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Tuna water
April 20, 2012 4:04 AM   Subscribe

My friend's uncle claims that he lives solely on "tuna water", cold water blended with tinned tuna. He adds he flavours it with Kool-Aid. Would flavoured tuna water sustain human life?

I am a vegetarian, with no interest in trying this.
posted by peter1982peter to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think tuna has a lot of what a human needs to survive (and also mercury) but what it doesn't have is vitamin C. Unless kool-aid has some of that, his tuna water diet would give him a nice case of scurvy after a while.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:10 AM on April 20, 2012

Hm, I looked it up and apparently Kool-aid (which, in my defence, I've never personally encountered) does have vitamin C in it. I was assuming it was like any other generic cordial. No scurvy for him!
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:14 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tuna pretty much sustained my life for a year or so - my one+ year 'hiatus' from working, during which I devoted lots of time to photography, rock climbing, hiking, etc. Money was tight, but I had a great time and lost a ton of weight (down to 167lbs from an all time high of 242). I never felt unhealthy, and I did eat some other foods during this period, but tuna was pretty much my daily go-to. Cheap, nutritious, and delicious with a few spices added.

By the end of my hiatus, my friends were telling me they were concerned about my health and weight loss. A few years later, and I've put on a few pounds, but haven't noticed any long-term detrimental effects, and I still eat a lot of tuna (although I buy sustainably-fished tuna whenever possible).
posted by syzygy at 4:19 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Are you sure he's not pulling your leg?

Even if someone wanted to survive solely on tuna and water and sugar, this seems like really weird way to go about it.
posted by Kololo at 4:33 AM on April 20, 2012

Apparently he is an obsessive bodybuilder who eats it for the cheap protein. He has a cooler by the side of his bed with his tuna water in it, and an alarm wakes him up every two hours to remind him to drink it.
posted by peter1982peter at 5:13 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wait, I'm confused - first you say that he lives "only" on tuna water, but then you say that he "eats it for the cheap protein." Are you saying his claim is that his only beverage is tuna water, or that it is the only sustinence of any kind he has ever?

If it's the latter, I don't see how that's possible for a body builder. It's more likely that he is claiming to drink only tuna water -- but he eats stuff like steak and carrots and salad and potatoes and etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:17 AM on April 20, 2012

A quick Google suggests that a "Tuna and Water Diet" is a thing, but it's a 3-day regimen that supposedly reduces body-fat very quickly, and should include vitamins and some kind of fiber (like Metamucil.) Mostly it seems to be a thing for bodybuilders who want to get "extra-cut" before a competition or who do it maybe once a month.

So my question would be, are you sure your friend's uncle meant this is how he eats all the time ?

And now on preview I see the guy is an obsessive body builder, so yeah . . . either this is a short-term thing for him or he's actually probably TOO obsessive about it, since AFAICT most of the links I've found state that's it's only intended to be a "quick tune-up" diet and not a lifestyle.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:18 AM on April 20, 2012

He eats tuna that he mixes with cold water in a blender, he doesn't just soak the tuna in water and drink the water.

Also, I'd be more concerned about mercury than anything else.
posted by empath at 5:19 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

It will sustain life but not in a healthy way. I once worked with a bodybuilder and what they do to their bodies to prepare for competition is incredibly unhealthy. The guy I knew starved himself down to a point where he couldn't run- he would walk slowly on the treadmill, running could have killed him. He ate either tuna or chicken every day, in small portions.
Male anorexia seems to be the norm with bodybuilders. Your friend's uncle is hurting his body.
posted by myselfasme at 5:31 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

There was a bodybuilder on a UK tv documentary who had a similar diet - but there's no mention of koolaid or similar, rather, he supplemented the diet with rice cakes.
posted by shiny shoes at 5:32 AM on April 20, 2012

He'd be missing out on quite a few vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamins A and D, thiamin, folate, riboflavin... Not at all healthy, but that's true of any single-ingredient diet.
posted by ook at 5:32 AM on April 20, 2012

Could he also be popping vitamin pills?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:54 AM on April 20, 2012

The Wikipedia claims that Christian Bale ate just a can of tuna fish and an apple to get down to his starvation weight for The Machinist. So, er, YMMV?
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:20 AM on April 20, 2012

That's an apple and a can of tuna per day, of course!
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:20 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not that I'd consider eating just tuna water anyway... Chris Kresser (and apparently some other folks, links to studies in article) talks about how mercury danger in fish is less than what we've been taught to think; that selenium in many fish binds the mercury, preventing it from poisoning us.
posted by bitterkitten at 7:52 AM on April 20, 2012

Sure you can live on a monodiet, for a while. How long has he been doing this? There are a lot of people who have weird food fixations and survive for years--the headline-making case of the woman who ate only chicken nuggets and fries/chips, for instance.

Since he's getting at least some vitamin C from the Kool-Aid (this is making me feel ill just typing it), he's not going to get scurvy, which is the first disease related to nutritional deficits to show up.

I doubt he's just lying to y'all and is really eating a balanced diet when nobody's around, if that's your question. If your question is "Is this a reasonable idea?" the answer is obviously "Hell, no!"
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:39 AM on April 20, 2012

If he's taking some kind of muscle-building supplement shake as well (which he might not count in "eating"), he'd be likely to be getting some calcium and potassium and Vitamin A from that, which would stave off some of the other nutritional deficit-related diseases for a while.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:42 AM on April 20, 2012

If he's a bodybuilder I imagine he's not a very good one. Any decent bodybuilder would only get that crazy if they were in the final weeks of cutting for a competition, they likely wouldn't use Kool-Aid (unless it was post-workout I guess?) and generally competition is followed by a bloated feeding frenzy.

The guy can survive on that, sure, but for how long before it takes a psychological toll and whether he makes any progress in his workouts is another story. If he carried this on for years and years (highly unlikely) it would certainly be accompanied by nutritional deficiencies. He's also going to run short on iron within a month or two, especially if he's still trying to work out on this diet.
posted by schroedinger at 10:34 AM on April 20, 2012

He's making a protein shake, with tuna instead of whey powder. I'd guess he uses the sugar free Kool-aid (most bodybuilders prefer sugar free Jello, as there's a tad more protein.) If he's cutting for a competition, it's not terrible, but boy do you get bored with this.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:44 AM on April 20, 2012

It seems like many here don’t know about unsweetened Kool Aid, it’s just the flavoring, no sugar or artificial sweetener.
posted by bongo_x at 11:03 AM on April 20, 2012

bongo_x, I don't think anyone was suggesting that the guy was getting too much sugar or artificial sweetener? Or maybe there are some deleted posts?

I mean, if all he's having is tuna shakes, "too much sugar" or "too much artificial sweetener" is going to be pretty low on his list of worries.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:08 PM on April 20, 2012

There is almost no fat in tuna, so even if he were eating five or six cans a day he would quickly succumb to "rabbit starvation," unless he began as a very obese person, in which case he could theoretically live for a few months to a year, depending on his starting body fat percentage.

If he did not begin as a very obese person and he is not rapidly losing weight, he is lying to you.
posted by a_girl_irl at 1:10 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

bongo_x, I don't think anyone was suggesting that the guy was getting too much sugar or artificial sweetener? Or maybe there are some deleted posts?

Yes, I thought they were suggesting that;

...Even if someone wanted to survive solely on tuna and water and sugar...

...they likely wouldn't use Kool-Aid (unless it was post-workout I guess?)..

but I honestly thought there were other references. Maybe I read too much into it.
posted by bongo_x at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2012

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