The following review, and all sentiments contained herein, are completely my own and have not been subject to approvals from the provider.
Bottom Line: Recommended
Sucking in the dust, dirt and chalk from the floor one morning (after an awesome WOD, I should add), Steffi came over and asked if I would be able to take a look at products from a company she works for. I’d seen the simple white packaged bars on the counter before but had never opened a Huel bar up to that point. When I peeled my sweating form out of the angel shape on the mats, I told her that I would absolutely love to but that she should know that I ordinarily err on the side of negativity towards meal replacement products. She grinned and excitedly explained that Huel is different; nutritionally balanced, basic, no soy, supporting everyone from athletes to regular no-gym-Joe who just wants to have a better nutritional option than snacking on less healthy options. Well, her excitement immediately sparked mine and so I agreed.
Throughout, I have struggled with identifying who the target audience of Huel is. I have seen it more in gyms and CrossFit Boxes than anywhere else yet the website focuses more on it being a whole meal replacement. The needs of the powerlifter, high intensity sportsman, 45 year old house husband and 8 hr a day sedentary office worker are all different – this includes macro nutrient as well as micro nutrients.
The precise breakdown of the two primary products I shall go in to individually. Taking in to account what I said above, this is the most balanced product that I have ever come across. Not only at the micronutrients balanced to the ‘designer’s’ precise requirements but the micronutrients are too. A complete vitamin and mineral profile is included (even Vitamin B12, which is uncommon in a product aimed at vegans too due to its source typically being from animals – in this case it is from cyanocobalamin, from bacterial synthesis), which gives me a real sense that this product has been designed with genuine care to the individual, and not just about marketing for profit. However, this careful balancing does result in one or two issues.
I was given the latest blend of the vanilla flavoured powder. Made largely of powdered gluten free oats as a base, this vegan product includes rice protein and pea protein to give a nice blend of fast/slow absorbed proteins – not a trace of cheap soy protein anywhere. It mixes very well in water, although I prefer it with skimmed milk, and naturally thickens to a lovely consistency. The taste is one of the best on the market, I believe. Without overdoing it, they’ve gently added some natural vanilla flavour that just ‘works’. Even with just water, the blend keeps you feeling full for and a long while.
An unexpected bonus of the powdered oat base is that it can be used as a flour substitute. I’ve used it to make my one-minute microwave cake and I never want to go back to my old recipe. This was awesome.
The macronutrient profile of this is approx 40% carbs (when you include the 3% fibre), 30% protein, and 30% Fats. It is almost entirely in line with my own requirements as an amateur but very regular CrossFitter. However, I’ve yet to come across definitive science that informs the precise nutritional breakdown for individuals….at least not a profile that everyone agrees on because everyone is different. That said, at least there’s thought behind this.
Depending on your meal breakdown of either 4 or 5 meals a day (if taking as a meal replacement vice sports supplement), it is either ~400Kcal or ~500Kcal respectively for a meal.
Vanilla and Cocoa. There is a thought by some sports ‘purists’ that supplements/ replacements should have no flavouring. I utterly disagree with this. Food has to very enjoyed in whatever form you decide to take it.
This bar tastes good. It looks good. I really enjoy eating it.
There is a common criticism, that Huel are aware of, which is the texture. Unlike the oily, chewy mass you get in almost all other bars of this nature, this is crumbly. It breaks apart easily and is a little dry. Because of the blend, and the rigidity with which they stick to their balance of nutritional ingredients, there are no preservatives, no fillers, and no gluten. This leaves a crumbly texture that does take you by surprise a little to start with. Stick with it. The flavour is great and you just need a little water sometimes with it. Have faith that there’s good reason behind it.
The macronutrient balance is different to the Powder, with a higher level of carbs, slightly lower protein percentage and even lower fat – 53% carbs (inc 12% Fibre), 25% protein, and 22% fats. This makes it far more suitable as a post-workout option and I’ve typically used it as such. Each bar is 250kcal.
As a combined meal replacement product, the powder and bars are able to sustain you with that balanced nutritional makeup – 2000Kcal for just powder-based meal replacement and than an extra 250Kcal per bar. Looking through the ingredients, they are all things I recognise and understand. I trust this product would support me, if needed.
Could I eat it as an ongoing replacement? Not personally. Both keep me feeling full, as a combination of oats, the protein, and natural coconut / flaxseed oil. However, I need variety in my food. There are flavour packs, which I’ve not yet been given the opportunity to review, to give a little change but I need my veggies and different textures. That said, I have used both bar and powder instead of a meal if rushing about town. Because I trust in the quality and make-up, I don’t then feel the need to snack elsewhere.
For someone who doesn’t agree with meal replacements as a means of nutritional control, I’m actually a convert to this. With my biochemistry head on (albeit from 16-17 years ago), I ‘get it’ and can understand the scientific passion behind this product. For those working out, I recommend the bars as a post-WOD snack instead of quite a few of the other brands out there. I recommend the powder too, it’s kept me going when on the run and has left me feeling full for longer than a typical bowl of porridge does – do try it out as a flour substitute too!
p.s. I’ve not had a chance to review the t-shirt either 😉
Huel Website – www.huel.com for further information