August 28, 2020


At a glance

When it comes to introducing and implementing a nutrition program into a gym, many struggle with creating nutrition as part of their culture versus an add on service to their existing membership.

Here are the top mistakes we see with gyms looking to begin or revamp their nutrition program for athletes.

Mistake #1: Avoiding the food conversation

Your coaches and trainers may or may not feel equipped to discuss nutrition with athletes. Regardless of the training background, they shouldn’t be avoiding talking nutrition with members.

Solution: Avoiding the food conversation is not an option. Members should expect to discuss their nutrition habits with trainers during their introductory meetings and classes, as well as on a regular basis on class and one-on-one, and they should expect to do so without judgement or guilt. 

There is no such thing as “bad” foods, only foods that don’t serve individualized goals. For someone who is underweight looking to gain weight and muscle mass, a low carb, vegetable-based diet may not be the best source of nourishment for reaching those goals. At the same time, for someone who is looking to lose weight and body fat in particular, cookies and pasta may not best serve their goals. 

It’s important to make this distinction and avoid members feeling guilt or shame around their food choices, because this will feed into their capacity to ask questions and for help around food choices in both casual and structured settings. This personalized approach takes the power away from food and puts it into the hands of clients by helping them understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and that what well works for one person may or may not work well for another. 

In the same light, trainers who lead by example and promote a whole health perspective will be vital to promoting the culture of health versus the culture of fitness as a stand-alone option.  

Mistake #2: Being a fitness facility versus a health facility

While many facilities begin by offering personal training or group training, they have the capacity to grow beyond being a fitness-focused facility to include more health services such as nutrition to give members a more complete approach to creating healthy lifestyles.

This means that nutrition services, education, and discussions need to be implemented at every level of marketing and interaction with clients. This includes, but is not limited to, introduction calls and meetings, introductory classes, check-in’s with coaches, social media and blog education, seminar offerings, and service offerings regularly integrated into class settings. 

Solution: Providing free resources to not only educate members but build trust and rapport is essential for members to fully integrate nutrition into their health practices. If members never get a chance to try snatches and cleans in class, they are far less likely to understand the complexity required to perform Olympic movements and won’t understand the value of a Barbell Club. Once members have a taste of the information they may be missing out on and have seen small results, they will be much more willing to buy-in and learn more. 

Some examples of free nutrition education for clients might look like: 

  • Weekly Instagram, Facebook, or private group posts detailing simple, succinct information about the role of nutrition on an athletes body and how to implement changes. Example: Adequate carb intake around workouts is essential for ensuring energy levels during workouts as well as post-workout for recovery. Muscles are fueled by muscle glycogen, and when they become depleted during exercise and muscle fatigue (such as when you are no longer able to complete push ups), they need to be replenished by quality carb courses post-workout to promote muscle repair and reduce soreness.
  • Monthly blog posts to educate members in further depth about specific issues of interest. Examples: pre and post-workout fueling, hydration and mineral balance with electrolytes, fueling for competition day, promoting gut health for improved performance
  • Nutrition seminars to create a space for members to learn in person (or virtually) and ask specific questions about the topic being discussed. These can be simple or in depth depending on the needs of members.
  • Weekly nutrition question of the day to get nutrition at the forefront of people’s mind. Example: What’s your favorite pre-workout meal? This will get athletes thinking about not only what they are eating before their workouts, but hear the thought others are putting into their pre-workout meals. This provides the coach an opportunity to discuss any issues with athletes directly, typically in a semi-private setting, if it sounds like they need assistance with their nutrition and promote nutrition importance before physical activity.

Members also need to know what the nutrition program includes, what it costs, and what the structure looks like at all times. Just like explaining movement mechanics, repetition on nutrition topics and programs available will help them process and understand the value of implementing nutrition to improve their athletic performance.

Mistake #3: Only running short-term challenges 

There’s a good chance that you’ve run some sort of nutrition challenge in your facility at some point in time. It’s usually a Whole30 challenge or 30-day Paleo Diet, or maybe even a 6-Week challenge with portion and food restrictions.

While these elimination diets usually give members some quick results and help them realize how certain foods like sugar and wheat are affecting their bodies, they do little to promote nutrition as a lifelong endeavor. While they may be intended as a jumping off point for athletes, they send the messages to clients that nutrition is only something we need to focus on a month or two a year. It lets clients know that we all need to detox after the holidays and kick start our resolutions, but that the other 11 months of the year they are on their own. 

Solution: The goal of a nutrition program should be to set up athletes to understand and implement nutrition protocols long-term, not within the guidelines or strict challenges. This isn’t to say that challenges are not a good way to give members easy and relatable information around their nutrition. They can be hugely beneficial for athletes to see the value in altering and fine-tuning their nutrition, but personalized nutrition needs to be an option available to them thereafter.

When nutrition challenges are designed to suit the needs and challenges of unique demographics, they are more beneficial for helping those athletes in particular to make larger impacts. This may require some creativity, but it’s well worth the outcome.  

Nutrition Challenge for Gyms

Radz Zalewski
Founder of Affiliate Supplements. Long-time CrossFitter (L1) and fitness nut. New-time dad. 


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