I live in the UK, and I’m looking for a private dietitian who could help me formulate a Soylent recipe based on my goals and particular situation. Or at least have an intelligent, science-based conversation about it.
A year ago I consulted an NHS dietician about this, but she was either unable or unwilling to think outside the box. She could only tell me about the standard recommended diet, and suggested that the Soylent thing was probably a bad idea. I’d have been happy to be convinced, but she didn’t really have an argument.
I’m hoping to have better luck with a private dietitian. My new health insurance covers two sessions, and for the right person I would even be willing to pay myself. But this kind of thing is quite expensive, so I’d like some help finding the right person. In my search so far, none of the profiles I found mention anything like Soylent. I suppose that’s not too surprising.
Does anyone have experience with this? Do you know:
a specific dietitian who might be a good fit?
some alternative search terms I might use?
what I should be looking out for? Warning signs? Hopeful signs?
The premise here seems off to me. It would be like asking a guitarist to give you voice lessons just because they are both related to music. A dietitian specializes in creating optimal meal plans for a variety of situations and preferences. Soylent replaces the need for balanced meals by giving you everything you need in one drink. You might have better luck asking a software engineer on how to formulate such a product.
I am a software engineer. And sure, I can create a mix that satisfies the constraints of a given nutrient profile, if I have a list of the available ingredients. But I still have these problems:
I’m not sure which nutrient profile I should aim for.
I don’t know all possible ingredients that exist.
I’m not sure nutrients is all I should care about in the first place.
I want to know about metabolism, ketosis, calorie deficits, etc.
Basically, I’m not convinced everything just translates so neatly. I want to to speak with someone who knows about metabolism and nutrition and who has a protected title (so ‘nutritionist’ is out). Maybe that’s not a dietitian. If not, who am I looking for?
The software engineer bit was tongue-in-cheek (Rob Rhinehart was a software engineer), but I understand where you’re coming from more now.
A dietitian should be able to help with points 1, 3, and 4, but point 2 feels much closer to the realm of supplementation. A person is a person though, and a single title hardly indicates the scope of their knowledge, so finding a dietitian who also specializes in supplementation might be your best bet. It’s weird though, point 1 (barring medical conditions) is pretty consistent across every human and point 3 goes back to that. Point 4 is probably much more straightforward than you realize and it would hardly take a registered dietitian to inform you on those topics, but I can understand wanting to cut through all the crap and get the truth from someone reliable.
Regardless, you might just want to call around and be upfront about your plans and expectations. That should help to eliminate options that aren’t what you’re looking for. You’re looking for something somewhat outside of what they generally offer, so make sure it’s something that they are willing to do.
You hit the nail on the head with “wanting to cut through all the crap and get the truth from someone reliable”. I realise one can be an expert without a title, but I have to narrow my search somehow. There is much contradictory advice out there, and it’s not easy for me to distinguish between a good nutritionist and a bad one. And becoming a dietitian at least requires a certain level of education and thinking. It’s the best I could think of.
And you’re also quite right that having the title doesn’t guarantee they can help me, or even that they’re any good. This is why I’m asking for advice on this forum. “Supplementation” is a keyword I’ll be sure to look out for.
It’s weird though, point 1 (barring medical conditions) is pretty consistent across every human
Regardless, you might just want to call around and be upfront about your plans and expectations. That should help to eliminate options that aren’t what you’re looking for.
That did come to mind, and I probably will. But part of me is afraid that many of them will just tell me what they think I want to hear when I speak to them on the phone. Looking through the BDA list of registered dietitians in private practice, it seems that under ‘clinical expertise’, many of them list all keywords under the sun. I guess I can’t blame them. That’s how the incentives are aligned in a competitive market. But it does make it hard to find exactly what I’m looking for. Though maybe I’m too cynical.
The two people I know of who have thought most deeply on this are not academic nutritionists but DIY entrepreneurs, @GenesisFoodSolutions and @axcho. In your shoes I would try to open a conversation with either or both of them.
Sounds good. @GenesisFoodSolutions and @axcho: I’d love to get your views. (I assume they are notified when @-mentioned? And I’ll have a look at their other posts here.)
And it’s not academics I’m attached to, but the scientific method. There’s something about double-blind studies, bayesian statistics and peer-review that gets us closer to an understanding of the real world. Something that we simply don’t get with personal experience and anecdotes. We humans are biased thinkers, prone to believing what we want to believe, just because we want to believe it.
If there is room for preferences in a nutrient profile (which isn’t based on caloric total), then finding an optimum can’t be all that clear-cut, which is basically why I have questions. My questions have to do mostly with the fat / carbs / protein ratio, and how to scale everything under a caloric deficit, as I want to lose body-fat.
I do have some academic knowledge on the topic from a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in biomedical sciences, but not an official dietitian qualification.
In terms of micronutrients for pills, I’d say don’t include any fat-soluble ones as they won’t absorb properly (so no vitamins A, D, E or K), and you’d probably want to not include electrolytes either due to bulkiness (so no calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium or chloride). I’d also not bother with phosphorus in the pills for similar bulkiness reasons. You can include the fat-soluble vitamins as well if you’re taking them with a meal or snack with fats in, but if not I’d avoid it. Doing so basically gives you the product Super Micros that axcho sells - it comes from the US but I’ve ordered it to the UK multiple times and always received it (though it was delayed for a couple of weeks at customs once). This comes in at 4g per day, so you’d be able to fill it into capsules if you really wanted it in tablet/capsule form. We (Genesis Foods) are working on a similar mix, but it’ll also contain electrolytes and flaxseed/gum arabic depending on the version, so likely isn’t what you’re looking for.
In terms of nutrient profiles to follow, this will depend somewhat on your intended goals. You can compare RDAs from various boards in this spreadsheet I made a while back. Again though, Super Micros goes above and beyond these recommendations (you can see more details from axcho in this reddit post, which has links to some of the threads where they were detailing what would be included). With our products, we have in the past used Super Micros, but are now developing our own blends with some minor changes which we consider improvements, but Super Micros is still an absolutely fantastic product which will suit your needs amazingly. I’d recommend our own micronutrient mixes when we sell them, but they’ll come in at about 35-40 grams of powder per day, which in tablet/capsule form will be at least 20, and more likely 30 pills (plus it includes fat-soluble micros so needs to be consumed with fats). If all you need is something that tastes more natural, there are a few meal replacements with unflavoured options (including our own), but if you do just need the micros in an easy to consume form, Super Micros is the way to go.
The NHS has to work with very strict guidelines, and unfortunately that often means they’re quite late to adopt new approaches even when studies show benefits. This is often very good, as it means they’re certain their recommendations are generally good, but it also means with new markets like those of nutritionally-complete meal replacements, most NHS dietitians are a few years behind. This is why the NHS has only just started recommending low-carb diets instead of medication to treat type 2 diabetes, and it’s why the dietitian you consulted didn’t help very much. Private may well be better, but it will depend who you go with I would suspect. The market is still very new so dietitians are sceptical in many cases.
I’m unsure for specific dietitians you’d want to go to. You could listen to some nutritionist podcasts though if it’s an area you’re interested in.
Alternative terms will depend on how much self-study you’re willing to do. If quite a bit, you can consult various meta-analyses on different micronutrients and try to find recommendations broken down more into values for your age/sex/weight/height demographics amongst others, and do that for all the micros to work out a tailored plan for you. If you want a quick and easy solution, use Super Micros, and then for macros have a decent amount of oats for carbs, some flax/fish for omega 3, and then whatever you want really (though more meat/fish for protein and nuts/seeds for fats would be very healthy, along with fruit and veg of course).
In terms of warning signs, again it depends on how much study you’re willing to do. You could make a list of the deficiency signs of every micronutrient so you’re aware of the likely culprits if you do experience symptoms. Many deficiencies share similar symptoms so you likely wouldn’t pinpoint a specific micro rather than a selection, but that’s still helpful. With that said, millions of people live perfectly adequately with sub-optimal diets, so it’s unlikely you’d encounter a really severe nutritional deficiency.
In terms of hopeful signs, this depends on your current diet largely. If you’re already fairly healthy, you may not notice much change at all. If you’re unhealthy though, over time you should encounter better sleep, more stable energy levels, and generally better health all round.
Just saw this in your most recent post. One thing I personally get good results on for fat loss is ketosis. Look into this if it’s something that interests you, but it’s basically a very-low carb, adequate-protein and high-fat diet. Assuming you’re not using a ketogenic meal replacement or following a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, you’ll get most of your calories from meats, fish, nuts, seeds, cheeses and veg (less fruit due to the sugar). The idea is to stick below 30g of net carbs per day so your body uses fat as its primary fuel source. Weight loss still comes down to calories in vs calories out, but more of this lost weight (assuming a caloric deficit) is in the form of fat under a ketogenic diet, but more importantly, the hormone ghrelin (which in simple terms signals hunger) is suppressed when in ketosis, so you don’t really experience hunger pangs like you do normally.
Many thanks for your thorough reply! I have a bunch of questions (if it’s not too inconvenient).
Interesting. The multi-vitamins I take contain each of those. I even take extra vitamin D supplements (I don’t get out in the sun much). Neither tells me I should take them with a meal. Is that negligence on their part?
I’d be happy to change my supplement schedule in light of this information, if you think that makes sense. At the moment I take all my supplements in the evening, for no particular reason. How much fat-intake is required to absorb these, and what is the relevant time-frame?
Those are all in my supplements as well (multi-vitamins & minerals). What does “bulkiness” mean?
I need something that I am able to drink without being compelled to spit it out. I don’t expect you to have read all my previous posts, but I have this annoying eating disorder / phobia that limits my options. Unfortunately, I have found commercial EU Soylent-equivalents undrinkable. Currently I’m having some success with my incomplete milk / coconut based recipe + supplements.
I’m interested to a point. I have a busy life, and not enough time to immerse myself in the topic. Ideally, I would find an expert I could consult.
Your other three paragraphs are well-considered and appreciated, but they misinterpreted the other two points in my list, which were all related to finding a dietitian. Sorry for being unclear there.
The way you interpreted my questions, they are actually ones I do eventually want to ask, though, and get into that self-study. For now, I just want to get my diet in a good general direction before I start thinking on a fine-grained level.
One thing I personally get good results on for fat loss is ketosis.
I’ve heard this advice before, and it may be promising. Before I just jump into it, though, I want to gain a better understanding of the approach, the evidence for its efficacy, and how it would fit into my specific situation. I listed it above as a topic I want to discuss with a dietitian.
If I just get into a ketogenic diet half-cocked, I’m liable to do it wrong and misinterpret the result. Or, if I need to abandon it, I want to know I have a healthy diet to fall back to. (My current diet probably isn’t great.) I would love to eventually reach your level of confidence, and the freedom to experiment, but I need to get there the right way.
And frankly, I’m the type of personality who benefits from having someone other than myself to be accountable to. A dietitian might fulfil that role as well.
It’s not so much negligence because you do still absorb some, you just want to account for the decrease when working out your dose. From this Examine article: “It turns out that vitamin D is best absorbed with a low-to-moderate amount of fat, compared to no fat or lots of fat. Specifically, researchers have showed that 11 grams of fat leads to higher absorption than either 35 grams or 0 grams, at 16% higher and 20% higher respectively.”
So relative to no fat at the same time as supplementing vitamin D, you’ll absorb 20% more if you have a moderate fat intake. What’s clear from the above though is that you shouldn’t overdo it either, as doing so also cuts absorption. The article does touch on some limitations of the study though (namely dose), and there’s frustratingly little research on the topic. Nonetheless, if your supplement regime counts on getting all of your vitamin D dose, it would probably be best to take it with at least some fat. I’m unsure on the optimal fat intake for other fat-soluble vitamins though unfortunately, though their deficiency is rarer so likely less of an issue.
By bulkiness I mean how much space they take up for a daily dose. If the amount of space they take up is large, you’d need more pills or capsules with the supplements in to be able to consume the RDA of them.
The 4g I reference is the daily recommended serving size of Super Micros. The problem with too much specific tailoring of your intake is it becomes harder and harder to find products on the market that will suit your needs. Super Micros aims to provide enough of each micro (in very bioavailable forms) to not only meet the requirements for basically everyone, but also to provide benefits that higher-dose supplementation can bring. Now naturally there may be some people who could still benefit from more, especially if they have higher-than-norm requirements, but that would require far more personal tailoring, and the only real way to work that out would be to have comprehensive blood panels done. That’s always the best way for working out personal needs, though gets really expensive.
You’re correct that micronutrients don’t all scale linearly, though that was in reference to differing caloric intakes where some believe if you only need 1500 calories, you only need 75% of the micros you would if you needed a 2000 calorie diet. Unfortunately this is another area where research is annoyingly sparse. A single fixed ‘optimal micronutrient mix’ makes sense in so much as it can be an excellent base to work with, and the vast majority of people aren’t aiming extremely specific and minor benefits. Short of completely customised and bespoke blends for individuals based on blood panels, it won’t be completely perfect. But what’s worth bearing in mind is that we can make these mixes have a little more than the average person needs for maximal benefits (so long as we stay below harmful levels), and doing so means those maximal benefits are recognised by more people. So for example, your optimal magnesium dose may be 450mg per day, and someone else’s may be 500mg - we can make it optimal for both of you by including 500mg, assuming that extra 50mg for you doesn’t inhibit something else (which it doesn’t seem to if you use the right micronutrient forms). So while for an exact optimal blend levels of each micro would be completely tailored to you, you can still make an optimal blend for multiple people by just including more than some would need to meet the needs of others. You don’t want to push that too far, of course, as if you’re including enough to meet the needs of the 99.9th percentile, you may end out including too much for others, but it still allows you to create a blend that for the majority could be considered “optimal”.
Ah I’m sorry to hear that. I’d be happy to send you a sample meal of one of our products if you’d like to try, as it uses some similar ingredients to your blend, but I totally understand if you’d rather avoid that. I notice you have two different coconut flours in there - is there any particular reason? For your reference, the product we sell uses whey protein and coconut milk powder, as well as oats and flax, for the macronutrients.
No problem, I have a tendency to talk at length on these topics and get carried away - my fault entirely!
Yeah that’s probably for the best. We still have some Super Micros left from when we were buying from Super Body Fuel, so if you were wanting to give it a shot just to improve the micronutrient side of your recipe, I’d be happy to send a sample of a week’s worth or something. If interested, private message me and we’ll sort that out. That would replace your A-Z, multivitamin, vitamin C, magnesium + B6, vitamin D and choline tablets, which could save some time. You’d need to get capsules as it comes in powder form (unless you were happy to try with just the powder), but that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Absolutely the best way to go. What works for some people won’t work for others, but too many have a tendency to jump into things without adequate study. Discussion with a dietitian is definitely the best way to go.
Well if you do find you have any other questions I may be able to help with, I’d be happy to try. For now though, it does sound like consulting with a dietitian would be best, especially if they aren’t too expensive! Best of luck