A month ago, Rob Rhinehart posted on his blog his goal, which was essentially to maintain his current fitness level but without having to eat food. Healthy food, in the traditional sense, was not only costly but it also took time to prepare.
So he thought:
What if I consumed only the raw ingredients the body uses for energy? Would I be healthier or do we need all the other stuff that’s in traditional food? If it does work, what would it feel like to have a perfectly balanced diet? I just want to be in good health and spend as little time and money on food as possible.
What Rhinehart proceeded to do was research all the nutrients the body needed, whipped it all into one drink mix and lived off of only that for 30 days. He wrote that nothing in the mix, which he calls Soylent, except for olive oil and table salt for sodium and chloride is like food as we know it.
He continued on in the post writing that he felt like he had more energy, a better complexion and could push himself further in exercise. He said that when he was hungry, he drank more of his mix. When he had food cravings, he added more of that supplement to the drink (like a craving for red meat indicated he needed more iron).
“All I crave is Soylent,” he wrote of his cravings now.
Rhinehart thinks Soylent, which he described more in detail in this post, has everything the body needs for carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.
Vice reached out to Rhinehart to learn more about him and his mission. Turns out he’s a 24-year-old software engineer living in Atlanta. One of the more interesting questions Vice asked Rhinehart was what the pros and cons of living a food-free lifestyle were. Here’s what he said:
Not having to worry about food is fantastic. No groceries or dishes, no deciding what to eat, no endless conversations weighing the relative merits of gluten-free, keto, paleo, or vegan. Power and water bills are lower. I save hours a day and hundreds of dollars a month. I feel liberated from a crushing amount of repetitive drudgery. Soylent might also be good for people having trouble managing their weight. I find it very easy to lose and gain precise amounts of weight by varying the proportions in my drink.
There are drawbacks: It doesn’t keep long after mixing with water, so I still have to make it every day. If I make a mistake with the amount of an ingredient, it can make me sick, but that hasn’t happened in a while. Also, some people really enjoy food a lot more than I do, so they may not like the idea.
Rhinehart also described to Vice how such an idea can make healthy nutrients more accessible to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. This applies to both sides of the coin too: those who battle with weight due to the availability of cheap, not so nutritious food and those who can’t get enough food in developing countries.
But for those who want to try it themselves, he offers caution.
“We’re not making pie here. It’s a lot easier to overdose or underdose with the raw elemental form than it is with food. It took me a while to arrange sources for all of these substances, as well,” he wrote.
The Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews spoke with medical experts who said the substance described on Rhinehart’s blog looked relatively safe:
Surprisingly, the answer from nutrition experts seems to be, “Yeah, probably.” Jay Mirtallo is a professor of pharmacy at Ohio State and the immediate past president of American Society for Parental Enteral Nutrition, which focuses on the science and practice of providing food to patients through both intravenous injections and feeding tubes. His main concern with Rhinehart’s plan is that he’s making the concoction himself, rather than buying it from reputable suppliers.
“He basically made medical food,” Mirtallo says. “If he wanted to switch to a liquid diet, those are already available.”
I asked Mirtallo if I could live a healthy life just drinking medical food from here on out. “You can completely,” he says. “But I don’t know why you’d want to. There are so many social aspects to food in what we do.”
Is Rhinehart still going food-free? He told Vice he continues to drink his “bachelor chow” but does have one or two normal meals a week.
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.