Saturday, October 24, 2015

Soylent 2.0 Makes Me a Modern Woman

Soylent 2.0 comes in a plain white bottle.

I'm probably the last person in the world to be a good customer for Soylent, the meal replacement drink beloved by coders who refuse to leave their computers long enough to even greet the pizza delivery guy. I think about food a LOT, and I basically NEED every single meal to be at least delicious and/or healthy, even if it's simple or consumed while working. I also have no trouble remembering to eat, ever, so obviously I will never make a lot of money as a coder.

I first heard about Soylent in this New Yorker article and it intrigued me mainly because it was so damn weird. But since I do eat lunch at my desk every day, and I'm always up for trying the latest thing, when the Soylent company offered to send me a pack of bottles, I said, "Why not?"

Oh yeah, and let's just get this out of the way: it's definitely made of people. That's a thing now.

Here's what happened.

The bottle: Soylent 2.0 comes minimalistically packaged in plain white plastic. (It's also available in a powder.)
If you want to know what the ingredients are, you'll have to go to the website. Some of the main ones are soy protein, sucralose (Splenda), and a prebiotic fiber (from oats and some other stuff). It recommends chilling before drinking, so definitely do that. But it doesn't have to be refrigerated until it's consumed, so I guess that's the advantage over buying a bottle of juice with protein at the market and risking it going bad if you forget to use it or don't refrigerate it. The only thing the bottle says is that it has 400 calories, which should be enough to get you to the next meal. It's not designed to be a weight loss drink, although I suppose it could be if you used it to replace higher-calorie meals.

And now, the taste: Chalky milk, basically, like plain soy milk with protein powder mixed in. It's not noxious or repellent though -- the flavor is basically the absence of flavor, kind of a milky bleak nothingness.

Is there any way to improve it? The Internet is full of people trying to "hack" Soylent. I dumped a shot of espresso in there, figuring coffee improves pretty much anything, and the bleak nothingness kind of sucked up the flavor of the coffee so I could barely taste it. Then I added a packet of Stevia and chugged the rest. Basically I think if you need to add a banana, Stevia, cinnamon and cocoa powder to make it palatable, as some have recommended, why not just make a healthy smoothie with fresh ingredients? Or, this is a crazy suggestion, but like, make a sandwich or something.

Did it keep me full all afternoon? This is really a key question since if I could just stop thinking about food all day I might actually be able to get some work done. I don't snack after dinner or eat fast food so afternoon grazing (and a desk job) is really my only impediment to dropping a few pounds. If there was a substance that completely removed my desire to snack, I might endure it no matter what it tasted like.

Sadly, the answer was no. I consumed a packet of cheese Goldfish immediately after drinking it and I don't even LIKE those, but I needed to taste an actual flavor in my mouth, even if that flavor was fake cheese. The rest of the afternoon and early evening I had an apple, almonds, dried apricots and a cheese stick -- the usual amount of snackage. The only thing that can prevent this desire is eating a lunch of something like a hefty piece of salmon or chicken, brown rice and veggies -- basically having a full, healthy dinner at lunch. That, and possibly forcing the entire office to never have any snacks around, ever.

What about that prebiotic fiber? Ever since a disastrous experience with an entire pan of roasted Jerusalem artichokes, my insides quake at the words "prebiotic fiber" and I try to avoid foods with added chicory --like Go Lean Crunch cereal, for example. Thankfully, the type of fiber Soylent uses is somehow more sophisticated and it had no ill effects on the digestive system.

So why DO people drink Soylent instead of just grabbing a smoothie with protein powder? 
Hell if I know. The cost is $2.42 a bottle -- somewhat less than a smoothie, but more than say, a scoop of protein powder, some kind of milk, a banana and some cocoa, which is probably pretty delicious. It's got a more complete array of vitamins and fiber, which might be important if you're using it to replace a significant number of meals, but not at all important if the majority of your meals are actual food.

Personally, I don't think drinking any meals is a very good idea, and I don't think juicing is that great, either. I think humans need to chew fruits, vegetables, nuts and other real foods, preferably at every single meal. If you don't have time to do that, you're likely doing something wrong. But if you're one of those people who forgets to eat, by all means try some Soylent, your body will probably thank you for the protein.

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