We tried a liquid food substitute and gave up after three days

The future is now.


Meet Huel. An abbreviation of ”human fuel’,  it’s a ‘nutritionally complete food substitute‘, supposedly all the stuff your body needs to survive packed into one convenient bag of vanilla-scented powder.

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It’s like something out of a sci-fi film, the idea that you can get all of your required nutrients from one, bland looking liquid. All you need is a silver unitard and the keys to a spaceship and you’d fit right in in the year 2315. On paper Huel seems like a reasonably good value, healthy (it’s completely vegan, gross) and eco-friendly way to approach nutrition- it’s also been billed as a potential solution to a future food crisis.

But can you survive on Huel alone while living a normal student life?

I started my Huel diet on a Monday. My first taste was an interesting experience, it has the consistency of watery porridge and tastes vaguely of vanilla. The texture was a slight issue, with a kind of unpleasant grainy-ness to it, but it wasn’t TOO bad.

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Huel in lectures, be the envy of your classmates
I generally adopted a ‘little and often’ approach to Huel, sipping it gradually throughout the day. It comes with a handy protein shake bottle, so you can even look like a gym lad to the untrained eye.
As someone who enjoys food, one of my early concerns had been that I would start to miss some of my favourites. These fears were confirmed when I had to painfully sit through my friend devouring a bacon burger while I sat opposite, shaker in hand.
(Going out for lunch, expectation vs reality)

Going out for lunch, expectation vs reality

After the first day I was struggling. It wasn’t just the hunger but the fact that the taste and texture of food is largely what makes it enjoyable, and this is sacrificed with Huel. I tried mixing it with green tea to spice things up, but the vanilla-porridge taste still shone through.

I wanted to live as normal a life as possible on Huel to really test out how it fared as a direct substitute for food. I went to the gym and came out absolutely exhausted and starving. The early issue for me was that eating the Huel was a chore, so getting the calories I needed was a slow process.

For the second day I needed to change something so that I didn’t die of boredom. I found that by adding chocolate protein powder to the Huel shakes I could improve the taste, and bulk it out a bit at the same time.

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I actually, genuinely, really wore this baggy grey t shirt to the pub.

What would a review of a lifestyle product be without road-testing it on a night out? I was concerned that going out with only Huel to line my stomach would leave me in a complete state, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a pretty normal night and experienced no side-effects (other than looking like a mug while I finished off my ‘dinner’ at pre-drinks).

The hangover was tough to navigate. My body was crying out for the salty goodness of a Big Mac meal to ease the pain, and the fact is Huel just isn’t as satisfying as getting your teeth into an actual meal.

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After three days of only eating Huel I couldn’t hack it anymore, it was ruining my life. The pros and cons had become pretty clear. As for the pros, it’s an efficient, healthy, convenient and eco-friendly approach to nutrition. It can be an affordable way to get all the nutrients and vitamins you might miss out on in a day-to-day student diet, so it definitely has its merits.

For me, the cons ended up outweighing the pros. When I eat food I don’t do it to survive, I do it because I enjoy the tastes, the textures, the social aspect. People say variety is the spice of life, and this spice isn’t offered as one of Huel’s flavours. One option might be to use Huel for one meal a day, replacing your breakfast cereal or a lunch on the go, but Huel alone is not a particularly enjoyable option.

To summarise in one sentence: Nice concept, but nothing on post-night out cheesy chips.