Thirty days of casual soylent

January 06, 2015 — Chris Foster

During the month of September 2014 I experimented with a DIY version of soylent. I know that many people have started using the food substitute as a sole source of nutrition, but I wanted to focus on using soylent in a more casual manner. Specifically, as a student food on campus is often expensive and homemade lunches are often difficult to carry around, not nutritious, or require reheating. Soylent is none of those things, so for a student I was suspecting it might make an ideal lunch substitute.

Over the 30 days I experimented with soylent, specifically a DIY version called Urban Ambrosia, I kept a daily journal of my experiences. Since finishing my 30 day trial at the end of September I’ve continued to use soylent for the rest of the semester. I’ve also added additional notes below detailing my thoughts after a full four months of regular usage.

Day 0

Most of the day consisted of tracking down the ingredients. Surprisingly, Bulk Barn had almost all of the ingredients I needed. The only things I didn’t have were canola oil, masa, honey, potassium chloride, and the Kirkland mens’ multivitamin. At Walmart, I was able to find the canola oil and honey. Superstore had both the masa I was looking for and potassium chloride. The potassium chloride was labeled as “salt free table salt”, and is not pure potassium chloride but I imagine it will not be a problem. Kirkland, being a Costco brand, was out of my reach since I don’t have a Costco card. However, I found a mens’ multivitamin that has exactly the same components at Superstore, so that worked out well. I also picked up a cooking scale at Winners. Overall, the cost was ~$100 for all these items.

Later on in the day I started mixing the ingredients. I crushed the vitamin K+D pills and the mens’ multivitamin between two spoons and mixed it in with the rest of the dry ingredients. After tossing those in a bowl I mixed in the honey and canola oil, and gave it a quick mix in with a spoon. Eight cups of water is too much for me to mix in one six cup blender, but it fit nicely between two batches. I think, in total, I created about 2.3L of liquid.

I tried it and quickly realized that I had made a mistake. It tasted like uncooked oatmeal or, possibly, something like cream of wheat. I’m pretty sure I accidentally bought unflavored whey protein isolate, instead of the vanilla ice cream flavouring. The flavor isn’t bad, but very, very bland. A friend compared the smell to baby food. I stored it in two tupperware containers and put it in the fridge. Taste is supposed to improve after eight hours in fridge, so I’ll have to see!

Day 1

In the morning I pour it into a 24oz water bottle, which after doing the math should be around 600 calories. Since I have to be at school all day, I put it in a lunch bag surrounded by ice packs.

While having coffee with a friend I had a snack as well, and I think that filled me up more than I wanted it to. A bagel with cream cheese is about 400 calories, so I decided to have the soylent as a late lunch on my way to work. I started drinking it around 2:30. It was still very cold when drinking it at first, and the taste was much better, but still not vanilla-like at all. I definitely bought the wrong whey protein, but I bought alot of it ($45 worth), so I don’t know if I want to throw it all out without using it.

When I got to work (about 10 min drive) I had finished about half of the drink. As I was drinking the other half it started to warm up to room temperature and I found I had a difficult time drinking it without my gag reflex kicking in. The stuff looks similar to baby puke. This could be normal, from what I’m told it takes a couple days to adjust to the taste. It could also be that mine has a worse taste than normal due to the tasteless whey protein. I finish all but ~1/2oz of the liquid.

I wasn’t feeling very hungry when I started (which was abnormal given the time of day), and when I finished I felt fairly “full” but not bloated. My stomach felt a little off for the rest of the day, however. I imagine it takes time to get used to drinking three cups of oatmeal-like water substance, so I was OK with that.

Normally around 5:30 when I finish work I’m VERY hungry. Today I wasn’t, which was likely due to the late soylent lunch. I went for a swim (1.5km), which also normally leaves me pretty hungry and indeed I was. At about 8:00 I had a late dinner at Boston Pizza with some friends.

Day 2

Stomach was definitely upset this morning, but not sure if that was from the soylent or the Boston Pizza. I had the regular breakfast and headed out to school.

This time I ate soylent at a more lunch-appropriate time (12:15), with no snacks between breakfast and lunch. Again, having some trouble finishing the entire 24oz. I stopped at the same amount as yesterday. I was actually fairly hungry today so when I was about half way through the bottle I discovered how noticeably filling it was. I’m starting to wonder if maybe 24oz is too much, or if I’m still adjusting to the taste. I started to feel a little queasy after finishing and that continued for a good while. I definitely felt full when I was done. Today I tried to drink it much more quickly before it warmed up, and was done ~75% of the bottle in 5 or so minutes. The last 15% still took a long while and like yesterday I ended up giving up any attempt to finish it completely.

Day 3

Stomach still a little upset today, but less so.

I had spilled a little bit out of the container the day before, so I didn’t have quite enough to fill a full 24oz bottle. Which is good though, because this confirms that the batch I had initially made was enough for three full bottles (provided I don’t spill it). I was about 3oz short, which I figured would not be the end of the world since I haven’t drank it all the last two times anyway.

I had a late breakfast (~10:00am), and wasn’t feeling totally hungry when I started class at 11:30 so I figured it would be best to wait until I was on my way to work to drink the soylent. At 2:30 I drank through most of it, but in the last few ounces I started to feel queasy. I’ve been wondering and more if that’s a sign I’m trying to eat too much as I usually feel very full by that point. Anyway, I put the rest in the fridge at work and drank it when I finished work. It was much easier to finish off that way!

I’ve decided I’m going to coin the term “Soylent burps”. I think this is a result of how much I shake the bottle to make sure that the masa doesn’t settle while drinking. It makes the liquid fairly foamy and I’d bet that is causing the burps. I will have to try “swishing” instead of the full-arm-swing shake I’ve been doing.

On my way to dinner I noticed I was feeling extremely weird. It took me a long time to think of how to describe it, but was really just a feeling of very strong anxiety. Today was Friday, which means I’m usually extremely burnt out and tired by the end of the day. I still felt burnt out mentally, but physically I felt very energetic. I’m wondering if this is contributing to the anxiety feeling, because I had read about that happening. It could possibly just be confirmation bias based on what I read, but I definitely felt off. I might have also been more hungry than I realized, because this feeling went away with dinner.

Day 4

Sushi for lunch with friends today, no soylent.

Day 5

No soylent, but I did make the second batch.

I figured I could save alot of time in the mornings by pouring the mixed soylent directly into the bottles I use for lunch. That way I don’t need to keep awkwardly sized tupperware containers around. I think there are plenty of other places I could optimize this process, but I’m still in the “having fun making this” phase so I’m not too worried about it. Setup, measuring, mixing, cleaning, etc all together took around an hour I believe. Not bad for three days lunch. This time I tried adding some vanilla extract (4 cap fulls) in order to account for the fact that I used unflavoured vanilla whey protein. It wasn’t immediately noticeable in the taste, but maybe it’ll be stronger in the morning.

Day 6

Back on soylent!

The vanilla taste isn’t as strong as I hoped, but that’s OK. The “oatmeal” taste is far less powerful. I ate around noon and drank it very quickly. I was able to finish the whole bottle today though! I’m not sure if that’s a result of the less oatmeal-y taste or if that’s a result of “swishing” instead of shaking. I’m leaning toward thinking it’s a result of the swishing, and possibly just some result of me getting used to the taste.

Day 7

Ate directly around noon today as well. I’ve noticed that I don’t really “crave” soylent like I’ve heard reports. In fact, when it starts coming around lunch time, the idea of soylent actually seems a little gross. However, immediately after I start drinking it that feeling disappears. I have been envisioning it far worse than it is right before I drink it, but once I get a mouthful down I realize that it’s not as bad as I apparently thought. It’s a hard phenomenon to describe.

Unfortunately, I was pretty hungry today around 2-3. So by dinner time I was very hungry.

Day 8

Ate around noon! Today and yesterday I finished the bottle, so that seems to be consistent with the swishing.

I was hungry again today around 2-3 again, and by dinner time I was very hungry. I’ve been feeling pretty funny the last couple days, but I think a lot of that might be a result of my stress level increasing with school coming back. Stomach is still regularly upset. The long-term upset stomach is starting to be slightly concerning, maybe now that I’m able to get the entire bottle down I’ll try drinking it far slower. I drink the entire bottle in around 10 minutes. I was reading some people take up to an hour to finish.

I made another batch today, and timed it this time. The entire process took 44:53. I’m excited to see how I can cut that down, though. I added alot more vanilla. A total of 8 caps, hopefully that will bring out a more prominent vanilla taste, but I didn’t test it before putting it in the fridge.

Day 9

Yeah, way too much vanilla…

It doesn’t actually taste like vanilla, it tastes more like alcohol. I know pure vanilla extract has a very strong alcohol smell to it when it’s in the bottle, so I did some googling and it turns out that vanilla extract is actually 35% alcohol.

Based on my off hand math, each 24oz bottle of soylent is equivalent to .5-1 shots of vodka.


Day 10

I didn’t have any soylent today and instead opted for McDonald’s with some friends. Plus, given the latest alcoholic taste development, I wasn’t sure if I could stomach it.

Soylent has the nice benefit of being able to simply go home and put it back in the fridge for tomorrow, I like that convenience a lot.

Day 11

No soylent today.

Day 12

No soylent today.

Day 13

Back at it!

I’m trekking through the vodka soylent, realistically I’m guessing the alcohol content isn’t enough to affect me a lot. More of a “mid day pump up” I suppose. I did actually consider throwing this batch out, but I’ll consider this a learning experience. Anyways, it doesn’t taste very good at all. I had a difficult time getting it down.

Day 14

Finished off the last of ‘vodka soylent’ today. Good riddance. At no point have I actually felt impaired, so that is good at least. I’ve realized that maybe the vanilla extract isn’t working, so I went out and bought some vanilla ice cream flavored whey protein isolate. It cost about $29.37. I think the whey protein isolate is definitely one of the most expensive components here.

I made some more soylent today using the new vanilla extract. I tried it and it tasted pretty bad, though. It had a vanilla flavour to it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong…

Day 15

Salty. Way too salty.

I think I might have accidentally put WAY too much salt in. I even remember thinking “that looks like way too much salt” before I dumped the container into the mix. I must’ve misread the scale or reset it out incorrectly by accident. It does taste better than the tasteless stuff, and much better than the vodka soylent. The masa is no longer the dominating taste, which I like alot. You can definitely taste the vanilla but it’s pretty skewed by the salt-water taste it has. Drank the salt-soylent around 2:30.

Day 16

Had soylent around 2:30 again. Pretty hard to stomach through this stuff. It tastes good but the salt aftertaste is really harsh. I’m excited to retry though!

Day 17

Finished off the salt soylent. Bleh.

Day 18

No soylent today.

Day 19

No soylent today.

Made some though, took around 45 minutes. Nothing particularly new, but I paid very close attention to measurements this time.

Day 20

Oh wow, so much better! Without the overpowering salt, the vanilla taste is actually very good. This is definitely the first batch I would qualify as “good” tasting.

Very happy to finally have something palatable!

Day 21

I went out for lunch with a friend today, so I left the soylent in the cooler. I didn’t make it home for diner though, so I had an interesting opportunity to try switching meals and using the soylent for dinner. My first observation is that I forgot the serious blood sugar crash that comes after eating lunch. With soylent I don’t get that groggy feeling, but definitely experienced it at lunch today. It was nice to realize I didn’t get groggy when I used it for dinner as well, when normally I get very groggy following dinner. So it seems fair to attribute the soylent to that. Drank soylent around 6:30.

I really like this new vanilla recipe. I just want to say that again.

Day 22

I went out and bought more ingredients for soylent today, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to make it tonight. A notable annoyance is the fact that this particular DIY recipe apparently must be made the night before, and requires a blender. The traditional soylent can be shaken in a bottle, and can be made on the spot. I wish this recipe had that convenience, but I’ll work with what I’ve got.

I bought “blanced” almond flour today, instead of the natural almond flour I have been using. It has the outer shell of the almond removed and is bleached. I think I have the taste nailed down, but now I’m trying to focus on improving the consistency (it’s still fairly chunky) and the appearance (still looks somewhat like baby puke – but much less so now with the vanilla flavouring). I’m hoping this will improve!

Drank soylent around 2:30.

Day 23

Made more soylent again today with the ingredients I bought yesterday. Unfortunately, a last minute school assignment stopped me from making it in the morning so I was without soylent for the day.

One interesting thing that I noticed is that I missed it! I’ve read lots of people talking about ‘craving’ soylent instead of actual food, but up until now this had not been something I had been experiencing. Quite the opposite, in fact. I would usually be dreading the idea of it, and craving a cheeseburger. After the vanilla alterations it actually is very good and I appear to be craving it, which is kinda neat. Had store-bought sushi for lunch today instead.

I made it later on in the night, took about 43 minutes. The texture definitely appears less grainy at first glance with the new almond flour, but I didn’t try it.

Day 24

The texture is far better with the blanced almond meal! It’s still fairly chunky, but doesn’t have any of those funny shell-colored pieces in it anymore. The texture looks much more homogeneous, which is excellent.

Day 25

No soylent.

Day 26

No soylent.

Day 27

So the batch that I had today has officially been sitting in the fridge since around day 23, which makes me a little uneasy. I’ve been doing some reading since it’s not immediately clear to me when exactly soylent goes ‘bad’, and the general consensus seems to be that people don’t drink it after 3 days in the fridge. My case is a little different given that this is a DIY recipe, but the idea of having soylent this old is still a little unnerving.

The taste was definitely different today, but not drastically. I would say that the masa becomes a little bit more powerful, and the texture becomes a little more watery.

When I get the soylent at lunch, the bottle has usually settled a fair amount. There has been a number of times I’ve seen red colored substance collect at the bottom of the soylent, in a very small amount. Upon mixing, it disappears as far as I can tell. That is actually what led me to start researching when soylent goes “bad”, because there isn’t actually anything obviously red that goes into the soylent. That said, the lecithin granules also change color extremely after being mixed in, so it’s possible other stuff does as well. However, the idea of some sort of mold growing in the soylent and then me drinking it is really hard to get past…

Am I poisoning myself? Who knows.

Day 28

So today I tried shaking the bottle again before I put it into my cooler pack for the day. The thought occurred to me that maybe the texture was more watery because it’s been sitting separated for the last 4 or 5 days. It could be similar to how the soylent requires a ‘cooling off’ period for the taste to improve after being blended. When I took it out at lunch, the texture was much more similar to the day-old stuff, but the masa was still a lot more dominant than I was expecting. That could be due to poor mixing instead of age though, it’s hard to justify that off one sample.

I messed up, and totally forgot to make soylent tonight. Unfortunately tomorrow I’ll need to buy lunch, then make some more the following night. I’m out of honey as well, so I’ll need to go shopping too.

Day 29

No soylent today since I don’t have any to drink.

I made some though and have some good news to report. When crushing the mens’ multivitamin I accidentally spilled a little bit, and when pouring water into the blender I also spilled some of the water. I noticed a couple minutes later that the pill’s internals had turned bright red/orange. Just to verify I mixed in one of the men’s multivitamins with a cup of water, and sure enough in a few minutes the water was completely yellow and the pill bright red. So that solves the mystery red stuff in the soylent!

I really noticed a crash today just before dinner time, I think due to the fact that I was without soylent today and have gotten pretty used to that extra energy boost during weekdays.

Day 30

Had some today! Stomach a little bit upset, but glad to have the energy back. I’ve noticed that it’s common for my stomach to be a little upset if it has been 1 or 2 days since I last had soylent. Nothing like it used to be, but just a little uneasy. I guess pretty similar to what it would feel like drinking 24oz of anything, it makes the stomach feel sloshy. It goes away relatively quickly though! This’ll be the last day of my 30-day experiment, and with the tasty version I have settled on I’m happy to announce I’ll be definitely continuing forward with it! There’s still some room for improvement, but what I have now is definitely pretty great.

Four months later

It’s now January and I’ve been regularly consuming my DIY soylent for four months now. I was able to make some even greater improvements by purchasing a cheap coffee grinder. By grinding up the pills, the lecithin, and the almond meal, the texture has been massively improved. This soylent will last for days in the fridge, is extremely cheap per meal, and very mobile. It holds together in the car during the summer heat with ice packs, and in an insulated container can be exposed to the winter temperatures without freezing. As a student looking for a cheap, functional lunch that still has nutritious value, I don’t think there is any better alternative to soylent.

I’ll admit the journey to getting a usable version required me to go through numerous iterations of pretty terrible soylent, but I think it was worth it. I’ve never had the opportunity to try actual Soylent, as they don’t yet ship to Canada, but I’ll order as soon as I can for comparison. My only complaint about this DIY version is there is that it must be premixed the night before. Even knowing that, I think this will be something I’ll continue with long into the future.

Have comments or questions on this stuff? Email me.

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