Excess components overlooked in DIY?


One aspect of DIY that doesn’t seem to get talked about much is excess. Many of these recipes have 200-300% or higher RDA values for some components, and I’m curious as to what impact these overages can have. My education in nutrition goes back a whopping 3 days, and I’m not an academic so I’m notably unskilled at research.

The main driver for this inquiry is an explanation that was given to me once by someone who seemed like an expert on the subject. The gist of it is that our bodies only make use of certain amounts of each nutrient, and there is an energy cost attached to disposing of the excess. Protein was cited as the worst offender, as we really need very little of it but disposal is expensive. The acids produced by the cells doing this work need to be buffered with minerals (namely calcium) to be safely passed out of the body. Consuming too much protein can be hazardous due to absorption limits on the required minerals, and so the body will dip into mineral reserves to deal with the excess, creating deficient conditions which can lead to diseases like osteoporosis. Please correct me if I am off base here.

With that said, if this is the case then what are the implications for soylents? Could these considerations help fine tune the recipes even more?


I admit I have noticed that some DIY soylents seem to have a disturbingly high amount of some nutrients. Generally to little of a nutrient is bad and will result in a deficiency while to much of the same nutrient can also be bad because it can be toxic and up your chances of cancer. The USDA has upper safe limits on many micronutrients. Another thing to consider if the bioavailability of the ingredient used. Some vitamins come in many different forms. Some are more easily absorbed by the body than others. With my DIY recipes I try to stay as far away from the upper limits as I can while still being above the lower limits.

As far as your point about the protein I believe that to be vegan propaganda. I’ve seen many a blog post that starts out by saying high amounts of protein is bad then goes onto specify animal sources as the main culprit and that we should use plant sources.


Well this was over Thanksgiving, between mouthfuls of ham and turkey, so I don’t suspect a vegan agenda… The processes described apply to protein from all sources, however protein derived from meat is significantly more expensive to digest and make use of, but that is moot in this context since we’re only dealing with highly available forms.

I’m really curious about the energy input/output aspect though, not so much toxicity. If your body only utilizes some of a particular nutrient, then the excess is not only wasted but it actually costs more energy to get rid of it.


I think this explanation of the effects of “excess protein” is a common overstatement made by proponents of veganism and raw foodists. I used to believe and make this same overstatement, myself, 24 years ago.

My current understanding is that protein metabolism may use minerals as catalysts, but no catalyst is used up in the process. (That’s kinda the definition of a catalyst.)

It’s true that if the body is dealing with a true excess of protein, a lot of urea is produced, and in flushing out the urea, the kidneys inadvertently may flush out other minerals in the blood, including calcium. The body uses calcium from bone to keep the blood in balance, and this is the basis for the theory that excess protein leads to calcium loss from the bones.

But calcium loss to the urine also leads the gut to absorb more calcium! So when you’re excreting more calcium, you’re also absorbing more calcium. It’s a system with many things balancing.

The whole “bone equals calcium” equation also conveniently forgets that healthy bone is about 50% protein, by weight (think marrow, collagen…) Without the protein, bone cannot deposit the calcium.

Studies have shown that when the diet has plenty of calcium, extra protein does not, in fact, lead to bone loss, it leads to bone gain - especially in the elderly, if I recall properly. But only if there’s plenty of calcium in the diet as well as protein, and the person is able to absorb it (that is, if they’re not deficient in Vitamin D, for example, without which they can’t absorb calcium well.)

There’s a good article about this whole balancing process here; a quote:

As urinary calcium rises, a potential hypocalcemic stress is created, to which the parathyroid glands respond with elevated parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion. PTH in turn acts on 3 end organs: bone, gut, and kidney. The gut effect is mediated by increased renal synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which in turn leads to improved calcium absorption. At the same time, PTH enhances bone resorption, so that some of the calciuric loss is offset from the bony reserves, rather than exclusively from the diet. It is in this way that high protein intakes, leading to incompletely offset urinary calcium loss, might produce bone loss.

In practice, my understanding is that within the context of an appropriate calorie diet, with plenty of vitamins and minerals, the body is very flexible about how it deals with different protein amounts. That is, if 2000 Kcal is correct for you, the body can deal quite well with getting 200 Kcal from protein, or 700 Kcal from protein. That’s 10% to 35% - a very wide range.

But if 2000 Kcal is correct for you, and you’re consuming 2600 Kcal, then it’s a different story. If you’re overeating, you will tend to suffer different long-term problems, based on what you’re overconsuming most. So, just speculating wildly now, if you’re overeating by 600 Kcal a day, and you’re eating a lot of excess protein, you might start having problems associated with excess protein, like mineral loss or kidney problems. But if you’re overeating by consuming a lot of refined carbs, you might start showing signs of metabolic syndrome or head towards diabetes. And if you’re overconsuming fat, you might see problems with fat in the liver or with fatty plaques in your arteries. And in all three cases, you’ll probably be gaining weight and getting fat.

Interestingly, if you need 2000 Kcal and you only consume, say, 1800 Kcal a day, then you aren’t likely to show any of these problem, even if you intake is rather wildly tilted towards being very high protein, or very high fat, or very high carb… because your body pretty much has to use up all of it to meet your needs.


I agree with MentalNomad. Just because you and your friend are not vegan doesn’t mean he/she wasn’t quoting them without realizing it. People do it all the time. Thats how many mythes of all kinds get perpetuated.