A few years ago I wrote about Soylent, a meal replacement developed for people who are too busy to eat, that was just about to hit the market. Two things about the product left an impression on me. The first was the name, taken from an old movie about a product called Soylent Green that turns out to made from dead people.
The second was that while I couldn't see the meal replacement being something my family would go for — we have the time to prepare food and we also like it an awful lot — I was able to see how the product might work for people who don't particularly enjoy eating but need the nutrition.
Soylent came on my radar again last week when the company announced a spinoff product called Coffiest, a coffee-flavored version of Soylent that has the same nutrition as the regular version but also adds caffeine and L-Theanine, an amino acid believed to reduce stress and boost alertness. I also found out that MNN's Director of Technology, Justin Caratzas, has been using Soylent for about a year and a half now, so I decided to find out what he thinks about meal replacement and how it works for him.
Caratzas chooses to drink Soylent — which he describes as something like pancake batter in consistency and flavor — because he's busy with his family and barely has time to make himself a meal in the morning. To make the taste of the drink more appealing, he adds flavored protein powder (chocolate peanut butter is his favorite) or he sometimes blends in fresh fruit.
"It takes five or six minutes to make my daily amount of consumption," Caratzas said, "I'm not a cook, but I'm able to mix powder together and shake."
He doesn't replace every meal with it. He drinks it every lunch during the week and sometimes at breakfast, too. For dinner, he eats real food and enjoys it.
"I love food," said Caratzas, "I got lucky with my wife. She's a fantastic cook. We generally eat pretty well anyway, so I use Soylent for just the meals that I'm not going to eat at home."
I wondered if he had a desire to snack on anything between servings of Soylent, either because he just wanted to chew something or because he got hungry.
"I don't generally snack," he said. "Soylent fills you up pretty well. They put enough carbs in it to even out the distribution during the day. I also don't get an energy spike after eating it or experience the opposite — getting lethargic."
His energy level stays even throughout the day when he drinks Soylent. That was the first thing he said that made the product sound at all appealing to me. Steady energy throughout the day is something I've never been able to achieve.
Another benefit he sees to drinking Soylent is that it helps him stay under a calorie goal for a day. He's lost weight while using the product. Knowing how many calories are in one scoop (250) helps him to keep his weight consistent. He doesn't count calories at dinner; instead he just eats sensibly.
Soylent seems to be the right solution for Caratzas. It meets his nutritional needs and his need to throw something together quickly instead of making a traditional breakfast and lunch. The one need it won't meet, though, is his need for coffee. He's not trying Coffiest.
"I'd never try such a thing. It's blasphemy," he said. "I'm not a big fan of messing with coffee. I still drink it."