What is Huel?
Huel—a combination of the words human and fuel—is a versatile, nutritionally complete powdered food that can be prepared in less than two minutes, provides all 26 essential vitamins and minerals, and is less expensive than traditional food.
On top of this, the manufacturer claims that Huel delivers zero food (and very little packaging) waste, is ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, represents low carbon emissions, can be used as little or as often as you like, and has a shelf life of 12 months.
Just because Huel might provide you with a balanced diet, though, is this meal replacement shake enjoyable? Will it make optimum health fun, or will you be left struggling to drink it after the initial novelty wears off? Are there better options?
You’re here because you want to know more about Huel—and whether or not it will fit into your life—which is exactly what we’ll help you figure out.
First, though, what does it mean to be nutritionally complete? What are the benefits?
What Does “Nutritionally Complete” Mean?
While there’s no formal definition for ‘nutritionally complete,’ the term is generally used to describe something that provides all the nutrition—the essential vitamins, nutrients, and calories—your body needs; something that could be used as a sole source of nutrition.
While the precise Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for the US and the Nutrient Requirements for Europe (the standards to which Huel is formulated) can differ slightly, there are five groups of essential nutrients all humans need in order to maximize health:
- Some minerals
- Some amino acids from proteins
- Some fatty acids
Surprisingly, while much of the industrialized world has access to more food and calories that at any other point in human history, the CDC's Second Nutrition Report found that up to 1/3 of the American population is nutrient deficient.
Furthermore, over 10% of the population was found deficient in vitamin B6, 9% (mostly women) in iron, 8% vitamin D, 6% vitamin C, and 2% vitamin B12.
While this might not sound like a big deal, the reality is that vitamin deficiencies can cause some unwelcome side effects, since they’re required by our body for basic functioning. For example, authoritative websites like the NIH, Mayo Clinic, and WebMD reference:
- Vitamin B6 deficiency – Anemia, scaling on the lips, depression, confusion, and weakened immune function
- Iron deficiency – Dizziness, fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, and trouble concentrating
- Vitamin D deficiency – Cognitive impairment, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of cancer
- Vitamin C deficiency – Bleeding gums, decreased immune response and wound healing, dry hair, gingivitis, and nosebleeds
- Vitamin B12 deficiency – Weakness, fatigue, pale skin, bowel problems (constipation or diarrhea), nerve problems, and vision loss
To help combat nutritional deficiencies, Huel promises to contain all the nutrients and calories you need, whether consumed as a snack, as an occasional meal replacement, or even as your sole nutritional source.
What ingredients does Huel use to accomplish this?
Which Ingredients Are Included In Huel? How Can You Use It?
Instead of a supplement, the manufacturer tells us that Huel is a food source in a powdered format that can help you get all the vitamins, nutrients, and calories you need.
Specifically, each 100g serving contains the following (per label for Vanilla flavor):
- Oats (contains gluten)
- Pea Protein
- Ground Flaxseed
- Brown Rice Protein
- Vanilla Flavor System (Vanilla Flavoring, Thickeners: Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum and Carrageenan, Maltodextrin*, Sweetener: Sucralose)
- MCT Powder (from Coconut)
- Sunflower Lecithin
- Vitamin & Mineral Blend: Xylitol*, Potassium Chloride 440mg, Tricalcium Phosphate, Vitamin C (as L-Ascorbic Acid) 60.2mg, Choline (as L-Choline Bitartrate) 40.1mg, Lutein 1.2mg, Lycopene 1mg, Vitamin E (as DL-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate) 2.4mg, Niacin (as Niacinamide) 3.2mg, Vitamin K2, Vitamin A (as Retinyl Palmitate) 160mcg, Maltodextrin*, Vitamin D2 3mcg, Pantothenic Acid (as Calcium-D-Pantothenate) 1.2mg, Vitamin B6 (as Pyridoxine Hydrochloride) 0.3mg, Riboflavin 0.3mg, Vitamin K1 20.1mcg, Chromium 8mcg, Chloride 161mg, Potassium Iodide 440mg, Folate (as L-Methylfolate Calcium) 40mcg, Biotin 10mcg, Vitamin B12 (as Cyanocobalamin) 0.5mcg, Iron 8.3mg
Compared to many of the other nutritional supplements and meal replacement shakes we written about, the Huel website does an outstanding job of defining terms (many of which we referenced above), discussing the rationale behind their ingredients, how these ingredients can potentially benefit your body, and even how to cook with the powder (heating, recipes, smoothies).
This includes dedicated sections like the Beginner’s Guide to Nutrition, the Guide to Protein, Digestion and Absorption; and Food Processing and Good Nutrition guide. If you haven’t at least skimmed through these pages yet, we’d strongly recommend doing do.
Which Flavors Are Available for Huel? Calorie Content?
Huel itself is available in a Vanilla flavor, as well as an Unflavored & Unsweetened version that allows you to add your own flavor and sweetener to taste.
You’ll have additional options with one of Huel’s nine powdered flavor systems, including Strawberry, Chocolate, Banana, Matcha Tea, Cacao, Pineapple & Coconut, Mocha, Toffee, Rhubarb, and Custard. Simply add to taste.
Each scoop of Huel is between 152 and 155 calories, depending on flavor, which allows you to know exactly how many calories you consume, with a glycemic index of 27.
You can impact the consistency and sweetness of your Huel by altering the amount of water, as well as other liquids like milk (both real and alternative) and fruits. The company recommends a ratio of five parts Huel to one part water.
In addition to drinks, Huel can be added to a shot of coffee, used as “super flour” for baking, and as an added nutrition source for snacks and desserts.
It certainly seems like Huel is easy to use and can help ensure your body’s getting all the nutrients it needs. But will you experience any side effects?
Are There Any Potential Side Effects With Huel?
Bodyhack Limited tells us that Huel is 100% vegan, free from most potential allergens, without any obvious medication interactions, and is suitable for people with most conditions. This includes type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
However, they note that the powder’s fiber content can act like a sponge, so it’s important to consume a lot of water.
They also note that you should consult with a doctor if you have celiac disease, metabolism issues, inflammatory bowel disease, are a child under 3, and if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Huel also contains sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener made with some unsavory chemicals like chlorine. Despite this, the FDA states that the ingredient does not pose carcinogenic, reproductive, or neurological risks to humans.
Even though Huel is nutritionally complete, does it cost a lot?
How Much Will You Pay for Huel? Are There Any Other Associated Costs?
Regular Huel is priced as follows:
- 2 Bags (28 meals, 14K calories): £45 (about $56)
- 4 Bags (56 meals, 28K calories): £86 (about $107)
- 8 Bags (112 meals, 56K calories): £165 (about $204)
- 2 Bags: £50 (about $62)
- 4 Bags: £96 (about $119)
- 8 Bags: £184 (about $228)
Nutritionally complete Bar:
- 5 Bars: £12 (about $15)
- 16 Bars: £35 (about $44)
- 32 Bars: £55 (about $68)
If you agree to recurring orders, your price will decrease by 10%. If you purchase eight bags, this means each 500-calorie serving will cost you about £1.47, or $1.82.
Important note: According to Huel’s FAQ:
“Huel is not currently available in the United States or Canada. However, we have a facility in North America that we will be shipping Huel from early 2017.”
Another important thing to remember is that you'll need something to mix Huel in, which is why all first-time orders come with a free shaker. If you plan to consume Huel more than once per day, this means you’ll need to wash your existing shaker repeatedly or purchase additional shakers.
The manufacturer also recommends using a blender for optimum results.
All Huel purchases come with a 30-day refund policy, less S&H charges, although the package must be unused and in the same condition that you received it in order to qualify.
To request a refund, the company can be reached at 01296 769 279, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via an online contact form.
Are Huel’s customers finding the added convenience is worth the per-serving price?
What’s Everyone Saying In Their Huel Reviews?
There were dozens of glowing testimonials listed on the Huel website (it was even reviewed by three independent dietitians), but are customers saying the same things on third-party sites?
On Amazon UK, Huel’s Vanilla powder had 68 customer reviews and an average rating of 3.9 stars. There, most complaints appeared to reference effective weight loss results, convenience, continued satiety, and competitive price (especially compared to eating out).
On the other hand, more than one customer complained about Huel’s taste and/or texture, side effects like IBS and bloating, as well as temporary digestive upset and gassiness as the body adjusts.
YouTuber Utorak007 spent 32 days drinking 2/3 of his calories through Huel, and also experienced increased gassiness. He felt Huel's texture was powdery and that its taste was unpleasant, although adding two teaspoons of sugar, as well as strawberries, drastically improved the flavor.
YouTuber Purely Amy described Huel’s taste a texture like a watery smoothie with little chunks in it. She noted that she could taste the wheat granules, but it doesn't necessarily feel like a meal replacement; it feels more like a smoothie.
She was concerned that Huel contains 24g of carbs per serving, although the recommend daily intake of carbohydrates is between 225g and 325g, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
In the end, Amy wasn’t sure who would benefit from Huel or who would fit it into their life.
Peter didn’t mince words when he called the taste and texture “revolting” and that it felt like vomiting in reverse. He found it more palatable with additional flavoring, but after replacing his lunches with the powdered food, he eventually found that “a new type of joylessness has engulfed lunchtimes.”
Similarly, Abigail found Huel difficult to swallow at first, but noted that she got used to it after a while. It also helped keep her full.
Who Founded Huel?
From a company perspective, Huel is manufactured by Bodyhack, based out of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, which was founded in 2014.
The company was co-founded by Julian Hearn, who came up with the idea after adhering to a strict diet plan, and James Collier, a nutritionist with more than 25 years of experience.
Previously, Julian founded the coupon websites Happier.co.uk and Promotionalcodes.org.uk, and James founded healthyaction.co.uk and has co-authored a number of e-books and written numerous magazine articles.
Huel vs. Soylent vs. Joylent & Other Nutritionally Complete Shakes
Although Huel didn’t seem to win over a lot of customers with its taste, the reality is that it’s just one in a recent wave of nutritionally complete shakes (sometimes also referred to as meal replacement shakes).
How does it stack up? Here's a quick comparison with some of the most popular options (note: Huel, Joylent, and Queal were only available in Europe at the time of writing):
|Huel||As low as $1.82 per 500 calories||Powder||Yes||500 calories per scoop, 26 essential vitamins and minerals|
|Coffiest by Soylent||$3.08||Liquid||Yes||400 calories per serving, 25 micro-nutrients, all macro-nutrients|
|Joylent||As low as $1.76||Powder||Yes – one version||407 calories per scoop, 26 essential vitamins and minerals|
|Queal||$2.45 per meal||Powder||No (vegetarian)||Standard = 2,100 calories per bag, 26 essential vitamins and minerals|
|Orgain||Liquid = $2.24 per serving||Liquid, powder, & bar versions||Yes (some versions)||Liquid = 250 calories per serving, 23 vitamins and minerals, 10 fruits and vegetables|
|VeganSmart||$2.33 per serving||Powder||Yes||22 vitamins and minerals, includes digestive enzymes and prebiotics|
A popular Reddit thread compared Huel with Joylent and Queal. The author noted that Huel is more finely ground than the other two options, although they found that getting the right mixture of water took some experimenting.
They felt Huel was too sweet, although it made them feel quite full, and that its price was meaningfully higher than the competition.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for the ultimate money-saver (although it will certainly be more labor intensive), it’s entirely possible to create your own meal replacement powder and meal replacement shake.
Is Huel Nutritionally Complete Powder Right for You?
While we didn’t test Huel ourselves, based on what we learned from customer feedback for the powdered mixture, it seems like it could definitely deliver all your nutritional needs at a less expensive price than much of the competition—although the “enjoyability factor” might be low (depending on your personal tastes, obviously).
Given this, we could foresee Huel working best for those who are too busy to cook and who need a quick, nutritionally complete replacement while they’re on the go.
Another target market could be those who need to carefully count their daily caloric intake—whether losing, maintaining, or gaining weight—while ensuring all their nutritional needs are met.
On the other hand, if you enjoy the process of cooking at savor all the robust flavors in food, we could foresee even replacing one meal a day with Huel becoming a chore, as The Guardian’s Peter Robinson experienced.
Regardless, based on customer feedback, it seems like Huel’s taste and texture might be the biggest potential stumbling blocks to overcome. If this sounds feasible, the good news is that the meal replacement powder seems to be extraordinarily popular—even frequently selling out—and the company stands behind it with a 30-day refund policy.
As soon as you try Huel, though, you’ll lose your ability to process a refund, so keep this in mind before you open your bag.
What’s your experience with Huel? How did you find the taste and texture? Would you feasibly replace one meal per day with it, or did you have better success with the competition?
Tell us all about it by writing a review below!