#030: How to Create and Execute a Nutrition Program for Your Members

#030: How to Create and Execute a Nutrition Program for Your Members

If you’re looking to get guidance on offering an effective nutrition program that helps your members to look and feel better AND is an additional revenue source, this show is for you.

Our guest, Dr. Mike T Nelson is the go-to expert in flexible dieting and will be explaining how you can systemize and scale your nutrition offerings beyond the typical 30-day challenge.

Join us every Friday at 10 a.m. PT on The Network where we’ll be airing live. Be sure to stick around for the live Q&A session at the end of the show so we can answer any questions you have.

This show was recorded live in The Network on Friday, May 4, 2018. 

Table of Contents

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Image Credit: miketnelson.com

3:00 Why should gym owners care about Implementing a Nutrition Program?

A nutrition program is the biggest value ad we can do at our gyms beyond training to really help maximize results for our clients. This is especially true since a big part of the reason members join is for body composition and performance changes.

Exercise and nutrition are like two wheels on a bike. If you’ve got one wheel that’s completely missing, the system just doesn’t work. While functional fitness gyms are leading the charge in how great training is done, nutrition is still a bit of a hit or miss for various reasons.

The industry is maturing now to a point to where boxes have really taken the lead in terms of high-quality of training. The standard has gone up dramatically over the last 10-years. Dr. Mike believes the next wave in evolution that’s happening right now is that gym owners are beginning to also now integrate a higher level of nutrition support to close the loop for their clients.

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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

5:00 building a foundation in nutrition education

At most gyms, there’s usually at least one coach who’s excited about nutrition. By offering this coach the opportunity to get properly educated in nutrition and creating a system for this person to offer it to your members, you’re creating an extremely valuable and scalable addition to your offerings.

The nutrition system should be very similar to the training system. You should have a 1:1 assessment where you find out where they’re starting from and show them how to progress from there.  Do you do some type of assessment or do you have them go where do you have them start and then how do you progress from there? You can make it a flexible framework.

The analogy Dr. Mike gives is, your member is a bowling ball and you’re the bumpers lining the lane. You’re allowing the client to drift back and forth. As the coach or the person working the system, you don’t want them to end up four lanes on the other side, but you do want them to vary a little bit as they go down. Some type of containment usually works a lot better than just giving your members enough space to progress. It’s your job to giving your coaches the tools and education they need to do that, or at least direct your coaches in the right direction.


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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

7:00 What are the legalities of giving Nutrition Advice? 

In general, you can provide educational material about nutrition in pretty much every state. Now of course, you’re not going out saying that if someone’s a type-2 diabetic, to eat in the way you prescribe. You’re obviously not trying to treat any type of medical condition. You’re never trying to diagnose or prescribe anything, but the reality of the matter is people are already eating. You’re just trying to give them better education and maybe create a system with accountability so that they’re making better choices.

You’re not really trying to treat any disease or anything like and so you have to be cognizant that you don’t ever say that. Some states are very strict on what you can and cannot say.

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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

8:30 The pros and Cons of 30-day Challenges

The 30-day nutrition challenges is probably the most common tool used by gyms to help get people interested and quickly started with proper nutrition. We hear great stories of success and we hear stories of no one complying.

Dr. Mike believe that even in the best case scenario, the 30-day challenge is like a bandaid since most gyms who are very successful at doing these types of nutrition sprints just jump from one to the next to the next. There’s no progression and there’s no customization.” It would be like if you just did a 30-day program with your members for exercise all the time and you just change the 30-day program with no thought going into it. What’s the longterm goal? Where I’m actually trying to get these people. What’s the progression?”

In the worst case scenario, Dr. Mike says 30-day challenges can be very restrictive. In general, a lot of people do pretty good for 30-days after they’re given the naughty and nice list. Then all hell breaks loose after that. “They do okay for awhile and then on day-31, they’re like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t feel like I can keep going on this route and I really can’t live like this the rest of my life.’ There’s not as much thought put into the longevity of actually getting someone to change their nutrition habits for life.

The 30-day challenges seem to work best was when they’re used as a tool to get everyone’s initial interest in nutrition jumpstarted. It’s not the actual solution, but it can be a great way to teach principals or philosophies and to help your members chop out some of those naughty things from their routine.

So, should you continue to do the 30-day nutrition challenge? Dr. Mike says you can make an argument that a 30-day jumpstart program only works as long as there’s something to kind of transition them into a long term system.

However, he’s a bigger fan of just starting by transitioning them into the system. He suggests taking 15 members and run a few test pilots to get your feet wet. And then once you get more experienced ,you can expand it out. He prefers a slower drip instead of standing in front of the fire hose.

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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

12:50 How to get buy-in from Members

Dr. Mike believes the easiest way to go about doing this is to explain to your members about the other half of the equation. That body composition and performance are radically affected by nutrition to see if people are interested in doing more work in a more customized way.

Here are a few other things to note:

Dr. Mike says that eating more protein is probably number one on the list for appetite suppression and maintenance of lean mass recovery.  Because you’re telling people to do something that seems counter intuitive to what they’ve known to be a diet (starving yourself), the action item is more doable because it’s against what they would expect, it’s not super restrictive and they’re able to do that much easier than changing their sleep habits which is arguably the most important thing you could do for your body. Sometimes, it’s not about what’s going to have the highest return – it’s about what they will actually do that’ll get them closer to their goals.

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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

16:00 Getting Maximum Compliance

If you’re not tracking compliance of any form, follow through is very difficult. So you’ll want to have a system for figuring out how to work with their habits in the best way possible. Dr Mike gives the example of prescribing the amount of protein a member needs to eat in his new program.

Dr. Mike has 5 specific action items within protein and allows the client to pick which one will work best for them. Here are a few examples:

Bob, on a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the doability of each scenario?

  • Eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking in the morning, 30 grams of protein at lunch, etc or
  • Track all of the protein you’re eating throughout the day and hit your protein intake of (body weight *0.7=grams of protein) which would essentially double your protein intake.

He might say eating 30 grams of protein at each meal is a 9. But doubling his protein intake for the day is a 6. Even though they’re the same outcome, the way you track it does make a difference on compliance. It all depends on their preference.

After they’ve chosen their method of compliance, you show them what protein looks like and how to measure the amount which is the education portion.

Then you create a simple spreadsheet with Google Sheets which both of you have access to that ranges from 1-2 weeks. One column is for him to put an X or no X which indicates he was 80-100% compliant for that day.

After the 2 weeks, you review the compliance sheet with your member to see if the method/intervention you gave him was correct or not. You’re just boiling it down into really simple action steps and making it something that with just a little bit of follow up will get people to actually implement that important fit step. This is a building block approach rather than a kitchen sink approach where we give a member basically an entirely new life when it comes to nutrition. From our experience, that very rarely sticks. And when your members start to miss a few things here and there, they feel like failures and they just don’t do the rest.

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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

20:00 How to Package a Nutrition Program

You’re going to have a nutrition intervention every 2-weeks with your clients in a 1:1 setting. List the top 8 nutrition/lifestyle focused areas a coach could help your members out with: protein, carbs, fat, amount of exercise, sleep, fasting, etc and put them in order of what your client needs. Each of these categories will have 5 action items for your client. Dr. Mike goes into more detail about how this works with his FlexDiet Certification. 

Your first intervention, you work on the priority on your list with your client and stick with that category until there’s full compliance and you feel it’s ready for them to move on. When you have the nutrition plan prepared in this way, you’ll have almost a year of nutrition action items ready for your client.


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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

23:00 How to Track Progress

Dr. Mike likes looking at a few things:

  1. What’s the outcome that the person came to you fo? Is it body comp or performance?
    1. Body comp: Process and achievement is tracked by photos, or circumference, or a pair of jeans they want to fit into.
    2. Performance: Accurately tracking PRs, or times, or any other measurements of performance success that they specifically are striving towards.

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Image Credit: CrossFit Liberate

26:00 A Nutrition Certification perfect for Gym Owners

Dr. Mike says that everything touched on during this show is explained in detail in the FlexDiet Certification course. It’s a mashup of the theory of metabolic flexibility which helps people answer: How does your body use carbs? How does your body use fat? And by knowing these things, you’ve got room to keep your bowling ball client in the lane without being super strict. In the certification, you’ll also learn about the eight different interventions, how Dr. Mike ranks nutrition/lifestyle categories in order of importance, and what action items you can assign to each category.

He condensed everything down into a really great system of learning the basis of nutrition and how to present and execute it with clients.


Dr. Mike is also giving all gym owners who follow Gymwright free 1st module access to this FlexDiet Certification so you can see if this learning system is right for you. Click here to get access to the 1st module of the Flex Diet. 

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Image Credit: miketnelson.com

About Dr. Mike T Nelson

Dr. Mike T. Nelson has spent 18 years of his life learning how the human body works, specifically focusing on how to properly condition it to burn fat and become stronger, more flexible, and healthier. He’s has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, a BA in Natural Science, and an MS in Biomechanics. He’s an adjunct professor and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine.

He’s been called in to share his techniques with top government agencies. The techniques he’s developed, and the results Mike gets for his clients have been featured in international magazines, in scientific publications, and on websites across the globe.

Visit his website miketnelson.com for more info. And don’t forget to check out the FlexDiet Certification here. 

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Jessica Depatie About the author

Jessica is the marketing maven here at Gymwright. She's a business consultant and holistic marketer for fitness businesses. She specializes in the decision-making psychology of what makes everyday people want to optimize themselves. She dives deep into how people seek out growth in the pursuit of living happier and healthier.

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