Struggle with how much Huel to consume when the goal is to lose weight, but also increase muscle!

Hi all,

What a great community! I’m hoping someone can give me some advice or share their experiences. I’m a male 35, 168cm, 79kg. My BMI is currently around 18 (overweight).

My goal is to lose weight (fat), but at the same time gain muscle mass. I workout in a group coached environment at a fairly intensive level 3-4 times a week (one hour per session). The sessions are quite variety, but includes weight training and conditioning.

The calories calculator shows my result as needing 2,589 to maintain my weight and 2,089 to lose 0.5kg per week and 1,589 to lose 1kg per week.

I’ve been using Huel since mid March and after the adjustment period, I’d have two meals of 3 scoops then normal food for dinner. This means I’d be having no more than around 1,500-1,600 Cal per day. I was losing some weight (around 0.5kg per week, although the calculator suggested I should be losing more?).

It was then I had a question in my mind whether I’m losing the fat or muscle? I talked to my trainer (not about Huel in particular), but about how much calories I should be consuming. The guideline I was advised was that since the main goal is to build quality muscle mass (fat will be burned as a by result of increased muscle), I’m to consume 2g of protein per kg of body weight. This would mean roughly 160g of protein. Does it matter that Huel’s protein are from pea and rice rather than meat, in terms of building “quality” muscle?

My trainer stressed not to consume too low calories as the body will starts to cannibalise itself, eating away the muscle and damaging the metabolism (this was really concerning!).

With this in mind, my plan of eating 1,500 cal per week is out the window. I’ve been increasing my Huel intake to 450g per day (1,845 Cal, protein 138.15g) + whey protein (protein 24.3g) + normal dinner (small portion). This way I can ensure that I’m getting at least 160g of protein daily.

My weight has been fairly stable, but I’ve noticed some improvements to my physique (small changes, but definitely some changes).

I guess my question is in this kind of situation, should I just ignore the weighing scale completely? If I keep this routine up my weight is likely to remain where it is? If I increase my Huel intake (to get 2,000 Cal, 100% RDA for example), will my weight increase instead? But on the other hand if I reduce to 1,500 cal, will I damage my metabolism? Just not sure what I should be aiming for as it seems playing with the calories calculations aren’t enough when fitness and strength training are involved?

Any input would be much appreciated!

I’d also like to say thank you to the people who’ve posted their progress on Huel, really inspiring and great for motivation. Thank you @JamesCollier for formulating Huel to be the amazing product that it is! Although, I have yet to reach my goal, my daily routine has already improved immensely. My energy level has never been higher and I can feel my body thanking me for it!

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First of all, take what your trainer says with a pinch of salt. Most, if not all of them have no scientific background whatsoever and tend to get their “science” from the internet, their friends and the “broscience” circle, the latter of which tends to come from the kind of companies who will sell you a “pomegranate detox pill that will give you sweet gains”.

1500 to 1600 Cal per day is getting to the lower limits of what you should be eating to lose weight with a sedentary life style, so your trainer is right on that. Since you’re doing fairly intensive exercise 3-4 times a week, I’d be a tad concerned that you wouldn’t be getting the nutrition that your body needs and long term, this can put your body into “starvation” mode where you might start to see muscle loss and increased tendency to retain fat from what food you do eat and your metabolism will slow eventually (though trainers will have you believe this can happen overnight - it doesn’t). Losing 1kg a week is really, really tough on the body. You’d need to be ~7820 below your breakeven point per week to do that - which doesn’t sound too healthy does it?

If I were you, I’d bump your intake up to 2000 calories and see how things go. If you’re concerned about muscle loss, get yourself a scale that can measure your body fat, muscle, etc. They aren’t terribly accurate but if you use it in the morning after using the toilet, but before taking a shower or anything like that, you should be able to see roughly similar results day by day and get an idea of how your weight, body fat and muscle correlate. You don’t necessarily need an expensive one (mine cost about £15), but if you can take one reading then get back on and get a different reading, you’re probably using a shitty scale.

2g/kg of body weight is another perfect example of trainers not having any scientific knowledge (frankly, if they did, they probably wouldn’t be trainers so I guess it’s to be expected). Studies have shown time and time again that the maximum protein that the body will process is somewhere in the region of 1.0-1.3g/kg bodyweight. Baring in mind that’s a best case scenario so worrying about eating extra protein above ~1.3g/kg is a waste of time as the kidneys filter it out pretty quickly from the bloodstream into urine. Here’s a link to a paper put out in 2011 on this, if you’d like to read the results:

So, to recap. Increase your intake to 2000 calories daily. Huel is good stuff, you should still be losing weight on it. The quality of the protein in it is just fine. Actually, when you consider that you’re not getting any saturated animal fats or antibiotics in your diet from Huel’s protein, it’s probably better for you. If you’re concerned, try some egg whites to boost your protein. You shouldn’t need whey protein (read: rubbish) in your diet at all unless you’re trying out for bodybuilding competitions really.

If you want any further sources I’d be happy to send them your way but they typically not the most friendly reading so, I thought I’d leave them out.


Thank you very much for taking your time to response! It’s much appreciated and certainly have helped me going forward. I’ll definitely increase my intake to 2,000 cal. I’m not on Huel 100% all the time (at least 2 meals a day). So will try to play around with the figures. Thank you again for your help!!!

Don’t forget that muscle mass weighs more than body fat! Trying to lose weight and gain muscle is essentially the same as trying to lose weight and gain weight, if you’re just looking at the KGs on your scale. Metrics you’ll want to track are reductions in body fat % (and/or increases in muscle mass %, though I don’t know how well that can be measured cheaply) and reduction in inches on your unflexed waist, thighs, arms, etc.

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Don’t trust BMI as a reliable indicator of health, it doesn’t account for muscle:fat ratios. I’d advise doing a body fat check instead.

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Duly noted! I like what you said “trying to lose weight and gain weight”. I will have to find a way to track my progress other than the scale. What you suggested makes sense. I’ll get the measuring tape out. Thank you!

Thank you, will certainly be paying more attention to other indicators now!

Question - So if your body doesn’t take in more than 1.0-1.3g/kg, why would adding whey protein benefit bodybuilders if they already take in enough protein from huel?

It isn’t proven that the body doesn’t take in more than that. I think that idea stemmed from the idea that we can only take in around 30g of protein per sitting, which also doesn’t appear to be true.

This is a great website for speaking truth about working out and nutrition, and dispelling some popular myths:

The 30g per meal things has been around for about 20 years. There is a degree of ‘diminishing returns’ but there are so many variables, you can’t quantify 30g of protein per sitting.

The assumption may have been linked to the amount of protein (25-30g) that typically provides sufficient amounts of the amino acid leucine in order to adequately trigger the process of protein synthesis in muscles. Ensuring protein synthesis is triggered is not only important for muscle building, but also for fat loss; if the protein isn’t used for muscle building it will be used for energy or stored as fat. Leucine is a very interesting amino acid.

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Would it be fair to say then, that it is only beneficial to eat a lot of protein if you are doing enough exercise? A lot of protein being more than you would get from Huel alone?

It would depend on a number of factors and what people perceive as ‘a lot of protein’ is an area of much debate!