Futurefood Face-Off: Huel vs Maximum Vibrance
Two supplements appear to be vying for the futurefood crown: Huel and Maximum Vibrance. But which one is best?
Superfoods have dominated the headlines for quite some time, but it seems that there’s a new tag in town. The term ‘futurefood’ is now being applied to supplements which are nutritionally complete, or as close to nutritionally complete as possible. Able to provide protein, carbohydrates and fat, these futuristic foodstuffs also supply rich quantities of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, polyphenols – you get the gist.
In essence, futurefoods fulfil the promise of their superfood forebears, going beyond expectations to deliver valuable nutrients and fuel us adequately for the hard-run race of Life itself. Or so the marketing material tells you.
Huel – Complete Food?
Huel is a relatively new product (it launched in 2015), which makes its meteoric rise all the more impressive. Formulated by former NHS dietitian James Collier, it is marketed as a ‘nutritionally complete powdered food’ and in its experimental approach to nutrition it owes much to another functional food product named Soylent.
The brainchild of tech whiz Rob Rhinehart, Soylent – a contraction of soybeans and lentils – kickstarted the futurefood trend when it launched in the States in 2013. Rhinehart famously penned a viral blog entitled How I Stopped Eating Food, in which he explained how a steady diet of Soylent had saved him hundreds of dollars a month on food shopping while also enhancing his general health and appearance.
Huel – itself a contraction of ‘human fuel’ – is replicating the Soylent model. The beige-coloured microfine powder purports to contain all the protein, carbs and fat you need, plus at least 100% of the EU’s Daily Recommended Amounts of all 26 essential vitamins and minerals – providing you consume 2,000 calories worth of Huel per day, that is.
Over 40% of Huel is oats (making the taste rather oaty, as you’d expect), with other ingredients including brown rice protein, pea protein, MCT powder, sunflower lecithin, flaxseed and a bespoke vitamin and mineral blend. The powder is vegan-friendly, available in vanilla and unflavoured editions, and also in gluten and gluten-free versions.
However many regular meals you choose to swap out in favour of Huel is, of course, entirely up to you. Some people go the whole hog and overhaul their diet by glugging Huel when they’d otherwise sit down to breakfast, lunch or dinner. Jared Hill discussed his love affair with the supplement in a hilarious blog, remarking on ‘the liberating sense of not having to plan what I’m going to eat every day.’ Having said that, he also bemoaned that portioning his Huel into separate bags each month left his kitchen ‘resembling a heroin lab’!
The Numbers in ‘Human Fuel’
Let’s get down to the numbers then. A single serving of Huel (Vanilla) is 100g and yields:
- 402 calories
- 12.9g fat
- 37.5g carbohydrates
- 29.6g protein
- 7.1g fibre
So far, so good. As stated, there’s a good number of vitamins and minerals into the bargain: no less than 20% of your daily recommended intake of each – and more in some cases.
For example, while you’ll net 20% of your vitamin A from one Huel shake, you’ll hit about 77% of your daily vitamin C. The vitamin D, however, is in the inferior D2 form rather than D3.
Huel also contains sucralose, a calorie-free chemical sweetener up to 650 times sweeter than sugar. Splenda, manufactured by Tate & Lyle, is the probably the most famous sucralose-based product.
Lastly, Huel contains a range of amino acids from its primary ingredients such as pea protein and oats. For a full breakdown of the nutrients in Huel, click here.
Maximum Vibrance – Maximum Nutrition?
The other product we want to look at is Maximum Vibrance. Created by Vibrant Health – who have been formulating nutritious greens powders since 1992 – it is advertised as ‘the single product one may take in place of all other supplements.’
A bold claim, but there might be something in it: Maximum Vibrance contains around 120 ingredients, mainly concentrated green vegetables and cereal grasses plus super fruits and botanical extracts. While the nutrition of Huel comes from a few core whole foods, Maximum Vibrance contains some 80 different plants to deliver a greens supp with a capital G. Ingredients include organic chlorella and wheatgrass, extracts of carrot and chicory root, kale, spinach and goji berry.
Designed to be taken as a snack (one scoop) or a full meal replacement (two scoops), Maximum Vibrance contains plant-based, certified organic vitamins and minerals as well as protective antioxidants, digestive enzymes and polyphenols. Its protein profile, meanwhile, is not all that dissimilar from Huel’s; it derives mainly from yellow pea but also from organic sprouted brown rice, chlorella and organic spirulina. Two flavours are available: Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Chunk.
One area where Maximum Vibrance blows Huel out of the water is probiotics. Like Vibrant Health’s staple greens formula Green Vibrance, Maximum Vibrance contains no less than 25 billion probiotics per serving. Given the surging interest in gut health, and the emerging belief that ‘good health starts in the gut’, this is not to be sniffed at. The 25 billion good bacteria come from a dozen different strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus (2.5 billion), Lactobacillus rhamnosus (2.5 billion) and Bifidobacterium bifidum (1.25 billion).
How Does Maximum Vibrance Stack Up?
Again, it’s worth scrutinising the figures to determine just what you’re getting from this formidable superfood. Assuming you go for the meal replacement serving (two scoops, or 41.7g) of Chocolate Chunk, we’re talking:
- 189 calories
- 4g fat
- 15g carbohydrates
- 20g protein
- 4g fibre
Clearly Maximum Vibrance is much less ‘heavy’ than Huel, but then we’re comparing a 100g serving size with a 41.7g serving size. Pound for pound, MV actually contains more protein and fibre than its competitor while also supplying the benefits of probiotics, 29 antioxidants and the superior form of vitamin D – vitamin D3. Two scoops of Maximum Vibrance yields 1,000 i.u. of vitamin D, or 250% of the recommended UK daily allowance. Of course, there’s plenty of dispute about how much vitamin D we should actually aim for, with the Vitamin D Council recommending 5,000 i.u. per day and the Endocrine Society recommending 2,000 i.u.
As far as vitamins and minerals are concerned, it’s a pretty close-run contest: each contains 26. Vitamins and minerals available in the highest quantities in Huel include vitamin D(2), vitamin C, phosphorus, iron, molybdenum and manganese. All but molybdenum also appear in Maximum Vibrance.
On a per serving basis Huel contains higher levels of phosphorus (452mg vs 280mg), iron (13.9mg vs 9mg) and manganese (1.8mg vs 0.6mg), although Maximum Vibrance supplies higher vitamin D (25mcg vs 4mcg) and vitamin C (158mg vs 62mg).
All things considered, you’re getting a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals with each of these futurefoods. One thing to note is this: you can’t get 100% of your recommended daily quota of any vitamin or mineral from a single Huel shake. You can get pretty damn close to your daily iron, molybdenum and manganese though.
Maximum Vibrance fares better in single-serving terms, in that one shake supplies well over 100% of your daily vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin E, vitamins B1/B2/B6/B12 and selenium. Pretty incredible given that the Huel serving size is more than double that of Maximum Vibrance.
Who’s the Winner?
There’s no doubt about it, Huel and Maximum Vibrance are at the very top end of the supplements market. Nutrient-dense and packed with all kinds of good stuff, they’re so much better than your typical protein powder and thoroughly deserving of the ‘futurefood’ label.
In terms of which is better, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to give up real food, or if you find that you’re only able to eat one or two proper meals a day due to your hectic lifestyle, Huel could be a good choice. It is, after all, formulated to provide a meal’s worth of macronutrients while also supplying important vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc. Because it’s so calorie-dense, it could help with weight (or muscle) maintenance if you’re not eating enough proper meals throughout the day.
Overall, Maximum Vibrance would appear to be the most nutrient-packed given that it derives from a much wider range of whole foods – many common and rare fruits, vegetables and cereal grasses. Part vegetarian protein shake, part green smoothie, its provision of 25 billion probiotics and seven digestive enzymes ensures that the many ingredients go down smoothly.
Food, as we all know, has a critical impact on our health and happiness and many people will prefer to fill up not from a nutrient-laden shake but from a well-heaped plate. That said, futurefood formulas such as Huel and Maximum Vibrance offer hunger-quenching convenience, which can be a godsend given our increasingly busy lives. Loaded with real food ingredients and essential nutrients, they can play a key part in a properly balanced, health-promoting diet.
The question is, which one do you prefer? Have your say in the comments section and tell us about your experience using either of the two supplements. Is the food of the future all it’s cracked up to be?
In the case of these two products, we say yes.
By Ed Uncovered