Health

I Tried It: The Nutrient-Packed (But Bland) Soylent Diet

The buzzy food replacement is all the rage with the time-starved set but is a Soylent diet actually sustainable? One brave FLARE staffer gives it a shake

soylent

I am addicted to delicious, textured food—creamy oysters on the half shell, extra-crispy chow mein, the controversial foie gras that disintegrates in my mouth—it brings me so much joy. On the other hand, my on-the-go lifestyle doesn’t always allow for such exquisite dining experiences. Rather, it seems to fit nicely with Soylent’s time-starved target demo: I frequently work late nights and am short on time for cooking and the necessary prep, making the idea of a quick-and-easy solution that packs in a full day’s worth of nutrition an attractive option. So, I decided to take the plunge.

I opted for the powdered version of Soylent—it also comes in liquid form—and with each pack clocking in at 460 grams, that’s enough for four servings at 500 calories each, based on a 2,000-calorie per day diet. On the back of its minimalist packaging is a list of the 26 nutrients within (eg. vitamin C, iron, potassium, biotin, riboflavin, calcium) and yes, soy (well, soy protein isolate, a highly refined form of soy protein.) The powder Soylent also checks off a lot of food-sensitive boxes in that it’s vegan, animal-, lactose- and nut-free.

I started off making single servings and scooped in a little less than the recommended amount since I’m not typically a calorie-counter and I preferred eye-balling it. I poured around 250 mL of water into a mason jar, closed the lid and gave it a good shake. With this approach, I was able to control the thickness of the drink. Other Soylent drinkers recommend preparing a batch the night before and leaving it in the fridge so the powder has a chance to fully dissolve. Otherwise, you may be left with clumps—but those appeal to my unusual preference for bold texture.

The big question, of course, is the taste, which is a cross between oatmeal and the milk that lingers in the cereal bowl—sans sugar. A.K.A., it’s bland with a hint of saltiness, and has a beige colour that complements its utterly neutral flavour. The whole sensory experience was nostalgic for me since Soylent is reminiscent of a Korean grain powder drink called Misugaru, which my well-intentioned mother forced on me when I refused to eat a proper breakfast as a child. Similarly, it’s made of grains like barley, sesame seeds and glutinous rice, and is also meant to give you instant nourishment. (During my Soylent trial, I actually gave Misugaru, which my mother happily supplied, another chance. But it was still bland and goopy, just as I remembered.)

I’m still not a breakfast person (#oldhabits) but another Soylent drinker suggested that gulping it down before hunger sets is the key to keeping the munchies at bay. So, I started my day drinking Soylent in the morning. What I noticed is that I felt full immediately after and was alert as if I’d just downed a double espresso. As lunch time rolled around, I wanted to believe that the breakfast serving of Soylent was sufficient to keep me powering through the day, but I couldn’t ignore my rumbling stomach and craving for real food. That’s when I (reluctantly) introduced a regular meal into my diet to break up the routine. I then followed up with another serving of Soylent for dinner.

I struggled with this pattern for a week before admitting to myself that it just wasn’t a diet I could maintain. Although I saved on the cost of dining out, my tastebuds were deprived, the pungent odour of my—dare I admit this—gas was next-level, and I gained what felt like a few extra pounds rather than losing weight as I’d anticipated. I can’t be certain Soylent attributed to the latter and other people swear by it—tech industry and creatives who work around-the-clock, marathon runners needing a quick boost, vegans or vegetarians continuously faced with limited options—but my first attempt was not a success.

But I haven’t completely given up on the stuff and might even try another stint now that I’ve learned that figuring out how to make it work for me is key to reaping the benefits, whether that means adding other ingredients like honey or fruit to give it some flavour, altering serving size, giving bottled Soylent a whirl or even getting into nutrient customization by creating my own recipes like members of the DIY Soylent community. For now, you can find me at buck-a-shuck oyster night.

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