When Soylent shakes were first announced I thought they were a really neat idea. Shopping for groceries and doing a bunch of meal prep once a week was becoming a bit of a chore, and eating out regularly gets absurdly expensive in my part of the world. Drinking your meals seemed like a way to save time and money.
International shipping being what it is, I never got to try Soylent. Shipping the powder halfway around the world nearly doubled the price, and I wasn’t prepared to wear that cost for meals that could very well end up tasting like wallpaper paste.
Last year I learnt about Aussielent—a company based in Australia trying to make a similar product. So I purchased a week’s worth and resolved to give it a try.
Each bag contains a day’s worth of food in powdered form. The instructions encourage you to break each bag into four servings, and space them evenly throughout the day. You mix each serving with water in a shaker bottle, but otherwise don’t need to add anything.
My first impression was surprisingly good. The flavour was neutral and inoffensive. Imagine the taste of left over milk at the bottom of a bowl of cereal. A mild oaty flavour that’s slightly sweet. I remember thinking while rinsing out the shaker bottle that I could eat this way all the time.
Then, while walking to work, it hit me. I was wide awake. Staggeringly awake. I hadn’t had any coffee yet, but the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was hyper-aware of all of it. Turns out liquids digest very easily, and this thing hit my blood stream all at once. The net effect of course was that it all wore off very quickly, and I was hungry again by mid-morning.
The next few days continued like this. Without spending time to break down food in my stomach, the nutritional value of each meal hit me all at once and then disappeared just as quickly. I went through peaks and troughs of energy all day.
Eating four times a day is an inconvenience too. While your coworkers are taking lunch, you’re at your desk. When you’re hungry and need to mix up a meal, you’ll find yourself stuck in an 11 a.m. meeting. The rest of the world doesn’t operate on this schedule, and I struggled to as well.
On the third day I was starting to get light-headed and dizzy before meals, which is never a good sign. So on day four I gave up and went back to regular food.
For a month, the remaining packets sat in their box on the kitchen counter, mocking me for my hubris.
I wasn’t willing to throw the remainder away, so instead I started having a shake each morning for breakfast, and I have to say this is where the product really shines. If you treat these shakes as a once-in-a-while replacement for the occasional meal when you’re too busy to eat properly, they’re a life saver. I spent the next couple of week’s showing up to work full of energy, bright eyed and bushy tailed, with no time wasted in the mornings.
Be warned that the mix can clump together if you don’t shake it aggressively enough. Through some experimentation, I figured out that you can produce a more even consistency if you make each shake the night before and leave it in the refrigerator overnight to incorporate.
What surprised me most about this experiment was that unlike many supplement companies, Aussielent don’t hedge their bets by calling their product “part of a balanced diet” or “nutritional insurance“. They really double-down on calling Aussielent a complete replacement for every meal. Given the complexities of nutrition, this probably isn’t true. In saying that, you could do worse. If you’re short on time and eating a lot of fast food I’d speculate that these meal replacement products really are better for you, if only because their nutritional value receives so much thought from their creators and so much scrutiny from their critics.