First, what exactly is in drinks like Huel?
Huel bills itself as a nutritionally complete powdered food which combines oats, pea protein, brown rice protein, flaxseeds and sunflower oil with coconut fat. Mix all of that with water and you apparently have a vegan shake that delivers your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals alongside sensible amounts of protein, fat and carbs. Its more recently launched competitors also bring together varying amounts of carbs, protein, fat and fibre as well as vitamins and minerals.
What makes Huel stand out?
Rather than targeting bodybuilders with a protein-only offering, Huel combines all 26 macro and micronutrients, explains naturopathic nutritionist Jess Shand. “It also contains a good amount of protein, essential fats, carbs and fibre, making it one of the best meal replacement drinks out there.”
Is it worth trying?
If you skip meals when busy or find yourself reaching for poor nutritional choices during the working week, it could be worth trying a product like Huel, says Jess. “For example, if you usually skip breakfast, drinking a meal replacement like Huel is definitely better than skipping breakfast completely, which can wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels.” For those faced with a schedule of back-to-back meetings, Huel’s simplicity may appeal – simply add water, shake and drink.
Is replacing food with liquid bad for digestion?
Doubts have been raised about the satiating effect of liquid-based diets – it’s believed the body doesn’t register liquid calories in the same way as solids. “One of the drawbacks of meal replacement products is that you don’t feel you’ve consumed a meal,” says Lily Chapman, performance coach and nutritionist for P3RFORM. “Most meal shakes contain 400-500 calories per portion, which on one hand makes them a useful way to replace meals when you are pushed for time, but on the other hand they lack food volume, meaning it’s likely you’ll feel hungry again soon after consuming a shake due to its fast gastric emptying and the speed at which you consume it.” Huel would counter that it isn’t a liquid – it’s a powder you add liquid to.