“My boyfriend is obsessed with these meal replacement shakes by Huel. He has anywhere from 1 to 3 a day because he hates cooking, and he and his friends even plan to do an entire week of consuming nothing but Huel. How often should we be consuming meal replacement shakes, and can it truly provide all of the nutrients we need?”
Years ago, my friend Chris told me he wished that someone would invent People Chow—some sort of food product that would supply all his nutritional needs without him having to make any decisions. He said he didn’t need variety. He didn’t need culinary excitement. As long as it didn’t taste terrible, he could happily eat the same thing for every meal, and he'd be glad never to have to think about it again.
Since then, several companies have tried to make the equivalent of People Chow. Soylent (named after a cult-classic dystopian fantasy film) was an early entry into this market, with an all-in-one powder that you mix with water or another liquid, and that would theoretically meet all of your nutrient needs.
Soylent caught on so quickly that early in the company’s history, they were unable to manufacture it fast enough to meet demand. That demand gave rise to a robust DIY community that share recipes for homemade Soylent Green-type formulas.
Huel is another rising brand of all-in-one nutrition product solutions and the one that Emily’s boyfriend is currently obsessed with.
Theoretically, you could consume nothing but Soylent or Huel for weeks or months. Online, you’ll find a bunch of bloggers, biohackers, and journalists doing exactly that and reporting on their experiences. To my knowledge, all of them have survived their experiments without undue harm. But this is not just about mere survival. These products claim to be so nutritionally complete and optimized that they represent an improvement over the imperfect and imbalanced diet that many of us eat.
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of all-in-one meal replacement powders and shakes and then we’ll do a side by side comparison of Soylent and Huel.