Click here for a step-by-step guide to making homemade Soylent
My best friend's graduation ceremony starts in 10 minutes and I'm trying to suppress vomit at a Speedway.
It's my third day on homemade Soylent—a food-replacing beverage made of nutrients in their raw chemical forms—and this is the second time I've made my friend Tom pull over on the way to the ceremony. I've been nauseous ever since chugging two glasses this morning, and every time I get out of the car, the fresh air helps just enough that I can't make anything come up.
As I breathe deeply and wrestle down bile, Tom decides to wax philosophical. "I think every generation has its preferred word for vomit, and I think ours is 'vom,'" he says. Speaking as someone about to vom, this does not help.
But somehow, I make it. My stomach settles. I see Sarah walk across the stage in her cap and gown and I don't blow Soylent all over her family's Sunday best.
Later, at my parents' house, my dad walks in to the living room where Sarah and I are sitting with our other best friend, Cortney, who was recently accepted to several masters' programs.
"It looks like you all deserve congratulations," he says. "Sarah graduated, Cortney, you're going to graduate school, and Julie, you didn't vomit up that stuff."
That stuff is the brainchild of Rob Rhinehart, a Silicon Valley software engineer who got fed up with food and went looking for an alternative. "Food just seems to pop up, like this obnoxious biological need that I need to get rid of," he says.
his crowdfunding campaign and says he is in talks with manufacturers.Basically, Rhinehart turned to the Food and Drug Administration's recommended daily values for all the different nutrients we need—everything from carbohydrates and protein to things we only need a few micrograms of, like Vitamin K and selenium--and combined them into a drink he named Soylent. Rhinehart also includes a few things that aren't strictly necessary, but which studies have shown to have positive effects, like lycopene and omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil provides the fat; everything else is in powder form. Soylent is not yet commercially available, but Rhinehart has raised nearly half a million dollars on
After living on only Soylent for a month, Rhinehart wrote a blog post called "How I Stopped Eating Food." In four weeks, he had more energy, he claimed, his skin was clearer, his sleep better, his reflexes improved. And he lost 13 pounds.
The Internet, being the Internet, latched on quickly, and I was one of the many people who found myself intrigued by the little slice of science fiction that Rhinehart presented. It's hard to be healthy. And no one can quite agree on how. (Paleo? Mediterranean diet? Eat food, not too much, mostly plants?) I want to believe that one drink could be a perfectly balanced diet, that it could help me sleep better, give me more energy, help me lose weight, clear up my skin. Rhinehart cautions me that weight loss is not the goal of Soylent, and, sure, that's only part of its appeal. (Rhinehart also says Soylent could have implications for world hunger.) But it's hard not to think of it as a silver bullet for all the problems we have with our bodies, especially when he's gone and made the tagline for his product "Free Your Body."
Some nutritionists refute Rhinehart's claim that Soylent is healthy. One nutritionist told Business Insider that she sees "a red flag for a potential eating disorder." Another accused Rhinehart of "hubris" on NPR, saying he shouldn't assume he knows what his body needs.
Nevertheless, a small community of people determined to make their own Soylent sprung up and became active on forums (Rhinehart doesn't officially recommend the homemade version, for liability reasons). One of those DIYers is my friend Tom, a chemical engineering grad student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the town over from where I grew up. "I have a weird thing to tell you," he said on Gchat one day, and less than two weeks later I was on a bus to Michigan, determined to try it for myself.
For the month that he's been on Soylent so far, Tom has been hiding his operation in his bathroom. A blender sits by the toothpaste on the counter, and he fills it with a variety of white powders--salt, fiber, potassium chloride, monosodium phosphate and maltodextrin (carbohydrates) from an enormous tub labeled "Muscle Feast" and adorned with a weirdly muscular dog. A liquid multivitamin, some whey protein (pick your flavor: chocolate, strawberry or plain), olive oil and some water to dilute it, and we end up with a blenderful of fizzing, frothy liquid, a watery beige color like the peeling paint of a high school hallway. Plus 13 pills to take that he didn't grind up and put in the drink, for the sake of avoiding chunks.
I tilt the glass up to my lips but don't drink, like leaning over the edge of a cliff. Tom chugs his down in mere seconds. I take a cautious sip, and it's immediately clear that his approach was better.
"This is the moment when you realize you've resigned yourself to drinking this for a week," he says.
It is not good.
The chocolate, strawberry and plain-flavored whey makes the Soylent taste like a chocolate malt, a strawberry wafer cookie and a vanilla milkshake, respectively, except not quite. It's as though an alien race tried to recreate the taste of those things out of chemicals they had available to them and they came very, very close, but couldn't quite make it. There's a chemical aftertaste that lingers, rising in your throat like a vapor. After that first day, I stick to the "plug and chug" system—plug your nose and chug it.
The thing I notice most about living on Soylent is how I don't feel particularly different. In fact, most of the time, I feel no extremes at all. I'm not hungry, I'm not full, I'm not tired, I'm not particularly energetic. The nausea on the way to Sarah's graduation seems to be a fluke associated with the plain whey; neither strawberry nor chocolate make me sick. Drinking Soylent doesn't make me feel full in the classical sense; there's no heaviness in my stomach, no food baby. I just stop being hungry. Which is not to say I don't want food. The first night, Tom and I go out with friends and drink beers, watching while they chow down on burgers and macaroni and cheese.
"You took me to a place that has pulled pork nachos?" I accuse, looking at the menu.
On day two, my dad makes barbecue and my family eats it in front of me, unconvincingly calling it "gross," for my sake. On night four I have a dream that I can't take it anymore and I eat a meatball sandwich, only to make myself throw it up so I don't ruin the integrity of this article. On day six I tell a friend that never having a food baby is overrated, that if I had one now I would cherish it and care for it. I would put headphones on my stomach and play it Baby Mozart if only I could eat a hamburger.
But these are isolated incidents, and for the most part, I find the ease alluring. I never have to think about what I'm going to eat, or decide between packing a lunch and being on time to work. Though I have cravings, I'm never actually hungry. I tell people I've "transcended food." In seven days, I lose three and a half pounds, and two and a half inches off my waist. And my skin is clearer.
I get used to living on Soylent. I usually take my pills and drink two glasses in the morning, one around lunchtime and one for dinner. I think of it much in the same way I do exercise--you just have to make yourself miserable for a finite period of time, to reap the benefits later. When I stop to think, on the second to last day, that I haven't chewed and swallowed something in six days--such a seemingly basic process--it feels incredibly strange.
To combat the weirdness of being on a liquid diet, I chew a lot of gum. But I'm careful not to swallow it. Tom made that mistake in his early days of Soylent, which of course meant the only solid thing in his stomach was the gum. "When push came to shove," as he puts it, he spent a good amount of time in the bathroom. Apparently it felt a lot like blowing a bubble.
When you're on a liquid diet, everyone wants to know about your poop. Rhinehart says reporters (myself included) ask him about it all the time. I bring some Soylent home to Chicago to finish out my week, and it's the first thing my co-workers ask me.
"You want your poop to be soft, like a snake," one of them advises.
Rhinehart says he still poops on Soylent, just much less. I'm a little loath to go into too much detail on my experience in case I ever have a date with an overzealous Googler, but I will say I spend more time in the bathroom than Rhinehart led me to expect, and on that fateful plain whey day I climb higher on the Bristol Stool Scale than I ever care to again. The other days aren't so bad, though.
My last day of Soylent is bittersweet. "Soylent, my old friend," I say aloud in my kitchen to no one. "We've had some times together, have we not?" I go to the grocery store, because there is no food in my house, and think of it as "shopping for my new life," which is...weird. I get overwhelmed by all of the different flavors available to me. I almost don't remember the taste of anything else.
Almost everyone has expressed disbelief that I've made it this long. "You didn't cheat once?" my boss asks. "You didn't sneak a bite of anything?"
Even Tom, who was supposed to be my partner in this journey, let me down. He only made it three days in a row.
"You are weak and I hate you," I tell him.
I think of my Soylent journey as my own personal "There and Back Again" (both "there" and "back" often being "to the bathroom"). Perhaps the lasting value of this experiment will be proof of my fortitude. If I can force myself to live on only Soylent in the face of mac and cheese, my dad's barbecue and pulled pork nachos, surely I can make myself eat healthy things that I don't have to plug my nose while ingesting once in a while. On my first day back on food, though, I purchase and consume an entire pizza. So I guess we'll see.
Soylent isn't really supposed to entirely replace regular food. Though rob did go an entire month on nothing else. That was just to prove that it could be done. If you read his later blog entries he is still using Soylent for most meals but now can enjoy the food he wants and enjoys without having to worry about nutritional intake for those few meals where he eats regular food. Such as when he goes out with friends.
I find it really interesting that a person would have genuinely a hard time sticking to drinking nothing but Soylent. This is not a criticism, just unexpected.
I currently am a DIY Soylent maker, and while I eat food daily, my only apprehension from drinking it full-time are concerns for missing vital micro-nutrients, or unforeseen dietary complications (eg. disturbing the guts biotic levels). If I knew it was safe to drink exclusively, I would leave food behind in a hot minute, reserving my eating when eating out on the rare occasion.
Must be quite a repulsive DIY Soylent. Plug, chug, vomit...?
From the accounts I've read and a couple of first timers on video, nothing close to your experience:
this is what it must have been like to live on the axiom for 700 years.
Just ordered a 3 day supply from Soylent.ca, I'm so excited! I'm going to be using this blog article soylentmaker.com/try-soylent-for-3-days
@Samantha1202 Just to be clear that is not the official soylent product which not being sold or shipped yet. That is a separate outfit that is selling a DIY soylent based on recipes from soylentmaker.com
Exactly right. The article seems to emphasize the notion that Soylent in general is nauseating, though as with any recipe, the ingredients largely determine the flavour. It is more likely that the author came across a single less-than-tasty recipe, and should be cautious not to paint soylent with a broad brush on this single experience alone.
It is also entirely possible to modify flavour with the addition of ingredients -- eg. fresh fruits, vegetables, artificial flavours, spices, etc. I think we will see an increase in variations popping up and strategies for delicious concoctions.
sounds like it works. Also Julie if you are chewing gum with aspartame in it, that would be contributing to your bathroom frequency.
LOL @ the Bristol stool scale... the next time I find myself having a poop conversation with someone, I can just say, man that burrito I ate last night at Toco Bob's gave me the number 6 on the Bristol stool scale, I'll never eat there again that's for sure ;0)
Can you give a run down of the different pills you were taking? Finding this highly intriguing...
Why not just make it out of people, human flesh has all the right amino acids and proteins right? We should also have different color options.
I think one of the biggest breakthroughs here is that women DO poop.
Why she asking like it taste and smells so bad when it does not. Same type of people that said MREs taste bad when in fact they do not. Like any type of meal replacement you need to take a multivitamin. Maybe its just me as a powerlifter, but there is nothing wrong with this product just bad reviewers.
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The Soylent Corporation.
"We're a people Company..."
My observation is that diet proponents are about as trustworty as used car salesmen and dietary experts run a close second. There is just so much we don't know about the human body, and yet every generation has its experts telling us ridiculous things to do with our bodies, like eat a low fat diet to lose weight, thereby ensuring we carbo load, or to avoid all fats because they all lead to heart disease.
The most reliable monitor of whether you are eating right is your own body. It craves things you are missing in your diet and makes you ill when you eat too much of something that is harmful in large quantities. The Soylent approach is exactly backwards. Get some exercise, eat unprocessed foods (yes, you have to cook) and BE healthy rather than take something in pill form because some egghead told you it will make you healthy.
I think that this concept seems quite extreme as of right now but they never seemed to mention different applications such as hospital use. Many people can not eat solid foods due to certain conditions and I think if it is a modified to fit individuals needs, then this will be a successful product. Also being a wrestler, I try to hydrate as much as possible while still trying to keep my weight down I think that this would defiantly be something to try.
Hi, Julie Beck, can you please add how much (ounces? cups?) you drink at a time?
Especially on page (I can see it's you) popsci.com/science/gallery/2013-06/my-week-soylent-liquid-diet-future the recipe neglected the serving size... is that the recipe for ONE serving or four? Thanks!
It's made out of people you fools :0
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Soylent Green was a Sci-Fi movie that left me with a bad enough taste in my mouth that this stuff will never have a chance.
Haha honestly my family started a month long juice fast and being on day 13 I'm kinda doing alright. The thing for me is I just miss food like all the flavors and that feeling after a full meal. Lol and I am definitely planning on ending it with a massive sicilian meat lovers pizza on the beach.
I see the future and it green
First, why the soy in soylent, I'm confused...no soy added; not that I would recommend soy, that's a whole other subject mater.
Second, this is nothing but a disaster waiting to happen, as a food replacement...it's dead food: no enzymes, and lacking possibly hundreds of essential nutrients, and other co-factors, which are found in living foods like, I don't know, fruit, vegetables, meat and whole 'raw' dairy products?
Bottom line: BAD choice as a meal replacement...good-luck with that!
ignore the part where I included meat in the living food part...my bad. :-/