Soylent is one of the most well-known meal replacement shakes on the market, and it is often seen as a great timesaver, but how good is Soylent for weight loss? This article will discuss how effective meal replacement shake diets can be and whether Soylent is the best choice.
What is Soylent?
Soylent is one of the first commercially successful meal replacement shakes. There have been many meal replacements before Soylent, but this is one of the first ones to stay successful and relevant for a prolonged period of time.
The shakes are made primarily with soy, but the name actually comes from the 1973 film Soylent Green (whose secret ingredient was … people). Soylent was designed by American software engineer Rob Rhinehart, who wanted to create an instant meal that contained all the ingredients necessary for survival.
The primary goal for Rob Rhinehart was to save himself time and money. He noted that his grocery bills per month dropped by 75%. But he also wanted the shakes to be healthy, allowing him greater control over his own nutrition.
One thing that Rhinehart did not appear to be overly interested in was taste or the experience of enjoying food. This partly explains why the modern Soylent has so few flavours available. It may also explain why many of the ingredients are cheap to produce. This product was designed by a software engineer rather than a dietician or chef.
By 2015, Soylent had become more than an experiment in some engineer’s basement. It was fully funded and beginning to attract a lot of media attention. This is mostly down to the name as well as the concept.
Rhinehart named Soylent after the non-human soylent bars in the book Make Room! Make Room! (which turned into the movie Soylent Green). The bars were made from soy and lentils (hence the name Soy-lent).
Soylent is now an established brand in the US and Canada, but it has not managed to expand its business into other territories. This led to a Dutch man creating “Joylent” which was designed as a European alternative to Soylent. Joylent is now known as Jimmy Joy and is quite popular in Europe.
When you look at the head start that Soylent had over the other big names in the meal replacement shake industry, it is somewhat surprising how underwhelming its performance has been.
Competitors such as Huel, Rootana, and Instant Knockout Complete have been able to carve out large portions of the American market while dominating Europe. Soylent didn’t even become profitable until 2020, seven years after the company was founded.
The worry is that in the nine years since Soylent came out, competitors have stolen a march on them. Huel offers more flavours, Rootana uses better ingredients, and Instant Knockout Complete has more protein and fibre per serving.
Soylent at a Glance
Soylent contains 400 calories per serving. It has 20 grams of protein, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fibre, and 19 grams of fat. There are only two flavours available, Original and Chocolate.
Ingredients in Soylent
There are 14 ingredients in the Soylent formula, but some of them aren’t really worth covering. For example, salt, cellulose, natural flavours, and a vitamin and mineral premix. In this section, we will be taking a look at the primary ingredients in Soylent.
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Canola Oil
- Soluble Corn Fibre
- Modified Food Starch
- Vitamin & Mineral premix
- Natural Flavours
- Soy Lecithin
- Mono & Diglyceride
- Xanthan Gum
Soy protein isolate is the primary source of protein in Soylent. While there are many people who distrust soy as they worry it will affect their hormones, this has been disproven. A 2022 meta-analysis found that there was no evidence that soy intake affected the sex hormones of men or women .
As a source of protein, it is excellent, high in quality amino acids, sustainable, cheap to produce, and can help with building muscle and raising your metabolic rate.
Canola oil (also known as rapeseed oil) is a fairly healthy fat to add to your diet, and studies have shown that it can lower LDL cholesterol and protect heart health . However, when you compare Soylent to other meal replacement shakes, you will see that they use better sources for their fat.
Maltodextrin, isomaltose, soluble corn fibre, and modified food starch have been added to provide carbohydrates and fibre to the formula. Which explains the relatively high sugar content of Soylent (16 grams of sugar out of 42 grams of carbohydrates).
These are perfectly acceptable ingredients when you consider the context in which Soylent was created. It is supposed to be cheap and healthy enough to keep you alive. But this is an area in which Soylent really struggles to compare to other meal replacement shakes. Most of them use oat flour as their primary carbohydrate due to the many health benefits associated with it.
The thing is, none of the ingredients in Soylent is inherently unhealthy, and the intention of this article is not to scare you off. The intention is to show you that there are better alternatives. Do you really want to consume a shake that contains an ingredient list such as this? Or would you rather consume one that prioritises real food ingredients?
How Good Are Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss?
Before we ask ourselves how good Soylent is for weight loss, we should first take a look at meal replacement shakes as a whole. What does the science say about meal replacement shakes and fat loss?
Let’s kick things off with a quick look at how the weight loss process works:
Every day, we consume a certain number of calories in the foods we eat and drinks we drink. At the same time, we burn a certain number of calories through activities that can range from going to the gym, walking up the stairs, or even sitting down and reading an article.
- If there is zero difference between the number of calories you consume and the number of calories you burn, then your body will neither gain nor lose weight. This is known as weight maintenance or energy balance.
- If you consume more calories than you burn, then the extra calories (energy) are stored as fat for future use in times of low food availability. This is called a positive energy balance.
- If you consume fewer calories than you burn, your body will need to use stored energy (body fat) to balance the equation. This is called a negative energy balance.
To create a negative energy balance and lose weight, you need to either increase the number of calories you burn, reduce the number of calories you consume, or do a little bit of both.
While many people believe that weight loss is mostly down to exercise, it is actually diet and calorie restriction that is most effective (usually, not everyone is the same).
Meal replacement shakes can help with calorie restriction by replacing higher-calorie meals with shakes that are often lower in calories. They are also high in protein and fibre. These two macronutrients are highly satiating, meaning that they can help you feel fuller for longer. This makes it easier to diet.
Studies have repeatedly shown that meal replacement shake diets are just as effective as regular dieting techniques . In some respects, they are even more so . There are a number of theories as to why, but they all relate to the following:
- Meal replacement shakes are inexpensive and may even save you money
- Meal replacement shakes are simple and don’t require following crazy rules
- Meal replacement shakes can be made in seconds and are often palatable
Put simply, unlike many diets, it is easy to follow a meal replacement shake diet, making it more likely that someone can stick to the diet for longer. The biggest issue with almost every diet is that they are unsustainable for most people.
How Good is Soylent for Weight Loss?
Soylent is a meal replacement shake, and as we have already learned, meal replacement shakes are effective at helping you lose weight. So, the real question is whether Soylent is the best meal replacement shake for weight loss, which is an altogether different argument entirely.
- High in protein
- Only 400 calories per serving
- Easy to prepare
- High in sugar
- Poor quality ingredients
- Less fibre than most of the competition
Soylent can certainly be used to help you lose weight. It is high in protein, quite satiating, and at only 400 calories per serving it could realistically be used to replace a higher-calorie meal.
Soylent is easy to prepare, tastes okay, and there are a lot of other Soylent products that can help you with your diet. Soylent also has quite an active community, who can be supportive for new users looking for guidance.
However, there are much better options out there. Soylent is high in sugar, and its fibre content is lower than most meal replacement shakes. This means that it isn’t as satiating, making dieting a little harder than with other products.
Soylent also uses low-quality, cheap ingredients, and it would be fair to say that it is not as satisfying or as naturally healthy as other products.
Alternatives to Soylent
There are many meal replacement shakes out there, but the following three are the best alternatives to Soylent that we have come across.
This is sort of the anti-Soylent, a meal replacement shake that is fantastic for weight loss but doesn’t come with all of the unnatural ingredients that Soylent does. Rootana has the same number of calories per serving, roughly the same protein (21 grams rather than 20 grams), slightly more fibre, and it has less sugar.
It also avoids artificial sweeteners and uses real food ingredients such as oats, flaxseed, pea protein, and sunflower seed oil. If you are looking to lose weight in a healthy manner, and prefer an ingredients list with recognisable ingredients, then Rootana is the obvious choice.
Another good alternative to Soylent is Huel. Like Rootana, it uses better ingredients than Soylent, though, unlike Rootana, Huel does use artificial sweeteners. This is a shame because, other than that, it is a very good meal replacement shake.
Instant Knockout Complete
Complete is the best meal replacement shake for weight loss, but it does come at a premium price thanks to its top-quality ingredients. Complete contains 35 grams of protein and 13 grams of fibre per serving, making it highly satiating and perfect for weight loss.
Final Thoughts on Soylent for Weight Loss
In summary, Soylent is an effective dieting tool for weight loss, but there are better meal replacement shakes out there for people looking to lose weight. If you live in the USA or Canada, and you are considering Soylent for weight loss, then you will probably be happy with the results. But you will have a better experience using the alternatives mentioned above (Rootana, Huel, Instant Knockout Complete).