Author’s Blurb: I’ve always seen protein shakes in the pharmacies—chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, banana flavoured ones—but never tried them. As I grew up, I did get a little addicted to Boost Juice’s Gym Junkie, however, and that’s probably the closest thing to a protein shake I’ve ever tried.
Just recently, I had the chance to try a real protein shake. While that’s essentially what it is, it’s marketed as a liquid meal replacement that needs only 2 minutes of preparation, by a Malaysian startup called Focus Foods.
Focus Foods is all about selling hyper-convenient superfood meals, drinks and snacks that you can reach for any time of the day instead of settling for commercial sugar and salt pumped snacks.
Founder Ben started it because of some issues he noticed would plague Malaysians, himself included: the fact that we struggle to decide on where to eat almost every day, and how some of us white collar workers may sometimes skip meals completely, or reach for an unhealthy snack as we don’t want to spend time on a proper meal.
Setting My Expectations
I got my hands on about a week’s worth of liquid meals, along with a few sachets of Focus Foods’ Daily Greens (a powder mixture of spirulina, wheatgrass, barley grass, etc.), Focus Fuel (yerba mate tea), and The Perfect Snack (healthy trail mix).
I was really out to test the liquid meals most of all, so here were my two main, immediate expectations going into the week: it should be easy to make as it claims, and it must fulfil my hunger from lunch until dinner (about a 7-hour window).
It doesn’t claim to help you lose weight (dependent on whether you work out or not) and as I was only testing it for a week, I wouldn’t have seen any results there anyway.
The liquid meals can be bought in 3 different forms: 80/114g bottles (1 meal), 80/114g sachets (1 meal), and a 2.4kg bulk pack (about 11 meals).
I received 5 80/114g bottles, which would act as 5 lunches throughout the week, and they came in chocolate and choc mint, which is the newest flavour. There’s also an option to get them unflavoured and unsweetened, as the two flavours I got are sweetened with stevia.
I’ve never been one to count my calories or carbs, but the numbers on the liquid meals’ label looked decent to me.
As there wasn’t much change throughout the week, this review isn’t written day by day. Instead, the information is just relayed in the chronological order that they happened throughout the entire week.
On the first day, I was already feeling the FOMO (fear of missing out, for those out of touch) as I watched my colleagues leave the office for lunch.
I headed over to our fantastic water dispenser with my first bottle of chocolate flavoured liquid meal at around 12:30PM. According to Focus Foods, you can use water of any temperature you’d like, so I started with a bit of hot water before filling it with cold water the rest of the way.
Then came the shaking, which was a real workout. I could monitor how well I was dissolving the powder through the clear plastic bottle.
The bottles are great for those who don’t own shaker bottles, and the cap stayed leak-proof throughout my vigorous shaking.
Back I went to my desk and opened up the bottle. Smell-wise, there isn’t anything bad to say about it. I’ve never been averse to healthy food, and I was already expecting it to be rather bland.
Immediately, however, I noticed an issue: ‘chunkage’. There were still chunks of powder floating about the top which no amount of shaking could really get rid of, even after I asked my colleagues for help.
So, I got a spoon to flatten the chunks and mix them in. Crisis sort of averted, I took my first gulp. There was definitely a thickness to its texture, but taste-wise, it wasn’t bad at all.
I couldn’t really taste any chocolate but I did notice the stevia, and I must say that I did not enjoy it. I would have much preferred the unflavoured and unsweetened liquid meals, I realised.
Once I finished the bottle, I was hit with a fullness, the kind of bloating you get after drinking a lot of liquids.
Once the feeling subsided, here’s what surprised me the most—I was kept full for the 8 hours or so before I got home for dinner.
I must admit that I am also generally a small eater, so one bottle was more than enough for me.
A Week Of Experimentation
For the rest of the week, I would experiment with the liquid meals.
1. I filled my bottle with milk instead of water.
Alternatively, for something creamier, you can use milk as the liquid if you don’t mind adding on some calories.
It really did get creamier, but I found it too rich for me. The texture also got a lot thicker.
2. I filled it with 1:1 water to milk.
I was looking to cut down on the thickness, and this ratio helped.
I got around to trying these combinations with the choc mint flavoured meal too, and I will say that the mint masked the stevia.
Towards the end of the week though, I found myself preferring the regular chocolate meal with only water. Sometimes simple is better.
It’s Not All Smooth Sailing
Expectedly, since I was changing the intake of my body for my first meal of the day (I don’t eat breakfast) the entire week, I ran into some issues.
1. ‘Chunkage’ never really went away.
Every liquid meal I made, there would be some degree of it. While they didn’t hinder the experience too much, swallowing powdery clumps in between gulps was a little nasty-feeling.
I managed to lessen them significantly over the course of the week, but I never had a liquid meal without them.
The combination of pea protein and the other ingredients makes quite a dense powder, so I suspect that might be why it’s not easily mixed just through shaking.
2. The bloating and subsequent constipation.
By the third day of liquid meal lunches, I noticed that I hadn’t gone to the toilet for a number 2 since day one.
I definitely felt constipated, and while I felt the urge to go a few times, there was no end result. This left me in some discomfort for the rest of the week, until a few days after I was done with the liquid meals.
Perhaps this was just my body adjusting to the new diet and its unfamiliar ingredients.
As I only tested it for a week, I couldn’t monitor if my constipation would have eventually gone away as my body adjusted to consuming the liquid meals for lunch regularly.
3. The cravings for ‘real’ flavour.
I would crave our regular, unhealthy snacks, not out of hunger, but because I simply wanted to taste something stronger, saltier, sweeter.
Not a big problem, as I was disciplined enough to stay away from unhealthy snacks and would reach for The Perfect Snack instead.
I mentioned I don’t eat breakfast on the daily, but for this experimental week, I snacked on The Perfect Snack in the mornings.
It’s unsalted, and as someone who likes trail mix, I found no problem with it.
The Daily Greens, on the other hand, was slightly tough to drink because of how green it tasted.
While I appreciate that there’s no stevia in it, it’s too healthy-tasting even for me who loves eating vegetables.
I’m no longer dependent on caffeine to help me through the day as it can give me the jitters, so I was a little hesitant about the Focus Fuel yerba mate tea due to that.
Thankfully, its flavour was very mild, pleasant and not bitter at all, and I didn’t get the jitters after.
Overall, throughout the week, I didn’t go hungry after the liquid meals, and The Perfect Snack was a welcome addition, along with the Focus Fuel. I could do without the Daily Greens.
The best part of the week was definitely not needing to think or worry about what to eat—my lunch was already decided, I just had to make it.
Focus Foods’ products also claim to help you focus better, and throughout the week, I did feel a little less lethargic at work.
I don’t want to discount the goodness of Focus Fuel, but as a naturally doubtful person, I suspect it could have just been placebo.
If you’re someone who cannot stomach bland flavours and textured liquids, I’d say that the liquid meals aren’t for you.
It’s important to note as well that they’re not meant to replace every meal of the day; they’re simply there to save you the time and brainpower when you’re crunching for a deadline or likewise.
Bottom Line: At the end of the day, I still very much prefer my solid food lunches. I find extreme joy in the act of eating, when I can chew and taste a mix of flavours. I don’t think I would willingly survive on these meal replacements, but I might keep a bottle or two around for days when I need something fast and healthy.
- You can read more about Focus Foods here.