The Nutrition Equation
There’s no denying it — a member’s nutrition habits can make or break their fitness success. That is why it’s paramount clubs nail down solutions for providing nutritional guidance to members. There are a multitude of avenues clubs can take, including hiring a registered dietitian or nutritionist, utilizing technology or directing members to in-house juice bars.
If your club boasts a registered dietitian or nutritionist, then you’re in a great (and legal) position to offer members an in-house nutrition program. However, enrolling members into those nutrition programs can be challenging.
The Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas, addresses this challenge by placing a coupon in the member orientation folder that encourages new members to pay a visit to Erika Kaufman, the club’s in-house registered dietitian. In addition, the club places nutrition tips from Kaufman in its monthly newsletter, which helps to advertise her services. “Also, whenever a member asks any staff about nutrition they encourage them to come see me,” added Kaufman.
Once members have been introduced to Kaufman, she educates and hopefully enrolls them into one of a variety of programs, including basic nutrition planning, home cooking and individualized nutrition.
In the past, VIDA Fitness in Washington, D.C., only offered nutrition services to members upon their request. However, that will all change now that the company has hired its own registered dietitian to launch exciting new programs and company practices.
One of those exciting programs surrounds the dynamic between trainers and registered dietitians. “Our trainers will work collaboratively with our registered dietitian to make sure the recommendations are aligned,” explained Tara Sampson, the general manager of VIDA Fitness in Northwest D.C. “We know that results are hinged on proper nutrition, and we want to be sure that all of our members are exposed to this information, without exception.”
Just as The Houstonian encourages members to enroll in nutrition programs during member orientations, VIDA Fitness will take a similar approach. “We believe that the member on-boarding process is one of the most important steps to integrating a new member into the VIDA community,” said Sampson. “Presently, we offer all of our new members a free personal training session, but now they will also receive a complimentary consultation with our registered dietitian. The hope is to begin developing an inclusive plan of action that not only gives them the tools to be successful within the gym, but empowers them to make decisions — particularly in regard to nutrition — outside of the gym, as well.”
A popular fitness quote that states, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym,” reiterates the fact that fitness success is partially determined outside of your club’s four walls. That is why many clubs have been utilizing technology to launch online wellness portals that aid members in this effort.
“Unlike in the past, our industry is — or should be — focusing on ways to improve clients’ behaviors outside of the gym, [or] the ‘other 166 hours,’” said Tony Nicholson, the director of Anytime Health, Anytime Fitness’ virtual health and wellness portal.
Via Anytime Health, members can plan meals, track workouts and share their success stories. In addition to meal planning, Anytime Health provides diet tracking and macronutrient breakdown and analysis, all of which ties back to members’ goals. “It’s like having a registered dietitian in their pocket from the start of their process to the maintenance layer, and ultimately, to the growth phase (unconscious competence),” said Nicholson.
Instead of developing its own app or portal, The Houstonian recently purchased a machine called the “InBody 520 Body Composition Analyzer,” which provides members information on their lean body mass, fat mass and Basal Metabolic Rate, the number of calories you burn at rest. “This information is extremely helpful for each individual to reach his or her goals,” said Kaufman.
In addition, “online food logs and food log apps are extremely easy and useful, and I often encourage my clients to use these tools,” added Kaufman.
Although registered dietitians, nutritionists and technology are great tools, another great source for nutritional guidance is your juice bar or café. However, ensuring the products you’re serving are in fact “healthy,” is ideal.
Some smoothies, for example, can be loaded with excess sugars and calories. “They can easily push a client over a caloric and sugar threshold if their primary goal is to create a caloric deficit,” cautioned Nicholson.
That is another reason why VIDA Fitness hired a registered dietitian, to ensure the products sold at its juice bars, called Fuel Bars, were in fact conducive to health and fitness.
“We have many great products at the Fuel Bar, but there was very little guidance as to what pre- and post-workout nutrition options were best for our members, contingent on their fitness goals,” explained Sampson. “We know that nutrition is never one-size-fits-all, and a major initiative will be to allow our registered dietitian to begin bringing in products, and aligning our existing products, in a way that allows our members to make selections based more on the entirety of their fitness goals, as opposed to just simply taste or packaging.”
Currently, VIDA Fitness boasts smoothies packed with high-quality protein, and has even partnered with a local bakery called “Out of the Box Bakery,” which specializes in Paleo-aligned goods.
With the help of its new registered dietitian, the company expects the quality of its Fuel Bar products to continue to improve. “Our hope is to continue to provide more locally sourced options and options congruent with the recommendations of our new nutrition program,” said Sampson.
Leaving your members in the dark in terms of nutritional guidance not only hinders their chances for fitness success, but causes you to miss out on an opportunity to be a trusted resource and tool your members can utilize. Utilizing experts, technology or juice bars are great options for answering the confusion members may feel when it comes to properly fueling their bodies.
How to safely answer nutrition questions:
Sometimes, members ask difficult questions about nutrition that can be impossible (and illegal) for clubs to answer if they don’t have a registered dietitian or nutritionist on staff.
According to Emmanuelle Galland, a certified integrative health and nutrition coach and the co-founder of Zenberry Mix, there’s not one single answer to these questions. Oftentimes, what’s good for one member’s body, is bad for another. However, if you stick to relaying the following common principles of healthy eating, you’ll be providing your members with sound nutrition advice.
Suggest members eat real food and eat plenty of vegetables. Real food comes without a label, such as an egg, broccoli or sweet potato.
If members buy packaged food, advise they learn how to read the entire label. If they cannot pronounce an ingredient or do not recognize it as food, avoid it.
Teach members about the benefits of preparing food at home 90 percent of the time.
According to Galland, another solution is offering high-quality nutritional options in-house. “Clubs can take the lead in offering nutritious choices to members who are increasingly demanding of quality and transparency in their food supply to stay ahead of the curve,” she said.
Galland became interested in the effects of the foods we eat on our bodies after being diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease. She and her business partners, who also suffered from various health conditions, founded Zenberry Mix, to address the lack of superior nutrition (food without any fillers and additives).
“Our mission is to keep improving and discovering new food sources and suppliers, as well as reducing the environmental impact of our business, and to educate and inspire people to eat the very best food to unleash the super human they are meant to be every day,” said Galland.
By Rachel Zabonick