects of EatThisMuch, let me know.

Yep, that's me - I'll send you a follow up email in a couple minutes

Yeah, thanks for that recipe. I've been drinking those shakes for a week or two now, and I think I feel better.

The recipe, for those who are curious:

- 1/2-1 cup raw oatmeal

- 1-2 tablespoon(s) peanut butter

- 1 scoop whey protein powder (I use Gold Standard Double Chocolate)

- 1 tablespoon flax seeds

- 1 banana

- 1-2 cups milk

Blend the oatmeal and flax seeds into small bits before adding the rest, then add the rest and blend. Chocolate-banana-peanut butter taste, and a pretty good mix of nutrients.

Just discovered your site. Also love it.

Please keep with it. You have an actually unique and well implemented idea.

@papa_bear I just came across eatthismuch.com and I love it! Thanks

That's awesome to hear! I have a pretty long list of improvements to make, but let me know if you have any feedback or suggestions via email (louis@eatthismuch.com)

Oh man I've been using those sites since they launched! Once tuned it spat out pretty decent meals with good macros, I was really impressed.

Great redesign as well. That also looks like a fairly balanced meal, I'd down the carbs and up the protein though.

The obvious solution would be if we could get Soylent Powder or Soylent Base containing all the nitty-gritty little vitamins and minerals and choline and whatever, and then add whatever fats, carbs, and protein we wanted. I wrote them about that (I've already ordered in the Kickstarter, just to support them) but haven't received an answer yet. BTW does anyone know the current composition of the latest Soylent?

I'm not entirely sure, but I think I heard it's people.

I laughed way too hard on this

I once had my personal trainer cook me the 6 properly balanced meals I needed a day.

I got 6 tupperware boxes each day and it was heaven, apart from the price tag.

I've been dreaming of starting a healthy micro-meal delivery service ever since. You even get the perfect distribution point for free: the gym.

Can you share how much this cost you?

An arm and a leg. I did it together with a daily (on workdays) personal training routine for €100 per day.

It was amazingly effective and I'm glad I did it but, unsurprisingly, it was just too expensive to maintain in the long run.

That's a pretty good idea. Have you made any headway with it? Yeah I stack 35 tupperware containers of food a week. 5 in the freezer, take out a new days worth 24 hours.

I haven't made any headway as my main startup takes precedence right now. Feel free to take the idea and run with it ;)

>For example, I need to eat 6 meals a day @ 40g protein / 40g carbs / 20g fat in each meal.

The importance of meal frequency is pretty much regarded as bro-science these days.

Regardless, it can be hard to pack enough protein and calories away for that kind of nutritional load if you're not constantly eating.

I totally second this.

Customizable "meals" based on your activity level, age, and weight goals (among other factors) should be a goal for the Soylent team down the road.

So far they've got 2 for male/female. I'd imagine it could be feasible to create several variants for different goal types.

I need to eat 6 meals a day @ 40g protein / 40g carbs / 20g fat in each meal.

This is why god invented excel. So you can eat real food. Just read the labels...

I've been trying to put on some muscle mass over the last 6 months, and simply trying to consume enough protein throughout the day is one of the hardest parts. I can certainly sympathise with someone looking for a simpler solution - it would interest me too.

This protein talk is BS, unless you're an elite athlete there's no way you are not meeting your protein intake with a normal diet. Whatever excess protein you take will be converted to energy (or fat), so you're just paying more per Kcal than carbs.

Did you ever see prisoners? They get huge and they don't drink whey in prison, they don't even eat a lot of meat. All they do is rest all day and, in the limited time they have to workout, they pull heavy weights.

And take steroids.

Prisoners have natural higher levels of testosterone already, and even for the ones on steroids, protein intake doesn't change so the point is still valid.

You really don't have to eat that much protein (maybe two grams per kg of lean body mass) just make sure that you are eating several hundred calories over your maintenance every day and you are lifting consistently, with good intensity and incorporating progressive overload.

A lot of this stuff (very high protein, high meal frequency) is out there because it keeps supplement companies in business.

Not to mention that when you find one particular solution that works (eg. 6 chicken breasts a day), it gets very boring, very quickly. Although I doubt that drinking Soylent everyday is going to help with the boredom!

For me it varies. There are some foods I can eat on a daily basis without ever tiring, but some others I go off very quickly. So far I've found one protein shake I can stomach for long periods of time, the others I get sick off after about 2 weeks.

> So far I've found one protein shake I can stomach for long periods of time, the others I get sick off after about 2 weeks.

Which is that, if you don't mind my asking on matters of personal curiosity?

I have similar eating habits insofar as finding some foods off putting if I eat them too regularly.

Gold Standard double chocolate. I tried their cookies and cream first, and was fine for a couple of weeks before I just couldn't stomach it any more. I've tried a couple of other brands and flavours with similar results.

I meant to thank you for sharing this. I'd been researching protein powders and found that many reviews were kinda iffy on most (and I'm not personally fond of vanilla, blech). It's good to see recommendations from someone else with similar eating patterns (i.e. getting sick of things relatively quickly); I find that recommendations based on similar behaviors tend to match my own preferences more closely.

Or it's a placebo effect. Who knows?

Thanks again!

1. Eat clean

2. Lift heavy

3. Sleep

4. Be consistent

Go on bodybuilding.com / reddit.com/r/bodybuilding and read posts about peoples diets and see what works for who. People usually post progress pictures in r/loseit, r/gainit, r/progresspics, r/brogress along with their routines and diets.

If you're looking for a more scientific approach: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/articles

You could supplement Soylent with maltodextrin, rice protein and olive oil. That or cheeseburgers.

Meal frequency adjustments can be accomplished with a measuring cup.

You could make yourself a DIY Soylent customized for your needs. There's an app to make things easy for you:


So grab some ingredients and make your own.

It takes time to prepare, including calculating all the supplemental nutrients. I think he's looking for an instant solution.

You only need to make the calculations once though. Preparation time is 5 minutes tops if you use pills instead of pure powder to achieve your micros.

I do, but it's not as efficient as it can be.

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