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18 Mar 22:11

Two Months of Soylent

by rob

matrix_food

Though Soylent is experimental, the results are reproducible. I am very optimistic about the future of this idea. After the 30 days experiment, I decided I got some good data and I was going to eat whatever I wanted. This past month 92% of my meals were soylent. I haven't given up food entirely, and I don't want to. I found if I wake up early I sometimes crave a nice breakfast, I've gone to lunch meetings, and on the weekends of course I love eating out with friends. Eating conventional food is a fun leisure activity, but come Monday I usually have a strong craving for a tall glass of Soylent. In fact, with the money I save, I have the freedom to eat well when I do go out. I didn't give up food, I just got rid of the bad food. Innovation to me is as much about removing that which is unnecessary as it is about adding new things that are useful. This idea has done both for me.

Soylent doesn't force you give up food any more than email forces you to give up talking. The point is having another option. Perhaps this does not constitute the ideal diet, but I am quite confident that it is healthier than any easy diet, and easier than any healthy diet. I'm touched so many people are concerned about my intake of possible unknown essential nutrients. No one seemed to worry about me when I lived on burritos and ramen and actually was deficient of many known essential nutrients. The body is pretty robust. If you can survive on what most Americans or Somalians eat, you can surely survive on Soylent. I'm no longer just surviving, though. I'm thriving.

Trials Update

The first trials are underway. I apologize if you were not chosen. A handful of locals of diverse builds have been testing it, but the feedback so far has been segregated. I think I have a good model of the male proportions. For the males, besides the obvious fat loss and muscle gain, quantified-mind.com scores have increased, testers report better sleep and increased focus, and some even improved emotional health. There are many second-order benefits to being healthy and well fed. The women are not as happy, reporting they still feel hungry. Clearly this still needs some tweaking.

I'm trying to find the amount of discipline this takes. I personally found I did not have enough discipline to be a vegetarian, but feel Soylent takes much less. Eliminating something entirely from a diet is difficult, and probably unnecessary unless one does so for moral reasons. Eating unhealthy foods only for enjoyment just a few times per week satisfies my psychological cravings, and drinking Soylent the rest of time makes me very healthy. Sustainability is about reduction, not elimination. I would like to test on someone that tends to make poor dietary choices, but most people I know in San Francisco are frustratingly disciplined and healthy.

Personal Data

As for myself, I came across some problems. My original mixture gave me 1550 kcal/day. I hypothesized that "caloric restriction" had health benefits and that the human body could survive on fewer "higher quality" calories. I now consider that a failed hypothesis. After 30 days I exhausted my reserves of fat and started to feel hungry, lose weight and muscle mass, and my gym performance regressed. I ran some numbers and decided to increase my intake to 2629 kcal/day. I quickly put the weight back on, my chest and arms filled out, and I felt much healthier. My mixture now has 409g of carbohydrates, 65g of fat, and 102g of protein. I also stopped running 7 miles, which is really unnecessary and potentially harmful to the heart and joints. I just do 3.14 mi, which is quite easy, and weights, making sure I maintain the ability to easily benchpress my weight. That's good enough. I'm an engineer, not an athlete, but I like having the option to bulk up if I wanted to.

Since the FDA recommends a lot of potassium I tried experimenting with the amount out of curiosity. At about 9g/day I induced an overdose and my blood pressure and heart rate rose, along with experiencing muscle weakness and fatigue. Not that bad. Much easier than Magnesium poisoning. Low potassium affected my circulatory system and focus, but was not nearly as noticeable. I finally settled on 4.5g/day, which is a lot to try to get "naturally". I changed some of the chemicals, swapping chelated iron for ferrous gluconate and magnesium citrate for magnesium gluconate. It seems the gluconic acids have the best balance of bioavailability and cost. Choline is now part of the daily mix, as is Lithium, iron is down to 9mg, I dropped calcium a bit based on my blood work (which is otherwise excellent)1 and I add an emulsifier to aid the mixing of the oils. I now take a probiotic too, just in case. Believe it or not the optimal amount of fiber I found is only 1.2g. I know the FDA recommends much more, but that's probably assuming a more conventional diet. Also my room doesn't have a window, so I throw in some extra Vitamin D.

If you didn't see the update to the original post, I've been keeping better books and found my original cost calculation was wrong. At the old macronutrient proportions it actually cost around $100/month. The raw materials to provide me with 2629 kcal / day purchased at personal scale costs $154.82 per month, plus shipping. The cost of protein is by far the biggest issue at the moment. I'm confident I can bring this down, but it's already cheaper than living on groceries or fast food. By comparison, a 150lb female would consume about $102 worth / month. Based on the quotes I've gotten from suppliers, I am assured production at scale is entirely possible and would lower the cost dramatically.

Some people tell me going "ketogenic", or reducing carbs is healthy. I am now skeptical of this claim as lowering carbs makes me feel hungry and tired, and the drink taste less sweet. Perhaps it would be possible after an unpleasant transition period, but I don't see the ultimate gain and I have not found sufficient evidence for the benefit of this diet outside the treatment of epilepsy. To be fair, there isn't a whole lot of evidence Soylent is healthy either, but I feel completely satisfied with my health and do not feel the need to improve it.

I've also experimented with adding nootropics, specifically combining Choline with Pramiracetam and L-Theanine. I think it worked. My quatified-mind.com scores jumped 30%. Subjectively, when coding it seemed like the lines would write themselves. Everything was 'smoother', reaction times lower, everyday phenomena more interesting. However, it was a little stressful that I wasn't able to turn it off. I definitely wouldn't want to feel this wired on the weekend, but it's great for knocking out a lot of work. Though the euphoria of the first couple of weeks has faded, I have reached a happy, healthy, productive steady state that I really enjoy.

Finally, since many have asked, yes I do drink alcohol. In fact I probably drink more than I should. Soylent is great for hangovers! And it mixes pretty well with vodka, though I wouldn't call it my favorite drink. Also this may harm the probiotics.

When Can I Get Some / Kickstarter

Several individuals experienced in chemistry have already figured out how to make it on their own. I'd like to keep it this way for now, as I trust them to measure the ingredients properly. I don't have nearly enough capacity to support the interest expressed so far, so I have decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign. If accepted and successful, this will fund a larger controlled study of the effects, allow me to scale up production, improve control, and, my ultimate goal, use technology to alleviate global hunger, malnutrition, and improve the total health of the human race, especially the poor. If you can help me make a video please contact me.

New Hypothesis

I appreciate the skepticism offered so far. Some was useful, such as encouraging me to add a probiotic or that my protein intake was too low. I definitely didn't get this right on the first try. Though I don't think caloric restriction was valid, perhaps the longevity benefits came not from restricting calories, but the food that contains them. Scars that I'd had for years are barely visible now. People who haven't seen me in months say I look younger. Am I going to live longer? I'm certainly living better, and it's all thanks to chemistry.

For updates join the email list at soylent.me and/or follow me on twitter: @robrhinehart

update: discussion board up here: discourse.soylent.me

Blood Work (pdf)