Meal Replacement Shakes, are one of the top selling categories of health supplement. They are certainly nothing new, with famous brands like"Slimfast" making them mainstream way back in 1977. A lot has changed however, as the science moves on and the branding becomes ever more bold, we thought we'd test one of the most talked about on the market... HUEL®.
(This was purchased by us at full price and is an honest , unpaid review)
You'll have seen this brand around we're sure, despite it's simple branding they pop up everywhere online, tube station posters and even on TV. With features running on BBC news, Food Unwrapped and multiple Youtube channels. It certainly is a masterclass in modern day marketing. Some call it a "designer food replacement", branding-wise this is certainly more Ikea than JJB sport. The almost"no fuss" branding makes a delightful change to the usual image of slim and ripped models wrapping tape measures around themselves packet.
Starter kits for first time buyers include two bags of the powder itself (minimum order is two bags but they can be any combination of flavours), a thank you card (always nice), a T-shirt (in the brown envelope), a shaker bottle and a guide book. Delivery of all this was extremely quick, I ordered at 8pm and it arrived at my door the next day at 10:30am, better than Amazon!
So What About The Powder...
Based on pea and rice proteins rather than the usual whey or at the lower end of the market you'll find meal replacements bulked out with maltodextrin and other un-nutritious alchemy. So HUEL is certainly notching up the differences to the rest of the market.
The other big name making waves is of course SOYLENT from the U.S of A. I'm not going to lie, I did have to take a deeper look into each brand before deciding which one to test. What tipped me heavily into the HUEL camp was the staggering difference in Protein, Fibre and Sugar. In a 2,000 calorie intake you'll get 75g of sugar from Soylent compared to just 6.2g from HUEL - no photo finish needed there! Also the heavy use of Soy in soylent was not for me.
HUEL is not overly flavourful, let's address that now. Even the vanilla is just o.k. The taste is a sweet vanilla taste and has a very oat-like aftertaste. This may on first impression sound like a damning criticism, to me this is one of it's greatest appeals...let me explain. A few years ago I tried a meal replacement powder, I forget the brand, it was delicious, sweet strawberry. I loved it, until day four. It became a sickeningly repetitive chore to use and easily began to make me feel sick. With HUEL though, it can be whatever I feel like on that day; frozen strawberry smoothie, iced coffee, pumpkin spiced, cinnamon, whatever I like really. It's a base, an ingredient almost. The online forums are buzzing with ideas, some a little crazy like green tea and marmite (yes, in the same drink) but it really does drive the imagination. So the major plus of HUEL is that for just a few extra minutes a day I can have a variety of flavours and still keep my nutrition on track.
I did also purchase the new Mint Chocolate flavour, mainly because no one had a bad word to say about it. This is the gem of the HUEL flavours, not too sweet and a perfect hit of mint and chocolate akin to an Aero bar. I think that an order of one vanilla and one mint choc will be my perfect order from now on.
HUEL do sell flavour packs, I personally have never used one but can see the appeal. Personally I like to stick to a few tried and tested flavours I can make at home with things I always have in the cupboards.
So what Flavours work?....
Double Espresso Shot - Perfect morning start. Easily matches an expensive high-street chilled latte.
Pumpkin Spice - Found this one in the starter guide and was happily surprised. An affordable blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and ginger. Giving a very autumnal and indulgent shake.
Cinnamon Solo - It's cinnamon, who doesn't love cinnamon. Great for those days when I really had to grab and go. Dump one teaspoon in the mix and done.
Berry Delicious - Toss a handful of frozen berries in with your HUEL and blitz it in a blender.
Key Features we liked...
Huel is a complete food with all the vitamins and minerals your body needs
Huel contains at least 100% of the recommended daily amounts of all 26 essential vitamins and minerals
Huel is suitable for vegetarians and vegans and contains no soy.
This is certainly a sound product in terms of flavour, nutrition and value. While you could in theory live off this alone for all your meals, we and HUEL themselves, I believe, don't recommend it. While possible, it would seriously restrict your social life. No more cheeky pizza with mates or girlfriend after work if you're a full-time HUELER.
The starter sets come with a handy guide book, something other brands could learn from. With monotony often the main reason i've quit these products in the past, it feels more supportive that I had a guide and online support to give me recipe ideas to keep things interesting. Also guiding me through the first few days with it, what to expect and building a meal plan around it.
Good For Fitness Goals?...
Reasons for using HUEL vary greatly. Everything from improving diet to being just too lazy to meal prep. I fall into one or all of these categories depending on how busy and stressful life is at that time. I do have a very regular and structured fitness regime, so I was curious, if a little worried, as to how well HUEL would fuel my workouts.
I jog 5km three days a week and during the course of this review I was also testing the 5X5 Stronglifts app, HUEL did keep me in the game but there was a transition period. A 3 day hump where even on one shake a day, I felt a little underpowered. Having spoken to a few nutritionists this is entirely normal and is possibly more psychological than physical. Whatever the reason, after three days and eating clean around my shake, I was back to 100% performance in the gym and continued to progress with my Stronglifts program. This continued even when I transitioned to two shakes a day. I recommend a calorie and nutrition tracker alongside this product such as FitnessPal, this is to ensure you are hitting your daily calorie goals and macros.
Will I continue HUEL? ...
Yes, I see no reason not to. While I have no quantitative data to support what I say, I do feel healthier. A bit leaner and still hitting my gym and running goals, something I have truly never done while using a similar type of product.
It is a great product that has raised the bar for the whole industry, crafting not just a product or brand but an entire healthy lifestyle. The support network of other users sharing their experiences and above all recipe ideas, has seriously been a great resource. Thank you HUEL and the other HUELERS out there that got me started on a better lifestyle.