Brent and Cassie Gallagher coowners of West U Fit in Houston have hosted dinners at their facility partnering with local farmers and restaurants to share healthy food options with their members Photos in the collage by Patricia Homesley The Whimsical Tree Photography

Brent and Cassie Gallagher, co-owners of West U Fit in Houston, have hosted dinners at their facility, partnering with local farmers and restaurants, to share healthy food options with their members. Photos in the collage by Patricia Homesley, The Whimsical Tree Photography.

Health Club Operators Need to Re-evaluate Their Nutrition Strategies

Health clubs typically surround members with supplements, energy bars and post-workout protein shakes as solutions to their weight loss goals, but these quick fixes are tools used to grow a bottom line, not help clients lose their bottom. Artificial fixes can't and won't trump good habits and healthy behaviors when it comes to food.  

To burn fat, build a healthier body and create lasting change, people need to lift weights, condition their bodies, sleep more and eat real food. 

How does the fitness industry address these four elements?

  • Lift weights and conditioning—Done. They are what we do best.
  • Sleep—It's not cool to talk about sleep, right?
  • Food—At best, we take an artificial approach.

The Artificial Food Approach

Health clubs typically surround clients with supplement tablets, selling the idea that all they need are certain vitamins to crack the fat loss code. Next, we tell them to eat energy bars between meals to keep their metabolism burning. Then, we tell them that they need protein shakes after their workouts to feed their muscles. Finally, we sell them 10-day fat loss fixes by pimping out the latest fat burner booster for their post workout nutrition.

Does this really create change? Short term: Yes. Long term: No.

These quick fixes are tools used to grow a bottom line, not help our clients lose their bottoms. Artificial fixes can't and won't trump good habits and healthy behaviors when it comes to food. Poor nutrition habits around eating fake food are what packed on the fat and led to poor health in the first place.

A Shift in Thinking

It's not all doom and gloom. Some facilities are trying to teach proper nutrition by:

  • Partnering with local farms and community-supported agriculture (CSAs) to make it easier to find and buy high-quality, real food by hosting community pickups at their clubs.
  • Building kitchens at their facilities to teach simple cooking classes and help clients become comfortable preparing home-cooked meals again.
  • Providing avenues for community recipe sharing among clients.
  • Hosting education sessions with local farmers and local restaurant chefs.
  • Allowing clients to share their struggles and triumphs in their battle with food.

What if these offerings became the norm at fitness facilities? What if we changed lives by teaching our communities about the importance of eating real food instead of just teaching them about bench presses and pushing artificial fixes.

As soon as everyday prospects become paying clients, they become a responsibility of our facilities. They are entrusting us to steer them toward a better version of themselves by measuring the quality of their life, not just their waistline and biceps.

The First Step

What do we recommend besides an extra day of cardio to burn fat? How do we show clients we care what caused that five-pound weight gain over the holidays? How can we lead our clients to achieve the results they signed up for in the first place? Evaluate your nutrition strategy:

  • How many real ingredients are in the energy bars you sell?
  • If you have a vending machine, how many of the products in it are processed, diet or fat-free?
  • Have you reviewed your snack bar menus lately to ensure they are healthy? 
  • Do the smoothies include real fruit? 

We should serve our communities by offering them products and services that embody true health and nutrition rather than just paying lip service to that idea in order to sell a membership, training session or supplements.

Our industry has the opportunity to affect millions of lives daily by sharing the importance of eating real food. You can start that with a simple evaluation of your nutrition strategy. What are you doing to spread the word? Share in the comment section below so others can learn from your experiences. 

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