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A blog about thriving and feeling awesome, by Brad Rourke

Ten Days on DIY Soylent

Ever since I was young, I have had mixed feelings toward food. On the one hand, I love tasty food. On the other, preparing and eating the food often felt like it got in the way of other things I would rather be doing. My wife noticed this early on in our relationship, more than 20 years ago: “Brad,” she would say, “you need to have a ‘food pill’ that you could just take.”

She was right. My irritation with food caused all sorts of problems. I would not eat for a long stretch (too busy) then would suddenly be ravenous and eat too much of whatever was in front of me. Over time, these bad habits caused me to put on weight slowly but surely. A few years ago I shed the extra pounds but they’ve crept back, as my habits have also crept back.

If only there were a way to take the hassle of food out of the equation.

Everything you need.

Everything you need.

Now there is.

My friends know I have become interested in a new project called “Soylent” — an engineered food that is designed to provide all the nutrients a human needs to thrive. (Yes, the founder, Rob Rhinehart, is well aware of the irony in the title.)

I’ve signed up for a month’s supply and I plan to experiment by living primarily off of it for 30 days. From time to time, for social, family, or other reasons I will take a “real” meal. But my staple, go-to nutrition will be Soylent.

Soylent is a startup project and it will not be ready for distribution until later. So, like a good nerd, I decided to hack my own version because I’ve become impatient waiting. Turns out there is a whole DIY community, supported by Soylent, making their own. The website where these recipes are shared is robust, with great tools that allow you to calculate not only the macronutrient profile (i.e. how many carbs, how much protein, etc.) your concoction has, but also the micronutrient profile (sodium, calcium, choline, vitamin A, etc.).

So, I’ve laid in a stock of materials and have been experimenting with my own recipes, based on others’ work — building on what works. After some initial trial-and-error, I’ve perfected a batch that tastes good and satisfies all of my individual nutritional needs. You can see the recipe here: http://diy.soylent.me/recipes/brads-higherprotein-people-chow-rev-03 (That link reflects the most recent version of my recipe — there is also a button there where you can buy all the ingredients with one click on Amazon.)

Here’s the recipe, in case you are too lazy to click:

233g Pre-cooked Masa (Masa Precocida)
110g Now Foods 100% Whey Protein Isolate
20g Almond meal
25g GNC Mega Men® Sport - Vanilla Bean
6g MSM Sulfur Powder
5g Baking powder, aluminum-free
4g NOW Foods Calcium/magnesium 1000/500 mg
4g Potassium Citrate
4g Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder
3g Iodized Salt
2g Choline bitartrate
2g Stevia Extract, Powdered
1g Morton Salt Substitute (Potassium Chloride)
60ml Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1,500ml City of Rockville (MD) Drinking Water
Mix the dry ingredients together, and that keeps indefinitely. When ready, Take a liter of water, add the 60ml of olive oil, then mix in the dry ingredients. Add the final 500ml of water and shake vigorously. Let chill.

NOTE: Each morning I start with a protein shake, roughly 250 Kcal and 48g protein, so keep that in mind. Also note that many mornings I have Bulletproof® Coffee, for 320 Kcal and 35g of fat.

My goals are twofold: 1) I want to see what it’s like. Geek! Food pill! 2) I do want to reduce body fat, and feel that knowing precisely what my caloric =intake each day will be helpful. A reset, if you will.

So for the last ten days, I’ve been living on Brad’s People Chow — except for two cheat days.

All the fixin's for Brad's People Chow

All the fixin’s for Brad’s People Chow

Bottom line, it’s been pretty good but probably not for everyone. It’s a bit of a pain to mix all the ingredients (though if you do multiple days at once it is easier, see pic to the right). The taste takes a little getting used to but moreso the texture — a little gritty. (My recipe uses masa harina as the main carbohydrate source.)

All that said, today (day ten) of my experiment — I think I am going to continue this for a while, but not religiously. It is very useful to have nutrition I can just rely on without thinking, knowing that it is healthy and I am getting what I need. And, today is a cheat day . . . and I find myself craving the taste! So there’s that.

I plan to continue to tinker with the recipe to make sure that the nutrients I am getting are sufficient. As I learn more, I will make additions and subtractions.

I weigh myself each morning, along with measuring my abdominal circumference (belly at widest point) and doing a skin-fold test to check subcuteneous fat (a decent gauge of body fat percentage).

Here are my measurements at the beginning of each day:

DATE Weight (lbs)  ABDOMEN (in.)  Skin Fold (mm)  Notes
12/26/2013 185
12/27/2013 183.2 36 10 BEGIN SOYLENT DIY
12/28/2013 181 35.5 10 People Chow ver 0.2
12/29/2013 179.8 35 8 Partial fast & cheat
12/30/2013 180 35 8 Brad’s Chow + Protein, felt great @ yoga
12/31/2013 179.2 35.25 7 NYE, 1/2 cheat day.
1/1/2014 180.6 35.5 8 Chow + Protein + small bowl black eyed peas
1/2/2014 178.8 35 9 Chow + protein + chicken/rice
1/3/2014 179.6 34.5 8 Chow, protein, bulletproof coffee
1/4/2014 178.8 35 8 Chow, protein, bulletproof coffee
1/5/2014 178.6 35 10 Cheat Day


And here is my running diary:

DAY ONE: December 27, 2013

Nothing much to report this day. I took it easy (vacation). In addition to my Brad’s People Chow (2,000 Kcal), I had a protein shake (250 Kcal, 48g protein) and 20 oz of Bulletproof Coffee (350 Kcal, 34g fat). Felt fine. The shake and Bulletproof Coffee make it so I’m not hungry until roughly 1pm anyways, at which point I began drinking the mix.

DAY TWO: December 28, 2013

Same as Day One, except I started the morning working out with Grant Hill’s My Bootcamp — a high-intenstiy interval program. This created a bit more of a calorie deficit, so my 2,500 total Kcal (I followed same regimen as yesterday) is leaving me a little hungry at day’s end.

DAY THREE: December 29, 2013 (Sunday)

Sunday is usually an odd day for me. I either use it as a cheat day, where anything goes, or I do a partial fast and eat nothing until dinner. I often have the dinner be a “cheat” meal (I allow myself one cheat day per week). In this case I had a large order of Five Guys: 2 bacon cheeseburgers, 1 grilled cheese sandwich, Cajun fries. (920+920+470+526=2,836 Kcal)

DAY FOUR: December 30, 2013 (Monday)

Back to the work grind today. I set up lab work for my “before” snapshot this Friday. Since blood panel changes have a bit of a delay between diet change and results, I am thinking this should be OK. I also revised my recipe today, adding stevia and cinnamon. It is TASTY now — I had tried stevia in a previous batch and while it made it sweet it was almost too sweet (like cake batter). The cinnamon cuts that and it tastes more like apples ’n’ spice. Today is straight Brad Chow, with one protein shake. (No Bulletproof Coffee.) A side note: at yoga I felt incredible this evening — strong and clear.

DAY FIVE: December 31, 2013 (Wednesday, New Year’s Eve)

Today is New Year’s Eve so we’re going out tonight. So I am planning a cheat day — no Brad’s People Chow, just real food. In the morning, the usual protein shake and Bulletproof Coffee. Then I am planning nothing until dinner time. And after that … party time. Which for me means water and a brownie.

DAY SIX: January 1, 2014

Protein shake, Brad Chow, one small bowl of black eyes peas (superstition): 2,350 kcal. Yoga in the morning (felt great).

DAY SEVEN: January 2, 2014

My first real “workday” under the DIY Soylent regimen. One protein shake and one micture of Brad Chow. Also did yoga. My goal for fat loss under as an “active” person is 2,500 to 2,600 so I ate some real dinner too (roast chicken and rice).

I’m finding that this lifestyle is absenting me from the family more than I would like. I am still cooking dinner for the family, but when all I do is sit down and slam a glass of Chow, it’s sort of off putting to others. I’ve decided I’m going to need to make sure I actually eat with folks!

That’s OK, though, becuase I have also been thinking I am going to have to up my calories. Too hungry and a bit weak at the end of the day.

DAY EIGHT: January 3, 2014

Nothing special to report. Continued fat loss (and weight loss). Usual protein shake, bulletproof coffee, and Brad Chow. Yoga midday, and my band played a gig at night. I did not end the day feeling tired — actually I felt great. Although at one point late in the day I recall feeling a bit bored as I was hungry and looking forward to a glass of Chow…I wanted a grass fed steak! Still, all in all a good day.

DAY NINE: January 4, 2014

Again, nothing special. It’s a Saturday. Protein shake, Bulletproof coffee, Brad Chow. Worked out at gym (lifting). As the day ends, I finally feel like I am really getting acclimated — felt satisfied all day, plenty of energy, no real hankerings.

DAY TEN: January 5, 2014

Today is my son’s birthday, so it’s cheat day for me! Anything goes today. Started with my usual protein shake and bulletproof coffee, then moved on to French Toast.

A final note:

Yes, I know this whole approach is antithetical to my “Paleo”-inspired nutritional philosophy. What can I say? I am a mass of contradictions. I thought the experiment worth doing.

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