Meet Alex Webber. He’s a 27-year-old San Francisco-based techie who works in cyber security for Robert Half, a human resource consulting firm. Like most workers, Webber works the typical 9-5 schedule. However, there’s one thing about Webber’s lifestyle that differs from his peers — for the last four months, he’s been surviving without eating food.
Well, sort of. Webber drinks Soylent, an FDA-approved powdered drink that’s advertised as a meal replacement. It supposedly provides all the necessary nutrients for the average adult. It also has a long ingredients list.
Soylent was first invented in 2013 by software engineer Rob Rhinehart and has since garnered a lot of interest from investors. In January 2015, the company raised $20 million in a Series A funding round, led by top venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Webber told NextShark that his decision to start eating only Soylent was purely to save time and money:
“I heard a friend of mine talking about Soylent about six or seven months ago, and it sounded like a crazy idea. I can’t really cook at all and was buying fast food all the time and spending a lot of money; it was ridiculous. When you get other people to cook for you, you have to pay a premium for that. I was paying $8-$10 per meal, three meals a day, and that adds up.
“Food is like putting gas into your car. You need food to give you energy to get thru the day. So, when I moved to Emeryville, I decided to take the plunge and see if I could save a little bit of money since the rent was higher.”
After researching on forums and seeing others making it work, Webber immediately ordered a month’s supply of Soylent and dove right in. A month’s supply cost $225, which is less than $10 a day for food, according to Webber.
“You consume Soylent 48 hours after you open the package and putting it into water and mixing it up, so I have boxes of the dry powder in my closet. Every night I go into my kitchen and open up a package and mix the powder and water in the big pitcher and shake it up. Then I’m ready to go for the next day. It takes no space in my refrigerator at all.
“I have BPA-free shaker bottles, and they give you a big pitcher with your starter kit. I just mix it up in the pitcher and then pour it into two shaker bottles and put them into my backpack when I go to work. I sip on the shaker bottles throughout the day whenever I’m a little bit hungry or feel like I need some energy, and I’m good to go.”
Webber says that eating three portions per day is not enough. He’s “done away with traditional meal structure” and just drinks out of the two shaker bottles whenever he feels hungry throughout the day.
One of the questions many people have for Webber is “What’s going to the restroom like when all you eat is Soylent?” Webber told NextShark:
“There are forums on Reddit where people talk about their experiences. It’s not a perfect food. It doesn’t all get absorbed into your bloodstream. I heard that 99% of the waste from your body is gut flora or bacteria. The waste from drinking Soylent is soft and is a light beige color.”
One Soylent forum user described his poop experience while on the Soylent diet as “kind of unpredictable and it always seems to look exactly like soylent does when going in.” — how’s that for a visual?
While Webber says he hasn’t encountered any negative side effects from his lifestyle, he advises Soylent consumers to make sure they stay hydrated.
“I would get headaches when I did not drink enough water because I was dehydrated. With powdered food, it’s a little bit different. You have to compensate for the water by drinking more. It’s a big issue for a lot of people who have complained about getting headaches or constipation because they don’t drink enough water. The amount of water that you mix with Soylent is only half the amount of water that you need per day, so you need to make sure that you drink enough water.”
“I had gas issues for the first few days but my body adjusted in a week. After that, it has been pretty good. The taste is not the greatest; it tastes like watered down oatmeal. Somebody who really loves the taste of food will miss that.
“But, I’m pretty energized and I have lost five pounds in the last three months. My body composition is better. I don’t have as big a gut anymore.”
Recently, Soylent has been sued by a watchdog group for allegedly violating California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. The claim says that the company has failed to “provide sufficient warning to consumers of lead and cadmium levels in the Soylent 1.5 product.” Soylent has refuted these claims, and the case is currently ongoing.
When asked about what he thinks of the suit, Webber said:
“It definitely got my attention. I’ll need to do more research on lead toxicity levels and cadmium as well as that is worrisome. Living in California though, I see the Prop 65 warnings all the time so perhaps it is a very low threshold.”
Webber is still living off of Soylent as of the release date of this article. He says he has not been to the doctor once since he started four months ago. Soylent plans to release their new formula, Soylent 2.0, on October 15. The new product will replace rice with soy as the beverage’s main protein source along with “farm-free algae sources.”