So as the Digital Chef I thought it was time to take an interest in the technology surrounding the food we eat as well as the technology that surrounds us. According to http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/ about 50% of the food wastage in the UK comes from our homes and we throw away a staggering 7 million tonnes a year. In the US the number is apparently closer to 30-40% and equivalent to 20-30 pounds of food waste per month.

FoodWaste

I find this a bewildering figure to reconcile when I consider the burgeoning obesity epidemic on either side of the pond AND the increasing reliance on food banks for the vulnerable and poor.

So over the last few years we have seen tech startups emerge that are attempting to look at food solutions that could alleviate these issues. The poster child for this movement has to be Solyent comically named after the dystopian sci-fl flick Solyent Green where the universal food stuff that gives the film its name turns out to be made from dead humans.

Solyent has been iterating its product and has so far raised $22m in 4 rounds from investors which is no mean feat in itself. The latest $20m comes from Andreessen Horowitz and trust me when I say if you look at the type of companies they invest in, they believe they are onto something significant. Solyent at present is only available in the US and Canada, so for my experiment I turned to a UK startup called Huel. Huel = Human Fuel and it is a similar completed engineered foodstuff.

Huellogo

The Makeup of Operation 100% Huel

From it’s website Huel states “Huel is a nutritionally complete powdered food ​that contains all the proteins, carbs, and fats you need plus at least 100% of the European Union’s “Daily Recommended Amounts” of all 26 essential vitamins and minerals​”. Huel showcases its complete nutrition profile for their v1.2 vanilla product on their packaging and website and is shown below

Huel

It looked to me to be a great mix of protein,carbohydrates and fats with a complete package of vitamins and minerals thrown in for good measure. I decided therefore in proper gung-ho fashion to do a complete week on 100% Huel, which to be fair they don’t really recommend. The suggested pathway is that people build up to this by integrating the replacement meals into your overall diet. As a past tester of various eating styles including intermittent fasting I was not put off by this disclaimer and decided to go ahead with the full week.

Logging my efforts and mood

In an effort to quantify the outcome of my test I decided to do two things, firstly keep a video log of how I was feeling over the week. Every few days I would go live using Facebook video and post a video to my Digital Chef Facebook page outlining how I was feeling as the week progressed.

Day 1 operation Huel

Posted by Lewis Richards on Friday, 11 March 2016

Day 3 operation Huel :

Posted by Lewis Richards on Friday, 11 March 2016

Day 5 operation Huel : cooking up a storm

Posted by Lewis Richards on Friday, 11 March 2016

Day 6 operation Huel : Pre Run

Posted by Lewis Richards on Friday, 11 March 2016

Day 6 operation Huel : Post 16km Run

Posted by Lewis Richards on Friday, 11 March 2016

Day 7 operation Huel

Posted by Lewis Richards on Friday, 11 March 2016

Operation Huel : Final Thoughts

Posted by Lewis Richards on Friday, 11 March 2016

 

Secondly in true Quantified Self style, and because I am the Digital Chef and I had to test some physical technology I decided to use FitBit Aria scales, FitBit Surge watch and the Fitbit cloud platform to track my body metrics.

SurgeAria

My plan was to eat three Huel shakes a day which constituted around 1500 calories. As I am 6ft1” tall I should have around 2500-2900 calories a day to be ‘normal’ so I was expecting some weight loss over the week.

How the Week Progressed

 

The first two days passed without any drama, I did note beforehand the disclaimer on the Huel packaging that warned of possible stomach related gas issues but fortunately I missed those. My days are pretty busy and the effort to mix water in my Nutribullet with three scoops of shake 3 times a day wasn’t very challenging. Mentally the first two days were ok as well, the Vanilla product is very palatable although some people I let try (force fed) thought it had a nasty aftertaste. I also introduced a few ice cubes as I prefer it ice cold.

As a meal replacement it’s actually really easy, you can drink it quickly or you can sip and make it last a good 10-15 mins. The overall result being the same, I felt completely satiated and the feeling of fullness didn’t diminish between meals.

Day 4 was interesting from a social interaction point of view as I had lunch with a client, who (being used to my experimentation) wasn’t overly concerned that I drank my lunch before we left for the restaurant. This however is the drawback of these food products from a 100% point of view. Lots of our interaction with food is social and while you can easily maintain this over breakfast and even over lunch, the interactive nature of going out to eat with groups is a challenge. However, this is only if you planned to live forever on 100% Huel.

Day 6 involved a running experiment as I am training for a Marathon and needed to do a long run. I was a bit concerned as to my energy levels but needn’t have been. I managed a 16km run without any real loss of energy.

Most people will use this as a meal replacement. I can quite easily see myself doing this as well. On a repeat subscription the meals work out at £1.34 per meal. This is quite cost effective and it allows me to be very precise when shopping for the components to make fresh evening meals. The weekly shop is far less and I am wasting less produce as I am less likely to over buy in terms of volume.

This is the interesting point for me, wastage has to in part stem from over purchasing alongside cooking large portions. If you think typically in a week one person will need three meals a day, that is twenty one meals per person per week, for a family unit of three that equates to 63 meals a week. Very difficult to plan for accurately. If you could cut two thirds of that away with this type of product and concentrate on the social pleasure of a single meal, then I think it would be far easier a task to accomplish with less waste.

If you opted for the unflavoured Huel and chose to augment it on a daily basis with fruit or vegetables in small portions to change up the flavour I could honestly envisage using it on a long term basis.

The only proviso to this is that there is a certain monotony to drinking food as opposed to tasting different textures. You can cook with Huel but by adding lots of different ingredients I rather felt it missed the point. After a week I was reminded of the scene from ‘The Matrix’ where Mouse is describing the universal gloop that the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar introduce to Neo.

Going back to the opening facts and figures however, just in the UK alone, if families adopted this style of eating in limited measure that allowed them to better control the size of their food shop, then I can quite easily see how over time this would improve the issue of food wastage and obesity.

The Results

In the image below you can see the results of the week. I started on the Monday morning at 14st 8.7lbs and 22.5% bodyfat and finished this morning at 14st 2lbs and 20.7% bodyfat. So in a week of living on Huel I lost 6.7lbs in weight and 1.8% bodyfat.  I felt energised and good all week and have suffered no ill effects. I plan to extend my experiment into another week but introduce one meal in the evenings.

FullSizeRender

 

 

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  • Peter Cowen

    Impressive 1% body fat loss is amazing in a week. I am going to try this as I am a right porker and I suspect or rather hope that totally optimised nutrition will be a good help as its my biggest weakness.

    My one point of concern was the protein source being pea and rice. I have heard these are not great proteins. Because I am going to the gym and doing at least some weights and resistance I may supplement with chicken and/or whey protein as part of my normal supplementation

  • Chris Gotts

    Not sure if you still read comments but do you still view huel as a beneficial addtion to your lifestyle? I’m considering switching to it from a high processed high sugar lifestyle. I know there will be withdrawls but have to think beyond them. Thanks