Mixing your Own Calcium Magnesium and D3: good idea or not?

TLDNR: probably not, unless you like buying 9 months worth at a time.

So I ordered some stuff from bulksupplements.com through amazon (choline and potassium citrate) and was looking at some of the other stuff they sell. Among others, they have pure calcium citrate, magnesium citrate and vitamin D3. The one ingredient I go through faster than any other is the NOW foods Calcium & Magnesium – 8 oz. – the price on it tends to fluctuate a lot. I bought it last week for $12.27 including shipping, now it’s $10.17 including shipping and I think at one point I got it for $6, I started wondering if I could mix my own equivalent for less.

It’s Spreadsheet Time!

So I ran the numbers. The first thing to be aware of is this handy note from bulksupplements about the D3: “This supplement contains around one hundred thousand IU per gram and has no fillers of any kind present in it.” So 1g has 100,000 IU in it? holy crap! Check out the rest of the warnings on this page. Based on that, I’m thinking it’s prolly not worth doing the D3. Not when I can get caplets of whatever dose I want from Wal-mart for $0.06 a dose.

Let’s ignore the D3 then and talk about the calcium and magnesium. Based off the labels, I’d need 2.66g of Magnesium citrate and 1.92g of Calcium Citrate to get the 400&400mg of actual Magnesium and Calcium that’s in the NOW which has 50 doses per bottle. If I buy 500g bags of both and make 500 doses it’s going to cost me $9.69 in bulk ingredients. If it get all nuts and buy the 1KG bags, each group of 50 doses will cost me $7.43 (both figures assume free shipping). It would result in using 3.54g of Magnesium Citrate and 2.54g of Calcium Citrate daily to equal the 6g of NOW that’s in People Chow 3.0.1.

End result: yes buying the bulk powders and mixing your own *would* save you money. But you’ll need to buy it in 1kg bags (which would last 282 days for the magnesium and 393 days for the calcium) in order for it to be cost effective. You also would need to either get a scale that can measure 2.438mg of D3 for a day or use a capsule supplement.

More fun facts: getting the 1kg each of the bulk powders would cost you $63.92. To get 282 days worth of NOW Cal/Mag/D3 would be 8 bottles, and at today’s rate of $10.17 that’s $81.36

Mixing up the ingredients for 7 days at a time

In 4 days I’ll have been doing DIY soylent (specifically People Chow) for 6 months. Time to share some tips! One major change in how I mix up and prepare my soylent started when I bought a 50lb bag of masa and needed to store it somehow. I ended up using the large Utz Cheese Puff bottles. One day when I had just emptied one of the bottles I wondered if I could use it as a mixing container. Up until that point I was mixing the ingredients for each day individually (first in quart mason jars, then gallon zip-loc bags, then rubbermaid containers and back to the bags) and often I would get a blender bottle that was rather bitter (too much of calcium or potassium that time) or too sweet (to much Mega Man) and I also was mixing the stevia into each bottle when I added water as a tiny amount (grain of rice sized was enough for the bottle) which was another hassle. Initially I tried mixing 3 days of dry ingredients at a time in the cheese puff bottle and that worked extremely well. So I moved up to 5 and then 7, then 10… which didn’t work. Although the math is easier when you multiply by 10 there isn’t enough space in the big bottle to shake up the powder. So I’ve standardized on 7 along with 1/4 teaspoon of stevia for the seven days. The stevia is the real mark of how well the mixing works since it’s pretty evenly distributing the 1/4 teaspoon through the entire mixture and each meal tastes the same.

Here’s the video of how I do it:


As noted in the video I also use an old Mega Man canister to keep my daily powder in. There’s a 1/2 cup scoop in it and I just put two scoops into a blender bottle and shake it up. No more shaking 1/4 of a bag into the bottle. It’s easy food made even easier.

My thoughts on (s)oylent

Over on the Soylent discussion forum, Nicole Goodkind asked for people’s thought on Soylent. I emaile dher and decided I might as well put it up here too.


Some people on the forum and reddit get uppity if you call the DIY soylent “Soylent” with a capital S and I’m not cool enough to have gotten the real stuff.

I saw the kickstarter campaign back when it first happened and initially thought it was a joke campaign somebody put together with a relabeled energy bar labeled “Soylent” as a play on the movie. I though “dangit – I should have thought of that!.” It was nearly 2 weeks later that I realized that it was an actual thing with a real product that wasn’t a joke. I talked with some friends at work about it and I got pretty excited when I saw the Ars Technica series on it. I wanted to order some but didn’t want to pay $250 for a month and didn’t want to wait.
New Years Day 2014 I finally decided I was going to DIY it, mostly as a way to control calories and lose weight. I researched a bit and arrived on the most popular recipe “People Chow” as the one I would go with. I drove around to vitamin stores in my local area trying to find all the ingredients but being a holiday I was stymied in my efforts. I ordered what I hadn’t been able to buy locally off Amazon and waited a few days for the stuff to arrive.
My family has been supportive, mostly because I’m not drinking soylent 100% of the time. I did that at first and still try to stick to it as much as possible to lose weight; but it’s hard to pass up a really nice dinner that I’ve cooked for the wife and kids. When we have a big get together I don’t even worry about it; why would I eat soylent when there’s bbq chicken or broccoli covered in nacho cheese?
The convenience of mixing up a cup of powder in a blender bottle is the nicest part (see my post at http://www.people-chow.com/tile-is-done-its-soylent-timetm/ or my post at http://discourse.soylent.me/t/soylent-at-delicate-arch/12948 ). For counting calories it’s ideal – I put in my exercise, add “Low Cal People Chow” for breakfast, lunch and (usually) dinner and I’m done. I recently changed my method for measuring the ingredients and now I’m doing a week’s worth of meals in 15 minutes. I feel better than I did before I started and my blood work was rather good last check (http://discourse.soylent.me/t/2-months-lab-results-most-looks-good-except-vitamin-d/11820) except for a vitamin D deficiency that’s easily fixed with a supplement. I’m planning on continuing on DIY soylent for quite a while (years or longer). Back in March I bought a bunch of bulk ingredients and computed that I had spent $500 so far on the endeavor but had enough ingredients to last me until early June (yep, still true – it’ll be time to reorder some stuff in about 2 weeks) and $100 a month for food is a pretty good figure.
Recently I’ve been investigating Keytogenic DIY soylent. I first heard of the concept when my son was having seizures and going on a keytogenic diet was one of the proposed treatments. Trying to manage that kind of diet (little to no carbs, all fats and protein – think Atkins-ish) sounded like a nightmare and we were able to control his seizures with medication that he’s since grown out of. But with soylent, the prospect of doing a major and radical diet change like that is more about picking a recipe, modifying it a bit for my requirements and buying the new ingredients I don’t have already. It’s a complete paradigm shift in the way *I* look at food. This is, however, one area the current official Soylent falls short: the customizability. You’re on a sodium restricted diet? Soy Allergy? Vegan? Wheat intolerant? I’ve seen recipes for all of them. Rob and the rest of the Rosa Labs crew has, however, talked about the possibility of different formulations in the future.
I don’t know if Soylent (or soylent) is THE future but I suspect it has enough traction that it’s going to be a food option for the future. I’d love to get my widower father-in-law on Soylent since he doesn’t cook much more than Mac and Cheese since his wife passed and rarely eats veggies. He’s a perfect case for it – I’m just not sure if he could handle the taste of the official (I’m certain he wouldn’t handle mixing up the DIY). One of my work buddies likes the idea of using Soylent for a shelf stable emergency food – sounds like a perfect application. I highly doubt “muggle” food is going anywhere but Soylent is great option for easy, convenient, unremarkable meals.



Tile is done, it’s soylent time(tm)

I’d like to call attention (once again) to the utility of soylent. Be it DIY or the (unattainable) official; it’s awesome to be able to throw a meal together in about 30 seconds, and most of that was waiting for the water filter to give up enough water to fill up the blenderbottle.

I just finished doing a tile backsplash in one of our bathrooms. We are replacing the nasty  tile counters with pour-in-place concrete countertops and my wife wanted to do the bathroom first (as a beta test of sort), the backsplash is one of the last steps.

I’m tired and am *really* glad I didn’t have to cook anything. 2 months ago I probably would have microwaved some chicken nuggets. Instead I’m getting balanced nutrition, fast and easy.

Real world costs, saving money on DIY soylent

Quicken tells me that I’ve spent $469 on DIY soylent. It’s likely closer to $500 after you add in the Masa I bought at various supermarkets and forgot to categorize. That said, I’ve stocked up quite a lot lately on my ingredients:

  • I have 91 days of masa thanks to a 50 lb bag that was only $16.46 (now it’s up to $66.62).
  • I have 94 days of GNC mega man sport because I did the buy one, get one 1/2 off, making each $33.74 – vwbug suggested this to me and it worked well. Since I’m planning on continuing with this I also got the GNC gold card – otherwise it would have been $37.50 each after the discount.
  • To get free shipping on the masa I stocked up on most of the other micro nutrients and have ~100 days of all of them too
  • I found a new source of Whey Protein Isolate from hardrhino.com – when ordered in 5kg (11lbs) bags it ended up being less than $1 a day for the 55g of protein. I bought 10KG which gives me 202 days worth (unless I decide to up my daily protein).

So I shouldn’t need to buy much of anything until sometime in June.  That’s close to a real world cost of around $100 a month for food.

Hard Rhino WPI Review

So last week I had just ordered another 5 pound bottle of NOW foods Whey Protein Isolate. I started looking at the wildly variable price of the Choline bitartrate and was searching around for some that cost less when I found some by a company called Hard Rhino. It was less but wasn’t free shipping, they do a fixed shipping cost for all orders on Amazon. So I started looking at the other stuff they sold and discovered they had Whey Protein Isolate for crazy low prices. I found their web site and found larger sizes available *and* free shipping on orders over $100. The original prices turned out to be an error and they raised them, though they are still less than NOW and the additional smaller sizes give people who just want to try people-chow/soylent an opportunity to not spend as much money. I cancelled my 5lb NOW order and ordered 10 kg of Hard Rhino. Continue reading Hard Rhino WPI Review

1 month on People Chow

So I’ve been eating (mostly) just soylent for a month. Unequivocally I’d say it’s been great. I’ve learned some things (don’t go calcium deficient, my original harbor freight scale stunk), lost some things (almost 1 “stone”), and likely saved a bunch of money though it’s hard to tell since I still have to buy food for the rest of the family. It’s excessively convenient to have all my food for the day in a ziploc bag that just needs water.

I’m losing weight again. I slowed quite a bit. It turns out if you bow to social pressure and eat muggle food (ok fine, it’s Asparagus season and there is Nacho Cheese) but also finish that day’s soylent because you don’t want to have fun with deficiencies again…. well you end up over the 2000 calorie mark. Crazy stuff. It wasn’t from being hungry, that only happens if I don’t drink my soylent.

Weight log - I started soylent on Jan 14th (it's when the line goes down).
Weight log – I started soylent on Jan 14th (it’s when the line goes down).

This last week I switched to using Olive Oil and some vitamin K supplements instead of the Soybean Oil that’s part of the official People Chow recipe. This is due to several factors:

  1. The whole phytoestrogen thing in Soy has me skittish
  2. It’s likely the lights in the supermarket are breaking down the vitamin K anyway
  3. Olive Oil is something humans have been consuming happily for a long time (corn flour is too)

So there you have it. Now on to month 2 of soylent!

DIY soylent Week 3 – baked soylent and deficiencies

On Saturday I tried my hand at baking soylent. I attempted 2 recipes: cookies and muffins. The cookies are rather bland, the muffins are better but way too much work. I might make the cookies again but with some baking powder as suggested in the comments. Here’s how they turned out:

Soylent Muffins ready to bake
Soylent Muffins ready to bake
Soylent Cookies
Soylent Cookies
Cookies Baked
Cookies Baked

The cookies come off silicone baking sheets better than greased aluminum foil (if you have the baking sheets). I ran into a problem with the muffins: the recipe calls for x and y ingredients for *every cup* of soylent mix; yeah well, I missed that part and only put in .5 cups applesauce and 3/4 c milk *for an entire days worth* of soylent. It didn’t mix well. Double checked the recipe and found I needed 3X more of everything. After I had the *right* amount of stuff, it mixed up OK but took forever to cook thoroughly. I wasn’t overly excited by the taste and work required to make them. The cookies on the other hand were easy to make (still took forever to cook – 30 minutes!) and are just like a thick, dry, corn tortilla. I had cooked 2 days worth of soylent so I split it up into 8 bags and am substituting a “meal” of muffins and cookies for 1/4 of my soylent every day until it’s gone.


This has been an interesting week (health wise) to say the least.

To start off with, I was prescribed an oral steroid to help with some tendinitis I had in my Achilles tendon – and I’m not sure what that did to my overall health. It did make sleeping difficult which was further exacerbated by having to wear a boot that would keep my plantar fascia and Achilles tendon extended all night long. It’s also supposed to make me irritable or something.

Next we have a nice cold/flu/whatever that set in just before the weekend and continued up through yesterday. Being sick stinks. Being sick when you’ve started out a new diet and are skittish about what may or may not be going on with your health *really* stinks since I had nothing to compare it to. In addition to the normal stuffiness, I had the unpleasant side effect that my soylent all of a sudden tasted like chalky metal and only like chalky metal. It was exceedingly difficult to drink, especially Thursday – Saturday. Ultimately what got me through was doing something that Max had suggested quite some time ago: a little bit of stevia and some cinnamon. Suddenly soylent was (somewhat) palatable again and I’ve continued with adding those to my mixes. I discovered that if you are using pure stevia you need hardly any at all – like somewhere between 1 and 0.5 grains of rice size. I accidentally put in about 1/10 of a teaspoon into a blenderbottle of soylent and literally gagged when I tasted it; way too sweet! Being sick also put a halt to my workout routine which also stopped my weight loss. I’m currently sitting at negative 10 pounds since I started. Next week should be better.

I also encountered my first nutrient deficiency: Calcium (and likely potassium too). Since the formulation only gives me a little over 100% my RDI of calcium and potassium; if I skipped 1/4 of 1/2 of my daily soylent for more than a few days in a row due to eating “muggle” food and being full I was ending up severely deficient in calcium. This manifested its self initially as an ache in my calf, which then moved on to be an ache in my quads, then both legs plus a nasty headache that felt like dehydration. The next morning I was all set to go buy some “citrical” or something when I realized “duh, I have all the stuff for that here!” so I added extra cal/mag citrate and potassium citrate to that day’s soylent. Like magic I was fine. Since then I’ve been eating all of my daily soylent no matter what, which was a little hard after eating 7-layer dip during the superbowl and getting full on that. People in the community warned about not eating all of the soylent but did I listen? apparently not. I guess the moral of the story is: if you don’t plan on eating all the stuff every day then adjust your recipe down so you’re still getting the right nutrients.

Life on soylent – Week 2

So I’ve been on DIY “soylent” (People Chow 3.0.1) for 2 weeks now, let’s see how it’s going:

Weight Log January 2014
Weight Log January 2014

Not bad. So this last weekend I went on an outing with my wife and had normal food for dinner and breakfast, then some more muggle food on Sunday. I was starting to miss the plain simplicity of the soylent, so was my GI. It’s been quite a relief yesterday and today to go back to just the soylent. To say it’s grown on me would be a vast understatement. I think the only thing I think I would change would be to find a decent vitamin K source so I could switch the soybean oil for olive oil. Aside from eliminating the potential phytoestrogen (there’s still a lot of debate on that) issue there has also been lots of rumbling regarding “oxidative stress” as QuidNYC puts it in his DIY soylent formulation’s notes: “In the end, it’s your call. Maybe canola isn’t that bad. But personally, I’d rather consume something that has been demonstrated as safe — and even beneficial in terms of human health — over a period of thousands of years (i.e., extra-virgin olive oil).”

People Chow 301 Nutrition Label
People Chow 301 Nutrition Label

The official soylent recipe just got their final nutrition information done so they have a label. So just for kicks, using this generator, I made a nutrition information label for People Chow 3.0.1. Here is the PDF version. This is the ingredients list:

Ingredients: Selected Corn Treated With Lime, Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate, Soybean Oil, Mega Man Sport [contains: Whey Protein Concentrate, Nonfat dry milk, natural and artificial vanilla cream flavor, DiArginine Malate, Sodium Citrate, Maltodextrin, Xanthan, Lecithin, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Caseinate, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Caseinate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Mono & Diglycerides, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium], Calcium & Magnesium Citrate Powder with Vitamin D3, Potassium Citrate, Iodized Salt, Choline bitartrate, Soy Lecithin (< 1%).
Contains: Milk, Wheat, Soybeans


Nutritious food on the go