Nutrient Optimiser Pro Tips
One thing we were amazed by during the first Nutrient Optimser Challenge was how excited and passionate people got about optimising their micronutrients during the challenge!
Somewhat unexpectedly, optimising nutrition had become a game, and people were addicted! And more excitingly, it had positive benefits in the real world with improved energy levels, increased satiety and viola, produced rapid fat loss!
We want to help people succeed in the game of life. But we understand that people have limited time for more boring chores on their to-do list (even if it is good for them).
If we can make optimising nutrition a fun challenge, and an intriguing problem to be solved, the Nutrient Optimiser has a much better chance of it becoming addictive (in a good way), with Optimisers winning in the long run by implementing positive habits.
To understand how Nutrient Optimiser can help people succeed in the game of life, we want to understand the key factors and habits that lead to success as well as the minimum effective dose of effort required to get great results.
Do you really need to track your food?
Most people don’t enjoy logging their food. Constantly fighting against your biological instincts isn’t much fun.
Most of the time, tracking food with apps like MyFitnessPal is done with a focus on controlling calorie intake.
For good reason, some people consider continually fighting against your body’s urge to eat to be an unhealthy neurosis.
When this period of external moderation ends, and they let their appetite guide their intake again, they inevitably end up ‘falling off the wagon’ and quickly undoing all the benefits that were gained from their investment of time in tracking.
Rather than merely controlling the number of calories you eat, the Nutrient Optimiser has been set up to utilise inputs from Cronometer to help users optimise their dietary habits by guiding them to fill the micronutrient gaps and thus improve the quality of their diet (with less emphasis on quantity).
While supplementation a narrow range of nutrients tends to be of limited benefit, great things happen when people get their micronutrients from the food they eat.
While it can be useful to an extent to train people to dial in their macronutrient intake (carbs, fat and protein), the primary purpose of tracking food in context of the Nutrient Optimiser is to give users feedback on the quality of their diet to make incremental improvements that will lead to long term behaviour change.
When they are able to focus on ‘good food’ there is little room for the ‘bad foods’. People naturally tend to eat as much as they need, and lose fat and gain muscle to become healthier, more energetic and more resilient versions of themselves.
When you’re addicted to feeling good, and eating well has become a habit, you are much less susceptible to the cravings and temptations of ‘bad food’..
Cronometer score vs Nutrient Optimiser score – quantity vs quality
During the challenge, there was some confusion about Cronometer targets (shown below) and the Nutrient Optimiser score. Before we get into the analysis in this article, it’s important to understand how these are different but important ways to measure diet quality.
The Cronometer nutrient targets tell you how many of the nutrient scores you achieved the DRI on. If you didn’t get 100%, you could just eat more to hit your targets (though this may not help if your goal is weight loss).
While useful in a way, the Cronometer score is not really a measure of quality or nutrient density.
The Cronometer target effectively penalises you for eating fewer calories and rewards you for eating more.
Meanwhile, 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. If you are focusing on quality then the quantity generally looks after itself.
We realised pretty early on that this was going to get competitive, with people vying for the top of the Nutrient Optimiser Leaderboard, so we made it virtually impossible to get a full score of 100%. The nutrient fingerprint chart below shows the nutrient profile for a range of food 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% (see this article for more details on how the Nutrient Optimiser Score is calculated).
There’s nothing magical about achieving 300% of your recommended daily intake from the food you eat other than it’s very hard to do and differentiates between people with excellent nutrition.
The Nutrient Optimiser Score doesn’t give you more points if you’re getting massive amounts of some nutrients way beyond your minimum requirement. It doesn’t really matter if you’re getting ten times the recommended minimum intake of vitamin K1, vitamin A or B12.
Looking at the score in this way helps you stay focused on the nutrients that you’re getting less of towards the top.
Chasing the harder to find nutrients with the food you are eating becomes a game that ultimately ends in the continuous improvement of your diet quality and building positive habits around food.
How long does it take to improve Nutrient Density?
One of the learnings from the challenge was that we need to educate people around the concepts of nutrient density and satiety, particularly for people who have not been reading the Optimising Nutrition blog for a while.
Given that many people were thrown in the deep end, it was amazing to see so many people learn the process and skills and rapidly improve their nutrient score.
The chart below shows the average nutrient density score vs time for users who recorded their food intake through the challenge. After two or three weeks users were able to make significant improvements in their nutrient score.
How many times should I log my food?
The chart below shows the relationship between the number of times people logged their food and their average Nutrient Optimiser score in the final week of the challenge. People who logged their food were able to progressively improve the quality of their diet and ended up with a better final Nutrient Optimiser score.
Participants were asked to reflect on their energy levels when logging into the Nutrient Optimiser each day. This data is used to ensure that daily energy intake is not dropping too low and to prevent excessive slowing of the metabolism due to lower energy intake.
Ensuring people are feeling energetic enables us to verify that their non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is not decreasing due too much due to excessive levels of restriction. We’d much rather see people losing weight because they feel more energetic because the flood of nutrients had enabled an increase in energy production in the mitochondria.
The chart below shows the daily average of the users’ reported energy levels. In spite of a significant weight loss, the energy levels of the participants improved as they continued to fine-tune the quality of their diet.
Nutrient density vs reported energy
The chart below shows the relationship between the average Nutrient Optimiser score and average reported energy each day of the challenge. Improvements in diet quality seem to align with higher energy levels.
How often should you weigh yourself?
Frequent weighing can be a mental challenge for many people as they try to make sense of the day to day fluctuations. However, regular feedback can be valuable to ensure users remain disciplined and focused.
A small short term fluctuation can be less of a physiological impact than finding that the scales have gone against you after bit weighing yourself for a longer period.
Overall, people that weigh themselves most regularly lost the most weight.
Final nutrient density score vs weight loss
This last chart shows the relationship between users’ average Nutrient Optimiser Score in the final week of the challenge and their overall weight loss during the challenge.
It was amazing to see that once users started to balance their diet at a micronutrient level with whole food many people find they are satiated and their appetite plummets and weight loss seems to follow naturally!
A higher final Nutrient Optimiser Score tended to align with greater weight loss.
- It typically takes people around three weeks to overhaul their diet and improve their Nutrient Optimiser Score (which is a measure of the quality of nutrient density or diet quality).
- People reported significantly improved energy levels within a couple of weeks of starting the challenge.
- Reported energy levels seem to align with deity quality.
- People who develop the habits of weighing themselves and tracking their food more often tended to perform better in terms of weight loss and diet quality.
- While daily food tracking and weighing may not be necessary in the long term, these habits appear to be invaluable in the short term to develop new skills and habit to ensure that goals are achieved.
- People with the highest Nutrient Optimiser Score tended to lose more weight.
This article is part of a series detailing the results and learnings from the Nutrient Optimiser Challenge.
- A hundred people used Nutrient Optimiser for six weeks. Can you guess what happened to their weight?
- Blood glucose, ketone and insulin changes after six weeks using Nutrient Optimiser
- Real life responses to the Nutrient Optimiser
- Guess what happened to body fat, lean mass and waist when a hundred people tried the Nutrient Optimiser?
- What does nutrient density look like?
- Nutrient Optimiser Pro Tips
You can also join the Nutrient Optimiser Facebook Group to ask questions and see some amazing meals.