Updates to the Ultimate Huel Guide

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Steve Sokolowski
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Updates to the Ultimate Huel Guide

Post by Steve Sokolowski » Wed Aug 14, 2019 9:46 am

Now that it's been one six months since "The Ultimate Guide to Huel, Soylent, and complete foods" was published, I thought that I would update the post with some additional information from both my experience and others.

This post contains all of the new information. The previous post is at viewtopic.php?f=21&t=6144, and should be read first if you haven't yet; otherwise, you won't have the context to understand some of what is said here.


Flavor comparison

In August 2019, Huel released a new "Vanilla" flavor, rebranding the previous "Vanilla" as "Original Vanilla." Earlier in the year, they had also released chocolate and berry flavors.

The new "Vanilla" flavor is, overall, inferior to the "Original Vanilla." The best summary of the differences is to state that the new vanilla is like the chocolate or berry flavors. Each of those three has a distinct flavor that is very noticeable and which appeals as a periodic change from drinking the original vanilla.

In the case of Soylent, "Original" doesn't have a specific identifiable flavor to it, and Huel's Original Vanilla never struck me as having a strongly identifiable vanilla flavor to it either. Huel should rename Original Vanilla to "Original" to avoid confusion and more accurately describe the product. Whatever it is called, Original Huel is still the best flavor overall. It is sweet but not too sweet, and has a great flavor that isn't overpowering. You won't get tired of it if you were to drink it for every meal, but you would quickly tire of drinking the new vanilla, chocolate, or berry.

Original Huel is also the best flavor to start out with for the flavor packs. When Original is used, you'll taste only the intended flavor from the packs. When new vanilla is used, the vanilla flavor will also be present, overpowering some of the packs and making the drink too sweet - the combination of banana/new vanilla is so sweet it can be difficult to ingest, but banana/original tastes like the 1950s variety of bananas that went extinct and is no longer available in stores.

Huel has done a poor job of explaining what the unflavored/unsweetened version is good for, because it might seem at first that one should buy the unflavored version to add flavor packs to it. They just added a better description to their website to indicate that adding a flavor pack to unsweetened Huel will result in only a very slight flavor, with the taste of the oats and peas greatly overpowering the flavor. My opinion is that unsweetened Huel is only useful for people who want a base upon which to mix other sweeteners like saccharin. If you're going to start with unsweetened Huel, you will need to buy sweetener in bulk and put a lot of it in, along with the flavor packet, before the drink becomes palatable.

When the Purse.io discounts are low and I order Huel from the company instead of from Amazon, I'll buy Huel in sets of 16, because the price of Huel from the company is inversely correlated to quantity purchased. Last time, I bought 12 original vanilla, 2 chocolate, one vanilla, and one berry. That allows me to use original vanilla as a neutral staple (and also to use with the flavor packs), and to switch to the other flavors about one out of every four times for a different meal.


Keeping the "original flavor" around

One of my worst fears regarding Huel is that the company has introduced the "new vanilla" flavor because it intends to discontinue the original vanilla. That would be a mistake, and I E-Mailed the company to suggest as much.

While I doubt that anyone from the company actually reads posts like this, I hope that they have received feedback from other customers who have also told them what I wrote in February about the "original" model. They should stick to the Soylent model, where there is one "original" flavor that receives nutritional upgrades only and which serves as a base product to provide consistency over time and to not alienate early customers. Soylent regularly adds and removes other flavors and products based upon market trends and research.

That way, the company would rarely lose customers because any single product encountered production difficulties. We practice a similar strategy at Prohashing. Pay-per-share dynamic coin switching mining is our core product, and it hasn't changed in the five years we've been offering it. We've added new payout coins, static difficulty options, portfolio targeting, charity mining, website changes, and even debuted solo and PPLNS mining. But pay-per-share coin-switching mining remains our core product that customers can count on to always be there. If we ever remove solo mining, for example, almost every miner who has mined here has used PPS mining at one time or another, so they are likely to fall back to it if the other feature goes away.


The problem with the flavor packets - their shelf life

Huel has had eight varieties of flavor packets for a long time, but when I tried their strawberry last year, I was extremely disappointed with its taste and chose not to buy it again. They recently gave a flavor packet for free with a recent order, so I ordered another Strawberry packet. The taste was completely different and very good. I'm not sure whether they changed the packets or whether there was a production error in the 2018 packet. The packets are great when added to original vanilla Huel.

Unfortunately, I don't see myself buying many of these packets in the future because they have only a four month shelf life. I want to try different flavors at the same time - strawberry one day, banana the next morning, mocha the next afternoon, and so on. But at 75 doses per packet, one needs to use the same flavor almost every day to avoid having to discard what's left over. Using the same flavor repeatedly gets tiring.

If the packets were smaller and proportionally cheaper - say, half price for 37.5 doses, then I would buy four or five flavors and mix and match them. Or, if they had a longer expiration date, then I would buy four or five flavors and mix and match them over the course of a year. But Huel is selling packets that expire too soon for customers to use all the product in them. I'll be waiting for them to either make the packets smaller or to extend their shelf lives.


Revisiting the ready-to-drink version

I recently ordered some of the chocolate ready-to-drink bottles, which were released in July 2019. The chocolate bottles taste fine, but the smell is horrible. If you order these bottles, don't be dissuaded from drinking them once you open them up, because the taste is far better than how they smell.

I also ordered some vanilla bottles and found that while they remain inferior in taste and nutritional quality to the original vanilla powder, they are great for biking. I can put four of these bottles in the back of a bike bag, and they provide enough energy for a full 70-mile ride. They are a lot easier to deal with than fresh food, which spoils in the 80-degree heat, or energy bars, which get crushed and are more time-consuming to eat.

If you're not using an electric bike, Soylent weighs less for the same number of calories.


Thoughts on nutrition

Over the past few months, I've been reading a lot about nutrition. It seems to me that, while it's important to get the basic building blocks right, it's much more important to avoid stuff that is bad for you. People have been surviving on meat and potatoes for centuries, and the body adapts to produce most of what it doesn't get from the foods that were consumed. On the other hand, it's more difficult to get rid of or avoid the effects of bad stuff, like trans fats and chemicals in deli meats.

I suspect that the reason that Soylent, which is clearly inferior to Huel, also has such dramatic effects on cholesterol is because it simply doesn't include bad things in it.

One question that I've been pondering over the past few months is exactly how it came to be that the average person eats a diet that is so unhealthy. When one switches to a "good" diet, it's not like there are a few minor changes. The changes are dramatic and profound. I wonder how many of the issues that people commonly associate with "old age" - like back pain and muscle loss and fatigue - are actually caused by poor diet.


Caloric restriction

I wonder if that means that Huel can be used to enable people to successfully adhere to caloric restriction (CR). Caloric restriction, which extends maximum lifespan by a third in mice, has been tried in humans with positive effects. It is unlikely to extend lifespan by so much in humans, but it makes old people healthier, and a few years might be all that is needed to survive until the first anti-aging treatments are available.

The successful CR studies have tried asking people to eat 75% of what they were previously eating for two years. Eating only 50% causes mice to die. But the problem with the studies is that some participants only achieved eating 90% because the side effects of caloric restriction are significant. For example, some people suffered insomnia due to hunger.

CR produces immense hunger, but the timeframe to determine if it is effective is so long that there will probably never be concrete evidence of how much effect it has. Thus, few practice it.

That brings me to whether Huel, which dramatically reduces one's appetite and fully satiates me, could be used to enable caloric restriction without the intense hunger that results from the levels thought to be necessary to slow aging. I suspect that Huel would make it feasible to practice an effective level of CR without extreme hunger. I may try it at some point, and if so, I'll report back after that experiment.


The Huel study

A study about 19 people who ate Huel for 100% of their meals for five weeks was made available by the company at https://huel.com/pages/five-weeks-on-a-100-huel-diet. The study concluded that it was safe to drink Huel for all meals, and that one of the greatest benefits of Huel was how much time it saved from meal preparation.

First, let's focus on the negative. The most significant negative finding from the studies was that Huel increased uric acid levels in the "core participants'" blood to above the recommended ranges. The increased levels of uric acid were likely caused by the legumes in Huel. People with gout, which causes pain in the joints, have high levels of this substance, and gout is treated by lowering blood levels of uric acid. While the study's authors cautioned against the use of Huel in those susceptible to gout, other studies have shown that when uric acid increases due to consuming legumes, the risk of gout is not increased. None of the subjects actually developed symptoms of gout during the trial, either.

The most significant effects from the trial were the impacts of Huel on cholesterol levels. As shown at https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0578/ ... 2468368697, the average total cholesterol decline in these subjects was almost -1.5.

The study seems to miss the significance of this incredible result. Studies of statin use (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22354153) show that statins, which are widely prescribed to treat high cholesterol and which are weakly associated with diabetes and muscle aches when taken at very high doses, result in a total cholesterol decline of around -1.5. Unless it is eventually found that statins actually work by changing some other upstream signal that controls both heart attacks and cholesterol, one would expect that Huel would have similar effects to statins on cardiovascular events. In the study, the number of cardiovascular events at these cholesterol levels was reduced to 61%(!) compared to patients at the higher levels.

That's an astonishing result. People in these studies take statins for years, while this study involved Huel use for just five weeks. The idea that Huel could lower the risk of heart disease so profoundly, and even save lives, should be taken seriously, even if it turns out that the effect isn't as great as that produced by statins. This result should also put the low probability issue of gout to rest - even if there were a direct association with gout, I'd rather have pain than die or suffer for decades from the consequences of a cardiovascular event.

The only concerning part I saw in the study was that many participants saw astounding results, but none of the participants stated they would continue drinking 100% Huel after the study was over. Many of them said that they felt that the social aspects of avoiding traditional foods outweighed the seemingly incredible health gains they were seeing.

On the other hand, I've found that many people will lie about their true reasons for doing things, and easily change their minds on things they previously said were non-negotiable. Take, for example, someone who declines an invitation to do something because he "has a prior commitment," but the commitment disappears when a different activity is suggested instead.

If Huel really did have unbelievable health effects, then these participants would drink Huel during social activities instead, or modify their social lives to permit Huel to be used 100% of the time. The idea that people would not use Huel 100% of the time because of social activities should not be taken at face value. The next study should evaluate whether there are side effects that lower Huel's value just enough for participants that these social concerns take priority.


An addition to the prediction about nutritionally complete foods

Since I published the original article six months ago, Beyond Meat has seen its stock price rise from $25 to $150 on the back of its beef replacement products, and Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger is being served by major chain restaurants. There are rumors that a blind test of 26,000 people, which will be released in the coming months, shows that a statistically significant majority prefers plant-based Impossible burgers over real beef.

People have been talking about "lab grown meat" for decades, but there isn't any need to produce meat in a lab. It can already be done with plant-based products, which are already tastier and will soon be cheaper than real meat. Impossible burgers are not healthier than beef, but they will soon be cheaper and are already 20 times more environmentally friendly. The nutrition part is only a matter of time, and these burgers are one step in the process towards nutritionally complete foods becoming dominant in the near future.


Insomnia

Although I did not feel I had enough data before to make a statement one way or the other, I'm confident enough now to state that insomnia is a direct side effect of Huel. It is also the only side effect that I can both definitively attribute to Huel and which has also not improved with time.

The insomnia caused by Huel is a form of light sleeping - it will take 4-5 hours to fall asleep, or I'll be able to fall asleep very lightly for periods of 20 minutes for several hours. The insomnia usually lasts until about 3:30 or 4:00am, when I'll finally fall asleep for about 2 or 3 uninterrupted hours before the alarm goes off.

Taking Ambien pills does not assist in counteracting this effect. It occurs on the days when I drink Huel for dinner, and there is no effect if I don't drink Huel or if I drink Huel only for every other meal except dinner. My average dinner time is 9:00-9:30pm, and I often go to sleep between 10:00-10:30pm.

The insomnia is experienced as a sense of having energy, as if one of the chemicals added for vitamins in Huel has an activating effect. It is also possible that Huel interacts with one of the other drugs I take (see above) to create this activating effect, which could explain why I haven't read any reports of insomnia in forums, studies, or reports from individuals who use Huel. It could also be that when I drink Huel for dinner, I generally consume two bottles (after having consumed 3.5 spaced throughout the remainder of the day.) Perhaps most of the testing performed by Huel's creators never considered drinking two bottles at once.

I hope that Huel adds a question to focus on sleep patterns in their next study.


Read the previous post in this series at viewtopic.php?f=21&t=6144.