If you’re into nutrition, you may have heard of some of the recommended daily nutrient intake values, like:
- Dietary Reference Intake (DRI),
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA),
- Adequate Intake (AI),
- Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), and
- Tolerable Upper Limit (UL).
These recommended nutrient intake targets were established in the 1940s to ensure World War II soldiers obtained a minimum amount of each essential micronutrient in their rations to evade diseases associated with deficiency. In other words, these nutrient targets were to keep soldiers alive.
These nutrient targets were not designed to help you thrive, achieve an optimal weight, thrive or live a healthy or long life.
Shockingly, they haven’t been updated much in the eight decades since!
While most people treat these intakes as a goal, the reality is they are just barely adequate to prevent disease in a select percentage of the population most of the time.
While many still struggle to meet these minimum recommended nutrition intakes in our modern food environment, they certainly do not represent the optimal target for satiety or longevity! In fact, our analysis shows that these nutrient intakes tend to align with the lowest satiety and highest calorie intake.
Rather than narrowly escaping diseases of deficiency, you likely want to know how much of each essential mineral you need to optimise your health, energy, body composition, performance, and longevity. Right?
So, the obvious question is:
how much of each nutrient should you consume if you want to strive for optimal?
This article summarises our satiety analysis and explains our Optimal Nutrient Intakes (ONIs), which we have determined to be more optimal daily nutrition targets to shoot for.
These are the same Optimal Nutrient Intakes we use in our Macros Masterclass and Micros Masterclass to level up their nutrient density and satiety to lose weight and optimise their health.
- What Do You Mean by Optimal Nutrition?
- Why Is Optimal Nutrition Important?
- What Is the Recommended Daily Intake?
- What Should MY Daily Intake of Nutrients Be?
- How Can I Move Towards Optimal Nutrition?
- What Is the Optimal Intake of Nutrients?
- Optimal Mineral Intakes
- Optimal Vitamin Intakes
- Optimal Fatty Acids Intake
- Optimal Amino Acid Intakes
- How Do You Achieve Optimal Nutrition?
- How to Implement the ONIs in Cronometer
- Why Is Optimal Nutrition Important?
- Personalised Nutrition: What Are Your Priority Nutrients?
- Satiety Series
What Do You Mean by Optimal Nutrition?
We talk about Nutritional Optimisation a lot. But, by now, you may be asking what we mean by optimal nutrition.
The Optimal Nutrient Intakes discussed in this article are the stretch target for each nutrient that aligns with the lowest overall calorie intake. These targets are based on our analysis of 125,761 days of food logs from 34,519 Nutrient Optimiser users over the last four years.
These Optimal Nutrient Intake targets (ONIs) align with maximum satiety or the greatest feelings of fullness for the fewest calories. Hence, the ONIs would be ideal for rapid weight loss.
Why Is Optimal Nutrition Important?
Your body requires:
- nine essential amino acids,
- thirteen essential vitamins,
- twenty essential minerals, and
- two essential fatty acids to function.
These substances are critical for every process in the human body! Without them, required bodily processes do not occur properly.
In days gone by, energy was hard to come by, but all the food we could get was packed with plenty of nutrients. Sadly, today, in our modern food environment, energy is plentiful, but our food lacks nutrients. As a result, most people eat more food to get the required nutrients.
But the good news is we can use a little modern technology to gamify the process to identify foods and meals that contain more nutrients per calorie. This enables us to get the necessary nutrients without eating more than we need to.
Because there is a link between satiety and nutrient intake, you are also less likely to feel full, meaning you may eat more. Getting more of ALL the essential nutrients optimises body function to keep you healthy. It also empowers you to feel satiated on fewer calories, which makes it much easier to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
What Is the Recommended Daily Intake?
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Recommended Daily Intakes (RDIs) are a series of nutrient guidelines established so people can evade conditions associated with deficiency.
The Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) is the quantity of a specific nutrient deemed sufficient for 50% of the population (i.e., females over 50) using research. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is two standard deviations from the EAR or the quantity that satisfies 97.5% of the population’s needs. An RDA is only set for a nutrient if there is an EAR.
If there isn’t enough available data to set an EAR, then an Adequate Intake (AI) is quantified. This is less research-based and isn’t as reliable in meeting someone’s nutritional needs as the RDA.
Lastly, there is the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). The UL is the greatest intake of a nutrient that is unlikely to pose a risk of adverse health effects in almost all individuals.
The figure below shows where the EAR, RDA and UL lie on the spectrum between inadequacy and excess. As you can see, these intakes were not designed for optimal human health. Hence, we set off on a mission to develop our Optimal Nutrient Intakes (ONIs). The ONIs are more than the minimum but less than the Upper Limit.
What Should MY Daily Intake of Nutrients Be?
Before we dive in, it’s crucial to understand the difference between:
- optimal, and
- what is ideal for you.
Like any sharp and powerful tool, you must use the information responsibly and intelligently.
Your body likes to maintain homeostasis or balance. Hence, you shouldn’t try to jump from one extreme to another.
If your goal is long-term fat loss, you should aim to lose between 0.5 and 1.0% of your body weight each week. Even if you have your macros and micros dialled in, going faster than this will be hard to sustain.
We encourage Optimisers to aim for the minimum effective dose or the minimum amount of change and effort required to move towards their goal at a sustainable rate.
As you will see below, a higher protein %—or per cent of total calories from protein—will provide the greatest satiety per calorie. However, you shouldn’t try to jump from 10% protein to 50% protein overnight.
You should see the Optimal Nutrient Intakes as stretch targets to incrementally move towards optimal from where you are now.
How Can I Move Towards Optimal Nutrition?
In our Macros Masterclass, we guide our Optimisers to identify the balance of protein, fat and carbs in their current diet. Then, Nutrient Optimier adjusts their macronutrient targets each week to enable them to maintain long-term, sustainable progress.
In our Micros Masterclass, we guide our Optimisers through progressively adding foods and meals that contain more of their priority nutrients while dropping less-optimal ones from their repertoire.
Moving towards more optimal intakes at a sustainable rate ensures you arrive at your goal with new habits and a new eating routine that you can maintain.
Developing a repertoire of foods and meals you enjoy AND that hit your optimal nutrient targets will ensure you don’t rebound once the ‘diet’ is over.
What Is the Optimal Intake of Nutrients?
Macronutrients are the largest (macro) nutrients that provide energy in your diet.
The table below shows the approximate percentages of total calories for protein, fat, and net carbs that aligns with the lowest calorie intake based on our data.
|Fat||30 – 40%|
|Non-Fibre Carbs||10 – 20%|
For a deep dive into macros, see What Are Macros in Your Diet (and How to Manage Them)?
Protein % is the most powerful lever to use if you want to increase satiety, eat fewer calories, and feel less hungry. This is explained by the Protein Leverage Hypothesis, which states that we will continue to eat until we get the protein our bodies require.
As the chart below shows, Optimisers with a higher protein % consume about half as much energy as those consuming the population average for protein. Ironically, the population average, shown towards the left of this chart, tends to align with the RDI for protein which also aligns with the highest calorie intake.
In our Macros Masterclass, we find most people thrive when they work up to 40% of their total calories from protein. However, a diet with a higher protein % than this (e.g., a protein-sparing modified fast) can be hard to sustain for more than a few days.
Increasing your protein % doesn’t require you to eat much more protein (i.e., grams). Instead, it means you must prioritise protein while reducing energy from carbs and fat to increase the overall percentage of your total calories from protein.
For more details, see Protein – Optimal vs Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR).
While fat is our most energy-dense macronutrient at nine calories per gram, it also tends to contain the least amount of micronutrients (i.e., vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids).
Because essential nutrients play a vital role in how satiated we feel, ‘eating fat to satiety’ might not be the best idea if you want to feel full on fewer calories.
Our satiety analysis shows that people consuming around 30-40% of their total calories from fat tend to ingest 34% fewer calories than those who eat more fat.
If you prefer a lower-carb diet to keep your blood sugars stable, you won’t need to reduce your fat intake to these low levels; you need to get some energy from somewhere! While your body can use protein for energy, it is not an efficient source. Hence, you require some carbs and/or fat for some fuel.
Because fat is so energy-dense, it tends to be the easiest macro to leverage and use to reduce the energy you’re consuming to lose body fat.
For more details, see Fat – Optimal vs Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR).
We tend to see the highest energy intake when 40-50% of calories come from non-fibre carbohydrates, and the rest comes from fat.
This hyper-palatable fat-and-carb combo is the signature of modern, ultra-processed junk foods we have no off-switch for. So, while many people think in terms of avoiding ‘bad carbs’ or reducing fat, it’s the combination of the two that is diabolical for us.
Conversely, people consuming 10-20% of their energy from non-fibre carbohydrates tend to consume 25% fewer calories.
Non-starchy fibrous vegetables provide fibre, water, and nutrients like potassium, calcium, vitamin C, and magnesium that can be harder to get from meat and seafood. Hence, it appears that lower carb is better than zero carb for maximum satiety.
For more details, see Carbohydrates – Optimal vs Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR).
Optimal Mineral Intakes
Similar to protein, our satiety analysis has also shown some degree of nutrient leverage for each essential mineral. Hence, our cravings are satisfied with fewer calories when we consume foods and meals that contain more essential minerals per calorie.
Towards the right of the chart below, we see we require the largest amount of potassium and sodium.
Because potassium is hard to find in our modern food system, we tend to have the largest satiety response to it. Notice how potassium has the longest line from top to bottom, indicating that consuming more potassium per calorie aligns with the greatest reduction in calories.
After potassium, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium also show large satiety response. Meanwhile, the smaller minerals like copper, zinc and magnesium align with a smaller satiety response.
The table below shows the Optimal Nutrient Intake (ONIs) for each mineral alongside its relative Dietary Reference Intake (DRI).
These ONIs are based on the 85th percentile intake of our Optimisers or the point at which we no longer see an improvement in satiety when more of a nutrient is consumed.
Keep in mind that our Optimisers only consume whole foods and do not utilise supplements.
As you can see in the column to the right, the ONI stretch targets are around 2.6 times the average DRI.
For more details, see The Effect of Electrolyte Minerals on Appetite, Hunger, and Satiety.
Optimal Vitamin Intakes
Just like protein and minerals, we have a similar satiety response to essential vitamins. That is, people eating more vitamins per calorie also tend to consume fewer calories.
The chart below shows the most significant satiety response for foods that contain more folate and niacin (B3).
The table below shows the ONI vs the DRIs for vitamins. On average, the ONIs for vitamins are 4.2 times more than the DRIs.
|niacin B3||60||14||mg/2000 cal||4.28|
|pantothenic acid (B5)||12||5||mg/2000 cal||2.4|
|riboflavin B2||6||1.1||mcg/2000 cal||5.45|
|vitamin A||10000||2333||IU/2000 cal||4.29|
|vitamin D||1200||600||IU/2000 cal||2.0|
|vitamin E||25||15||mg/2000 cal||1.67|
|thiamin B1||3||1.1||mg/2000 cal||2.73|
|vitamin K1||1100||90||mcg/2000 cal||12.2|
|vitamin B6||5||1.3||mg/2000 cal||3.85|
|vitamin C||350||75||mg/2000 cal||4.67|
|vitamin B12||12||2.4||mcg/2000 cal||5.0|
Once again, we want to reiterate that the satiety response we’re seeing is from vitamins in whole foods—not supplements or fortification. You can’t just add handfuls of pills to a nutrient-poor diet as ‘nutritional insurance’! Our analysis has shown it doesn’t have the same effects.
We’ve worked hard to clean the data to remove very high intakes of the vitamins that are only achievable with fortification and supplementation. We tend to see rebound satiety effects at very high vitamin intakes. That is, heavily supplemented diets align with a much higher calorie intake.
Whole foods that naturally contain more nutrients per calorie tend to be hard to overeat. Hence, it makes sense that nutrient-dense whole foods are more satiating. However, we seem to have a rebound satiety effect from fortified foods.
Because we appear to gravitate to foods that contain the nutrients we require, supplementing and fortifying ultra-processed foods seems to ensure we don’t lose our appetite for them, compelling us to eat more. Without such high levels of fortification, we would be more likely to seek out meat, seafood, and plants that contain them naturally.
In our Micros Masterclass, we guide Optimisers to reduce their intake of supplements and fortified foods if they exceed the minimum DRI for those nutrients.
For more details, see Vitamins for Weight Loss and Satiety: Which Ones and How Much Do You Need?
Optimal Fatty Acids Intake
We only require small amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids in our diet. Our bodies cannot make these fatty acids – we must consume them in food.
People who consume more omega-3 per calorie tend to eat 10% fewer calories. The ONI stretch target for omega-3s is 6.0 grams/2000 calories, which is 3.75 times the DRI of 1.6 grams/day for men.
Omega-6 fats are ubiquitous in our food system because it is so awash with industrial seed oils. Thus, we tend to see less omega-6 aligned with a lower calorie intake. Although essential, we haven’t set a specific ONI for omega-6 fatty acids because they are easy to obtain from a whole food-centric diet. We believe the default DRI for omega-6 will be plenty based on our analysis.
Interestingly, we see a positive satiety response to foods and meals containing more cholesterol per calorie. But because cholesterol is not an essential nutrient—and we produce about 90% of our cholesterol needs on our own—we haven’t set an ONI stretch target for it either.
For more details on saturated fat, cholesterol, and fatty acids, see Does Eating Fat Make You Fat? The Surprising Data on Cholesterol and Saturated Fat!
Optimal Amino Acid Intakes
By now, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that we also have a strong satiety response to the amino acids that make up protein. We’ve included the satiety response curve to each essential amino acid below.
It seems we have the greatest satiety response to lysine, followed by valine, isoleucine, and threonine. If you are consuming a well-balanced omnivorous diet, getting all these amino acids in adequate amounts shouldn’t be a problem.
The table below shows the ONI targets for the amino acids.
How Do You Achieve Optimal Nutrition?
Rather than jumping straight to the Optimal Nutrient Intakes, we’ve found it easier and more sustainable when people level up progressively. In our Micros Masterclass, we walk our Optimisers through this very process.
The great thing about quantifying our nutrition like this is that it turns it into a game. You can track your food in Cronometer and audition new foods and meals that provide more of the nutrients you’re not getting enough of at the current moment. Over time, you will develop a more complete nutrient profile as you fill in your nutrient gaps with foods and meals that contain more of your priority nutrients.
Nutritional Optimisation changes the game of nutrition. Rather than depriving yourself and eating less, your goal is to pack more of the nutrients you need into your daily energy budget.
It’s important to note that our targets are per calorie. So, you don’t have to eat more in terms of quantity to improve; you have to eat better quality food. For more on this process, check out The Nutrient Bucket-Filling Game.
To help you do this, the tables below show the nutrient intakes that correspond to the various levels of the game:
- Beginner. These are the default DRIs and AIs you will find in Cronometer. Once you hit most of these targets—like the example below—you’re ready to level up your nutrition.
- Level 1. These targets are half the strength of our full ONIs. If you are looking to progress your nutrient intake from beginner or are consuming fewer calories because you are smaller, sedentary, or in an energy deficit, these are perfect!
- Level 2. Once you hit most of the level 1 targets, you can progress to level 2. This level is an excellent fit if you are consuming a moderate amount of calories.
- Level 3. These are the full-strength ONI targets set on a 2000-calorie basis. Hence, most people won’t need to use these unless they consume more than or equal to 2000 calories per day.
The tables below show the mineral, vitamin, essential fatty acid, and amino acid intakes for each target level.
|Level 1 |
|Level 2 |
|Level 3 |
|pantothenic acid (B5)||5.0||6||9.0||12||mg|
Essential Fatty Acids
|Fatty Acid||Beginner |
|Level 1 |
|Level 2 |
|Level 3 |
|Amino Acid||Level 1 |
|Level 2 |
|Level 3 |
How to Implement the ONIs in Cronometer
To change your micronutrient targets in the web version of Cronometer, go to:
‘Settings’ -> ‘Account Profile’ -> ‘Targets’.
Next, scroll down to the bottom until you see ‘Nutrient Targets’. From there, click on each nutrient and enter the relative target from whatever level you choose. Finally, select ‘Custom Target’ for each nutrient you entered manually.
The screenshots below show what this would look like for the Level 2 ONI targets.
You can also change your nutrient targets by clicking on each corresponding green and yellow bar in the main diary screen in Cronometer.
Why Is Optimal Nutrition Important?
Now you know all about the Optimal Nutrient Intakes, you may be thinking, ‘why is this important?’ or, ‘how does it work?’
There are three ways of looking at this:
- Nutrient leverage,
- Nutritional safety factor, and
- Copying the eating habits of successful people.
Before we wrap up, let’s quickly look at each.
First, let’s consider nutrient leverage.
As we mentioned in the ‘Protein’ section, the Protein Leverage Hypothesis states that all organisms crave protein and will continue to eat until they get enough of it. Hence, we will overconsume energy to get enough protein if the only food we have available has a lower protein %.
However, our analysis suggests that there appears to be a nutrient leverage effect where we eat more energy until we obtain adequate amounts of other essential nutrients aside from the amino acids in protein.
We don’t just crave protein; we also crave all of the other vital nutrients we require to thrive. Hence, we will be satisfied with fewer calories if we can pack more of the nutrients we need into our daily food budget.
The table below shows the results of a multivariate analysis of all the essential nutrients (plus fibre and cholesterol). These nutrients were found to have a statistically significant correlation with overall calorie intake in this population. Moving from low to high protein accounts for a 25% reduction in calories. However, increasing your intake of sodium, folate, potassium, calcium, fibre, and even cholesterol per calorie aligns with a statistically significant decrease in energy consumption.
We appear to eat less when the food we eat contains more nutrients. Hence, it makes sense to pack more of the required nutrients into our daily energy budget.
Nutritional Safety Factor
As mentioned above, the mainstream nutrient targets are set as the minimum required to prevent diseases of deficiency for most of those nutrients for most people. However, the reality is that nutrition is a young science, and there are still many unknowns.
In engineering, we apply a risk-based safety factor to manage unknowns. For example, you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable driving an overloaded truck over a bridge designed for the absolute minimum cost without any safety factors, would you? That’s why, as a bridge designer, I would apply larger safety factors to manage the unknowns to ensure that the bridge would not collapse under any foreseeable event.
Similarly, you can see striving for the Optimal Nutrient Intake as increasing the safety factor of your nutrition. Rather than getting just enough of the essential nutrients to survive, you are working to give your body plenty of all the nutrients you require to ensure that it is well-prepared for anything you may face.
Imitating Successful People
You can also view Nutritional Optimisation as simply imitating the most successful people.
If you see someone who is fit, healthy, and vibrant, you often want to know what they’re eating and their workout routine so you can imitate them. Right?
That’s why Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has 335 million followers on Instagram!
Through our analysis of the eating habits of more than thirty-five thousand people worldwide, we have quantified the nutritional parameters that align with higher satiety. You can think of these as data-driven cheat codes for nutrition.
Our data-centric analysis enables us to cut through the noise of arguments around plant-based vs carnivore, low-carb vs low-fat, or the latest anti-nutrient to avoid.
Your body doesn’t care where it gets its nutrients from; it just needs enough of each of them! Once you get everything you need within your daily energy budget, all the ‘bad’ things become irrelevant.
By following this template, you can reach the level of health you’ve always strived for with the foods and meals you enjoy available in your corner of the world.
Personalised Nutrition: What Are Your Priority Nutrients?
As shown in the table above, this population of thirty-five thousand Optimisers crave potassium, calcium, folate, cholesterol, and sodium the most. However, the solution to your unique nutritional puzzle will be different, or it may change; the nutrients YOU need more of will depend on what you currently eat.
If you want to find which nutrients you need to prioritise and which foods and meals contain more of them, you can take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge here.
- The Satiety Index
- Satiety: How to Lose Weight with Less Hunger
- Highest Satiety Index Meals and Recipes
- How Much Protein Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
- Vitamins for Weight Loss and Satiety: Which Ones and How Much Do You Need?
- The Impact of Electrolyte Minerals on Appetite, Hunger and Satiety
- Does Eating Fat Make You Fat? The Surprising Truth About Cholesterol and Saturated fat!
- Optimal Amino Acid Intakes for Weight Loss, Satiety and Health
- Optimal Nutrient Intakes (ONIs) for Satiety and Health
- The Diet Quality Score: Your Ultimate Measure of a Balanced Diet
1 thought on “Optimal Nutrient Intakes (ONIs) for Satiety and Health”
thanks for the pick up. I’ve updated the units for selenium in the tables.
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