Balancing carbohydrate requirement for individual threshold (fat loss vs maintenance vs fat gain)


Hey guys,

Excited to see this forum opened up.

I’d like to start a discussion around tweaking the carbohydrate levels based on an individual’s requirements. Per research on nutrient partitioning, most people have a certain threshold of carbohydrate at which they can ‘tolerate’ carbs - meaning they can eat an amount that does not lead to weight gain.

This varies according on one’s activity levels, and hormonal factors too, but in general, it comes down to nutrient partitioning - how the body preferentially delivers glucose to fat cells, or muscle cells.

Based on ‘body type’, you can get a rough idea of carb tolerance for a person. For example, I tend to gain fat fairly easily, but also gain muscle fairly easily. This points to a moderate tolerance of carbs. Someone who looks like a marathon runner generally has a higher carb tolerance (meaning more glucose is shuttled into the muscle cells). Someone who gains fat easily tends to have a lower tolerance.

For those with low tolerance, a diet higher in fat is ideal for weight maintenance, and for those with a high carb tolerance, a diet low in fat is ideal. Male/female will generally be different too, with a slightly higher fat diet preferable for women. In this context, protein levels can remain around the same for everyone - don’t believe a thing you hear about RDIs for protein. Protein should be 30-40% of daily intake, not the measly 50 or 60g that’s suggested.

Open to ideas on how Soylent could be fine tuned to accommodate this.



My own research indicates that carbohydrate tolerance is dependent on metabolic function, not something inherent to a person’s biology. Your carbohydrate tolerance would improve as your metabolic function improves.

But regardless, carbohydrates should be something you can modify on a day-to-day basis, since your needs will vary with exercise and other physical efforts. I expect that when Soylent is available for purchase, it will come in a variety of jars that you mix at home to meet your (varying) daily needs.


As a diabetic, I am very interested in being able to adjust the carb intake. Being able to add/subtract carbs to achieve proper sugar levels would be a necessity. I am very excited at the possibility of not needing medications to control my blood sugar (if that’s possible).


Great thoughts. I agree that daily requirements will vary from day to day.

I’m interested to know more details about metabolic function, as you have researched! There’s always an opportunity to learn more.

I think it’ll be great if a user can have an idea of their range, and adjust accordingly, probably through experimentation.


This is a really interesting thought.

My thought is that the carbs will need to be digested slowly enough to not affect your blood sugar levels too much. This can be achieved with a very high fibre and low gi diet for some people at the moment, and Tim Ferriss showed that he was able to maintain a fairly flat blood sugar curve in a 24 hour period by doing this.
As for mixing ingredients, one of those ingredients will need to be fibre, unless there’s a more complex carbohydrate chain that can be made, or perhaps even a carbohydrate that’s protected with a time-release/time-delay style formula.


Good point about blood sugar levels. I know Rob uses maltodextrin for carbs, and although technically complex, I believe malto is really simple chains weakly strung together, so it still breaks down pretty quick.

I wonder if maltodextrin should be supplemented/replaced with another carb form that is a bit more complex. Any thoughts/recommendations on this?


There’s quite a few books out there on metabolic function and reversing the decline of same. As one simple example, my mother has reversed and cured her Type II diabetes using just diet and lifestyle changes.

My own carbohydrate tolerance has increased lately as well, with rest and proper exercise.

Probably my favorite author on this topic is Matt Stone (he has books available at Amazon), but his style can be a bit informal for some. “Hypothroidism Type 2” by Dr. Mark Starr might be a bit more credentialed, if that’s important to you. The research of Doctor Broda Barnes is also very good. Dated, but it has never been refuted.


I agree, I have concerns about using maltodextrin exclusively, becasue it has a very high glycemic index (gi), since it is quickly moved into the gut rather than sitting in the stomach for a while. This could be very dangerous for diabetics. For myself I am thinking about adding lower gi carbs in addition to maltodextrin like, whole wheat, oats, nuts, etc but these have a low solubility and make the liquid grittier. However, I think that by adding egg whites as a binder these lower gi carbs could me mixed with the soylent powder and then be baked at a low temperature into a biscuit or cookie like form that would be better at regulating blood sugar while still giving complete nutrition in a single food.


Thanks very much, I’ll check them all out. I’m not tied to only reading research by people with half the alphabet after their name.

Carb tolerance can definitely be influenced by hormones, and insulin sensitivity, the latter can be restored in a number of ways, including interval training, and intense resistance training. Also a change in diet to reduce the GI and GL (Glycemic impact and Glycemic load) of foods/meals will help to restore insulin sensitivity, which in turn will increase carbohydrate tolerance.

To Wesley’s comment - when considering blood sugar impact, maltodextrin is higher GI than sucrose, so is less than ideal. It’s possible that early testers may have high carb tolerance, or long term impact of ingredients is yet to be seen (fat gain and/or insulin sensitivity decreasing) because it is early-stage.


I’ve eliminated carbs entirely from my diet, and after a short adjustment period, got used to a fat-burning diet (burning fatty acids for fuel). In short, carbs => blood sugar (glucose) => insulin spike/sustained release => high LDL and low HSL enzymes on cells, among other unfavorable effects. Everything carbs do can be done (arguably better, according to some studies) by synthesizing what the body needs out of fatty acids, among other things, by the liver. There’s just no need for carbs, so I just exclude them and feel fine, if not better, having done so.

Something to consider. If you want more than just my hastily thrown together summary, Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes is a book I can highly recommend. After reading it, I felt like I swallowed the Matrix pill and knew how everything worked. It’s something to look into even if you aren’t after fat loss.


+1 for Why We Get Fat - it’s a great book and definitely helped me understand this all much better.

So, Cameron, would you see a soylent that is made without carbohydrates entirely, and includes some form of fatty acids?
Interested to hear your ideas!


I’ve just increased olive oil and protein powder (whey isolate only, not the mix that Rob uses) to compensate, and it’s been feeling pretty good. I’ve also been losing about 0.5 percentage points from my body fat percentage per day by doing this, which is great.


I’m interested in this topic – ideal macro ratios – but I’m not sure about your notion of “body types”. Can you provide sources (aside from that book) for what you’re saying?


The “body type” thing @lucasstarbuck mentioned is oversimplified. What you want to look into is insulin resistance. Several factors are involved on both the nature and nurture side of things that affect your insulin resistance. Some is genetics, some are the nutritional conditions in the womb, and how much blood sugar you tend to accumulate in meals. That last bit is what you can control; reduce blood sugar spikes from meals (by reducing carbs—sugars especially) and over the course of probably at least a year or two your cells become more sensitive to insulin, meaning your pancreas has to secrete less of it.

Here’s a few sources you could look into if so inclined:

  • Berson, S.A., and R. S. Yalow. 1970. “Insulin ‘Antagonists’ and Insulin Resistance.” In Diabetes Mellitus: Theory and Practice, ed. M. Ellenberg and H. Rifkin, pp. 388-423. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Dabalea, D. 2007. “The Predisposition to Obesity and Diabetes in Offspring ofDiabetic Mothers.” Diabetes Care. July;30(Suppl 2):S169-S174
  • DeFronzo, R. A. 1997. “Insulin Resistance: A Multifaceted Syndrome Responsible for NIDDM, Obesity, Hypertension, Dyslipidaemia and Atherosclerosis.” Netherlands Journal of Medicine. May;50(5):191-97.
  • Godsland, I. F. 2009. “Insulin Resistance and Hyperinsulinaemia in the Development and Progression of Cancer.” Clinical Science. Nov 23;118(5):315-32.


Sorry perhaps I should have clarified, as I completely agree that ‘body types’ are an oversimplification, also agree that insulin resistance is the key to carb tolerance. @cameronmalek you’ve done an awesome job of explaining the factors involved so I won’t repeat.

I was focused on how this can be applicable to people who are less focused on self-monitoring, or understanding their own bodies. So, how, in a commercial sense, or mass-market sense, can Soylent be useful for people? The answer is a simplification to begin with. In much the same way how the most successful personal trainers and nutrition coaches are now recognising that the initial changes that need to be made need to be general, but somewhat tailored to an individual. Body type is an acceptable generalization as a starting point, in that case. Hope that makes sense.

Cameron, following a carb-free, or low carb version of Soylent would certainly start to improve one’s insulin sensitivity, at least coming back from the depths of insulin resistance that someone may experience as a result of years of high-sugar, high-carb foods.


I did a lot of research into lower GI starch powders and came across high-amylose corn starch. I read some studies that compared how ratios of amylose to amylopectin would impact body composition and higher amylose proportions appear to have a lower GI.

I’m testing it out right now. I have to say that my initial reactions are that the drink is far less pleasant when swapping out malto for starch powder. It has that uncooked flour taste. I’m more interested in how it performs, though.


I just bought, and read the entirety of this book yesterday thanks to your comment, and my response? Ho. Ly. Fu&$. I feel like I just swallowed the pill too. Much thanks Cameron (and @lucasstarbuck ).


Everyone should read that book. Even if the guy is missing something it gives a good layman’s explanation of how our fat cells work. I just read it on the drive home from CA to AZ (I wasn’t driving) and just before the halfway mark (reading it on a Kindle, YMMV) he said a lot of things that made a LOT of sense about why overweight people such as myself crave carbs (though I haven’t done the research myself to verify his statements). I’m curious whether @rob or @JulioMiles have read this yet and what their take is on it.


Heh, I read that book back on April 23rd, quit soylent and switched to a low-carb diet and proceeded to lose 1-2 pounds every week for the next 3 months until I evened out 20 pounds lighter, I’m now ~10% body fat down from ~16%. Shit. is. legit. :slight_smile:


Will investigate the book, thanks.