Protein Reigns Over Tech


By Michele Bacigalupo

Photo courtesy of Ken Hawkins.

For people with demanding work schedules, it’s difficult to find time to eat right and stay healthy. The process of cooking, along with the actual ordeal of putting food to mouth can be enormously time-consuming. Perpetually affixed to the computer screen, the coding masterminds of Silicon Valley are well acquainted with this dilemma.

The latest culinary trend among tech start-up employees is to do away with traditional meals altogether. Instead, workers opt to drink protein powder beverages in order to fulfill daily nutritional requirements. Employees often blend the formula at home, making a large quantity that can last the entire workday.

Soylent is one of the biggest names in the liquefied protein market. Created by Rob Rhinehart, the beige beverage gets its name after the dystopian science fiction film Soylent Green. This is an interesting choice on Rhinehart’s part considering that, in the movie, the main ingredient in Soylent Green is rather controversial. The fictional drink is composed of human remains.

The official website of Soylent acknowledges the murky truth of its the namesake. Alongside the listed nutritional information, the site states, “What is Soylent made of? Hint: It’s not people.”

The real Soylent contains a mix of carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins–including rice starch, magnesium, and zinc. Rhinehart boasts Soylent as a food replacement, which contains all the nutrients essential to healthy living. He himself no longer feels inclined to incorporate traditional food into his diet, choosing instead to subsist almost exclusively on the beverage.

Many founders of successful start-ups swear by the simplicity of protein powder concoctions. Alexis Ohanian, the cofounder of Reddit, explained that he prepares a batch of Soylent to drink on flights between San Francisco and New York—a trajectory he often takes for work. Ohanian is more than just an advocate for Soylent, he’s also an investor in the company.

While slurping the entire day’s dose of nutrients through a straw certainly facilitates extra time into a person’s schedule, it’s debatable as to whether such a diet is good for the body. Nutrition experts maintain that protein powder is best used as a supplement. It’s not meant to take the place of normal food.

As the New York Times reported, the tech population of Silicon Valley has become reliant on Soylent and brands that are similar, such as Schmilk and People Chow. While the protein shake lifestyle may result in more productivity, it can pose a real danger to a person’s health. It’s actually possible to overdose on protein.

For non-athletes, the typical adult only needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Consuming excess protein in relation to a person’s body weight can inflict lasting damage on the kidneys over time, as well as other health risks.

Aside from these perils, eliminating the practice of eating three proper meals per day can tamper with a person’s social life. By restricting breakfast and lunch to protein-enhanced sips that sit next to the computer, a person may neglect to interact with his colleagues throughout the day. Skipping dinner is even more problematic, since it tends to be more of a social production. Missing out on the shared company and conversation that takes place over a dinner table can have consequences on a person’s relationships.

Although protein-packed beverages have their advantages, it remains in a person’s best interest to adhere to a normal eating routine whenever possible. In a competitive work environment, this may prove challenging, but taking a break for lunch may actually help bolster productivity. Breaks allow a person to relax and reset for the latter half of the day. Besides, the fresh air accompanied by a lunch outing is most likely much better for the mind than a scoop of soy protein.