Nutrition Coaching: Challenges Vs. Appointments

Nutrition Coaching: Challenges Vs. Appointments

Launching a nutrition coaching service at your gym really comes down to one question:

What do my clients need?

Over the last 30 years, personal trainers have sold nutrition coaching as part of their packages. Some of the best have even sold their services in eight-week blocks called “challenges” or something else. They did it this way because they realized their clients would adhere to a plan better if it had a firm endpoint. Their success didn’t start with the question “What can I sell?” or “What can I get away with charging?” but “What do my clients need?”

Your clients need nutrition coaching. But how much? And when?


Nutrition Challenges



Challenges get your clients excited. And more clients stick to a challenge than to a traditional “diet” because a nutrition challenge has a fixed endpoint. It’s easier for a client to say “I can hold off for one more week!” than “I can give up chips forever.”

Challenges can also teach clients good habits—even if it’s just paying attention to what they eat.

Most importantly, challenges do get some results. Counting macros, fasting intermittently or even giving up carbs—any one will help people lose weight. And if they need a bit of encouragement to keep going, fast results can provide it. Motivation precedes success.



Nutrition challenges usually don’t produce lasting changes or results. I can remember several “Paleo challenges” at Catalyst where clients “celebrated” their success by going out for wings and beer. And yes—I was with them.

Challenges can also potentially sabotage long-term results. Five years ago, when gyms frequently offered “nutrition challenges” to their members, many of their clients would wait for the next challenge instead of fixing their nutrition right away. In trying to help their members, the gyms ultimately undermined their services.


When to Use

Use a nutrition challenge when your nutrition service is new—or when your clients are.

New clients can kick off their memberships, get fast results and get excited about your service with a challenge.

And when you launch your nutrition service, a challenge is a good introductory way to get clients excited about it. Like any product launch, a big kickoff will help you get some momentum.

But if you want to get your clients results, every nutrition challenge should lead to ongoing nutrition appointments.


Ongoing Nutrition Appointments



Clients form long-term habits that lead to long-term success.

Clients can also be guided toward a sustainable, lasting program instead of a binge diet they can’t sustain forever.

Coaches can alter a client’s program when results slow down instead of waiting and praying for a client to ask for more help with his or her diet.



Accountability isn’t sexy for the client or the coach. Check-ins can become routine. And as the coach and client become friendlier, the client might figure out “what I can get away with” instead of what he or she needs to do to be successful.

Remember when everyone at your gym went Paleo? After the first two months, someone figured out how to make “Paleo brownies,” right? Well, it happens with every diet. But this is a tiny tradeoff: Keeping clients on a plan for two years will make a huge difference in their lives, while having them give up carbs for four weeks won’t.


When to Use


Whether you own a gym or take PT clients at Gold’s, your coaching practice requires you to stay in constant contact with your clients. The best way to do that is to sell hybrid memberships that include nutrition coaching and exercise coaching.


Other Media in This Series

Why You Need a Nutrition Program
Hybrids Are the New Normal
Mike Doehla: Why Nutrition Coaching Isn’t Always About Food

Hybrids Are the New Normal

Hybrids Are the New Normal

Whenever we post a picture of a gym owner selling a $600-per-month membership, we get comments like this:

“I’d never pay that for a gym membership!” and “There’s no way that’s true!”

It is true, of course. But it’s concerning that gym owners doubt their own value so much. The key to selling high-priced memberships is to:

A. Know what your clients actually want.
B. Match your service to them.

There are many ways to sell “hybrid memberships”—a combination of personal nutrition coaching and fitness coaching:

1. Personal nutrition and group exercise coaching.
2. Group nutrition and group exercise coaching.
3. Personal nutrition and personal exercise coaching.
4. Group nutrition and personal exercise coaching.
5. Nutrition “challenges” and group coaching.

And so on.

Most gyms entering Two-Brain’s Incubator program are selling exercise but not nutrition coaching.

If you’re just adding a nutrition component to your coaching practice, that’s fine. Below, I’ll tell you what to charge for nutrition coaching, how to launch the program, how to determine who should deliver it and how to package it to create “hybrid” memberships.


What to Charge for Nutrition Coaching


Start by asking, “What do my clients need to adhere to a nutrition program?”

The answer will be different from coach to coach, but remember this: A diet is never enough. Your client won’t just read a diet book and follow the plan. You might; they won’t. You need some kind of accountability in the program. That accountability could come through daily texts (“Send me a picture of your meal!”), weekly check-ins or bimonthly appointments. That part’s up to you (we help you build your system, with pricing, in our Incubator program).

In general, charge as much for a nutrition session as you would for a personal training appointment. Two half-hour nutrition check-ins should cost as much as two half-hour PT sessions.

Then add the time necessary to provide accountability. Many of the big chain gyms have an “accountability” option, where the coach checks in on a client list daily. Listen to Two-Brain Radio with Allison Schrager here: She pays for nutrition accountability (and, full disclosure, so do I). We both know what to eat. I’ve been giving nutrition advice for over 20 years. But we both need someone else looking over our shoulder—and we pay for it.

For example, your gym’s “wellness” program might include two 20-minute check-in sessions done over Skype or in person. Then, for clients who struggle with accountability, you might have a text-in option available for $50 per month. I actually pay far more (around $150 per month) because accountability will get me results far faster, and $50 per month isn’t enough for me to take things seriously.

What your clients need might change over time. Adopting the Prescriptive Model of client Goal Review Sessions will help you adjust to their changing needs.

Final note here: You can’t just “give nutrition advice” for free. People won’t take action. Real nutrition coaching requires as much time and planning as exercise coaching does.


How to Launch a Nutrition Program


Start with a 28-day or 30-day nutrition challenge for your clients.

Get them excited by selling a program with a clear beginning and end point.

Then add ongoing nutrition coaching at the end of the challenge.

Charge for the challenge to establish proper buying behavior.


Who Should Deliver Your Nutrition Program?


While anyone with a passion for nutrition can learn to be a good nutrition coach, you have to be careful about what you prescribe.

First, a good nutrition coach should understand how to change human behavior. Nutrition isn’t sexy. It’s easier to get someone to show up for a hard workout than it is to get him or her to prepare meals for the week.

Second, some states actually require you to be a registered dietitian to tell people what to eat. There’s all kinds of debate and litigation over these laws, but you should know your limits. Here’s a state-by-state guide:

If you’re in one of the “red states” on the map I linked to, nutrition coaching is going to be tougher for you. But you should still do it; you’d just partner with a registered dietitian to do so. And when you do, you can set up an agreement to provide exercise to the RD’s clients, too.

You can also work with a program like Healthy Steps Nutrition to have your nutrition coaches trained and mentored and then legally covered under their umbrella by registered dietitians. That’s what I do in my gym!


How to Package Nutrition With Exercise


After you’ve determined your rates, add them together and put them into a printed pricing binder.

Your packages might change depending on where a client is in his or her journey: New clients might need more accountability, more knowledge or both.

The important thing is that you don’t offer a discount for purchasing both services. We’ve proven it in hundreds of gyms: Discounts don’t help you sell more hybrid packages. They don’t make people feel better about purchasing. Discounts only satisfy the gym owner’s personal bias about money. Because most of your clients earn more than you do, discounting your service just shows you don’t value it as much as they do.

Present your options at your first meeting after you make a prescription. Follow this format:

1. Goals
2. Measurement
3. Prescription
4. Package
5. Price
6. Purchase

After you’ve sold one “hybrid” package, you’ll start to look at your other services differently. Gym owners tell me all the time that they now consider their exercise-only option to be an incomplete offering—an “a la carte” option for people who can’t afford their real service. And they now consider their group memberships to be the “budget option” for people who can only afford the bare minimum—even though it was their premium option less than a year ago!

As always, our value is determined by the change we make.

Hybrid options—with nutrition and exercise coaching—create the greatest changes possible for our clients and the most value for our businesses. Soon, we won’t call them “hybrids”—we’ll just call them normal.


Other Media in This Series

Why You Need a Nutrition Program
Mike Doehla: Why Nutrition Coaching Isn’t Always About Food
Nutrition Coaching: Challenges Vs. Appointments

Why You Need a Nutrition Program

Why You Need a Nutrition Program

We sell fitness.

Fitness is achieved through optimization of exercise and nutrition.

Fitness cannot be optimized without the inclusion of both.

That’s why the best gyms in the world sell exercise and nutrition together.

Though this combo is still a new concept for many gym owners, personal trainers have successfully sold nutrition and training packages—or “hybrid” packages—together because a personal trainer’s name is the brand, and he or she knows clients won’t get results without nutrition coaching.

Somewhere along the line, gym owners got the idea that they were selling exercise classes or private workouts. I certainly fell into that camp. But mature owners understand that they’re really selling results, so they begin to sell nutrition coaching with their exercise coaching.

If you’re just adding a nutrition component to your coaching practice, that’s fine. In this series, I’ll tell you:

The differences between selling “challenges” and selling ongoing nutrition coaching.

How to sell “hybrid” packages including exercise and nutrition (and why hybrids are the “new normal”).

How to get people to follow your plan (on Two-Brain Radio with Mike Doehla of

How to get started, what to charge and what to offer.


Why Not Just Sell More Exercise?


Everyone sells group exercise.

Looking into your gym from the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference between your fitness class and that cheap one at the YMCA.

Sorry, but it’s true: Your “free foundations” and “group on-ramp” courses are practically identical to the free versions offered by someone else. That means they’re subject to downward price pressure.

You really sell results. You provide coaching to get people results fast and with the least effort required. More exercise isn’t enough to get those results.

Listen to my conversation with Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit. His coaching practice always included nutrition and sometimes included “challenges.” It didn’t include upselling to “unlimited” memberships.


It’s Not What Your Clients Need


More and more clients seek our services for weight loss.

In the early days of personal training (25 years ago,) only elite athletes and Hollywood stars had “personal trainers.” When I started my career, having a personal trainer was still a status symbol.

But as HIIT group classes become a commodity, your clients need 1:1 attention. They need daily accountability. They need access to a coach more than they need three workouts a week.

You can still tailor a client’s experience if his or her membership is only for group classes. Following the Prescriptive Model, you can review a client’s goals and shift the client journey every quarter. But that journey has to include updates to a nutrition program. Clients won’t figure this out for themselves. And while they can find workouts for free on any app now, they can’t find coaching. I wrote more about this on


Nutrition Scales Faster


Nutrition coaching doesn’t require much space. It doesn’t require any equipment. And because most nutrition coaching is about accountability, you don’t need a degree to help people fix their diets.

(In these states, you do require a licensed registered dietitian to prescribe a diet. But you can work with an RD to do it—find a local one or work beneath the umbrella of a system like Healthy Steps.)

A nutrition practice can scale up quickly: Most gyms in Two-Brain immediately add $500-$2,000 in recurring monthly nutrition coaching revenue just by offering the service to current clients. And unlike adding 10 new exercise clients, these clients don’t require more space or equipment.

Finally, nutrition coaching has a high effective hourly rate for coaches because they can serve many nutrition clients in the same hour. While the coach should expect to answer questions at 9 p.m., he or she doesn’t have to stand in the gym and watch a client perform reps.

Adding a nutrition program to your gym is great for revenue. It’s a good potential position for a coach. And, most importantly, it helps your clients reach their goals.

Instead of trying to push more heads into your group classes, adding a nutrition component should be the top priority of every gym owner. Then, when you start marketing hard later, you’ll have more to sell—and more ways to help.


Other Media in This Series

Hybrids Are the New Normal
Mike Doehla: Why Nutrition Coaching Isn’t Always About Food
Nutrition Coaching: Challenges Vs. Appointments