AS a personal trainer and nutrition coach, “Am I getting enough protein?” is a question that I get asked by clients, friends and family all the time.
The truth is, if you have a healthy and varied diet you should be OK – but if you exercise a fair bit, or have a meat-free diet, it doesn’t harm to add more protein to your daily intake.
A post shared by Huel – Complete Food (@huel)
- Shop Huel here
I’ve been using vegan protein powders for years but I had never tried Huel before now – so I was keen to see what it was all about. I tested a variety of Huel products for three weeks, here’s what I found…
Tested: August 2021
What is Huel?
Huel is a company that offers plant-based meal replacement shakes and quick-and-easy to make meals from dried food – both are high in protein while providing a healthy balance of fat, carbohydrates, fibre and vitamins. The brand also sells regular vegan protein powders and protein snack bars.
How to use Huel
Huel can be used in a number of ways and for many it is a meal replacement option for either weight loss or for convenience.
The Huel Powder can be made into a shake and swapped in for breakfast, lunch or dinner as can the Huel Hot & Savoury rehydrated meals.
The number of meals replaced is left up to the consumer – some people replace all their meals and add snacks in the way of the protein shakes and bars, while others may choose to swap breakfast and lunch and have a normal meal at dinner.
Huel also offers a vegan protein powder called Complete Protein in a number of flavours, as well as Huel Bars – both can help increase overall protein intake, be used as part of pre and post exercise regimes or taken as snacks.
Huel Complete Protein review
- Huel Complete Protein, £50 for two tubs – buy here
I’ve tried a lot of vegan proteins and drink at least one shake a day, but I’ve never tried Huel, so I was looking forward to this part of the review. And, I have to say these are some of the best vegan protein shakes I have ever tasted.
I was sent four flavours: Vanilla Fudge, Banana Milkshake, Strawberries & Cream and Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and all were very palatable with a creamy, non-chalky texture, making them very easy to drink.
Standout for taste is the Banana Milkshake flavour, which does actually taste like a milkshake.
To make the shake, I added one scoop (29g) of powder to the shaker provided, with 330ml of cold water as advised and shook for around a minute, and each drink came out lovely and thick – more or less water can be added to find a texture that better suits you.
The flavours are quite sweet (which is how I prefer them) but adding your preferred milk or a little extra water can tone that down a bit.
I tried the shakes before, during and after my workouts over the course of the three weeks and they helped keep me energised, and because they’re so tasty, I even had them as a healthy alternative to dessert a couple of times.
Each scoop of shake is 105 calories and contains 20g of protein, 1.1g of fat, 3.2g of carbs and 26 essential vitamins and minerals.
The vegan protein powder is made up of pea, hemp and faba protein and is sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and GMO free with no artificial colourings or flavourings, which is amazing considering how good the taste and consistency of the product is.
I usually use Awesome Vegan Protein – which is sweeter and does still taste better to me, but I think I will start to using Huel Complete Protein as an alternative on some days due to the wealth of healthy ingredients.
Huel Bars review
- Huel Bars, £43.34 for two boxes – buy here
The truth is that protein bars that taste really good usually contain sugar, artificial sweeteners and flavourings, and a hefty mix of E numbers.
Huel avoids most of these (other than a bit of coconut sugar) and you can kind of tell. They’re still quite edible, and I happily tried all four flavours that were sent to me because they’re healthier than most bars I’ve had before.
I tried Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, Raspberry & White Chocolate and Chocolate Orange. The best by far was the Salted Caramel, which tastes sweet, disguising the chalky taste left by some of the others. It seems more chewy, too.
My least favourite was Chocolate Orange, which didn’t really taste of orange. In fact it didn’t taste of much at all, and therefore felt stodgy and difficult to finish in one go.
Each bar contains 12g of protein, which is good for such a small sized bar, but also explains the slightly powdery, artificial taste. Each bar also contains 18g of carbohydrates, 7.7g of mostly good fat and 26 vitamins and minerals.
It comes in at 200 calories, which makes it 50 fewer calories than you'll find in a Twix or Snickers, and a lot more filling and better for you…you will of course have to compromise on taste, though.
The bars aren’t super sweet but do combat cravings for a treat, and are a good, healthy item to keep in your bag for when you’re feeling peckish between meals.
One of the negatives is that the wrappers are not recyclable, whereas all the rest of Huel’s packaging is.
Huel Powder review
- Huel Powder, £50 for two bags -buy here
I like my food, so I wasn’t sure how I’d take to swapping valuable meals for shakes. I decided to take the Huel powder for breakfast as I often have a fruit and protein smoothie so I thought this could be a like for like substitute.
I was sent the Huel Powder in chocolate, banana and berry flavours. Each serving contains 400 calories which are broken down into 29g of protein, 13g of fat and 37g of carbohydrates – which is a good balance but probably a little higher on the carbs than I would normally have.
Despite containing artificial sweeteners, I thought the Huel Powder actually didn’t taste as sweet as the Complete Protein.
It was also very grainy when made in the shaker provided, which made it less palatable, so a few days into the trial I started making it using a blender, which does take the convenience element away a little.
The actual instructions are to add two scoops of powder to 500ml of cold water and shake for 10 seconds, and this isn’t long enough really – I would aim for 25 seconds or the blender.
This does make a big shake, but I found myself hungry before lunch most days – especially if I’d been to the gym, so I often had to add in a Huel Bar.
In terms of taste, the shakes are fairly bland with a hint of their prescribed flavour. The berry one probably has the strongest taste, and the grainy texture feels ok as that’s what you’d get if you blended a load of berries, whereas it makes the banana and chocolate taste pretty artificial.
I would still recommend the Huel Powder as a quick, healthy breakfast alternative but I think I prefer making my own fresh smoothie with real fruit and veg and adding the Complete Protein.
Huel Hot & Savoury review
- Huel Hot & Savoury, £54.99 for three bags – buy here
This is the one I was least looking forward to as I enjoy meals that taste fresh and healthy and don’t eat a lot of processed food. Huel Hot & Savoury is dried food, much like a fancy Mug Shot pasta in a cup or a healthy Pot Noodle – which I think many people would enjoy.
I was sent packets of Tomato & Herb, Thai Green Curry, Korma, Sweet & Sour and Mexican Chilli flavours (all vegan, of course). Each meal contains around 420 calories, this roughly breaks down to 14g of fat, 43g of carbs and 26g of protein (each flavour is slightly different).
The instructions are to add two level scoops to 210ml of boiling water, stir thoroughly and cover for five minutes – I found giving them slightly longer improved the consistency.
The truth is, I didn’t like these meals, I found them hard to stomach because I felt like I was eating ‘pretend’ food – I don’t think I managed to finish a single meal but if I had to choose a top flavour, I would go with the Thai Green Curry.
To get a fairer review, I asked my boyfriend to try all the flavours too — he enjoyed the Tomato & Herb, the Mexican Chilli and also the Thai Green Curry, which actually does smell like a Thai Curry.
I think it was easier for him because he doesn’t have any issue with eating rehydrated foods like Pot Noodles – something I would never opt for. He also said the meals were filling enough for lunch but not quite enough for dinner, adding that he would definitely have them if he were in a hurry.
Another thing to be aware of is the huge amount of ingredients in these meals – not all are suitable for those with digestive issues, such as IBS, as some of them contain onion and garlic.
The Korma flavour is a good option for those who need simpler ingredients. One final note is that I have tried rehydrated food before on camping trips and on multi-day races when I was running ultramarathons, and these are much better than any I’ve had before – I think they would be a great option for race events.
Huel Black Edition review
Words by Natalie Keegan
- Huel Black Edition, £55.56 for two bags – buy here
One of Huel’s latest offerings is its Black Edition powder – this is a slightly more expensive, gluten-free option with an added protein boost.
Compared to the Huel Powder, Huel Black Edition is naturally gluten-free because it doesn’t contain any oats – it also contains 50% less carbs and 33% more protein.
It’s sweetened with organic coconut sugar and stevia (good for those who might prefer a Huel option without sucralose) and contains added green tea extract.
I was sent a range of flavours to try – Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Strawberries & Cream, Banana and Chocolate.
Two scoops mixed with water provides 400 calories, 26 vitamins and minerals, 40g of plant-based protein, 17g of carbohydrates (via tapioca) and green tea extract.
All the powders mix together in the Huel shaker easily to make a very thick shake – you may want to add more water if you don’t like the consistency.
I found all of the flavours pretty palatable – none had the overbearing or sickly taste that I have found some protein shakes to have – but the texture was very grainy and thick.
My personal favourite was Strawberries & Cream – it has a nice, natural taste, almost like a weak strawberry smoothie.
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- Huel Black Edition, £55.56 for two bags – buy here
Personally, I feel the flavours could have actually benefited from being stronger as I didn’t find the shakes particularly tasty – they’re actually quite bland.
To help combat the graininess, I found giving them a whizz in my Nutribullet did help somewhat, as well as giving my drink a more ‘milkshake like’ result.
Those who prefer a thinner consistency would probably do better to add more water (or less powder) into the mix.
Satiety wise, I found that having one Black Edition shake was more than enough to tide me over into the afternoon – plus I had great energy levels and focus.
I tried switching out lunch for a Black Edition drink for a few days too, just to see how I felt, but doing so didn’t quite curb my hunger pangs until dinner – especially when combined with intense training sessions, including heavy weightlifting, boxing and HIIT.
Overall, I found the drinks especially great for a morning boost and perfect for getting some decent nutrition before or on-the-way to work. I was far less likely to reach for a less-healthy, quick snack when I’d consumed one of them and I felt happier in myself in the knowledge that I’d got some extra vitamins in.
The Black Edition is inoffensive to drink and it does go down easily enough, but it’s also not particularly yummy – I would find it pretty boring to have for two meals a day, consistently.
I would definitely recommend this powder to active, busy people who may struggle to get a healthy breakfast in, get to work and feel fuelled for a gym session. The Black Edition is very convenient and can help hit daily protein targets – but could maybe benefit from a flavour boost.
If you’re after a very natural, low-carb, vegan meal-replacement option (and you don’t have a sweet tooth) you will probably be a big fan, but if you’re not strictly vegan and don’t mind if your protein source contains dairy, a traditional whey-based meal replacement shake may be more enjoyable for you.
Huel Ready-to-drink review
Words by Joel Watson
- Huel Ready-to-drink, £37 for a box of 12 – buy here
I gave the Huel Ready-to-drink bottles a go over a number of weeks and was left very impressed with the product.
As someone who normally struggles to eat breakfast, I was looking for something that I could drink quickly, provide a decent balance of nutrients and keep the hanger at bay until lunchtime,
Huel delivers on this: unlike some of the powders, there was no issue with a grainy texture and the flavours I tried we both nice enough (although chocolate definitely trumped vanilla as my favourite!).
In a 500ml bottle you get 400kcal, 20g protein, 34g carbohydrates and 19g fat, which is a little less protein and a little more fat than you'll get in 400kcals of the standard Huel powder.
I found this was usually enough to see me through until lunch, although combined with an early morning workout, I'd be watching the clock pretty closely.
The Huel Ready-to-drink bottles were a godsend when it came to post-work exercise. Rather than having to go hungry until getting back from a run or the gym, knocking one of these down and then heading straight out the door meant I had more energy when it came to exercise and I was less likely to call a session short because I was feeling snacky.
In all, I'd highly recommend these as an early-morning pickup or a pre-workout snack until you can sit down to a proper meal.
Huel Review: FAQs
Words by Devinder Bains
Is Huel healthy?
Huel foods and shakes offer a ‘complete’ balance of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, so yes, they are healthy. The products themselves are very clean of additives, and the ones I trialled offered a good amount of protein per portion.
All products have been carefully engineered to contain almost all natural ingredients that include oats, rice, peas, coconut and flaxseed – amounting to a full profile of essential amino acids, and 26 essential vitamins and minerals.
Some of the powdered products do contain Sucralose – a synthetic sweetener which can cause issues for those who suffer from IBS or other digestive problems – if that’s you, then it's probably best to not take more than one of these shakes a day.
Is Huel worth it?
If you’re looking to save time when preparing a meal, then Huel is a good, healthy option as all the shakes and meals take five-minutes or less to make – ideal for a quick breakfast or lunch on the go.
Huel meal replacements are also nutritionally-balanced and low in calories, so could help aid weight loss as part of a calorie-controlled diet.
The only downside is that the rehydrated food doesn’t live up to the taste or enjoyment of a real meal.
If you swap in Huel for most of your meals, and cut out any sugary treats or fatty foods, you will probably see some weight loss over a couple of weeks – as someone who didn’t swap all my meals for Huel and as someone who eats fairly healthy meals already, I didn’t see any real change in weight over the three weeks.
Is Huel vegan?
All Huel products contain 100% vegan ingredients but the brand tends to describe itself as ‘plant-based’.
It does carry small ‘vegan friendly’ and ‘lactose-free’ signs on it’s packaging. Vegan powders are widely accepted as better for the environment with a lower carbon footprint.
Is Huel gluten free?
Not all Huel products are gluten-free as they contain a number of grains, but they do offer gluten-free versions of nearly all the products – so just check you’ve added the right version to your shopping basket.
How many calories are in Huel?
Huel Complete Protein contains 105 calories per 29g portion.
Huel Powder contains 400 calories per 100g portion.
Huel Hot & Savoury meals contain between 412 and 427 calories (100g portion)
Huel Bars contain 200 calories per bar
How much is Huel?
It depends on which product you’re buying. One thing to note, that I found a bit annoying, is that you have to purchase a minimum of two or three of a product at a time – not ideal if you just want to try it out for the first time.
On the upside, delivery is free and you also receive a free shaker, scoop, t-shirt and starter booklet with your first order of powder or meals.
Discounts are applied if you subscribe to a monthly order rather than a one-off.
Huel Complete Protein is £25 for a tub that contains 26 servings (minimum order is two tubs).
Huel Bars cost £26 for a box of 15 (minimum order is two boxes).
Huel Powder is £25 for a bag that contains 17 servings/meals (minimum order is two tubs).
Huel Hot & Savoury costs around £18 for a pack that contains seven meals (minimum order is three packs).
- Shop Huel here
What are the Huel alternatives?
When it comes to complete nutrition meal replacement, Huel is pretty much owning the market in the UK. MyProtein do offer a similar product – in both whey and vegan powders (£15.99 for ten servings) but it sits amongst a plethora of other products and isn’t the brand’s primary focus.
U.S based Soylent who do follow a similar concept to Huel, have started distributing its ready-to-drink meal in a bottle here in the UK but powders are not available yet.
In terms of the Huel Complete Protein, there are quite a few vegan specific protein brands on the market now, with the main competitor being Awesome Vegan Protein – which focuses less on vitamins but is cheaper (£28 for 36 servings) and I would say slightly more palatable.
Other options include Muscle Mary, which contains a superfood and vitamin mix and is similar in cost to Huel, and there’s FORM – which is jam packed with superfoods but comes in a tad more expensive than the others.
- Shop Huel here
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