Nutrient Optimiser FAQ

Welcome to the Nutrient Optimiser Frequently Asked Questions.

We’ve tried to address the queries and issues that came up in the first challenge to help people heading into the Nutrient Density Challenge.  

If you don’t see your question answered here feel free to ask it in the Nutrient Optimiser Facebook Group.

Note: This is a live Google Doc, so if you have any suggested edits or additions feel free to add them here.  

The FAQ has been organised into a number of categories.  Click on the topic below to go to the topic.  

Contents

Contents        2

All about Nutrient Optimiser        4

What is Nutrient Optimiser?        4

What is Nutrient Density?        4

What goals can the Nutrient Optimiser help me achieve?        5

Is Nutrient Optimiser an app?        6

Does Nutrient Optimiser track food?        10

How much does the Nutrient Optimiser cost?        10

Will I be able to get a discount?        11

Why is nutrient density so important?        12

Do you cater to the vegetarian / carnivore / autoimmune / paleo / vegan / ketogenic eating approach?        16

Do you prefer/recommend a particular way of eating (e.g. vegan, keto, plant-based, paleo or carnivore)?        17

Do you prefer/recommend a low carb or low-fat diet?        21

Will Nutrient Optimiser fit in with my fasting routine?        26

What biometric data do you use?        26

How and where do I start?        28

Using Nutrient Optimiser        29

What conditions do you optimise for?        29

Which micronutrients do you optimise?        32

How can I check if my favourite foods are satiating or nutrient dense?        33

How often should I weigh myself?        35

How do I set up my Facebook bot?        36

How long will I need to use Nutrient Optimiser for?        37

But I didn’t get the results I was hoping for today!  How do I keep motivated?        40

How many times a day should I eat?        41

When should I eat?        42

Can I take supplements?        44

Should I log my supplements?        45

How do I see what other people are eating to learn from them?        45

Why are my best and worst days blank?        46

How long can I do this for?        46

Nutrient Density        47

What are the most important things I can do to optimise my nutrition and health?        47

Can you get too many micronutrients?        48

How can I improve my nutrient density score?        48

How do I avoid nutrients rather than emphasizing them?        50

But I don’t like those foods!  Ew!        52

Can you eat too much spinach?        52

How much protein do I need?        55

Food tracking        56

Do I need to track my food?        56

How often do I need to track my food?        58

Do I need to weigh and measure my food?        62

How long should I allow to track my food?        63

Can I use MyFitnessPal?        64

Are calories really relevant?        65

How do you determine my target calories and protein, carb and fat intake?        66

Isn’t it all just about controlling how much I eat anyway (calories in vs calories out)?        66

How accurate is calorie tracking anyway?        67

Why do you use ranges rather than fixed macro targets?        69

Cronometer        70

How do I connect and sync with Cronometer?        70

Cronometer looks hard.  Where do I start?        71

Do I need to pay to use Cronometer?        71

How do I set up my Smart Macros in Cronometer?        71

Do I need to adjust my micronutrient targets in Cronometer?        74

Picking foods with the most micronutrient data in Cronometer        74

What is the difference between the Cronometer Score and the Nutrient Optimiser Score?        75

Weight loss        77

How will Nutrient Optimiser help me lose weight?        77

How quickly can I lose weight with Nutrient Optimiser?        77

I ate so well yesterday, but my scales went up today!!!  What’s up with that?!?!?!        80

Do I need to worry about ketones?        82

Blood sugar management        84

How does the Nutrient Optimiser help control blood sugar levels?        84

What are optimal blood sugar levels?        86

How can Nutrient Optimiser help me reduce/manage my insulin?        87

Why doesn’t my blood sugar go down when I’m losing weight?        88

What is insulin load and do I need to worry about insulin load?        89

How long will it take for my blood sugars to stabilise?        89

All about Nutrient Optimiser

What is Nutrient Optimiser?

Nutrient Optimiser is a nutrition program that enables you to quantitatively optimise your nutrition and build healthy lifestyle habits.  

What is Nutrient Density?

Nutrient density is a measure of the quality of your diet. It is calculated based on the amount of micronutrients per calorie.  Many beneficial things happen when we get the nutrients we need from our food without excessive amounts of energy.  

Prioritising nutrient dense food tends to lead to reduced hunger, increased energy levels, improved mitochondrial function, increased satiety and weight loss without as much need to focus on actively restricting energy intake.

Thinking about your diet in terms of nutrient density allows you to ensure you get enough of the micronutrients you need to thrive without having to eat too much food.

However, rather than focusing on single nutrients, the Nutrient Optimiser helps you identify foods and meals that contain more of the micronutrients you are currently getting less of.  

Further reading:

What goals can the Nutrient Optimiser help me achieve?

Context is critical to designing the optimal nutritional approach.  There is no one optimal diet for everyone.  

The Nutrient Optimiser combines a range of tools that can help you personalise your nutrition to align with your goal(s), including:  

  • weight loss,
  • blood sugar management,
  • weight loss & blood sugar management,
  • lean bulking,
  • nutritional ketosis,
  • therapeutic ketosis,
  • endurance, and
  • nutrient-dense maintenance.

Is Nutrient Optimiser an app?

The Nutrient Optimiser is a web-based program that can be used on your computer or set up on your mobile phone to look and feel like a native mobile app.  

One of your first missions will be to set up Nutrient Optimiser on the home screen of your phone (see instructions for iOS and for Android).

Does Nutrient Optimiser track food?

Nutrient Optimiser is not a food tracking app.  We have partnered with Cronometer who have already built a comprehensive tracking tool.  Nutrient Optimiser seamlessly syncs with your Cronometer account.

How much does the Nutrient Optimiser cost?  

Nutrient Optimiser is free for people participating in the challenges.  

Our goal at the moment is to build a community of Optimisers who are helping us to develop what we hope will be the most powerful and comprehensive personalised nutrition tool.  

The challenges include a prize pool option which gives you the opportunity to win cash prizes.  This financial motivation tends to help people be more motivated and get better results.  

A portion of the proceeds from the challenge go to cover the costs of running the challenges.  However, inclusion in the prize pool is entirely optional and does not change any of the functionality available within the Nutrient Optimiser.

Once it is ready, the Nutrient Optimiser will be offered on a subscription basis.  In the meantime, we hope you will love it so much you will tell all your friends about Nutrient Optimiser so they can make the most of it while it is still free.  

Will I be able to get a discount?  

We want to see how people respond when they follow the guidance of the Nutrient Optimiser over the long term. So, if you participate in a free challenge and continue to use the platform you will get to get it for free (at least until it becomes a subscription based service).  

Once it is rolled out on a subscription basis, we plan to offer financial incentives to reinforce positive actions such as:

  • logging in every day for the month.
  • logging your food X days in the month.
  • weighing yourself X times per month.
  • weight loss of X in a month.
  • blood sugar reduction of X in a month.
  • improvement of nutrient density score by more than X in a month.  
  • inviting a friend to join.  

Why is nutrient density so important?  

In days gone by, we didn’t need to worry about getting enough nutrients from our food.  All of the food we could hunt or gather contained plenty of nutrients.

Image result for example of hunting and gathering

However, in more recent times, we have learned to grow food more quickly and cheaply with modern agricultural practices that rely on (ultimately unsustainable) fossil fuel based fertilisers.  

Image result for large scale agriculture

Rather than containing plenty of nutrients as a matter of course, foods are now engineered to look as if they contain heaps of nutrients through the use of artificial flavours and colourings.

This nutrient depletion affects both the plant-based foods (particularly crops grains like wheat, corn and soy) and the animals that eat these foods.   Modern agricultural technology has enabled us to create lower quality food faster and more cheaply to support more humans that grow more quickly.  

This abundance of cheap food has played a central role in facilitating a diabesity epidemic and unsustainable growth in the global population.  

If you value your long term health and performance, you need to go out of your way to ensure that you get the nutrients you require.  

Further reading:

Do you cater to the vegetarian / carnivore / autoimmune / paleo / vegan / ketogenic eating approach?  

The Nutrient Optimiser allows you to select your personal preferences in the setup process.  We use this to filter out foods from your recommended shortlist of foods.  We also use it as an initial starting point to initially identify which nutrients you likely need more of.  

Image result for vegetarian

Note: The popular and optimised meals aren’t yet filtered based on preferences, though we intend to do this in the not too distant future.

Do you prefer/recommend a particular way of eating (e.g. vegan, keto, plant-based, paleo or carnivore)?

We understand that people have a wide range of preferences, beliefs and cultural context when it comes to the food they eat.  

Intriguingly, humans often thrive on diametrically opposing nutritional approaches.  

As shown in the charts below, animal-based foods and plant-based foods provide a different spectrum of micronutrients.  

Most people seem to do better on a diet that is somewhere on the spectrum between exclusively plant-based and exclusively a carnivore, particularly when they focus on nutrient-dense foods.  As shown in the chart below, targeting nutrients enables us to significantly improve the nutrient density of our food.

Avoiding nutrient poor low satiety foods is a pretty good starting point if you want to improve your diet.  

Do you prefer/recommend a low carb or low-fat diet?

People can thrive on either a nutrient dense low carb or a nutrient dense low fat dietary approach.  We can create a high carb low fat or a low carb high-fat approach that contains plenty of nutrients.  

It’s the unnatural combination of fat+carbs in processed foods that tend to drive people to overeat.  

Further reading:

Will Nutrient Optimiser fit in with my fasting routine?

Two meals a day, ideally earlier in the day tends to be ideal.  This is often referred to as early Time-Restricted Feeding (eTRF) or Intermittent Fasting (IF).  

However, some people also like to practice Alternate Day Fasting where they skip full days of eating.  While this can be beneficial occasionally, it can make it hard to get all your nutrients (particularly protein) in on your eating days.  

Overall, eating nutrient dense food on a regular daily routine tends to have better long term outcomes compared to heroic duration fasts that can result in loss of muscle mass due to inadequate protein and appetite signals dysregulated.

What biometric data do you use?

We understand that most people have limited time to invest in all this.  

We only really want you to spend time tracking things that will help you reach your goals.  We don’t want you to be faced with ‘paralysis by analysis’ due to tracking irrelevant data.  

We use your body weight and body fat percentage if your goal is weight loss and your blood sugar if your primary goal is to stabilise your blood sugars.  

But we also allow you to track the following other biometric data:

  • waist
  • breath ketones
  • blood ketones
  • heart rate variability
  • triglycerides
  • Athletic performance
  • recovery
  • neck
  • hip
  • chest
  • shoulders
  • bicep
  • forearm
  • calf
  • thigh

We are also looking to use sleep (total, REM and deep) as well as blood pressure to help you optimise your nutrition to improve those markers.

How and where do I start?  

The best way to start with Nutrient Optimiser is to get on board a new challenge with a group of other people who are also on the same journey.  The Nutrient Density Challenge starts on 22 April 2019.   We’ll provide you with guidance each week and support in the Nutrient Optimiser Facebook group.

Using Nutrient Optimiser

What conditions do you optimise for?

The Nutrient Optimiser allows you to prioritise foods and meals that provide more of the nutrients associated with the following conditions:

  • asthma
  • dyslipidemia
  • female infertility
  • inflammation
  • telomere
  • ADHD
  • autism
  • high estrogen
  • hypertension
  • methylation
  • low testosterone
  • fibromyalgia
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • hypothyroidism
  • insomnia
  • headaches
  • sleep apnea

Everyone’s diet is different, so we recommend tracking your current food intake in Cronometer, at least for a few days, to understand which nutrients you’re not getting as much of.   The nutrients associated with the conditions are added to the target nutrients identified from your food log.

See https://nutrientoptimiser.com/common-conditions/ for more details about the nutrients prioritised and the top foods and meals we recommend for each condition.  

Going forward, we plan to add more conditions, so let us know if there is anything you’d like to see included.  

Which micronutrients do you optimise?

The Nutrient Optimiser considers all of the essential vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids (i.e. micronutrients).  

For more details of the targets intake used for each nutrient as well as foods and meals associated with these nutrients see https://nutrientoptimiser.com/all-micronutrients/ 

For a high-level overview of the function of the various nutrients and the basis for the target intake levels, see https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients 

How can I check if my favourite foods are satiating or nutrient dense?

To check whether your favourite foods will help you control your appetite check out our free Never Hungry App.  

The web app will also provide a nutrient density score and insulin index score to help you make an informed choice as to whether this will align with your goals.  

How often should I weigh myself?

If your goal is weight loss, then it’s ideal if you can get into the habit of logging your weight and body fat percentage each day.  People who weigh themselves more regularly tend to lose more weight as shown in the chart below from the first Nutrient Optimiser Challenge.  We also see this in the research.

If weight loss is not your primary goal, it may be more appropriate to weigh yourself weekly to keep track of whether you need to make adjustments to your current regime.  You can always switch back to a weight loss approach with more frequent daily weighing if you find you are going above a certain trigger weight.  

Related image

How do I set up my Facebook bot?

The Nutrient Optimiser Facebook Bot provides reminders and enables you to interact with Nutrient Optimiser through Facebook Messenger.  

Just go to settings -> edit account and click on the ‘send to messenger’ graphic.  

How long will I need to use Nutrient Optimiser for?  

The Nutrient Optimiser is designed to be like training wheels to help you refine and improve your eating habits over time.  Eventually, you will get to the point that you can function on your own without needing to be told how to eat.  

As shown in the chart below, people tend to take about three weeks to improve their nutrient density score and consistently start moving in the right direction.  

We also have a range of missions that are designed to help you refine your habits in a range of areas.  It can take between 21 and 60 days before it becomes an automatic habit in your life that will stick with you after you stop using the Nutrient Optimiser.  

Eventually, it will become nearly effortless to ‘do the right thing’.  

 

You can reasonably assume that ongoing weight loss will occur at around 0.5% of your body.  So if you want to lose 10% of your body weight in a sustainable manner, it will take you nearly six months.  

While we have stacked the best tools and techniques for fat loss together into the Nutrient Optimiser platform to help you lose weight quickly, we understand that long term sustainable fat loss takes time.

The body wants to maintain equilibrium and can spring back if you push it too hard via simple willpower without a positive change in your diet quality.  We understand that, while most people can achieve short term weight loss in a diet, most people don’t sustain this in the long term unless they form lasting positive habits to support a new and healthier lifestyle.

But I didn’t get the results I was hoping for today!  How do I keep motivated?  

Many people struggle to track and record their blood sugar, weight and body fat each day. It can be discouraging to see the numbers go in the wrong direction. But more importantly, it can drain your energy and willpower.

We have a limited number of decisions we can make each day, especially when they go against our normal habits or what everyone else is doing around us. We get decision fatigue.

Image result for decision fatigue

But humans are habit driven. We are optimised for short term survival rather than longevity.  If we are diabetic and/or obese then chances are we have managed to focus more on the short term gratification rather than the long term reward (We know, it’s not easy!).

The secret to managing this is your attitude.  You need to plan for the worst and rejoice when good things happen.  

Live today as if your blood sugar or weight will be higher tomorrow when you test, so you do the things to try to manage that risk. Then, when it goes in the right direction you rejoice, but you do not get disheartened when you see it go against you.

How many times a day should I eat?

If you are trying to lose weight, then eating two solid meals seems to be ideal for most people.  Trying to jam all your food into one meal tends to lead to consumption of higher energy lower nutrient density foods.  While giving yourself more opportunities to eat tends to simply lead to eating more.  

image4

Further reading:

When should I eat?  

If your goal is to lose weight then it seems to be better to prioritise eating earlier in the day (i.e. breakfast and lunch).  Food eaten later in the day tends to get stored while we sleep rather than used immediately.  Eating too close to bedtime also tends to disrupt our sleep.  Your body doesn’t rest as well when it’s hard at work digesting a big meal and/or alcohol.  

image8

We understand that dinner is an important social or family meal for many people, so skipping dinner may not be a practical option.  Don’t stress too much if you can’t make it work with your lifestyle.  The bottom line though is that it’s good to have a hard stop to your eating.  

Prioritising protein at breakfast tends to help people control their appetite for the rest of the day.  This satiety response seems to continue to benefit up to around 11% of your daily calories consumed as protein at breakfast.  For a woman, this will involve 45 g of protein at breakfast or 55 g of protein at breakfast for a man (hint: this is a lot more than most people eat).  

image4

Further reading:

Can I take supplements?

You are free to take supplements, but following the recommendation of the Nutrient Optimiser will help you minimise your need for supplements.  Micronutrients in whole foods come in the right ratios for your body to use whereas excessive amounts of micronutrients from supplements can result in excess nutrients or imbalances.  

Some supplements you could consider include:

  • Protein powder if you are not able to hit your minimum protein target with whole foods.  
  • Creatine, which is found in meat, is well researched and has many benefits for the mind and body.  It’s also cheap.  
  • Sodium - many people don’t get enough sodium when they switch to a less processed diet and will need to supplement.  

Other nutrients that you may consider supplementing with include magnesium, potassium, vitamin D or omega 3 if you can’t get enough from your diet.  

Should I log my supplements?

The focus of the Nutrient Optimiser is to help you fill your micronutrient gaps without the need for supplementation.  While supplements can be a useful stop-gap (think emergency) measure the nutrients in whole food seem to be much more effective as they are in the form and the balance that our body is used to dealing with.  

We have no objection to you taking supplements, but if you log them you won't be able to see where your gaps are.  Ideally, the Nutrient Optimiser will reduce your need for supplements.

If you're anywhere near the top of the Nutrient Optimiser Leaderboard we also ask that you refrain from logging supplements. It distorts the score and isn't really fair as we are trying to help people optimise their nutrition with food rather than create the ultimate synthetic supplement stack!

How do I see what other people are eating to learn from them?

You can see what other people are eating by clicking on their names in the Nutrient Optimiser Leaderboard and then scroll down to the ‘best and worst days’ section.  If they have uploaded their servings.csv file you will be able to see the food they are eating to get these scores.  

Image result for leaderboard

Why are my best and worst days blank?

Our link with Cronometer allows us to look at your overall macro and micronutrient levels, but not at the individual foods that make up those totals.  In order to populate these sections on your nutrient fingerprint, you will need to manually upload your servings file from Cronometer.  

How long can I do this for?

We expect that you’ll see some great results after six weeks and a transformation after three months of disciplined and dedicated effort following the guidance of the Nutrient Optimiser.  

  1. However, we have designed the Nutrient Optimiser to adapt with you as your goals change.  
  2. Once your blood sugars stabilise you can focus on losing weight.  
  3. Once you have lost weight you can focus on building muscle.
  4. Once you have built some muscle you could take a break for a while with nutrient dense maintenance.
  5. Once you’re bored of that you could use the Nutrient Optimiser to support your endurance athletic pursuits.  

So while we hope people will get quick results, we also hope that many people will find the Nutrient Optimiser a useful tool to manage their lifestyle goals over the long term.    

Nutrient Density

What are the most important things I can do to optimise my nutrition and health?

If you had to choose one thing,  avoid foods that are a combination of refined fat and processed starch.  These foods are cheap to produce and hyperpalatable and plentiful in our food system because they have high profit margins.  

The second priority should go to foods that will give you adequate protein.  It’s hard to overeat protein in the absence of fat+carbs.

Nutrition is a multifactorial challenge.  When we prioritise nutrient-dense whole foods all these other factors tend to fall into place.

Can you get too many micronutrients?  

While you can overdose on supplements, it’s hard to get too much of any micronutrient from whole foods, particularly if we are prioritising the cluster of harder to find micronutrients.

How can I improve my nutrient density score?  

The Nutrient Optimiser provides prioritised food and meal recommendations (based on your recent food logs) to fill your current micronutrient gaps.  Your goal should be to continually add more of the foods and meals towards the top of these lists.  

As shown in the chart below from the first challenge, refining your nutrient density is an iterative process that most people start to get the hang of after about three weeks.

How do I avoid nutrients rather than emphasising them?

Some people have conditions where they need to avoid certain nutrients for a particular reason.  

You can use Nutribooster to minimise or avoid nutrients as shown below.  

Another option is to use Nutribooster to emphasise the nutrients you need more of while making sure you are not emphasising the nutrient(s) you want to avoid.  You can then click on that nutrient in Cronometer to identify the foods that contain the most amount of that in your diet and try to reduce those foods.  

But I don’t like those foods!  Ew!  

Food that is good for you actually tastes good when you remove the foods that overstimulate your appetite.  

Eating Vegetables

We live in a world that works to constantly give us a dopamine hit.  Rather than getting enough, our bliss point for things that taste good gets set at a higher and higher level.  Like a drug addict, we need more and more to feel good.  

Our sense of taste and smell is central to our appetite that has enabled us to survive and thrive, seeking out the nutrients and energy we need.  But over the last half-century, we have managed to develop foods that keep our taste buds in chronic overdrive.

You need to reset your 'hedonic setpoint' so your food is not your primary source of comfort or entertainment. It's OK (and arguably healthier) for your everyday meals not to be a sumptuous feast and an off the chart taste sensation. Then, when you do enjoy good food it will taste amazing!

Can you eat too much spinach?

Yes.  You can eat too much spinach.  

Image result for spinach

But at the same time, most people are not eating too much spinach.  The average American eats 0.2 calories of spinach per day (less than 0.01% of their energy intake).  In the context of 580 calories per day of flours and cereals, 575 calories from added fats and oils and 360 calories from sugar and added sweeteners, it’s probably a bit of a stretch to say that spinach or vegetables as a whole is the primary reason for our current health issues.  

On the upside, spinach is packed with heaps of micronutrients and often appears at the top of the optimised food lists, but you should also aim to get a variety of vegetables.  

While some people like green smoothies, we do not recommend drinking your spinach as it can be a sure fire way to overdrive your digestive system.  A good rule of thumb here is if you find you are getting an upset stomach with more spinach then you should back off a bit.  

Your digestion may take some time to adjust to new foods (e.g. more protein or more fibre), so if you know you already have digestive issues you should take it easy.   While most people have no issues, you should keep an eye out for symptoms like constipation, bloating and diarrhea.  

Spinach contains oxalates which will affect the absorption of calcium from your food.  This is generally not a concern for most people as long as they are getting plenty of calcium and other minerals from their diet.  

While some people that have extreme digestive issues find benefit from the carnivore diet, most people don’t need to go to that extreme.  The Nutrient Optimiser gives you the tools to build your own repertoire of foods that contain plenty of nutrients that you enjoy and can tolerate well.  

How much protein do I need?

Protein can be a contentious topic.  Protein is correlated with satiety and nutrient density.  You will need more if you are trying to lose weight and/or undertaking resistance exercise.  The bottom line is if you are getting plenty of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids from your food you will be getting plenty of protein.  Your Smart Macros will give you a minimum level of protein.  

Further reading:

Food tracking

Do I need to track my food?

No, but some tracking helps.  

We’ve worked hard to design the Nutrient Optimiser to work without requiring that you track everything you eat.  

The primary goal of the Nutrient Optimiser is to help you focus on food quality.  Once this is in place, most people tend to regain control of their appetite, eat less naturally and lose weight.

But if you want to take things to the next level you can track your current food intake with Cronometer. ThenNutrient Optimiser can analyse your data to fine-tune your diet at a micronutrient level.  

Image result for cronometer

If you do track your food, the Smart Macros algorithm can also give you guidance on how to dial in your macronutrient (carb, fat and protein) intake to ensure you are moving forward toward your goal (e.g. fat loss, diabetes management, lean bulking etc).

How often do I need to track my food?

People who track their food more regularly tend to have better results, but we understand there is a cost-benefit tradeoff.  Not everyone wants to track their food every day.  

It can take discipline and time to track your food.  Some people find tracking a mental/emotional struggle because it constrains their appetite, while others find 100% compliance and consistency easier than 99%.

We are creatures of habit, so tracking your food for a couple of days a week is still useful, particularly given we are primarily focusing on quality rather than micromanaging quantity.

The Nutrient Optimiser has been designed to work a bit like nutritional training wheels.  We want to help you get reacquainted with your healthy appetite signals and cravings so eventually you can thrive on your own.  

Image result for training wheels

If you find you’re not getting the results you want, you can track more often to fine-tune and troubleshoot shoot your diet.  Once you have formed consistent habits that keeps you moving forward towards your goals you can back off the tracking.  

Learn to Ride a Bike Without Training Wheels

Do I need to weigh and measure my food?

Again, this is a matter of cost-benefit.  There is no magic secret to great health and nutrition, but in our current environment, it just takes more discipline, dedication, time and effort than most people are able/willing to put in.

Image result for food scales

While it may not be worth it for most people to weigh and measure their food all the time, it can be very useful to accurately track your food for a week or two to get a better understanding of what you are actually eating.   Once you understand where you’re starting from, the Nutrient Optimiser can guide you to improve from there.  

While most people use food scales to limit their intake of energy-dense hyperpalatable foods, measuring your food will help you ensure you are actually getting enough of the satiating lower energy density foods to ensure you get through the day with minimal hunger.  

Again, once you are getting the results you want with only a moderate amount of effort then it’s fine if you back off and log based on your initial experience of weighing and measuring.  

How long should I allow to track my food?

Tracking your food in Cronometer takes about five to ten minutes a day, particularly if you eat a similar thing each day.  

Keeping a log of the food you are eating can be confronting for some people.  While difficult, this can be a beneficial reality check.  

While people find it time-consuming, it’s a good investment of time if you are serious about improving your nutrition.  

Can I use MyFitnessPal?

No. MyFitnessPal focuses on macronutrients rather than micronutrients, so we are not able to collect the data that we need for the nutritional analysis.  Only Cronometer collects the micronutrient data we need for the nutritional analysis.

Are calories really relevant?

Your body doesn’t burn food the same way as a calorimeter that measures calories in our food.  Self-reported tracking is also notoriously inaccurate.

But at the same time, keeping track of the food you are eating in Cronometer is more accurate than not tracking and trusting your appetite in the modern food environment.  Your body will usually find a way to trick your brain into giving it the food it wants rather than the food it needs.  

While not precise, tracking is directionally accurate.  The Smart Macros algorithm will use the information you give it and make recommendations about how to refine your intake going forward based on your weight loss, muscle loss and blood sugars.  

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re perfectly accurate because the recommendations are based on your current logging.  The Smart Macros will just adapt to your level of accuracy or underreporting.  

How do you determine my target calories and protein, carb and fat intake?

If you’re not already logging your food we can use your weight and an estimate of your body fat levels to calculate a theoretical intake for weight maintenance, loss or gaining.  However, these calculations are based on a lot of assumptions and should be considered an estimate at best.  

maintenance calories

The best way to find out how many calories you need each day is to track your actual intake (without trying to change it) for a week or two in Cronometer which syncs with Nutrient Optimiser.  

Rather than making radical changes that are unlikely to stick, it's better to make small incremental improvements.  Going forward, based on your weight, blood sugar and body fat levels, the Smart Macros algorithm then provides updated targets each week to make sure you keep moving towards your goal.  

Isn’t it all just about controlling how much I eat anyway (calories in vs calories out)?

Yes. Ultimately it is all about energy in vs energy out. However, our biology is complex and there are many factors that influence how accurately we can measure each side of the equation.

Nutrient Optimiser aims to manage the factors that affect your appetite and natural energy expenditure which will help you manage both sides of the equation without relying on excessive amounts of willpower.  

Rather than telling your body that autumn and winter is coming and it needs to store fat, we aim to manipulate your food choices to tell it that it’s spring and time to shed the extra fat.

How accurate is calorie tracking anyway?

The fact that food tracking is not perfectly accurate or reliable does not limit its usefulness, particularly given your focus is food quality rather than quantity.   The image below helps you explain the difference between accuracy and reliability.  

Image result for accuracy vs reliability vs

  • It’s highly unlikely that you're going to be highly accurate and reliable in your food tracking at the same time.
  • A bodybuilder preparing for a contest who weighs and measures everything they eat and consumes a fairly consistent diet may be inaccurate and reliable.
  • If you don’t weigh and measure all the time you may be inaccurate and unreliable.  But that's probably OK because the Smart Macros algorithm can use the data you give it to continually move the target each week.  

If you keep aiming for the target then you will keep progressing from where you currently are.  We value progress over perfection.  Unless your income depends on reaching an unnatural level of body fat, there is also a lot of value in listening to your appetite and cravings.

Progress Over Perfection Temporary Tattoo Image

Why do you use ranges rather than fixed macro targets?

Most people are used to targeting fixed macronutrients (either in percentages or grams or fat, carbs and protein).  

There is an IIFYM movement that says you can pretty much eat anything if it fits your macros.  The problem with this approach is that people get fixated on hitting the exact numbers with little attention to the quality of your food.

Image result for if it fits your macros

While the Smart Macros algorithm will help you dial in your protein, carb and fat intake (macros) as a secondary priority, we want your primary focus to be on getting your micronutrients.  

It’s hard to get a solid micronutrient profile with very low protein intake, so we suggest you get a minimum level of protein.  To balance your intake to align with your goals we set a maximum level of fat and a maximum level of carbohydrates (note: these will not add up to 100% or your total calorie intake).  

Further reading:

Cronometer

How do I connect and sync with Cronometer?

To connect Cronometer, just head to settings -> connected devices and provide your Cronometer login (note: make sure you use your email and password rather than Facebook login which can be a bit glitchy).  

Once connected, Nutrient Optimiser will sync your data from Cronometer (including food, weight, blood sugar, sleep etc) every time you log in.  

We will be adding other devices like Oura, Fitbit, Elite HRV and blood pressure metre in the future, so let us know if there’s anything you think would be valuable.  

Cronometer looks hard.  Where do I start?

As with anything new, Cronometer gets easier as you get used to it.  

Check Cronometer University on YouTube for more info.

Do I need to pay to use Cronometer?

No, the free version of Cronometer is fine.  

How do I set up my Smart Macros in Cronometer?  

While the primary focus is on food quality, the Nutrient Optimiser will give you target macros that are updated based on your progress each week.  

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The best way to use this data in Cronometer is to:

  • click on the energy bar (yellow),

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  • enter the minimum energy (leave maximum blank)

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  • click on the green protein bar and enter the minimum protein (from Smart Macros) in the minimum cell (leave the maximum blank), and

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  • enter maximum carbs.

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  • leave fat blank.

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On a day to day basis you want to be:

  • under on your energy allowance,
  • over on your protein allowance (green should be bigger than the yellow bar), and
  • under on the net carbs

Fat doesn’t really matter if you are keeping an eye on energy.  It just makes up the remainder of your energy intake.  

Do I need to adjust my micronutrient targets in Cronometer?  

The Nutrient Optimiser largely uses mainstream micronutrient targets.  We’re not particularly worried whether you’re precisely meeting your nutrient targets, but rather which cluster of nutrients you appear to be getting less of.  

Where we differ is that we enable you to identify foods that contain the cluster of 8 to 10 micronutrients that you’re not getting enough of.

See https://nutrientoptimiser.com/all-micronutrients for more details if you wanted to check the micronutrient ranges and make sure that those are replicated in Cronometer.

See this article if you want to fine-tune your Cronometer nutrient targets.  

Picking foods with the most micronutrient data in Cronometer

If you want to maximise your Nutrient Optimiser Score, watch out for brand name foods that may not have all the nutrients available.

In the example below, we can see that this salmon fillet has only 8 listed nutrients.  At the bottom of the image Cronometer actually suggests a better option with 76 nutrients.  Cronometer uses a number of different databases but it will always recommend you use food with a higher level of nutrients like the second image that has 76 listed nutrients.

On one hand, it's a pain that not all the foods in the database have the full nutrient profile, but on the other hand, if the food you are logging doesn't have a full nutrient profile chances are that it may be more processed and less than optimal.  

Logging accurately will be helpful once you come to upload your data to rebalance your diet at a micronutrient level.

What is the difference between the Cronometer Score and the Nutrient Optimiser Score?

Cronometer provides an indication of whether you have met all your nutrient targets (shown below).  This Cronometer score is a measure of the quantity of the nutrients you have obtained.  So, if you wanted to increase the score you could just eat more food.    



While useful, the
Cronometer score is not a measure of the food quality or nutrient density per calorie. The Cronometer target effectively penalises you for eating less, which is not really ideal if you’re looking to lose weight.

Conversely, the Nutrient Optimiser Score is a measure of the QUALITY of your diet.  It is normalised to nutrients per 2000 calories, so it doesn’t matter how much or how little you ate, it still measures the quality of your diet.

The nutrient fingerprint chart below shows the nutrient profile for a nutrient-dense diet normalised to 2000 calories per day.   Ninety per cent of the area to the left of the dotted red line is filled, so your Nutrient Optimiser Score would be 90%.


There’s nothing magical about achieving 300% of your recommended daily intake from 2000 calories other than it is very hard to achieve with food.  

The Nutrient Optimiser Score doesn’t give you more points if you’re getting massive amounts of some nutrients way beyond the minimum requirement. It doesn’t really matter if you’re getting ten times the recommended minimum intake of vitamin K1, vitamin A or B12.  We want you to continue to focus on boosting the micronutrients you are getting less of with the food you eat.  

Chasing the harder to find nutrients with the food you are eating becomes a bit of a game that ultimately ends in the continuous improvement of your diet quality and building positive habits around food.  

Further reading:

Weight loss

How will Nutrient Optimiser help me lose weight?

The modern processed food system is optimised to trigger our autumnal gorge instinct to prepare us for winter.  Processed foods that combine refined fat and starch (in a way that does not occur in nature) tend to drive us to overeat, while foods with a lower energy density, more protein and/or more fibre (like those that would naturally be available in spring) tend to lead to better appetite control.  

The Nutrient Optimiser uses the the latest research and data analysis to quantitatively analyse foods and meals to identify the ones that will help you eat less (if you are one of the many people that want to manage their diabetes and avoid obesity) or eat more (if you are an endurance athlete who needs to fuel for an event).  

Further reading:

How quickly can I lose weight with Nutrient Optimiser?

We’ve been amazed at how quickly, consistently and effortlessly people lose weight when they start focusing on optimising their micronutrients.  

Focusing on health and good nutrition tends to lead to almost spontaneous fat loss and increased energy levels without deprivation.  

In the first challenge, people lost an average of 5.1% of their starting body weight which equates to a rate of 0.76% per week.  

As you can see in the chart below, there was a wide range of rates of weight loss, from more than 18% for one person to a small gain in a couple of people.  

As a general rule of thumb, a sustained weight loss of 0.5% to 1.0% is reasonable for most people.  Forcing faster rates of weight loss can lead to cravings, excessive hunger due to a lack of energy and micronutrients.  Forcing aggressive short term weight loss can also lead to more loss of lean mass vs fat mass which is not ideal for metabolic health improving your appearance.  

While it’s hard to overeat high satiety foods, in the end, energy balance still matters.  While you can certainly achieve faster results, we want to emphasise good nutrition and sustainability first.  

So, if you’re not losing weight at a rate of at least 0.5% per week the Smart Macros algorithm will guide you to dial in your macros to the point that you make progress.  

I ate so well yesterday, but my scales went up today!!!  What’s up with that?!?!?!  

Your weight will fluctuate from day to day.  It’s easy to get discouraged when the number on the scale bounces around each day.  It can be a bit of a depressing gambling game where you roll the dice each morning and hope your hard work has paid off!

Image result for pokie machines

However, as detailed in the table below, many things that lead to short term weight loss do not lead to long term fat loss.  While it’s important to weight regularly, you should only try to focus on the long term trend.  Ideally, you would just look at the updated Smart Macros each week to know how you need to adjust your target macros rather than stressing about the number on the scale each day.  

Input

Short term

Long term

Water

In the short term, you can lose a LOT of water weight by slowing down the amount of water you drink, manipulating mineral intake, taking a hot bath or sitting in the sauna.  However, this is only ever going to be a short term hack.  

In the long term, drinking more water can help you to feel more satiated and eat less food.  

Sodium

In the short term, consuming more salt and other minerals can make you put on weight.  

Conversely, cutting back your salt intake cause your body to let go of your water stores.

In the long term, consuming adequate levels of sodium will help you feel more satiated and lose weight in the long run.  Many people find their hunger diminishes once they get sufficient sodium.

Exercise

In the short term, strenuous exercise will cause inflammation that will cause increased water retention and a temporary increase in weight.

Over the long term, exercise can help create a calorie deficit, build muscle, improve insulin sensitivity and help you to control your appetite.  

Fibre

Food with more bulk and fibre will cause absorb more water and add to your scale weight.  

Over the longer term foods with more fibre tend to be harder to overeat, lead to improved satiety and long term fat loss.  

Energy-dense food

Energy-dense foods weigh less per calorie, so they will help reduce the weight of food in your gut in the short term.

In the long term, energy-dense food tends to provide a lower satiety per calorie.  

Low carb diet

A low carb or “ketogenic” diet will cause a reduction in glycogen stores which will cause a reduction in water weight.  You will weigh less on the scales, but not necessarily because you have lost fat.  This phenomenon tends to last for a week or two and then stabilise.

While reducing refined carbohydrates can improve satiety and lead to long term fat loss, a low carb high-fat diet can lead to lower satiety per calorie and slower (or stalled) weight loss in the long term.  

Creatine

Creatine can cause a gain in water weight in the short term.  

Creatine is one of the well-researched supplements demonstrating that it has a positive benefit for muscular recovery and mental performance.  

Alcohol

Alcohol can have a diuretic effect in the short term and cause you to pee more.

Alcohol can add nutrient poor ‘empty calories’ that many people don’t account for in their daily energy intake.  Alcohol is a fast burning fuel that needs to be cleared from your system before anything else is burned.  

Do I need to worry about ketones?

The ketogenic diet has been popular over the past few years.  The body produces ketones when it has more fat to burn and less glucose and protein.  

Image result for ketones

As shown in the charts below, when you start losing weight you will probably have elevated ketones in your blood.  However, before too long, your body tends to adapt to using ketones more efficiently and we see fewer ketones build up in the blood.  

Tracking blood ketones is of limited value when it comes to making better food choices.  Tracking ketones can become problematic when people equate fat loss with high ketone levels and get caught chasing elevated ketone levels with more and more refined dietary fat rather than allow the fat from their body to be used up.  

Further reading:

Blood sugar management

How does the Nutrient Optimiser help control blood sugar levels?

Stabilising blood sugars is largely about eating less processed carbohydrates.  To optimise this, the Nutrient Optimiser Smart Macros helps you titrate down your carbohydrate intake to the point that you get your blood sugars under control.  

However, if you are insulin resistant or are managing type 2 diabetes, then reducing your overall blood sugar levels is primarily about managing your body fat levels.  

So, once you have stabilised your blood sugars with a lower carbohydrate approach the Nutrient Optimiser Smart Macros algorithm will guide you towards more satiating and nutrient-dense foods and meals that will help you manage your appetite and lose body fat and reduce your blood sugars.

Further reading:

What are optimal blood sugar levels?  

People are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when their HbA1c (a measure of your average blood sugar over three months) exceeds 6.5% and prediabetes once their HbA1c is greater than 6.0%.  However optimal blood sugars are actually much lower as shown in the table below.

 

 

fasting

after meal

hbA1c

mg/dL

mmol/L

mg/dL

mmol/L

 %

optimal

< 97

< 5.4

< 5.0

“normal”

< 100

< 5.6

< 140

< 7.8

< 6.0%

pre-diabetic

100 – 126

5.6 to 7.0

140 to 200

7.8 to 11.1

6.0-6.4%

type 2 diabetic

> 126

> 7.0

> 200

> 11.1

> 6.4%

Further reading;

How can Nutrient Optimiser help me reduce/manage my insulin?

Maintaining stable blood sugars with injected insulin is virtually impossible with a highly insulinogenic diet.  Once you start on the blood sugar rollercoaster ride it’s hard to get off.  You’re forever chasing high blood glucose levels with more insulin and low with more food.

Foods with fast digesting carbohydrates require short bursts of insulin while protein requires a smaller amount of insulin over a longer period.  Fat still requires insulin, but over a longer period of time, which can be easier to manage.  

If you are injecting insulin, the Nutrient Optimiser can help you choose foods that have a lower short term insulin demand to give you a better chance of stabilising your blood sugars.  

The Smart Macros algorithm will also help you fine-tune your carbohydrate and protein intake to the point that you achieve lower and more stable blood sugar levels.  

Further reading:

Why doesn’t my blood sugar go down when I’m losing weight?

The relationship between glucagon, insulin and blood sugar is complex and dysregulated in someone with type 2 diabetes.  

Image result for blood glucose

Reducing your intake of processed carbohydrates, reducing your body fat and gaining lean mass will all help to reduce your blood sugar levels in the long term.

While you are in an energy deficit your body will reduce insulin and raise glucagon which will cause your liver to release both stored fat and glucose (from glycogen and gluconeogenesis). This can cause your blood sugars to remain higher than you might expect based on your carb intake.  

This is not necessarily a bad thing because it means your excess stored energy is being released and used up.  Rather than reducing your circulating energy levels so you would feel tired and hungry while consuming less energy, your body is giving you enough energy so you can go out and hunt and gather.  

If you are struggling with the mental game of seeing your blood sugars bounce around while you are losing weight it might be a good idea to take a break from tracking your blood sugars until your weight loss stabilises.  

Once your body fat levels come back under your Personal Fat Threshold we would expect blood sugars to stabilise at lower levels.  If this does not occur you should talk to your doctor about getting a c-peptide and/or fasting insulin test to check that you are still producing adequate insulin.

Once your weight stabilises at your desired level the Nutrient Optimiser Smart Macros algorithm will help you dial in your carbohydrate intake to stabilise your blood sugars.

Further reading:

What is insulin load and do I need to worry about insulin load?

Your dietary insulin load is an estimate of the short term insulin demand.  This is a useful metric for people injecting insulin.  However, most people won’t need to worry about their insulin load if they are focusing on nutrient density and satiety by following the other recommendations of the Nutrient Optimiser.  Trying to minimise insulin load can lead to minimising protein and increasing fat intake which has a negative impact on satiety and nutrient density.  

Further reading

How long will it take for my blood sugars to stabilise?

Participants in the first Nutrient Optimiser Challenge who had the highest starting glucose saw their blood glucose steadily trend down, dropping by more than 20 mg/dL during the six-week challenge.  

Generally, fasting blood glucose levels trended with body fat, as predicted by the Personal Fat Threshold theory of diabetes.  Paul’s blood sugar and weight loss chart below is a great example of this.  

If you have to choose, we recommend you prioritise high satiety nutrient-dense foods that will lead to long term fat loss rather than high-fat food that may provide more stable blood glucose levels in the short term.  If you have had diabetes for a long time your blood glucose levels will take longer to come down and they can still be volatile in the short term.  

Further reading: