Rob Rhinehart, a 24-year-old software engineer, was fed up with eating. We can sometimes relate to that feeling — food tastes pretty great and not starving to death is also a satisfying bonus, but sometimes having to eat can be downright inconvenient. Come home late one night from a long day at work, and have to wake up in a few hours to go right back to work? You can either choose between starving and getting a few hours of sleep, or eating and getting even less sleep than you were already going to get in the first place.
Cooking, while it can be a hobby, is quite time-consuming, and is basically impossible if you’re on a tight schedule. Rhinehart realized it took way too long to cook an egg in the morning, and that inspired him to create a nutrient sludge so he never has to spend time cooking — or eating — again.
It’s difficult to eat healthily. Generally speaking, it’s often expensive and nearly everything healthy either has unhealthy bits packed inside, or is lacking other nutrients your body needs. Fruit is a healthier alternative to candy, but fruit also contains a ton of sugar. Vegetables are fairly healthy, but they don’t help you on the protein front. You don’t need a significant amount of carbs to keep you going, but whether or not you dig the energy boost they provide, you should really only eat them before you expend enough energy that will use them. So, on top of cutting out the time it takes to prepare food, Rhinehart also focused on maximizing his sludge’s nutritional value. He calls it Soylent, but don’t worry, it doesn’t contain human.
Rhinehart’s formula results in a creamy liquid that looks fairly similar to a vanilla protein shake you can pick up from any convenience store. Soylent contains everything that is part of a balanced diet for a human being, but with one third of the calories, and without whatever potentially harmful additives are stuffed into food. However, Rhinehart notes that Soylent isn’t something that can be taken too lightly, as mixing in too much or too little of a nutrient could cause you to get sick. It is your only source of nutrients after all.
Like with any diet, there are drawbacks to Rhinehart’s Soylent. First and probably foremost, for most people eating food is great and giving that up may not be very enjoyable (especially when it’s time for dinner with friends). Also, Soylent doesn’t keep too long after you make it, so you have to make it every day. This can be obnoxious, but if you cook or prepare your own food every day, you’ll still be saving time considering you’re just dumping stuff into a container.
Rhinehart’s idea of food is that you don’t need the food, but rather the nutrients it provides — a notion that is difficult to argue. However, if there is one constant about dieting, it’s that different bodies respond differently to diets. Your carb-free diet may work for you, but it might sap your friend of all of his energy. Your mom’s Slim-Fast regiment may help her shed unwanted pounds, but it might keep you at the exact same weight you’ve always been. Your wacky neighbor’s raw diet might seem healthy, but it might keep your stomach rumbling every hour of every day. What diets really come down to is the amount of calories a body gets in relation to the amount of calories a specific body needs for a goal (such as gaining muscle or losing weight).
Now, all diets are basically a theory rather than some kind of hard-coded science. Rhinehart’s Soylent diet is what’s known as nutritionalism, the notion that a piece of food is only minerals and nutrients in the shape of something delicious, and doesn’t deliver any other sort of beneficial substance. If you look around enough, you’ll find claims that support the nutritionalism view, and claims that support food as something more than just a bundle of nutrients. It’s all a theory, though, but what it comes down to on either side of the coin is calorie intake, and a healthy level of calorie intake is different for different bodies. Basically, you have to pay attention, keep an open mind, and find what works best for you, and make sure not to die from weird food concoctions while you’re searching.
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