I spent the last week eating nothing but powder... again.
This isn't the first time; I was studying abroad in New Zealand the last time I experimented with 'future food' or meal replacers. The most popular one I know of is Soylent, after soylent green. Since productivity is so valued and diets are so poor, this market is inevitable really: why not just make a powder that has all-you-need? The concept has made it's way around the western world, as have I, and so I'll be reviewing Huel and expanding on my previous thoughts on 'future food' (also a good intro if you haven't heard of them).
In fact, one of the first things I did when I got back to university in England was buy some Huel from a friend. This represents one of the biggest differences so far: here in England (at least in student culture) powdered food is not entirely unheard of. With influences from Europe and in-general being a country with more demand, the market here is more competitive. And one brand that comes out amongst the top is Huel.
Huel distinguishes itself by going beyond government dietary recommendations, identifying (correctly) the shortcomings of RDIs when compared to a healthful diet. This shows itself in the form of high(er) doses of vitamins such as C, B12, and D2 and minerals such as Iron and Calcium in order to compensate for things like bioavailablity and cancelling effects from various nutrients. They also include details of 'non-required' micronutrients like phytochemicals and MCT's on their blog.
With the primary ingredient being oats there is an unavoidable but familiar taste of 'breakfast' with these products and Huel is no different. I have only ever tried the vanilla flavour with water but there is a 'plain' type and an assortment of additional flavour mixes that you can add at your own discretion.
Vanilla tastes... adequate? It has a pleasant scent that helps it go down but as soon as it hits your tongue there is taste that I can only describe as confusion. Being a blend of so many micro and macronutrients, there is no flavour to latch onto. Considering the blandness of what it's tasting the brain signals "good" but isn't quite sure why. This isn't a bad thing, one can add ingredients to their own preferences - I admit I swiftly decided to use what I learnt after my last rodeo with powdered food: sugar. By adding sugar, I upped the flavour and upped the calories (without increasing the cost too much). Another option is to drink it with dairy-free Ⓥ milk, which I can confirm tastes great. I have no qualms with the idea of eating only this for an extended period of time.
This is personal matter that will be different for everyone. For every forum post stating Huel (or Future Foods in general) gave them diarrhea, there is another saying they got constipation - and plenty of comments in both saying they're fine. My own experience has been better than in the past. With a few days of acclimation I was generally fine. I wouldn't eat it throughout the day though as I find that it can make you windy just after a meal. I eat once or twice a day though so it wasn't a problem for me. There was one bad time where I ate an entire bag of clementines before a meal (an old habit from when I tried raw vegan), this wouldn't usually be a problem, however when combined with the large dose of vitamin C from Huel... Well, let's just say any time saved from eating Huel was promptly spent orbiting a toilet.
As someone who has tracked my calorie intake in the past I understand that I need more than the recommended 2000kcal a day 'prescription', for that reason I saw no difference in my workouts. On its own Huel is a low GI, meaning it gave me steady focus over a long period of time.
I wrote about this extensively in my previous post. The time gained from eating powdered food is substantial. More than one would expect. The accumulated time we spend around food as a culture (species?) is huge; eliminating the need to shop, prepare, and chew can give someone a massive advantage in todays world. But to what end? Eating is as much a social endeavour as it is a need to survive; sometimes it's nice to sit down and have a meal with friends and family. When used as a tool or safety net Huel can be a life saver.
With that being said the amount of time we spend on food is dwarfed in comparrison to the time we spend doing 'nothing'. When it comes to productivity, in my opinion, Huel is only an advantage if you can argue that you are conciously squeezing every moment out of your time already, or that eating Huel will fascilitate good habits. For example, my last experience with powdered food was great; with this blog as well as university I had a lot to do and learn, future food allowed me to stay on campus all day to keep up with my peers. This time; however, I can't say the same, saving time by not eating only translated to spending more time watching YouTube. So if you are the type of person who will actually use the extra time effectively, this stuff is amazing.
At a minimum of 377kcal/£ or ~£18.56 for a 1.74kg or 7000kcal bag. One would need to do their own maths to decide if that is competitive. For me, I can't justify that cost. As someone who's spent only NZ$30 or £15 for a month of food and is happy with rice & beans, Huel is pretty gourmet. However, if you're buying lunch from a cafe everyday or other convenience food - Huel really isn't that expensive. Again one could make the argument that the productivity gained from eating future food is worth every penny, especially if that time is invested on a side-hustle.
Have you tried meal replacers before? What would you do with the time you'd save? Plus you can get a cheeky discount on me. Share in the comments!
Being mixed into a high fibre high nutrient meal, most of the issues people have with sugar (GI and nutrient sparse) are moot in my opinion. ↩︎