a monosaccharide, the fundamental form of all carbohydrates

Empirical Formula: Cx(H2O)y

Carbohydrates Sources in Soylent Powder: 

Storage Saccharides (these are the things that are commonly referred to as "carbohydrates"):

Algal and Canola Oil Oil Powder 



Whole Algal Flour 

Modified Food Starch

Structural Polysaccharides (fiber):

Isomaltooligosaccharide (26.98 g total, 24.38 g soluble, 2.6 g insoluble)  



In science, the term carbohydrate refers to a class of molecules which are composed of individual carbon rings with attached hydroxyl groups. As the world's most abundant biomolecule,[1] carbohydrates are one of the body's primary sources of fuel and building material.

Carbohydrates are divided into two broad categories. The first is the simple carbohydrate, which includes both monosaccharides and disaccharides.

Simple Carbohydrates

The fundamental component of all carbohydrates is the monosaccharide. Most monosaccharides are rings of carbon atoms with attached hydroxyl groups.[2] 

Glucose (seen in the image at the top of this page) and fructose are common monosaccharides and have rings composed of six carbon atoms.[3] Even though the two compounds share the same molecular composition (C6H12O6), the different orientations in which the two molecules are structured, affect how the molecules interact with the body.[4] Two keys might be made of the exact same type of metal, but unless the shapes of the keys are identical, they will not fit the same lock.

A disaccharide is a molecule formed when two monosaccharides are joined together. Sucrose, the compound that the Food and Drug Administration defines as table sugar,[5] is a common disaccharide.

Soylent contains three disaccharides - isomaltulose, trehalose and a small amount of sucralose.

Even though they are in the same carbohydrate subfamily, due to their unique shapes, the ways in which isomaltulose, trehalose, sucralose and sucrose (which is not in Soylent) interact with the body are completely different. On nutrition labels, the FDA requires that all disaccharides be labeled as sugars - despite the different ways that the disaccharides function.[6]

In Soylent, a very small amount of sucralose is used to mask the flavor of the vitamin blend. Because of its shape, sucralose can not be broken down by humans. For more information on sucralose, visit this page.

Isomaltulose, which is composed of a glucose molecule bonded to a fructose molecule, is broken down and digested by the body. While isomaltulose shares the same atomic composition as sucrose (C12H22O11), because its shape is unique, it interacts with the body in a different way than sucrose.[7]

Comparing the absorbtion rate of sucrose and isomaltulose

As the chart shows, isomaltulose has an absorption rate that is significantly slower than sucrose. At the same time, however, isomaltulose is metabolized into energy faster than polysaccharides and fats. 

In addition to isomaltulose, Soylent 1.5 contains trehalose, a disaccharide with a glycemic index of 67[8] - similar to that of couscous. The 1,1 alpha linkage between its two glucose monomers makes trehalose an extremely stable disaccharide that isn't reduced by hydrolysis and can't be broken down by alpha glucosidase, an enzyme involved in the catabolism of many carbohydrates. The trehalose used in Soylent is produced industrially, but the compound is also found naturally in some types of honey, fungi as well as certain insects.[9]

The inclusion of isomaltulose and trehalose within the total blend of carbohydrates in Soylent is designed to provide an even energy release.


Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates, which are also known as polysaccharides, are divided into two groups - storage polysaccharides and structural polysaccharides.

On food labeling, the term carbohydrate refers to storage polysaccharides. Historically, these are provided via breads, starches and other grain-derived products. In Soylent, the storage polysaccharides are in the form of both the rice and potato starches, as well as the oat powder.

Storage polysaccharides are important because they are the source of medium- to longer-term energy. Subsequently, storage polysaccharides have an overall lower glycemic index, which is a measurement of the rate at which the body breaks them down into glucose.

In a human diet, fiber is the main structural polysaccharide.[10] Molecularly, the key difference between a fiber (which is not broken down by humans) and a carbohydrate, is the inversion of a single hydroxyl group on a monosaccharide’s carbon ring. In one orientation, the rings combine to form storage polysaccharides of varying shapes and sizes. In the inverse orientation, the rings evenly stack, forming a straight and long string-like fiber.

the subtle difference between starch and fiber

From a human nutrition standpoint, the key difference between a structural polysaccharide[11] and a storage polysaccharide[12] is that the bond geometry of a structural polysaccharide is not in a shape which can be broken down by the human digestive system.[13] 

In Soylent, most fiber is provided via the oat powder (4.5 grams) and cellulose (3.72 grams). Brown rice protein (3.31 grams) and an emulsifier mix (1.44 grams) account for some fiber content as well.

Because humans cannot metabolize fiber, its main purpose is to add structure to ingested food, which makes it easier for the peristaltic mechanisms of the human gastrointestinal tract to squeeze food through the system. Additionally, fiber is a critical nutrient for healthy gut bacteria.

Energy Production

Humans derive nearly all energy from carbohydrates, fatty acids and to a lesser extent, protein.[14] Of carbohydrates, almost all of those ingested are broken down into to individual monosaccharides.[15],[16]

The process by which the body extracts energy from carbohydrates is very complex, but on a fundamental level, energy is collected by pulling hydrogen atoms off of monosaccharides' carbon rings. Hydrogen atoms have a single valence electron - a minute electrical charge - which is stored in a battery-like compound known as adenosine triphosphate.

The collective electric charges of quadrillions of ATP molecules provide the energy which powers the roughly 37 trillion cells in the body.[17]

For Comparison

A pouch of Soylent contains the total amount of energy (2000 kcal) needed by an average adult. If you convert 2000 kcal to watt hours, you get 2,324 watt hours[18],[19]. According to one source, an iPhone 6 has a 6.91 watt hour battery. Thus, a pouch of Soylent contains the raw energy equivalent needed to charge an iPhone 336 times.


[1] Nelson, David L., and Michael M. Cox. "Carbohydrates and Glycobiology." In Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. 6th ed. New York: W.H. Freeman, 2013. 243.

[2] A hydroxyl group is a hydrogen atom covalently bonded to an oxygen atom.

[3] Monosaccharides with six carbon atoms are also known as hexoses.

[4] Glucose and fructose are examples of structural isomers.

[6] Search "disaccharides" on the page to view the excerpt which defines a sugar as a mono- or disaccharide.

[8] Jentjens, R.L.P.G., Jeukendrup, A.E. "Effects of pre-exercise ingestion of trehalose, galactose and glucose on subsequent metabolism and cycling performance." European Journal of Applied Physiology 88 (2003): 459-65.

[9] Richards, A.B., Krakowka, S., Dexter, L.B., Schmid, H., Wolterbeek, A.P.M., Waalkens-Berendsen, D.H., Shigoyuki, A., Kurimoto, M. "Trehalose: a review of properties, history of use and human tolerance, and results of multiple safety studies." Food and Chemical Toxicology 40 (2002): 871-98.

[10] Although it is not found in humans, chitin is another common structural polysaccharide.

[11] Structural polysaccharides are listed as "Dietary Fiber" on a food product's nutrition facts.

[12] The amount of storage polysaccharides is calculated by subtracting "Dietary Fiber" and "Sugars" from "Total Carbohydrate" on a food product's nutrition facts.

[13] Structural polysaccharides or fiber, are not broken down by the body. A small amount of fiber is broken down by bacteria in the intestines.

[14] In 1.4, 43 percent of the energy of Soylent (calories) comes from carbohydrates, 40 percent of the energy comes from fats and 17 percent of the energy comes from protein.

[15] The end product of most carbohydrate digestion is glucose, but fructose and galactose are produced as well.

[16] Stipanuk, Martha H., and Marie A. Caudill. "Carbohydrate Metabolism: Synthesis and Oxidation." In Biochemical, Physiological, and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition, 209. Third Edition ed. St. Louis: Elsevier, 2013.

[18] A watt hour is the total power consumed at the rate of one watt for one hour.

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