Last week, myself and Kotaku editor Mark Serrels ate nothing but bottled Aussielent; a liquid substance that contains all the nutrients and minerals needed to sustain life. That meant no solid meals, no snacks and -- horrifyingly -- no coffee or porridge for a whole week. At Lifehacker, we're all about the takeaway message, so here are five things we each learned during the challenge...
Aussielent is a local version of the open source meal-replacement beverage “Soylent”. It meets all the nutritional requirements for an average adult with one bottle roughly equaling a staple meal. A single serve contains 1989kJ of energy, 25g of protein, 40g of low-GI carbohydrates, 25% recommended daily intake (RDI) of 27 vitamins and minerals and the recommended intakes of omegas 3 & 6.
For those who missed the series, our week-long Aussielent challenge was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Here are five things we learned from the experience.
#1 Caffeine withdrawals are the worst
Seriously. There's a reason caffeine is defined as a drug. As part of the challenge, I stopped ingesting caffeine completely and went into serious withdrawals. I expected to encounter headaches, but was completely unprepared for their severity. Whenever I thought the pain must surely have reached its peak, things would kick up a notch. By Wednesday, I was slumped on my desk with my arms curled around my head literally unable to do my job. Thankfully, the pain subsided soon after and I actually felt better than I have in months -- although some of this might have just been migraine relief. In any event, if you're planning an all-soylent diet I strongly recommend slowly weaning yourself off caffeine first. (The same probably goes for sugar, come to think of it.)
#2 You need to include water in an all-solyent diet
Most of my fluid intake comes from soft drink, coffee, alcohol and juice; pretty much in that order. Apart from an occasional late-night trip to the bathroom tap, I hardly ever drink plain water. During my week on soylent I cut all of the aforementioned beverages from my diet. This meant I was on virtually no H2O for the first few days of the challenge. (I was drinking the bottles of Aussielent of course, but this only worked out to 1.3 litres of liquid per day.) I'm pretty sure this lack of hydration contributed to my headaches and sleep deprivation, until my wife gently coaxed me into drinking more water. If you go on a soylent diet, remember to drink plenty of water!
#3 Lifehacker has a food fixation that borders on pornographic
Until this challenge, I hadn't really noticed how many mouth-watering photos of food appear on Lifehacker on a daily basis. Having to edit and upload images of sizzling porterhouse steaks, cheese smothered burgers and jam-packed burritos definitely made last week tougher to stomach.
#4 I have a supportive spouse
I probably don't tell her enough but my wife is a real trouper when it comes to this sort of stuff. She ensured dinner was cooked and eaten before I got home each night, just so I wouldn't be tortured by the sights and smells of my family chowing down on her delicious cooking. This made things a lot easier. (Okay, I already knew she was supportive before this challenge, but might as well score some brownie points, eh?)
#5 I want to be healthier
During the soylent challenge, I lost 3kg in five days, curbed my sugar and caffeine dependency and got more vitamins than my body is used to. Since coming off Aussielent I've only had two cans of V. Normally on a weekend I'd consume around six. I've also steered clear of coffee and have consciously cut down on sugar. So far, the cravings haven't been an issue. If I can stick to this, I'll probably lose more weight in the weeks ahead. Now all I need to do is take some of Lifehacker's exercise advice to get fitter!
#1 Wait for 30 minutes and then decide if you're full
We've all been there. At an all-you-can-eat restuarant or a family BBQ, shoving fistfuls of food into your gob in an extremely unattractive manner. You think you're still hungry so you keep gorging. 30 minutes later your in a food coma, lying on a couch somewhere making a noise like this:
The truth: the hunger signals in your body are always playing catch-up. You may think you're still hungry, but if you give it 15-20 minutes there's a good chance you are actually full.
So I knew this, but I never really lived it until this Soylent experiment. I'd always drink a bottle and feel really angry about still feeling super hungry. 30 minutes later I'd be like, damn... I'm feeling pretty satisfied right now.
#2 Willpower is a finite resource
Any challenge like this requires willpower, and I like to think I have a good gas tank.
The most important part of these diets is coming off them slowly and carefully. My first day off I was really good. Ate small portions, ate clean.
Second day -- second night in particular -- it all came apart at the seams. It's been a long time since I've done that. I ate dinner. Then friends came over with pizza.
I resisted the smell. Then I broke. Ah... one slice won't hurt.
Five slices later.
I don't even eat dairy!
Then, the next morning I woke up and ate about 2000 calories worth of mars bar brownies. I'm in full on meltdown mode right now with my diet.
#3 I consumed more calories than I thought
I used to think I ate at a pretty significant calories deficit, now I'm not so sure.
One of the most difficult things about this challenge was not snacking. I snack on nuts generally, and I eat a lot of them. I think I might need to cut down on that shit.
#4 The Psychological Need To Have Solid Food In Your Stomach Is Powerful
I've done a juice diet, so I knew this was important.
But a small part of me thought it was more about the calories consumed than the fact you were solely consuming 'liquid'.
That is not the case. Soylent was providing all my biological needs, but it sure us hell wasn't satisfying my urge to consume and eat food.
#5 Here Is A List Of Food I Love...
Porridge, eggs, chicken, sweet potato, bread with butter, brazil nuts, raisins, apples, grapes, steak...
I could go on. Point being -- I really, really love food. A human being cannot live without the food he loves.