Protein, Calories, Muscle Building and Fat Burning With Soylent

So I started weightlifting last week, and now I’m getting paranoid that my Soylent 2.0 diet might not be optimal.

Figured I’d post and see what everyone says since there seems to be a better caliber of nutrition knowledge here than everywhere else I’ve looked. Also I’ve seen a couple threads on bodybuilding here AND of course the official weight loss thread… but none of those seem to deal with getting stronger and burning fat at the same time. Plus they’re all based on earlier versions of Soylent.

So my "stats"
Exercise: Stronglifts 5x5
Food: 2,000 kcal of Soylent 2.0 per day (100g Protein)
BMR: 2276kcal
Calorie Burn Target: ~3,000 kcal/day (between NEAT and exercise)

Now, I weigh 255 lbs as of today. In another thread ( ) @sylass94 posted a recommendation of between .64 g/lb and .82 g/lb.

That would give me a lower bound of 163 grams of protein needed, and an upper bound of 209 grams.

So right off the bat it seems likely that I need more protein… but then what about calories?

2,000 kcal/day seems to be a little under my BMR, correct? Although generally I feel pretty satiated on that much even on workout days.

So basically:

Do I need more protein to build muscle?
If so, how much?
Do I need more calories?
If so, how much?

I’m hoping I can maintain a caloric deficit from my exercise to burn the fat but thinking I should increase my calories at least over my BMR in order to make sure my body chooses to build muscle. But that’s just my theory, and a lot of you guys seem to be more educated on this stuff so what are your thoughts?


Bro, do you even…



You can’t really lose weight and build muscle at the same time. When calories in > calories out your body burns both fat and muscle stores to make up the difference, and while some of the calories in might be going towards building up more muscle, your body will use at least some of the muscle store to pay out the caloric difference. Even if you gain muscle in specific places as a result of working out while on a calorie deficit, you’re losing muscle in other places so overall you’re not gaining muscle. The goal for working out while running a deficit is to make your body lose more fat and lose less muscle to make up the calorie deficit, it’s not to build muscle.

You should probably add more protein because that will help you retain muscle too. People running a calorie deficit should actually be eating more protein than their maintenance standard in order to retain as much muscle as possible. If you’re losing 1000kcal of fat+muscle a day, you want as much of that loss to be fat as possible.

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I know that’s the common wisdom, but I’m not 100% sure it’s true. There are a few sources which also claim weightlifting is better than cardio for fat loss, which couldn’t be true unless you could build muscle while burning off the fat.

I did find this article:

Which, perhaps more importantly, led me to this study :

Basically that study is saying:

Hypocaloric Diet Alone - > Body fat loss 2 +/- 0.5%
Muscle Gain: 0

Plus casein protein AND resistance training -> Body fat loss 8 +/- 0.6%
Muscle Gain: 4 +/- 1.4 kg

Plus whey protein and resistance training -> Body fat loss: 4 +/- 0.4%
Muscle Gain: 2 +/- 0.7 kg

So that might answer my question, and clearly I need casein protein.

I guess the remaining question is can/should I try for that 80% of maintenance calorie target…?

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You burn more fat by building muscle because muscle burns more calories throughout the day. The more muscle you have the more calories your body will burn. Therefore strength training will burn more calories than cardio alone during the course of the day. It’s not a simultaneous action of burning fat and building muscle, that comes down to simple carloric quantity. You can eat 3,000 calories per day and not do anything and put on fat, or you can eat 3,000 calories per day and lift and put on muscle, that muscle will burn whatever fat is left for energy.

Anyone who has ever watched “The Biggest Loser” knows that’s not true. Many people on that show lose weight AND build muscle at the same time.

Lose [most of] the fat first, then change up the diet to focus on muscle building. It worked well enough for me, whether or not it was the ideal way to go. (studies keep pointing to different ideals in shorter time frames than goals are reached. lol)

Altho back when I first started out, I switched my diet back and forth each week (burn fat > build muscle> burn fat…) and I lost 45lbs in less than a year with moderate strength gains and getting down to near-marathon runner bodyfat%. I think I am a freak, though. IDK. But “both at the same time” IS possible - it’s just not quite an accurate description of what happens. You hafta alternate in some sorta way / timeframe, and not expect speedy results.

I don’t strength train now [unrelated injury] but I was for a time while on Soylent and I did find that my gains stopped then started regressing - until I added more protein. But that was short-lived as I got hurt at work, so I can’t say anything beyond that anecdotal tidbit. But I was struggling to find a “perfect” balance between protein / calories / Soylent right at the end.

Now I just drink beer.

  • signed, some random internet dude
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People on The Biggest Loser are extreme outliers, they spend weeks at a place specifically designed for morbidly obese people to eat practically nothing and work out like 4-6 hours every day, if not more. If you work out so much that most of your calorie deficit is made up by burning fat, and most of your calorie intake goes to building muscle, then yes it’s possible to gain a lot of muscle while losing weight.

@Telos Right, like I said working out will still get you an amount of muscle gain it just needs to be put into the equation - I’m not explaining this very well, I wish I could whip up some cool moving-graph gifs to demonstrate what I mean. Here’s my understanding:

Say hugh laurie got a little chubby and wants to lose weight quickly. He goes on a 1000kcal deficit, so say he takes in 2000kcal and has daily expenditure of 3000. His body makes up the rest of the 1000 because of course he’s spending it so it has to come from somewhere at the moment it’s being spent, there’s no such thing as calorie loans. His body makes up most of that 1000 deficit by burning fat and some of it by burning muscle. As it is now his muscle will be decreasing over time - I don’t know how much, so I’ll just stipulate that he’s losing 0.5% muscle mass per week. His protein intake is being used to help retain muscle and the rest being burned for calories.

If hugh laurie starts working out at this point, some amount of protein that was being burned for calories will now be used to build muscle, giving him +0.35% muscle mass - keep in mind he’s simultaneously burning some muscle to make up for the calorie deficit, while building some from working out so it ends up being -0.5% + 0.35% = -0.15% muscle mass loss per week. If hugh laurie works out a lot and eats a smaller calorie deficit, say doubles workout and halves deficit so now he’s only down 500kcal daily, then he can gain overall muscle mass: -0.25% loss from calorie deficit + 0.7% gain from working out = +0.45% net gain per week

It’s not that there’s an iron law preventing muscle gain while on a deficit, especially if it’s a small deficit like 80%. It just becomes progressively harder to overall gain muscle the bigger your calorie deficit is so you’d need more working out to make up the loss. If you’re running a big deficit you’ll probably have difficulty gaining overall muscle mass unless you do very intense or frequent workouts. This is not to say people shouldn’t work out while losing weight, that’s a whole 'nother thread

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OK cool, that’s what I was hoping for. Now is there a way to calculate how many calories I should eat to stay on the positive side of muscle building? Or even the “break even” point where you wouldn’t lose muscle?

Right now the workouts don’t seem that intense, but you add 5 pounds every session so I think that’s going to change quickly…

LOL… yeah, that’s this thread: :wink:

I believe you are over-thinking the dietary issue - I have been a weightlifter for over 50 years, been in a gym over 5,000 times, 3 or 4 times a week. Most people enroll in a training program but drop out in a few days or weeks - doesn’t matter what the program is, yoga, karate, lyrical dance, crossfit etc etc. You have done 5 days and are concerned?
Soylent is designed to provide adequate nutrition for average people in non-strenous lifestyles. As a person moves out of the average, the diet may need modification.
I use Soylent as a supplement - avoid breakfast and lunch. Take a packet of soylent and dump it into a gallon jar and then add a cup of whey and a cup of Myofusion, and shake it up dry. I then take a cup or so of the mixed powder and dump into a quart jar and add about 3 cups of 2% milk and shake it to mix. That is a meal - 3 of them a day. For dinner I eat meat - steak, pot roast, chicken breast, fish, whatever and a bit of salad. If I have to eat out I order a hamburger with salad or whatever. Throw the bun or bread or potatoes away, eat the meat and a bit of salad. There is more than enough carbs in the Soylent, but not enough protein for me. Your mileage may vary, and as you have read in the comments, opinions vary also.

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What if you add extra protein mix to it for lifting? I dunno! I workout heavily too but I am a small female.

I was… I have a scale that measures body fat% and muscle% and they didn’t shift much so I started looking into things to make sure I wasn’t losing out due to my diet. Turns out I definitely needed more protein but the calories worry me more because I also need to lose a lot of fat (I’m at 37.2% now. :frowning: )

I got worried because I saw my muscle mass drop a little after the first few workouts. It went back up a little but the problem is I still haven’t seen any real change. My weight, muscle% and body fat% are all the same.

So basically I wanted to make sure my diet was backing up my workouts properly.

After this thread and finding that article I linked before I decided on adding some protein with every meal, which has so far been a half cup of cottage cheese with every Soylent. I’ve got some protein powder but haven’t really tried it yet. (Soylent 2.0 doesn’t seem to mix well when you just throw stuff into the bottle.)

So now I’m pretty confident of my diet but I wouldn’t mind being able to optimize it.

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Just out of interest (and feel free to not tell me, it’s none of my business), but how much variance were you seeing in your body composition measurements over the course of the five days?

My understanding is that such measurements using scales are pretty vague, like they could easily be plus or minus ten percentage points from the true value.

I use a Withings scale to keep track of my weight and body composition, and my body fat percentage measurement normally varies by at least half a percent every day. I usually need ten days of measurements to discern a trend.

I am curious on how Soylent will work with my current goal of losing a little fat and toning up. I’ve lost 80 lbs in 2 years and am pretty lean/fit but still working on toning my abs from having kids. I hope me decision to use it as a lunch or breakfast replacement was a smart choice for my fitness goals. I just needed to free up time in my day. Meal prep for 2 years every single day gets VERY old.

Here are my graphs from MyFitnessPal. I don’t measure the body composition every day, and on 10/29 I think it was the first day I’d done it in months. I think the big drop there might also be because I switched to measuring in the morning rather than the evening.

I started stronglifts on 10/26, so you can see that my muscle mass seems to have dropped and fluctuated a bit but stayed low. :frowning:

I think I started the added protein on 11/6…

Gotcha, nice one. Shame it doesn’t show where the actual measurements were.

I see what you mean. The movements look like they’re all within a percentage point, so we’re not talking anything big. And if it’s only two weeks, I guess it might not be kicking in yet.

(That said I’m very ill-informed about all this, so I dunno.)

That’s my hope, and since the weight starts very light and goes up only 5lbs per workout I’m just now starting to struggle on some of the lefts. (Except overhead press, that’s been difficult for me since the start!)

Ah sure, yeah I guess the first few sessions might be designed to get people used to the exercises before they get more effectual. (Again, no idea, the most lifting I do is shaking my Soylent pitcher.)

Hey good on you, you’ll be lifting the entire machine in no time. Those graphs will start moving in the directions you want.

Basically yeah, focus on the form and all that so you don’t get injured later I guess. And also for some exercises where you might just be overly weak (damn you overhead press!)

I switched to 2.0 so I wouldn’t even have to do that! :wink:

Thanks for the encouragement! :slight_smile:


Gotcha, that makes sense. Yeah the closest I’ve got is the 7-Minute workout, and for some of exercises in there I need an easier version to even be able to do it.

In the spirit of sharing, these are my weight and body fat percentage graphs since I got the Withings scales nearly two years ago.

Not a lot of fascinating insight there, but you can see how at least Withings’ estimate of body fat percentage varies quite a bit more than its weight measurements, so I never put too much stock in that beyond long-term trends.

(Oh, and the recent weight and body-fat reduction coincides with me starting a mostly-Soylent diet, but also exercising a bunch more at the same time.)