I am an engineer / entrepreneur. I have high hopes for the future of food and health. The product "Soylent" is a macro-nutritious food replacement that is cheap, healthy, environmentally friendly and has raised over $3 million in orders and investment. It has also generated a lot of good questions. Ask me them.

Soylent is also the subject of a new documentary, Life After Food, which followed the experiences of the first journalist to live on Soylent alone for 30 days.

However, I get asked the same questions a lot so if you ask me something interesting, weird, and/or science-y it would be more fun to answer.

Twitter proof

edit: If you'd like to try some before the launch Motherboard is giving some away here: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/win-soylent

edit 2: Thanks for all the questions, Reddit! I must be on my way now. Feel free to reach out to me anytime via my blog robrhinehart.com or @robrhinehart on twitter. Until then, bon ape tit.

Comments: 249 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

Gravy-Leg__27 karma

Why was the name Soylent chosen? Do you think some people will shy away from it due to connotations with Soylent Green?

Rob_Rhinehart52 karma

At first I wasn't designing it as a product, but an experiment. I like sci-fi and I thought the name fit. I also like to troll and thought it would rile some of the people that were sure to be offended by the idea. The connotation is key because it exposes emotional bias.

It's a good name. Like the product itself, it's not pretty but it works.

phatboyslim26 karma

Are you currently collecting certain data points for a long-term health study? Is this being done via a third party? Are there plans to make this data public in a certain timeframe (ex: 1yr/5yr/10yr)? Also, thanks for your work on Soylent, I hope the business continues to grow.

Rob_Rhinehart26 karma

Yes we're designing a study now with a lab that does just this sort of thing. We're targeting lots of different physiological parameters but in general we've seen cholesterol and triglyceride levels move pretty quickly.

Studies are expensive so if Soylent is doing well Q2 next year we'll get it going.

rrhinehart2122 karma

I don't like it that you have my name. Seriously. It freaks me out.

Rob_Rhinehart30 karma

I don't own it. It's just an address. We can share.

casssax20 karma

Any plans to work with NASA to get Soylent up to the ISS? Seems like it would be ideal for astronauts.

Rob_Rhinehart37 karma

Yes. Can't discuss much at this early stage but I have heard from NASA's astronaut office.

trombodie20 karma

Has Soylent affected your hair at all?

Rob_Rhinehart65 karma

Yes before I started Soylent I was completely bald.

MacPhyle20 karma

What's your plan to get Soylent into the third world?

Rob_Rhinehart52 karma

Run a profitable business in the developed world and use a revenue-balancing model to profit in some areas and take a hit in other areas, thus ensuring the company continues to grow while providing it to as many people as possible.

That, and make it cheaper.

rdarga16 karma

this might sound like a stupid question? But does the body have to adapt quite a bit to get used to soylent? Since its essentially nutrients and does away with a quite bit of extra mass people would have otherwise consumed? Is it possible to switch between Soylent and regular food on a day to day basis? I mean I love the idea of Soylent for long gaming/coding session but would still like to have butter chicken every once in a while.

Rob_Rhinehart34 karma

No testers have reported trouble adjusting. I regularly eat regular food. This concern likely comes from stories about fasting where the gut bacteria that helped digest food die. The fiber in Soylent keeps them alive.

Butter chicken is the bomb.

ProperGentlemanDolan15 karma

Hey, thanks for doing an AMA! Any chance you guys are going to put out a higher protein Soylent in the relatively near future? I'd love to try Soylent, but I need a good bit more protein than it has to offer for weightlifting purposes.

Also, and forgive me if this is idiotic, but could I not just add some whey protein to the Soylent mix to get my desired protein intake?

Rob_Rhinehart21 karma

You could absolutely just add additional whey. One of the testers put on quite a bit of muscle by calculating how much additional protein he would need and living on mostly Soylent and whey

mattparlmer13 karma

Rob, thanks for doing this AMA.

The two main questions implicitly raised by the folks at Vice in the documentary above were whether Soylent could be adapted to fit the female taste profile and what level of process control Soylent would be willing to adopt to increase food-safety standards.

On a less mundane note, do you plan on creating a nootropic version of Soylent, and if so, what would be included in the mix, and at what volume?


Edit: Can you/do you enjoy a drink on Soylent from time to time? I'm a whiskey drinker, and I'd love to know if you've ever had a problem.

Rob_Rhinehart21 karma

My pleasure. Taste profiles are tricky since there is so much variation within the population for taste perception and much more that goes in to the overall experience than what comes from the taste bud receptors (the brain does not clearly delineate different "senses"). This is why it's pretty bland, but still somewhat pleasant. It's easy to flavor on your own and you don't get tired of drinking it. Look up "sensory-specific satiety"

As for process control we don't mess around here. There are tons of QA / QC tests that must be run at several points in the manufacturing process. Soylent is regulated as a food, not a supplement (supplements have very little regulation)

Yes I have a lot of ideas for nootropics. Either a separate pack with your Soylent, or nootropic coffee grounds, or maybe a non-dairy coffee creamer with nootropics mixed in so you add them yourself. What do you think?

Time to time? I probably drink alcohol more than I should. I love a good Maker's, and I'm pretty in to beer.

jelder12 karma

I heard you implanted something in your own body to monitor glucose. How's that going?

Rob_Rhinehart29 karma

Great, I got a Dexcom G4 and it's awesome. My doctor is the man and wrote me a prescription even though I don't have diabetes.

I don't wear it all the time but when I do I like to eat random things and see how it affects my blood sugar. Soylent has a pretty low GI.

I wish it monitored insulin response and sent data to a smartphone rather than a separate receiver.

This is not the only piece of technology I have implanted.

stevethguy19 karma

Please don't let that hang. What else have you implanted?

Rob_Rhinehart24 karma

I have a neodymium magnet in my finger that allows me to sense magnets and strong electromagnetic fields.

io_di11 karma

What do you see as the biggest risks of Soylent, if any?

Rob_Rhinehart39 karma

Soylent could potentially be used to facilitate a poor work / life balance. One of my fears is someone would turn down a social eating engagement to work and drink Soylent.

mahajohn197510 karma

Rob - I'm pleased to be receiving two weeks of Soylent in February, and here's my question: what is your answer to those folks who vociferously and generally protest even the idea that someone could subsist on Soylent, and specifically those who believe that there are hundreds or thousands of 'phytonutrients' - known and unknown - that Soylent consumers would miss out on, and presumably then be subject to malnutrition or increased risks of various diseases?

Rob_Rhinehart23 karma

I think that belief is thinly-veiled vitalism. The idea that there must be something unknown or unknowable about living plants that we need sounds a lot like a "vital force".

On a practical level, there are plenty of people living that never or almost never eat fruits or vegetables. I rarely do. Getting their micronutrients from another source is a step up.

Finally, I have done a lot of reading on phytonutrients and found the effects are mostly random. Some may have helped a mouse model with a disease, but others exacerbate the issue. At some point I think we'll identify which phytochemicals are actually useful and why, and design synthetic chemicals that are more effective.

aaaalexandredo8 karma

hey man, glad you made that AMA, been waiting for that for ages.

Got a few questions:

When do you think realisticly soylent will be reachable to europeans? (uk)

Have you thought about other "presentations" for the soylent, other than the shake, like tabs, or bars.

are you thinking about any other projects??

Rob_Rhinehart7 karma

Optimistically Q3 next year.

Yes but liquid is really nice for nutrient absorption and powder is nice for shelf stability and transport costs. Also without the greater volume of the shake it would not be as satiating.

I have tons of ideas I want to test, but Soylent is my primary focus for the time being.

Chocoholic868 karma

Have you had anyone try Soylent during the beta testing phase who had bad reactions to it? For instance, felt more lethargic or weaker or ill while using it as part of their diet? (Or even as their complete diet)

Rob_Rhinehart17 karma

No one to my knowledge has had a negative reaction. I do not think an intolerance to an elemental essential nutrient could have entered the gene pool.

That said, you still have to listen to your body. Some forget to drink additional water and start to feel lousy. Others thought they had to drink it even when they're not hungry and experienced symptoms of overeating.

bagher16 karma

Can you answer some of the criticisms that Robb Wolf has raised?


Has there been ANY analysis of the thermodynamics/energetics of these proposed processes?

Is it really more ecological to make soylent, or eat grassfed meat, vegetables, fruit and tubers?

Rob_Rhinehart18 karma

Yes industrial processes are far more efficient than agricultural ones. It's intuitive in principal. A cow or soy plant will use much of the energy it consumes to keep itself alive, not to produce the ingredients you actually want from it.

Thus, focusing on producing elemental nutrients as directly and efficiently as possible will always be less wasteful than traditional agriculture.

sectorfour6 karma

Does Soylent satiate your hunger, or is it similar to crash dieting in that you just "get used to it"?

Rob_Rhinehart13 karma

It does satiate your hunger. You don't feel stuffed, but you certainly don't feel hungry.

VampiressXia5 karma

Hello Rob. Thank you soooo very much for making my dreams come true aka Soylent! I bought a months supply and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival. My question is are there any female testers my age with hormonal improvement? I am 51 and currently use BHRT to balance my levels.

Rob_Rhinehart3 karma

Sorry we haven't tested that effect specifically. This would be something we would monitor for our more official trial next year. The beta program was intended more for product development and basic monitoring. After it's out we'll focus more on tracking medical data.

limbodog5 karma

Hiya. I'm quite interested in your product and what you're doing here. I know you said you were looking to move towards entirely vegan sources for your ingredients, what other criteria do you take into consideration when choosing an ingredient?

I'm also curious if your ingredients include additional material not listed. (such as cellulose from vegetable matter etc.)

Thanks for doing this!

Rob_Rhinehart9 karma

Overall energy investment and waste. Ingredients that come from agriculture, especially animal products, are very wasteful and inefficient. It's not just plants though, some are more efficient to grow than others. Corn, for example, is an extremely efficient crop.

All ingredients are listed but you are right that a whole food source will have many different substances, some nutritive some not. This is why we want something as refined as possible. Each ingredient affecting a single nutrient.

uberlad5 karma


Rob_Rhinehart30 karma

I don't like giving advice.

I think humans can communicate information, but not wisdom. It has to be discovered. So, I can tell you what I did or do, but I can't honestly recommend what you should do.

One thing I've found works very well is assigning a very high value to information. Always know as much as possible. I think all value at some point comes from information asymmetry.

KrangsQuandary5 karma

Hey rob! Long time diy'er . How did the company settle on proper DRI levels when the studies behind so many of them seem so fuzzy?

free_tobuscus5 karma

What degrees do you have?

what is your favorite thing to grill out?

Rob_Rhinehart4 karma

I majored in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. I finished the first and left college to join Y Combinator before completing the second.

I like grilling so much it doesn't much matter to me what specifically we're making.

Aaron64Lol5 karma

What is the effect of getting off of soylent, after having been on it for some time?

Rob_Rhinehart6 karma

Personally, I feel a bit older and tired if I haven't had Soylent for a day or two.

Idle_Redditing4 karma

1) What separates soylent from other meal replacement shakes that have already been around for years?

2) Have you compared the environmental footprint of soylent to eating traditional food? How does it compare?

3) Are there any plans to make a gluten-free version for celiacs like me? I have to assume that the oats have gluten on them from being processed on the same equipment used for wheat, unless they're certified gluten-free.

4) Do you plan on changing the taste of soylent? I've seen a few videos where people are saying that they don't like the taste of it. A good analogy is that the makers of protein shakes had to do a lot of work on the taste of their products before they gained widespread use.

5) Do you have any plans for making a higher protein version for athletes?

6) Have any trials been done for people who are very active? I personally think it might be excellent for people doing things like hiking, climbing, etc. where they have to carry all their food in a backpack. It might also be excellent for the military.

Rob_Rhinehart5 karma

1) Completeness, convenience, cost, many use unacceptably high levels of simple sugars and saturated fats as well 2) Not as precise as I would like but Soylent is significantly easier on the environment than a typical western diet, largely due to the absence of animal products 3) Our oats are gluten-free 4) We're finalizing the taste right now but unlike most foods that is not the primary constraint 5) Yes but it may be easier to just add in some additional whey yourself 6) Most of our testers are quite active. I love to hike and run. Some days I go through 2 bags of Soylent

eclip5e4 karma

Do you have any good recipes for using Soylent as in ingredient in a larger meal?

Have you made a Soylent ice-cream?

Rob_Rhinehart16 karma

Actually yes Soylent ice cream works quite well since it's similar to milk.

I've seen Soylent creme brulee, muffins, pancakes, cookies, all sorts of stuff.

My next food hack is trying to make Soylent carrot cake. Yeah, carrot cake is the bomb.

Chocoholic864 karma

What ingredients in Soylent give it it's fiber content?

Rob_Rhinehart8 karma

Oat powder (also has juicy beta-glucans), xanthan gum, gum acacia. We used inulin for a while but we have enough fiber now without it.

sjaminei4 karma

Can you make it taste better?

Rob_Rhinehart13 karma

We can make it taste like anything. You need to provide a better definition of "better".

eclip5e4 karma

Do you wear a daily uniform?

Rob_Rhinehart19 karma

Not intentionally. I just don't own much clothing.

No1Asked4MyOpinion4 karma

Is Soylent certified Kosher? If not, are there plans to get certification?

Rob_Rhinehart8 karma

No ingredients are problematic. All that's required is getting a rabbi to bless it. Some manufacturers actually provide their own rabbi so yes.

lichorat4 karma

How do you know it's really all a body needs?

What kind of science have you used to make sure Soylent is safe?

Which leg is your favorite? And why?

What do you eat every day?

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Does it have dietary fiber? Vitamin K?

What are some alternative uses for soylent have you come across, besides human consumption? For example fuel of some sort.

If you were to open source some aspect of your life, what would it be?

Rob_Rhinehart11 karma

The entire human genome and all of our metabolic pathways have been illuminated. This combined with Elemental Analysis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_of_the_human_body) makes me confident that we know everything that we need.

I like righty. Good for balancing a book when I sit cross-legged.

I eat Soylent every day.

I spend most of my time working and studying.

Yes and yes

Soylent is a fuel of some sort. Fuels are not good for much else besides consumption. Some things, like wood, could be structure or fuel but generally it's better to optimize them separately.

I have a lot of my life quantified and have considered open sourcing it, e.g. my possession inventory and genome, but for some reason keep deciding not to. When you open up personal data do you lose some of your individuality?

HectorGM3 karma

Now that you're increasingly in the public eye, will you consider adopting the old political saw that irony doesn't play well to mass audiences? Personally I find it entertaining but it's probably not doing the Soylent brand any favours.

Rob_Rhinehart9 karma

My saying is you can never be sure until you test.

blinry3 karma

Which percentage of your calorie intake currently consists of Soylent?

Rob_Rhinehart9 karma


Gentiluomo3 karma

Can you pinpoint a single major event that changed your story from personal experiment to internet sensation?

Rob_Rhinehart4 karma

No I think it was more the critical mass of a lifetime of rational inquiry and honing my writing skills.

winningbackzelda3 karma

What batch version is the pack of Soylent Motherboard is giving away?

Rob_Rhinehart3 karma

It's the closed beta version.

dmorg182 karma

Rob, thanks for doing an AMA. I'm a big fan of the idea of Soylent, and I'm patiently waiting on my order.

Three questions/comments:

  1. I'm very interested in purchasing a ketogenic soylent mix. Any plans to implement this soon?
  2. Since different people have different caloric requirements, it seems like it would make sense to have a series of pills for required nutrients and only use the shake for the macronutrients.
  3. I was surprised to hear you're seeking funding to manufacture internally. What's the business reason for this decision?

Rob_Rhinehart7 karma

  1. While the science of going ketogenic is spotty it does not seem to be harmful so if there is enough demand we will likely implement a version.

  2. Perhaps but that would complicate its use. It is fine to just drink more of the entire blend since it's mostly calories by mass. Having a bit of extra potassium or Vitamin A is fine. The body is very effective at dealing with electrolyte or micronutrient excess (save iron but there is no way someone could induce an iron overdose with Soylent)

  3. Lower cost in the long term.

DariusJenai2 karma

I've heard Soylent described as tasting a bit like "Oatmeal Paste"

Are there any plans to create different flavors of Soylent for different tastes?

I'd love to be able to get a Pepperoni Pizza Soylent, or a Chocolate Mousse dessert one.

Rob_Rhinehart7 karma

Yes we could make it taste like anything, but if it had an overly specific flavor like pepperoni it would be grueling to eat it as often as I do.

Good idea. In fact I think in the future all of our Pizzas and staple meals will have a Soylent-esque nutritional make up and be designed purely for taste, texture, and appearance.

blinry2 karma

If we had the technology, would you like to live forever?

Rob_Rhinehart13 karma

No but I would like the ability to choose when I died and have a healthy body up to that point.

Archulerus1 karma

Are you having any luck with a vegan version or are you having difficulties doing that do to vitamin b12?

Rob_Rhinehart5 karma

B12 is fine it's the DHA and EPA that are hard. ALA alone from flax seed is not enough effective Omega 3. DHA and EPA come from algae in a fish's gut so it is possible to harvest the algae without the fish but it is much more expensive, for now.

[deleted]1 karma


Rob_Rhinehart14 karma

Its appearance. Food should be beautiful. Soylent is not.

edit: he asked what aspect of Soylent I am not proud of

innersmile1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Is it technologically feasible to create something like an implant that monitors all of your nutrients and hormone levels? If so, when do you think that day might come?

Also, I know some people have hormonal imbalances and the like, so how does a one size fits all nutrient solution like Soylent fit into this? Or is the implication that as long as you consume something like Soylent you won't need to regulate things anymore?

Rob_Rhinehart6 karma

Yes I've been thinking about such a device for many months now. I think surface enhanced raman spectroscopy could make this feasible in the next 5 years for some, but not all blood metrics.

I think a causal relationship between diet and hormone imbalance is not well understood. I'm not saying Soylent would fix such a problem, but it certainly would not exacerbate it any worse than the food they're eating already.

vladlenin91 karma

What's the next step for your company? Sorry if this is a repetitive question, but I'm a Finance major taking a course in entrepreneurship next semester. Are you planning on reaching out to angel investors soon? It looks like, from your website, that you've crowdsourced most of your funding for now, but how long will you be able to keep that up without backers?

On another note, what do you view as threats to Soylent as a product, and how do you believe the project will achieve the mainstream success you're looking for?

Rob_Rhinehart5 karma

We raised some private capital as well. From Venture Capitalists not angels. As long as growth is good we just focus on scale and cost.

I see fast food and groceries as our main competitors. I think we are already on the path to mainstream success. Soylent fills a very important gap in the market.

MXBM1 karma


Rob_Rhinehart5 karma

I love fish. Sushi is my favorite food.

robbiet4801 karma

How happy are you to get out of 1510 Webster? Knowing that building pretty well, I would assume very very very happy. :)

Rob_Rhinehart9 karma

Part of me will miss the old Tien-Hu knitting factory. Especially the rooftop. Our new place is a major upgrade though.

API-Beast0 karma


Rob_Rhinehart2 karma

If you could grow a human outside a womb would you do it?

CapableLover-1 karma

What's all this about the Vice crew finding rats and mold? Is that still a thing or have you upgraded your facilities?

Is soylent gluten free? My girlfriend is celiac. Could it be if it isn't?

Is it true that your poop turns tan and sticky on soylent?

Rob_Rhinehart10 karma

We left that facility long ago and it was never intended to house primary Soylent production.

There is no gluten in Soylent.

Not in my experience. It's quite normal.

[deleted]-4 karma


Rob_Rhinehart7 karma

Why on earth would I kill Art and Spencer? 3M is one of my favorite companies.