For reasons I can only explain as “because I wanted to try it” about four months ago I decided to try consuming the pre-made liquid version of Soylent, called “Soylent 2.0“, on a near 100% consumption level, supplemented with some solid food in the form of Greenbelly Bars, bananas, avocados, artichoke hearts, pickles, and whatever fruit I could get my hands on – pears, peaches, plums.
I had already been consuming the powdered version of Soylent, usually a couple of bags per week, for a few years. When the liquid version of Soylent came out I ordered a single box of it, 12 bottles, to see how I would like it. After throwing it into the fridge overnight, the next day I had some for lunch, and I found it to be totally acceptable in flavor and texture.
As a long time user of the powdered versions of Soylent, the idea of having it pre-made, I have to say, excited me more than it probably should have.
One of the things that I personally wanted to see in all of this is whether or not I could maintain my standard high level of activities. Before going into this I felt I would have low energy issues, and for the most part that was not the case. Only a few days, in which I had to pull a lot of elevation, did I find myself out of energy – at which point I just downed an extra Greenbelly Bar, or an avocado, both of which seemed to solve the problem.
This was not going to be some kind of “office challenge” where I was just sitting around an office all day long drinking the stuff, but rather at a high level of athleticism that I tend to keep this time of year.
Of the 100 days, I spent 84 of them out on the trail.
This included days where I would be out trail running, days when I was out working building trail routes, a week-long adventure in the desert finishing up a few sections of the Mojave Trail, and the rest just out hiking and enjoying life.
The other 16 days were spent at home, on the road driving to locations, and a couple of days visiting family (where I only consumed Soylent+Greenbelly) while out adventuring.
A major concern of mine, before I started all of this, was how much I was going to lose. I have been on the very edge of the lower weight limit that I have set for myself, and I really did not want to bounce much more than three or four pounds below the point I was at.
After the first week I had gained, not lost, three pounds.
Over the course of the entire 100 days, I gained eight pounds.
To say that was a surprise is straight up truth. It was also something I was very glad about. I had told myself that if I got to a point where I was starting to lose more than five pounds, I would immediately stop the challenge.
So how did the challenge I set forth for myself go?
Overall I would say it was a great success.
I did not lose any weight, I gained weight.
I never got tired of drinking Soylent.
I did get tired of the Greenbelly Bars. But as any long distance hiker knows, getting tired of bars is something that happens all too easily. For a couple of days switched things up and ate a couple of luna lemonzest bars, which for some strange reason I really enjoy.
I had five meals, out of the 100 days, that were not Soylent. This included one meal with my sister (a wonderful dish of Eggplant Bharta at the Himalayan Restaurant in Windsor, CA), the meals of veggie spaghetti, and one veggie pizza while hanging out with a group of friends. So, all said, I think only five meals out of 100 days is better than what I expected. I will have to say that there was one day in particular that I wanted something else so badly that my brain could not think of anything else – long distance hikers know what I mean – and I was out in the middle of nowhere when that day happened. It sucked.
This was not an inexpensive venture. About what I typically spend on food while I am at home for a month, but significantly more expensive than what I spend for a month of food while out on the trail eating my usual mush-style food.
When setup on a subscription basis, the Soylent 2.0 is $387.60 per 28 days, and the Greenbelly Bars are $170.19
That works out to $557.79 for each 28 day cycle, allowing me a couple of days where I could have two packages of bars in a day, which I greatly looked forward too.
Add in the fruit and veggies and it worked out to around $600 per month.
It can be done for a fair bit less money if you go with the powdered version of Soylent, but having tried that while out on the trail for a couple of weeks, it just proved to be something that did not work for me. YMMV. More on the powdered version below.
Additional Liquid Consumption?
So because 90+% of my food consumption was liquid, I went into this challenge wondering how much I would find myself drinking other stuff. The every typical coffee, tea, and lots of water of course.
I did notice that my consumption of water increased, drastically too. I have been trying to stop drinking coffee, so took this duration of time to slowly ween myself off, but that just did not work out.
I also switched out my normal consumption of white tea and wūlóng for Guayusa tea, which has turned out to be something I really enjoy.
Powdered versus Pre-made:
Simply put, I have found the pre-made 2.0 liquid version of Soylent so great that I am not sure if I am going to be able to go back to the powdered version, even with the higher price tag of the pre-made Soylent.
I still have about a half-dozen boxes of the powdered stuff sitting around, I will probably slowly finish them off and just stop buying the powdered version.
Carrying Soylent While On Trail:
This initially presented itself as a problem. Carrying around a bunch of bottles was not hard, nor did it take up any more room than traditional trail food it seemed, but rather the fact that it resulted in dead weight lugging around a couple dozen empty bottles, and I was never able to compress my backpack like you can the last few days when eating traditional trail food; all those bottles just continued to take up pack space.
I ended up buying a couple of those Nalgene 96oz Wide Mouth Cantene containers. I was able to get a couple of days of Soylent into each one and just tossed them into my backpack. It solved the pack volume issue and, oddly enough, the weight was about the same, as Soylent has made those little bottles pretty dang light weight, but the key advantage was the pack volume savings.
On one extended adventure where I could not carry enough, I did cache it in the middle of the desert, and it survived the heat without issues. Had ground temps of around F120 during the day. While it did kind of suck drinking the Soylent when it was hot, it was by no means gross or non-consumable. A couple of those days I mixed in some Starbucks Via, both for the caffeine kick, and to help with getting it down.
While out trail running, I just tossed the Soylent bottles right into the standard water pockets of the Ultimate Direction PB 3.0 Vest and Groove Stereo Waist Belt. They fit with no problems, easy to get in and out of all the different pockets. Worked out very well. I found myself putting one bottle of Soylent into one pocket of both the vest and belt, and water bottles into the other pockets. That would give me enough for a morning/afternoon, or afternoon/evening run along the trails, with a package of Greenbelly Bars and whatever fruit I felt like taking.
Blood Work / Medical Testing:
This has been a question I have gotten a fair bit: did I have any blood testing done before and along the way to see how/if this type of diet was/would have any affect on my body?
I did not.
Should I have done so?
I suppose if I had been doing this for some type of scientific journal documenting the effects of a liquid food supplement diet, than sure, that could have been an interesting aspect to all of this.
But I had already been consuming Soylent for years – not at the 90+% level, but it has tended to make up between 40% and 75% of my diet on any given month, so it was not as if I was going straight from a solid food diet to a nearly all liquid diet, nor was it as if I had not already been consuming liquid food.
It was just not something I even considered until about two weeks into my challenge when I was first asked.
Will I Keep Going?
About two weeks before I reached the end of my 100 day challenge I started to ponder on this question.
I think what I am going to try doing is scaling back to a couple of bottles a day, maybe two, instead of five. Sort of a one-meal-a-day level.
Simply put, this was just too expensive for me to keep doing.
I am likely going to start-up a new subscription for the Soylent 2.0 at a much lower volume.
As for the Greenbelly Bars, they are not something I will keep in the mix of things. I will still probably buy a case here or there, but not as everyday food. They did, however, do their job for this 100 day challenge. When I got hungry, I reached for a bag of them. One of the two bars in each package would fill me up. I usually had one full bar between Soylent breakfast and lunch, and half a bar after lunch but before dinner, and then the last part of the second bar I would have before going to sleep, along with the last Soylent for the day. It was a nice way to go to bed feeling full. They are exceptional bars – I have been saying that since I first wrote about them.
What does it taste like?
Without a doubt, the second most popular question I have gotten, after “why am I doing this?” is “what does the pre-made liquid Soylent taste like?”
I have had about a dozen friends try the pre-made 2.0 liquid Soylent, along with a couple of family members, and almost all of them have answered this question the same way: “it tastes like oatmeal and vanilla put into a blinder” and I too think that is the best way to describe the pre-made liquid version of Soylent.
Soylent is rather friendly to being mixed with other liquids too. Sometimes, especially on early morning trail running’s, I will carry one of those small cans of Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso. Once I drink about half a bottle of the Soylent I will pop open the can of espresso and pour it into the Soylent bottle. It tastes really good. Other times I will pour a packet of Starbucks Via into a Soylent container, that too works out very well. Adding a couple splashes of Soylent into a cup of already-made-coffee is something I regularly do at home. I also enjoy putting a couple drops of vanilla extract into a bottle of Soylent. Adding water flavor packs (take your pick) into Soylent is something I have discovered is not all that, well, advisable. I have also mixed together Soylent and Silk Chocolate Soymilk, which is also pretty dang good, and gives the Soylent a nice chocolate flavor. Adding straight cocoa powder into Soylent is something I have tried, but not something I enjoyed – perhaps I just need to try a few different types to find one that blends well and tastes good. It would be very interesting to see Soylent make a chocolate flavor some day.
Where to buy:
You can buy the Greenbelly bars directly from the Greenbelly website.
You can sometimes score coupons for the first month of a Soylent subscription (watch reddit and the soylent forums) which tends to be 10% off the first month, but sometimes you can find one that is 15% off, but they tend to be rare – I came across one when I setup my subscription, but it has since expired.
Finding coupons for the Greenbelly bars is very difficult. Especially for any decent percentage off their price tag. I was able to use one from back when they were doing a kickstarter campaign, but not something I can share.