I'm using huel powder to increase my caloric intake as part of a bulking regime. Concrete, I try to get about 1600 kcals of huel per day, with other 1400 kcals coming from food.

My question is: Given that this is a drink, is it all possible that the nutrients may not get properly assimilated by the body? If so, how do I detect this as fast as possible?

For context, I train heavy for 3 times a week, with body weight workouts interspersed during the week. I've been on it for the last 3 months. I've noticed a little bit of an increase in strength, but almost no visible change in musculature. I'm wondering if improper assimilation is coming into play here.

The spirit of the question, though, is if nutritionally complete drinks can be a valid substitute for food in the context of bulking.

  • How much weight have you actually gained? Contrary to what social media and supplement companies will tell you, growing muscle is a pretty slow process. Also it's hard to visually see changes in muscle build if your bodyfat percentage is too high. You would have to get a tape measure and record changes in size over time.
    – DeeV
    Apr 5, 2021 at 17:50
  • This question really doesn't seem to be significantly different from your previous one. Is the answer to that sufficient? fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/43691/… Apr 6, 2021 at 4:05

2 Answers 2


Drinking your calories is a perfectly valid strategy to use when trying to gain weight. Often it’s the case that our bodies will decrease our desire and drive to eat the bigger the surplus and the longer that it is sustained. Liquid calories then help to attenuate that lack of hunger while still getting plenty of calories.

Are liquid calories optimal for increasing muscle mass? Given two nearly identical meals where one is solid and the other is the blended up liquid version, would there be differing outcomes on hypertrophy? The only consideration that I can think of is how quickly protein gets absorbed. More fiber, volume, and time taken with the food that you are eating will make protein absorb slower. There are advantages to both fast and slow digestion though, so it feels like a moot point.

DeeV makes a good point in bringing up the need for the liquid calories in the first place. How much of a surplus are you aiming for? How much weight are you gaining? Lyle McDonald infamously proposed a model of muscle growth that feels too high for the vast majority of lifters, suggesting that people can gain 22.5-45 lbs (10-20 kg) of muscle in their first four years. Looking at the higher end of that range I extrapolated this chart https://i.stack.imgur.com/gEwMN.jpg it would seem that gaining more than 2.5 pounds per month when you first start will guarantee fat gain. The 2.5 lbs per month is hardly guaranteed, but given that it’s a best case scenario, you will probably be gaining less muscle. In general I wouldn’t recommend trying to gain more than two pounds (1kg) per month. That’s roughly a 233 calorie surplus every day. Your body may adapt with time however meaning that what once was a surplus no longer is and therefore calories need to be raised even higher to continue to gain weight.


Drinking your food is not the best way to bulk: the act of chewing triggers your digestive system to start up. By not chewing as you eat, you will likely not absorb as many nutrients (including calories) as you otherwise would.

I guess you could use chewing gum before drinking huel, or just "chew" your huel shake.

However, if this is your way to make sure you're hitting an otherwise challenging calorie goal, it's fine. I would treat these kinds of shakes as supplements. Try to get the bulk of your daily fuel and nutrients from solid food.

  • Thanks, this is actually quite interesting! Do you have any studies to back up the idea that this lack of digestive readiness is enough to offset the nutritional gains from drinks? (It's okay if you don't). The chewing gum method sounds interesting, I will give it a try.
    – user33409
    Apr 20, 2021 at 18:16
  • @nz_21 I don't know of any studies like that, but I don't think it "offsets" the nutritional gains, I just think you can get more bang for your buck by chewing. Here's a study that says more nutrients are absorbed when chewing more: academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/3/794/4596705
    – minseong
    Apr 20, 2021 at 18:48

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