Why is Huel 3.0 so high in protein when Huel Black exists?

I’ve read the blog posts about protein content in Huel, and frankly I don’t agree with them. For a 5’9" 150lb male (average height in the US, right in the middle of the healthy BMI range), 2000 kcal of Huel 3.0 provides 2.2g of protein per kg of body weight. No study I’m aware of has ever demonstrated health benefits for such a high protein intake, and in fact many nutritional guidelines cite 2.0 g/kg as the safe upper limit, with recommended levels somewhere between 1.0 and 1.5 g/kg. To make matters worse, most people at that height and weight have a maintenance intake of more than 2000 kcal per day, closer to 2200-2400 kcal/day depending on activity level, but 2400 kcal would put them at ~2.64 g/kg, well over what would be a sane level even for a powerlifter.

I cannot think of any reason to have this much protein in the 3.0 powder, even if it is safe, nor do I see any reason to assume that it is safe. Yes, studies have demonstrated that diets high in plant protein are less deleterious than diets high in animal protein. That doesn’t mean ~2.5 g/kg of protein is safe just because it comes from plant protein. I’m not aware of any study demonstrating the long-term safety of such a diet. There have been studies on 40:30:30 diets, but the only ones I can find are broadly focused on weight loss and used overweight participants and <2000 kcal diets, so they did not study protein intakes this high.

If consumers want more protein, surely that is what Huel Black is for, and there’s no reason someone couldn’t have a diet of partly normal Huel and partly Huel Black if they want to fine tune their protein intake.

Given that Huel don’t generally recommend a 100% Huel diet I think large amounts of protein in Huel products is useful, especially for anyone consuming lower-protein vegan foods for the balance of their diet.

You’re right that those who want to fine-tune their protein intake should mix products. That’s the key.


The newer product lines like Essential seem to be lower in protein. I guess the high protein formula stems from the fact that there has been a high-protein hype in the last time, so almost all complete foods have a higher protein content than a normal diet.

Would it in theory not just be a big bag of blended oats if it didn’t have some protein in it :thinking:

There are 3 main choices for protein content in Huel shakes (each with approximately 40-50% differences to each other):

Essential is 20g per 100g
Core is 30g per 100g
BE 44.4g is per 100g

I would have thought that were enough to let consumers decide on what protein intake they want and choose either a single product - or combination of them - to get the balance they want?

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Hi @narrill - thanks for the question.

Firstly, we have to set the nutrition of Huel at a particular calorie level and, as 2,000 calories is the level by which nutritional values are set in the EU/UK/US, it seems prudent to go for 2,000. If the protein level was lower then this would mean the fat and/or carbs would have to be higher. Now, most people do not have Huel for 100% of their intake and have it for one, two or fewer meals so get their nutrition from other foods.

From one perspective, you’re right:

No study I’m aware of has ever demonstrated health benefits for such a high protein intake

I don’t think I could provide any direct research showing habitually high protein intakes and reduced disease risk. However, this doesn’t means that there aren’t health-related advantages. Indeed, there are several reasons why it’s preferable to have more protein as a per cent of energy than the other macros. Three of the most significant are:

  1. Protein is more satiating than other macros. I summarised both the mechanism and epidemiology in my article here.

  2. The caloric availability of protein is lower. This means that broadly speaking, protein travels further gone the GI tract before being absorbed and fewer of the calories are taken up. This is the same for all proteins, inducing animal protein.

  3. Generally, plant-derived proteins are not as bioavailable as animal-derived. But there’s an easy fix to this by combining them and ensuring that there’s sufficient for high update. To calculate this, we use the PDCAAS methodology. This is outlined in this article.

Any further queries, let me know.


I wouldn’t have a problem if there actually were three choices of protein content, but point of Essential is to be low cost, not low protein. So I personally don’t think it’s fair to describe it this way. The recourse for someone who wants less protein shouldn’t be to buy the designated “cheap” product with lesser ingredients.

Well, yes. If you look at diets that are known to promote longevity like the Mediterranean diet, the Okinawan diet, DASH, etc., you’ll see they do not get 30% of their calories from protein. In fact I’m not aware of any diets known to promote longevity that are high in protein like Huel. The Zone diet (from which Huel gets its 40:30:30 macros) has been studied almost exclusively for weight loss.

I don’t think I would describe your three points as constituting “health-related advantages,” personally. If I’m understanding them correctly, you’re essentially saying high protein content is good for weight loss (because protein is more satiating and has lower caloric availability), and having such outrageously high protein content is not dangerous because it’s plant protein and thus is not as readily absorbed. I don’t find that particularly compelling, unless you’re saying that Huel is primarily a weight loss product. In any other context I think it would clearly be more advantageous to follow macros that are in line with typical nutritional recommendations, meaning carbs > fats > protein, where the carbs are almost entirely complex carbs and the fats are almost entirely unsaturated fats.

If people could satisfy all their nutritional requirements besides protein with just oats there wouldn’t be a market for products like Huel in the first place.

Isn’t it that the main reason Essential is low-cost is that it’s lower protein? Make a lower protein powder and it’s automatically lower-cost. Exactly what you’re after it seems, a product with less protein.

But just checking your claim about ‘lesser ingredients’: looks like MCT is the only one. I think the comparison on the Essential thread should look like this (correct me if I’m wrong):

Essential Powder v3.1
20g plant-based protein 30g plant-based protein
:heavy_check_mark: 26 essential vitamins & minerals :heavy_check_mark: 26 essential vitamins & minerals
:heavy_check_mark: Omega-3 & -6 :heavy_check_mark: Omega-3 & -6
:heavy_check_mark: Low sugar :heavy_check_mark: Low sugar
:heavy_check_mark: High fibre :heavy_check_mark: High fibre
£1.00 per 400kcal meal £1.51 per 400kcal meal
2 flavours 10 flavours
56% carbs; 20% fat; 20% protein; 4% fibre 37% carbs; 30% fat; 30% protein; 3% fibre
:x:Medium-Chain Triglyceride :heavy_check_mark:Medium-Chain Triglyceride
:x:Acerola Cherry Powder :x:Acerola Cherry Powder
:x:Kombucha Powder :x:Kombucha Powder
:x:Bacillus Coagulans (probiotics) :x:Bacillus Coagulans (probiotics)
2.25kg pouch 1.70kg pouch

There’s other cheaper ingredients in use, such as Folic acid instead of Calcium-L-Methylfolate. Huel hasn’t revealed the exact vitamin & mineral forms used in Essential, but it’s likely all inferior forms compared to the regular Huel powder.

Hi @narrill

Thanks for your further feedback. Two questions to help me understand the issue:

  1. What is your issue with the protein being at the level it is in regular Huel Powder other than there being no demonstrated health benefits?

  2. How much protein would you like to see in a Huel Powder and where would you like the remaining calories to come from?


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Well OP, it seems clear to me that Huel is not for you. Why not have an apple and go about your day?


Possible, but that’s only an assumption. Maybe someone from Huel will confirm.

In any case so long as Essential still ticks all the boxes I doubt many people are concerned with the niceties. ‘100% complete’ is all that matters to most folk. I’d assume.

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It’s not an assumption, it has been confirmed in bits and pieces over many forum posts that Essential doesn’t contain the same vitamin & mineral forms as regular Huel. It has however never been described in a single place, with details about what those forms are.

You’re sure that all vitamins and minerals are ‘confirmed in bits and pieces over many forum posts’ as inferior? I guess not, as you used the word ‘likely’, indicating an assumption of uncertainty.

Maybe we need an umpire’s decision on this. :wink:

Not sure where you got that, but the 3.0 powder currently listed on the site has acerola cherry powder, kombucha powder, and bacillus coagulans. There are plenty of other differences you can see for yourself in the ingredients lists, as well as the fact that Essential only comes in two flavors and does not have an unflavored and unsweetened version. It is a low cost version, not a low protein version.

  1. The risk of extremely high protein consumption is of course kidney disease. I have read at least at least one study that posited high protein consumption in excess of 2.0 g/kg as a risk factor for de novo kidney disease due to high serum protein inducing hyperfiltration and subsequent nephron damage, though as far as I can tell the topic is not well studied yet. And even if we want to say a person with healthy kidney function should be able to handle protein in excess of 2.0 g/kg, not everyone has healthy kidneys. I don’t even mean people with active kidney disease who are on prescribed low protein diets. Kidney function naturally deteriorates with age, and it seems reasonable to me that someone near the cusp of what is considered early stage kidney disease (eGFR of 90-100, for example, which is a reasonable range for a healthy person in their early 40s) could have their kidney deterioration accelerated by an extremely high protein diet.

  2. 20g protein per serving seems like a good start. I would move the calories to carbs, since that aligns with diets that are known to promote longevity.

More generally, my concern here is really over what Huel is trying to be, as a product. Is it a weight loss aid? Is it a souped up protein powder aimed at gym bros? Those seem to be the aims based on the nutritional content, but the marketing suggests Huel is supposed to be a high-nutrition meal replacement, and IMO that’s clearly the best option if Huel wants to continue to expand their user base and have mainstream appeal. So it seems unwise to formulate the powder around protein levels in excess of the typical 2.0 g/kg upper limit, itself already well past the point of providing health benefits, simply because protein is more satiating.

It seems clear to me that you have nothing to add to the conversation, so I wonder why you bothered responding at all. FYI, I have multiple servings of Huel every day, and have for roughly half a decade.

It’s both. It costs less, and it’s 20g protein per serving.

I agree.

Great, and what happens if you want less protein without compromising the nutritional value?

I have no idea what compels people to give these kinds of responses. Criticism of the product is not a personal attack on you, you don’t have to desperately reach for any possible rebuttal. You are not serving the discussion at all by deliberately ignoring the point I’m making.

I’m not ignoring it. You want a product with Essential-level protein but with v3.0-level ingredients. Isn’t that it?
You’d be glad if v3.1 was reduced from 30g to 20g protein, or if Essential was made with different ingredients and more flavours (and at greater cost).

I’d just say why not be happy that we have both, and we can mix and match if we feel the need to avoid excess protein.

Don’t worry, I’m not feeling attacked. Not desperate neither. You are making assumptions there. It’s aok. Just chatting. :wink:

No, Essential specifically does not have 3.0-level ingredients. That’s the whole point of it, it is a low-cost formulation.

I don’t see a reason to respond to questions with “just be happy with what you have.” That’s a non-answer. Yes, people can mix and match. So why doesn’t 3.0 have a sane level of protein, and people who want more can mix and match with Black, which is specifically intended to be a high-protein formulation?

If they reformulated with lower protein you have to appreciate on the flip side there would also be a lot of ppl unhappy with that, and not really feasible to do a range of 3.0 with varying protein according to needs/health/age etc.