I tried Silicon Valley’s favourite meal replacement drink for a week and this is what happened

Soylent has been hailed as the ultimate life-hack meal. So now when the company has entered the UK, Eric Johansson tried it for a week to see if the drink will replace the meal deal

I tried Silicon Valley’s favourite meal replacement drink for a week and this is what happened

Albert Einstein may have considered time to be an illusion but that’s hardly a consolation for entrepreneurs struggling to meet their deadlines, lamenting over the fact there aren’t enough hours in the day. The innovators of tomorrow must follow the creed of moving fast and breaking stuff to keep ahead of the competition.

Given the pressure founders are under, few would recoil in shock to hear many entrepreneurs would rather opt to complete their objectives rather than wasting time on buying or even preparing nutritious meals. And that’s where Soylent comes in.

The meal replacement company was launched in 2013 and has a particularly Silicon Valley-ish gleam to it. Having grown tired of failing to find simple nutritional meals, Rob Rhinehart decided to take matters into his own hands and embarked on a month-long self-experimentation journey. During more than 30 days, the software engineer read up on nutrition and tried out mixing the raw chemical form of 35 nutrients required for survival, attempting to find the perfect solution for his hectic lifestyle. The result was the first Soylent drink.

Managing to ride the life-hacking wave washing over Silicon Valley at the time, the former Y Combinator alumni’s experiment became a huge success. To date, the company has raised over $72.4m across five rounds and has become a common staple in tech startup offices across the US. And in September 2018, Soylent made its way across the pond and launched in the UK. 

So obviously I had to try it to see what all the fuss was about. Having been recommended by Soylent officials to only replace one meal per day with their drinks, I decided to give it a go for a week to see if it has a chance to replace the oh-so-beloved British meal deal.

And that’s probably a good place to start. Most meal deals cost roughly £3. With a package of 12 bottles costing £39.99 – or £3.33 per meal – when you order it off Amazon, the price is roughly the same. Moreover, with each bottle providing 400 calories consisting of 20g of plant-based protein, slow-burning carbs from beets, omega-3s and 26 added vitamins and minerals, the shake technically has all the nutritional value you’d need for each meal.

Having read other reviews online criticising the taste, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually enjoyed the three flavours available in the UK – Original, Cacao and Cafe Mocha.

The chocolate one – my favourite – reminds me of a smooth milkshake while Cafe Mocha drew my mind to those canned frappuccinos you can buy at Tesco. While the sunflower oil in the Cafe Mocha one made me think of popcorn, both of these two were enjoyable.

The Original flavour was by far the most boring one. It felt a little bit like drinking a heavier wheat drink. Still it wasn’t bad, just a bit bland.

So how did it work into my regular lifestyle? Not a stranger to replacing a meal with a whey protein shake and some fruit, I enjoyed the simplicity of the drink. It was smooth and void of any of the lumps you get with a regular protein shake. Plus you don’t have to mix anything. You simply take it out of the fridge, unscrew the cork and pour it down your gullet. Easy-peasy. 

Similarly, while other reviewers have suggested that living on the drink made them feel irritable and constantly hungry, I didn’t feel that different. And mind you, this experiment happened as Elite Business’ sister publication Elite Franchise’s latest issue went to print – one of the more hectic weeks each month – so the fact that my temperament didn’t shift more than usual maybe says more about my personality and those of the other reviewers than anything else.

So what’s the verdict? Well, drinking a bottle at lunch or at dinner time didn’t leave me hungry per se but slightly unfulfilled. It’s kind of like when you go on any diet, yes you could eat more, but that doesn’t mean you’re hungry.

This sense of unfulfillment is probably the only bad thing I have to say about it and it’s why I don’t think it will replace the regular meal deal any time soon. It’s just a bit too boring.

Still, if you’re pushing for a deadline and don’t have time to spend going to the shops or taking a few moments to eat a regular meal, Soylent is a great alternative. 

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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