Huel as alternative to macro counting for CrossFit


I have my diet to about 95% huel about 3 months ago. I just want to tell you why I decided to change my diet and my experience with huel, also concerning sports nutrition.

I first tried huel about a year ago - I saw an ad for it online and decided to give it a try. I did not think about changing my diet at that time, it was more out of convenience. Since I did (and still do) a lot of sports (mainly crossfit about 6 times per week) I was often hungry late in the evening or at night and Huel was a simple way to enjoy a quick meal. Over time I started replacing some meals when I was to lazy to cook something, but it hardly ever exceeded 10% of my daily calorie intake.
My diet at this point was quite chaotic - I ate a lot, even before I started Crossfit about 2,5 years ago (I was a climber back then, also trained about 5 times per week), but using weights for training lead to building up a lot of mass (as usual not only the lean one), so I gained about 8 kg within half a year. After about 2 years of CrossFit I went from 67 kg to 92 - lifting heavy became easier, running and pull ups (and some other bodyweight exercises) became harder. I ate a lot of meat, often beef jerky as a snack, took whey protein after training and before going to bed and drank a smoothy every day (in addition to normal meals). It worked quite good for me, expect sometimes getting quite tired after all the carbs from the smoothy, but I was fit and could work out 6 times per week.
A bit of progress concerning the lifts and times for benchmark workouts was still there, but I wanted to take my training to the next level. Theoretically about 2/3 of your progress in sport is made by nutrition, not training (at least I heard this quite often), so I really considered starting counting macros, as I know some crossfitters that do that and are quite happy with the results (the one I mainly talked to often eats rice with chicken, weights everything and so on… I even saw him with his prepared meals at the crossfit box (=gym) sometimes). I tried counting macros for some days, but decided I was too lazy for that - weighing and counting everything and not being able to eat in restaurants or similar just was not worth it.
Some months later I had an idea that I thought was worth a try - just drink huel. Since the most recommended macro ratio is about 4:3:3 (carbs:protein:fats) concerning calories and huel quite exactly has that, and also has all micronutrients you need, it seemed to be the simplest way. So I opened up my excel sheet again which I still had from the macro couning days and added huel as food with its nutrients per 100g. I calculated my calorie reqirement according to my body weight, my activity level and my goals (I decided it would be a good idea to loose some weight since I only gained the last years). I figured out that one scoop contains about 40g, so 1 scoop has about 160 calories. I started with a calorie intake of about 3000 calories, which means 19 scoops per day. So I just had to count scoops instead of complicated macros from different foods - just keep it simple and stupid :smiley:

The first week was the hardest, and I was not sure how long I was going to keep just drinking huel. It started more as a “I want to know if this works” and not as a long term plan. Everyone I told about was curious how I was feeling and some were even worried about me (my fellow crossfitters mainly understood my reasons, but most of my family said I should just eat less normal food if I want to loose weight).
Being always hungry was the most difficult part during the first week. I split up the 19 scoops into about 7 to 8 meals with 2 or 3 scoops, but these were far less calories than what I was used to. I also missed chewing things and often thought about my favourite pizza and other good stuff. I kind of immediately lost weight (probably mainly water and stuff that was usually filling up my digestive system). I also had a bit of diarrhea when I took too much huel at only (more than 3 scoops or two meals too close after another), but aside from that I did not feel bad. Except for the unusual feeling of a nealy constantly empty stomach I feld more energetic (probably because I did not have to digest that much and of the absence of food that raises blood sugar like smoothies). Working out was not a problem either - I just continued training and my body adapted without any significant disadvantages. After the first week I did not feel hungry any more, and the whole digestive system seemed to work more efficient with the food (huel) it gets than before.
Within the first weeks 1 lost about 2 kg per week. But it started stagnating after a while and I had to reduce it further to about 17 scoops per day. After about 5 weeks my weight was at 82 kg (and nice even muscle ups were finally possible), when I started to work (I was a student before) which kind of messed up my diet. I still took Huel (and my coworkers quickly got used to that), but since I did not want to have 5 meals during work, I decided to take more scoops at once and generally felt more hungry again. Thats why I took about 19 per day again. In addition to the number of possible meals I was not sure if I wanted to loose more weight (I still want to lift heavy, so too littly weight is not desirable either). I stayed at about 82 kg for some weeks now. Some days ago I decided to reduce it to 15 again (I decided that I want to be able to do a 1-arm chin up and stuff like that again as I did when I was a climber and thats more important than heavy lifts for me).

I never converted to 100% Huel and probably never will, because of the fact that food just tastes good and the social aspects of having a meal together with family or friends. So I have about 1 cheat meal per week. In addition I still sometimes have some self-made beef jerky as a snack. I also started taking whey protein again some weeks ago, but I’m not sure if this has any effect at all.

The main reason why I keep this kind of diet is, as mentioned before, that I want to have more progress in my sport, which kind of happened already, but mainly because of the weight loss. I made a lot of progress in bodyweight movements and can still lift the same weight as before, so it seems that I mainly lost fat (muscle loss does not necessarily mean strength loss, since strength is more about neural adaptions…). Most workouts are easier now since less bodyweight is often an advantage, especially for cardio stuff.

In addition to that, it kind of simplified my life - I don’t have to buy food any more, don’t have to think about where to eat during lunch at work and therefore also save some money. And I can regulate my weight in an easy way.

Btw, I never had issues concerning the taste. I always bought the neutral one and it worked for me. I don’t think it tastes especially good (compared to awesome food like pizza), but not bad either. I actually kind of like the taste of it.

In conclusion, I can recommend it for everyone that is lazy and wants to live healthy. I cannot definitely say that it has a positive effect on performance in sports since I don’t know how I would feel during workouts if I lost the same weight by just reducing my calorie intake with normal food. But I generally feel less tired and sleep better than before.