Your Food and Meal Choices [Macros Masterclass FAQ #5]

There is an infinite array of dietary choices that you can choose from, which can be exciting and daunting at the same time! 

This section of the Macros Masterclass FAQs shows how Nutrient Optimiser guides you to make better food choices and move towards a more optimal diet that aligns with your goals. 

How Does Nutrient Optimiser Cater to My Dietary Preferences and Pre-Existing Conditions? 

We have categorised our NutriBooster recipes throughout various books and in Nutrient Optimiser to cater to specific goals that have been organised in the table below.    

1. Primary goal2.  Metabolic health3. Rate of weight lossApproach:
weight losshealthyfastmaximum nutrient density
weight losshealthyrapidfat loss
weight losselevated blood sugarsgentleblood sugar & fat loss
weight losshealthyaggressivehigh protein: energy
weight losscancerfastcancer (weight loss)
weight maintenanceelevated blood sugarsblood sugars
weight maintenancehealthyhealthy maintenance
weight maintenancecancercancer (maintenance)
muscle buildinghealthybodybuilder
growth & activitynormalathletes & bulking
weight gaincancerCancer (weight gain)

We have also tagged our NutriBooster recipes based on a range of dietary preferences, like:

  • dairy-free
  • egg free
  • pescatarian
  • egg and dairy-free
  • meat-based
  • immune-supportive
  • low oxalate
  • vegetarian
  • low-carb vegetarian
  • low FODMAP
  • lacto-vegetarian
  • autoimmune paleo (AIP)
  • smoothies
  • low histamine
  • low-fat
  • plant-based
  • nutritional keto
  • athletes and bulking
  • therapeutic keto

How Do I Find Gluten-Free Recipes? 

By focusing on nutrient density, grain products are automatically excluded. As a result, all of our recipes are gluten-free. Thus, we found it redundant to create a separate gluten-free category. 

What if I’m a ‘Fussy Eater’?

Nutrient Optimiser gives you a wide range of foods and recipe options that you can ‘audition’ to see if you like them.

Many people are surprised to find that they enjoy foods they had never thought of trying before, especially when adding them to foods and meals they already enjoy. 

We encourage you to be a little adventurous during the Macros Masterclass.  Nutrient Optimiser gamifies the process of progressively dialling in your nutrition. But you only need to go as fast as you are comfortable.  You will be making progress if you only try a couple of new foods and meals each week. 

You may be surprised at how your tastes change as you start to focus on foods that you know supply your body with the macronutrients and micronutrients it requires. 

Is Protein Powder OK?

There’s no harm in using protein powder or products that use powders as an ingredient to boost your protein intake if you struggle to meet your minimum intake recommendations or need more to grow.

However, there are a few downsides to keep in mind when it comes to using protein powders:

  • Powders are highly processed and effectively pre-digested, so they absorb quickly into your body.  This means they do not provide the same satiety response as whole foods that contain protein. They, therefore, do not empower you to feel as full as you would for as long as you would if you’d chosen whole foods.
  • Protein powders tend to be less nutritious than whole foods. So, while you’ll be getting plenty of amino acids, you’ll be getting fewer vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids in comparison to whole food protein sources. 
  • Protein powders often contain extra ingredients and sweeteners to make you eat more of them than you require. 

So, while processed foods and snacks that use powders will be better than other lower protein alternatives, they are not ideal compared to whole food protein sources.  

Is It Better to Eat More Plant-Based Foods or Animal and Sea Foods? 

We don’t mind where you land on the spectrum between plant-based, animal-based, and seafood. 

Some of the more nutrient-dense, high-satiety foods tend to come from plants. However, there is a limit to how much of them you can eat because they have low energy density.

For example, there is a limit to how much spinach, celery, asparagus, and watercress you can physically eat. If you only ate these foods, you would struggle to get enough calories and complete protein.  

So, once you have your fill of nutrient-dense, non-starchy veggies, you will need to seek out other energy and protein sources. 

Plant-based foods tend to have a lower protein density (i.e. protein per calorie) and protein bioavailability (i.e. not as much of the protein can be used by your body). Therefore, if you are exclusively adhering to a plant-based diet, you will need to pay more attention to ensure that you obtain adequate bioavailable protein to maximise satiety

What About Fortified Foods? 

As a general rule, any food that comes in a package with a long list of ingredients like colours, flavours, and vitamins tends to contain a mixture of refined grains, industrialised plant oils, and processed sugars.

The low-protein, ‘carb and fat combo’ is used by processed food companies to make us overeat these foods. In addition, you will tend to eat more processed foods to get more fortified nutrients because your body also craves vitamins. So, after a while, you will lose your taste for whole foods that naturally contain nutrients like meat, seafood, and vegetables.

Eat Breakfast ‘Like a King’

While you don’t have to have ‘breakfast’ first thing in the morning, it appears to be ideal to front-load your calories towards your first meal of the day rather than eating your biggest meal before bed. This is known as early, time-restricted feeding (eTRF). 

Not only are you more insulin sensitive earlier in the day (meaning you will use the energy you ate more effectively), but you are also more likely to use the food you just ate to fuel your activity rather than storing it while you sleep. 

If your schedule allows it, try to eat most of your food when the sun is up to synchronise your circadian rhythm with your eating patterns. 

Do I Need to Eat All My Allotted Calories Each Day? 

You don’t have to meet your calorie target each day, especially if you’re not hungry. However, you should aim to meet your target protein intake and treat 1.4 g/kg LBM protein as a daily minimum to prevent rebound hunger later. 

As you log your food each day, your goal is to keep your protein bar longer than your energy bar, like the example below.   

While there are many interesting moving parts in the Macros Masterclass, this one simple tip will get you most of the way to dial your macros to align with your goal. 

Are Artificial Sweeteners OK?

There is plenty of controversy around artificial sweeteners.  But, ultimately, we don’t care if you use them or not.   

Foods with artificial sweeteners tend to contain fewer calories, which can be a good thing. People who strictly track their calories tend to see positive results by consuming low-calorie foods using sweeteners. 

Your body actually releases stored glucose in anticipation of food and your insulin may rise when your body tastes something sweet and thinks it might get some calories.  But any cephalic phase insulin response from artificial sweeteners won’t cause you to store energy that you don’t eat.

While artificially sweetened zero-calorie soft drinks may not be an issue, it’s a different story when it comes to sweetened calorie-containing foods.  You’re just going to consume more energy by adding artificial sweeteners to energy-dense foods like fat bombs and ‘paleo’ cupcakes because they make these foods taste great, so you want to eat more of them. 

As you start incorporating more of the nutrient-dense meals recommended for you by Nutrient Optimiser, you will tend to displace your intake of foods requiring artificial colours, flavours, and sweeteners to taste OK. When you focus on consuming more of the nutritious foods your body needs, you won’t need to worry so much about foods you should avoid.  

Ultimately, you want the taste of your food to be a reliable indicator of the nutrients it contains. Your appetite should be able to trust that your food supplies the nutrients it requires and that the flavours align with the nutrients it contains. Consuming fake foods utilising additives to make them taste edible will likely make your appetite more risk-averse.

We’d much rather you spend more of your precious time and limited mental energy focusing on what you can eat to nourish your body rather than what you should avoid. 

Many people also find that they lose their taste for extremely sweet foods that they may have enjoyed before.  They taste sickly sweet and even repulsive as your taste buds reset to the taste of real food. 

What Does ‘Breakfast’ Mean Anyway?

Not everyone believes you need to eat ‘breakfast’. However, our analysis of data from Optimisers shows that your body does better with different meals at different times throughout the day. Based on the rationale outlined below, we have flagged the NutriBooster recipes suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, and sides.  

First Meal (AKA ‘Break Fast’)

Breakfast, or’ break fast’, is simply the meal that breaks the fasting period while you’re asleep. So, it doesn’t matter when you have your first meal of the day. However, you should aim for a robust first meal that centres around protein and nutrients and with less energy from fat and carbs.

Our analysis shows that front-loading protein earlier in the day correlates with greater satiety and fewer calories consumed throughout the day.  Establishing a consistent eating routine also sets you up for success and prevents you from overeating late in the day.

When eating too close to bedtime, you’re more likely to store energy while you sleep rather than if you were to eat earlier so you could burn it off during the day. Furthermore, eating late forces your metabolism to stay elevated overnight to burn and store the extra energy.  This can contribute to poor sleep and elevated waking blood glucose. If possible, try capping your nighttime meals and snacks to two to three hours before bedtime.

Before you wake up in the morning, your body pumps stored glucose into your bloodstream. This is a healthy and natural response driven by daily circadian rhythms of cortisol and glucose to start your day. Most people subsequently find their blood glucose levels are higher in the morning, as shown in the chart below (from the Data-Driven Fasting app). 

If you already have plenty of glucose on board in the morning from the night before, you don’t need to prioritise carbs at your first meal.  Likewise, fat often comes with protein. So, you don’t need to go out of your way to include extra dietary fat if you’re eating adequate protein, particularly if you want to lose body fat.

For most people, we recommend that you focus your first meal around protein and aim for more than 40% of total calories from protein.  Our ‘breakfast’ meals usually require less meal prep, given most people don’t have time to make a complex breakfast. 

Lunch 

Our lunches tend to be quick, light, and transportable, like a pre-prepared salad with some tinned fish. Of course, you can always add more protein if you’re feeling peckish or struggling to think clearly from hunger.

Dinner 

‘Dinner’ meals tend to involve a little more preparation. Because most people see lower blood sugars in the afternoon and evening, these recipes contain a little more carbohydrates. 

Going to bed with rock-bottom blood glucose can raise cortisol and cause poorer sleep. 

More carbs at dinner also help you sleep more soundly and wake with lower blood glucose — your body thinks it’s starving, so it doesn’t want to lie down and go to sleep.  

Counterintuitively, large high-fat meals in the evening often lead to higher waking glucose levels.

What About Alcohol?

Alcohol tends to decrease blood glucose, and alcoholics often have very low HbA1cs. However, this is not necessarily a good thing.  Alcohol is an interesting ‘macronutrient’ with some unique impacts on metabolism.

  • Because of oxidative priority, your body must first burn the alcohol off before turning to glucose and fat. As a result, your body down-regulates the release of glucose and fat into your bloodstream until your body clears the alcohol it cannot store.  
  • We tend to make poor food choices after drinking a significant amount of alcohol. Whether this means eating processed foods, snacking late into the night, or both, these actions keep our blood glucose elevated for longer. 
  • At seven calories per gram, alcohol is energy-dense. In comparison, fat is nine calories per gram and carbs and protein yield four calories per gram. 
  • Alcohol often comes with plenty of carbs and other yummy things easy to overconsume. 
  • Many people rely on alcohol as a sleep aid. However, while alcohol initially knocks you out, you won’t get into REM sleep as quickly because your metabolic rate is elevated to burn off the high-octane energy. As a result, you not only will feel dehydrated and have a hangover in the morning, but you also won’t get a good night’s sleep and may resort to less optimal food choices the next day. 
  • Alcohol is similar to sugar, refined grains, or oils because it is essentially an ‘empty calorie’. In other words, alcohol contains lots of energy with very few nutrients. It often draws down on your nutrient stores because the body requires vitamins and minerals to metabolise alcohol.  Hence, it won’t help you on your quest to maximise nutrient density

What is Your Personalised Optimal 30/30?

We are creatures of habit. Our analysis shows that people get most of their calories from less than 30 foods and 30 meals. 

After baselining, you will identify Your Favourite Foods and Your Favourite Meals. These are the foods and meals you gravitate to and eat most often, thus providing most of your calories. 

During the Macros Masterclass, Nutrient Optimiser will guide you to find some new foods and meals to add to your shortlist of favourites that align with your goals and help optimise your current diet.

You can only have a maximum of 30 foods and meals, so you will need to drop some of the less-optimal ones that don’t align with your goals. In the end, you will be left with a shortlist known as Personalised Optimal 30/30. This includes 30 foods and 30 meals that you enjoy and align with your goals.

After the Macros Masterclass, you can continue to prioritise meals found on this shortlist that you know align with your goals without relying on food tracking. 

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