I lived on Huel for a week
It’s thick enough to chew and it tastes grim
The craze of powder meal replacements has reached an all-time peak due to the summer run up to getting beach body ready. Many are familiar with using them for the purpose of weight loss but lately the hype is more about overall well-being and health, hence the rise of nutritionally complete meal replacement powders as it is estimated that over 50 per cent of the population is deficient in at least one vitamin or mineral. In addition to brands such as ‘Soylent’ (this one isn’t made of people) and ‘Ambrose’, one brand that has gained a large following is ‘Huel’ (Human Fuel).
Made from a blend of oats, rice protein and a blend of vitamin and minerals as but a few of the mostly natural and recognisable ingredients, while also being vegan and suitable for multiple digestion related diseases and disorders it sounds too good to be true so I decided to have a week of putting it to the test. For this week I replaced two of my meals with Huel and see if it really lived up to its promises of being the future of food.
Initially the sterile look of the packaging was quite intimidating, as were the warnings attached to my order e-mail about as your body adjusts to Huel you may experience “flatulence and irregular bowel movements, tiredness and/or cravings, depending on how healthy your diet was before. However, this will settle down as your body adjusts.” Already I’d started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into, but thankfully the instructions were simple enough and helped put my mind at ease. I added 275ml of water to the shaker provided and then weighed out 50g of Huel and shook for 30 seconds, resulting in my first Huel meal replacement shake.
Among all the magical promises of Huel one thing the creators seemed to neglect mentioning was that this miracle drink resembled brown oaty vomit, but I guess that would detract from the aesthetic of it all. I braved tasting it and it tasted very oaty with a hint of the vanilla flavouring and then just bland, however it was simultaneously a drink that was thick enough to chew. I had to force myself to endure two of these and the week’s prospects looked grim.
The instructions also mentioned making the Huel mix in the blender instead of using the shaker so I attempted this hoping it would thin out the mixture. I did this and while it did the mixture much more fluffy and airy it was still thick and still grim. I’d also started to notice that I had a psychological need to chew something for it to be considered food and the shakes weren’t quite cutting it so a lot of snacking happened in between just so I could feel like I’d eaten. One more side effect I’d noticed was one that Huel had warned of and made me a bit scared to stray too far from the bathroom so I felt pretty assured that Huel was rotting me from the inside outwards at this point and I’d rather trade this future food for a sandwich in a second.
I was sick of Huel shakes by this point. I looked at the website again for inspiration and saw a recipe for Huel pancakes using very specific and expensive ingredients I didn’t have and didn’t care to buy. I searched Instagram for some more inspiration and found just what I was looking for – a recipe for pancakes where someone claimed to have just swapped the flour for Huel and made picturesque #foodporn pancakes. Then came my attempt that looked more like scrambled eggs that were raw in the middle due to the porridge-like texture of the oat mixture. For my lunch I decided to give up being adventurous and just resided to another bland shake.
I reattempted the pancakes by this time cooking it through on a low heat for about 10 minutes either side and reached success. It still had a slight porridge-like texture in the middle, but it was actually quite good, although I’m sure covering it in chocolate spread, strawberries and sugar probably reversed most of the goodness it contained so I had another shake for lunch. Although still not enjoyable I noticed I wasn’t running to the bathroom by this point and wasn’t relentlessly snacking so assumed this was the turning point for my body adjusting to Huel.
After my success with the pancakes I again took to Instagram for inspiration and noted people adding their own flavourings to give the lifeless shakes some taste. Although I did have a plain shake for breakfast my lunch shake was a turning point. I added a tablespoon of peanut butter, cocoa power and sugar to counter the bitterness of the cocoa. It took on the taste of the peanut butter a bit too well, but overall it was better than the normal vanilla taste, so at this point I was happy for any kind of change.
I tried flavouring the Huel again but this time with what I would normally add to my morning milkshake – frozen strawberries and banana. This was it, this was what I was looking for. It tasted like a McDonalds strawberry milkshake due to how it almost tasted like strawberries but not quite. This was actually a tasty version of Huel, I felt like I’d made the impossible possible at this point.
I repeated the strawberry and banana Huel shakes as I bid farewell to my week with Huel. By the end of the week I’d learned to actually start to like Huel, I’d adjusted to the thickness of it and began to become okay with the premise of liquid meals and found myself feeling full between meals, which was something I didn’t really experience even with solid meals as snacking was a big part of my routine. I felt a lot better and by the end of the week had even lost 3 lbs and even found myself liking the powder I dreaded only a few days ago.
So does Huel live up to its claims? Yes definitely although I think an adjustment period is definitely needed to suss out how Huel best suits you. As for whether or not it’s the just a hype, I can definitely say due to how quick it is to prepare, efficient in terms of nutrition and easy to travel with and store that the hype is justified. I truly can see it having potential as becoming the future of food.