Personalized Nutrition Coaching

The problem I am on a mission to solve is simple,

“How do we provide autonomy and nutritional choice for our clients in the context of a semi-private setting (2-3 clients per hour per coach) without having to hire an entire team to facilitate it?”

Before I get into the details of how we are attacking this problem at my gym I think it’s important to know the my background so you have some context for the article.

My team (my wife and I + 2 FT coaches + 1 PT coach + soon to hire another FT coach) run a gym in southwestern MN called Functional Fitness.  Our gym is a bit of an outlier as we are located in a town with a population of fewer than 6000 people.  We have around 200 members, sometimes more sometimes less, and our lowest option is about twice as expensive as anything else in town.

We are a coaching based, boutique style gym that specializes in group training (we call it team training) and personal training (we call it semi-private training).

Like most gyms, our clientele is heavily interested in fat loss and most of our members are simply looking to live longer healthier lives.  We don’t serve any specific niche population like powerlifters or crossfitters. We serve your everyday Joes and Janes looking to lose a few pounds.    

Any trainer worth anything knows that exercise is a small piece of the fat loss puzzle. Exercise has massive impacts on the brain and I firmly believe it is a strong catalyst to other behavior change but in the context of just shedding pounds, it’s terrible.  

Our team is currently grappling with the idea of how to provide personalized nutrition programming and accountability for our clients while still respecting the concepts of autonomy and choice for the client.  

We run structured programs (transformations, challenges, detoxes, etc…) and they are great and get awesome results but they are entirely coach driven.  We create the curriculum and the structure and our clients simply follow the plan set out for them.  

To an extent, this is similar to our current education system.

We felt we could do more for our highest paying clients, those in our semi-private setting, and still respect principles of the self-determination theory.  Basically, the client chooses their own path.  Kind of like one of those choose your own adventure books.  

But then, the thing that kills most great ideas:


We didn’t want to have to create a completely new program just to handle all our crazy wild ideas.  

Yes, we could have just created a separate nutrition coaching program and this problem becomes slightly easier to solve.  But honestly, our tagline is results and not results*

*True results require you to purchase our additional nutritional package so we can actually fix your shitty diet and get you losing weight because exercising alone doesn’t do shit.  

And logistically, we didn’t have the staff or the man hours to run a new program and this wasn’t a project I wanted to marry myself to.

Now, a little while back a buddy and I created a software called Coach Catalyst.  In case you didn’t know you are on our website 🙂  

So, you would think for a guy who has been using the software from day 1 I would know every which way to use it.


When we first envisioned Coach Catalyst, we wanted to solve the problem with scale (aka coaching a bunch of people at once).  We wanted the software to deliver curriculum, track daily adherence, and give me, the coach, the important details so I could, well, be more coach and less admin.  

As we were building out the software we decided to include a very specific feature for no real particular reason other than to differentiate us from the other guys and it had the potential to turn out to be really cool.  

The feature did indeed turn out really cool, but not until now did I figure out how to easily implement it in my gym.

This single feature, along with some necessary set-up work allows you to coach a lot of people and personalize each person’s plan directly to them without making your head explode.

I am not going to lie and say you will be up in running in 2 minutes.  It might take you 10 but the beauty of this is going to be 6 months down the road when you have been using this thing and perfecting it and now it’s a work of art.  

This will take some effort on your part but with continued use, it will provide a platform that will set you apart from every single trainer out there.  

Kind of like a personalized nutrition program for your clients 🙂

This system isn’t perfect yet, but I would be doing you a disservice by not sharing with you what I have already.

Here is how you do it, step by step.

Step 1:  Create Your Welcome Program

Here is a quick video on how to do it.

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The reason we create a welcome program is because once we add a client to that program we won’t be able to add or delete any habits from that program.  This makes trying to personalize a program of habits for a client impossible unless we could predict every habit that client wanted to work on in advance.  

You will never be able to predict.

Trust me, do it this way.    

Step 2:  Create Your Database of Habits

Now that we have our welcome program all set-up to put a client on we need a database of habits to be able to give to those clients.  

This database is always evolving as we add new habits clients want to work on or we add content to existing habits.  

Important Note:  NEVER assign a client to the database program as that will hinder your ability to add habits.  If you do, simply copy the database and you will be able to edit and add again.  

Here is a quick video showing how it’s done.

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Step 3:  Actual Implementation with Clients

We don’t force any client in our gym to work on anything.  We simply have a conversation and assess their readiness to change.  If they are adamant about fat loss we explain to them that to make progress they will need to start improving their nutrition and when they are ready we are here.

At the end of the day at Functional Fitness, everything is optional.

We only present information, the client decides on the action.

The semi-private setting is ideal for this type of coaching as we have a small enough group, no more than 3, to be able to hash out what each individual wants to work on, if anything of course. 

We ask lots of questions about what they might be struggling with or one thing they think they could do that would help them get better results which is usually enough to get the conversation going.  

If the client has no idea we then start giving them some options.  Many times we start with what they are having for breakfast, where and how they eat their meals, or how many veggies they normally eat right now.  

Based on their answers we give them possible habits and they choose one.

From there we come up with a plan.

We help the client define EXACTLY what they need to do to be successful.  

Then, before we set it in stone we ask the final question stolen directly out of the Precision Nutrition playbook.

On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that you can do this every day?  

If we get an 8 or higher then we proceed.  If it’s lower than that we find a way to scale back the habit.

Great, we now know what the client needs to do but remember, we are in the middle of a semi-private coaching session with 3 clients working out and moving around the gym.

How the heck do we remember what we talked about with that client.

Herein lies the power of systems.

Task 1:  Coach Fills Out the Sophisticated Document

<<<Download our sophisticated doc here>>>

When the coach has a down hour he or she enters the client into Coach Catalyst and does a few specific tasks.

Task 2:  Add Client to Coach Catalyst (CC)

The coach enters the client on the program “Program: Personalized Nutrition” in Coach Catalyst, selects a start date and adds the client to 2 groups.  

Why two groups?

First, we want ALL the semi-private clients who are in a nutrition program in one group to easily sort them.

Second, each coach has a specific group of individuals they are responsible for.  Typically clients who they work with most frequently.  This way they can easily follow-up with their clients.  

Task 3:  Assign Specific Habit

If a client wants to work on something like protein we most likely already have a habit built out with content so the coach only needs to double check the habit question and make sure it works for what the client wants to do.

For example, we have multiple habits of protein all based on different questions.  

One might be, “Did you eat protein with each meal yesterday?” where another might be “Did you eat protein with breakfast yesterday?”

Both proteins are related but technically different habits because they have different questions.  Both would probably have similar content attached to each.  

If we don’t currently have the habit in our database the coach will quickly create it.  We don’t worry about having lots of content as we are using the tool as an accountability tool first and foremost.  If we have content, that’s a bonus.  

Many times we will put a few generic (meaning not person specific) bullet points that will help the client accomplish the particular habit.  

Task 4:  Add Habit To Specific Client

Once the habit is created the coach goes into the client’s profile and adds the habit.

Finally, the coach double checks everything for accuracy.  

Here is a quick video on how it is all done.

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To make the whole process work even smoother our coaches are responsible for checking in on their clients daily.  Remember, the clients are all organized in groups so the coach can quickly pull up their clients.  Then they can coach ‘em up directly through CC with messaging or speak with them during sessions.

They don’t need to physically contact their clients daily but just look at the client’s profile daily and make sure he or she is on track.   

Finally, as the client approaches the end of his or her 14-day habit we create the next practice with them and start the whole process over again.  

It’s a win-win for everyone.  

The client drives the behavior change process.  He or she feels like they are in control.  As coaches, we guide them through the process, assist as we need to, and most importantly hold them accountable to what they said they wanted to do.  All without having to kill ourselves in the process.

All without having to kill ourselves in the process.

The clients get exceptional service and better results, coaches can charge more and provide a complete service for more clients.  And then better retention, making more money, more referrals, yadda, yadda yadda.  You’re smart, you get it.  

Phew, that was a lot of words but I hope it was helpful in shedding some light on how we accomplish personalized nutrition coaching at a real, functioning gym not some dude coming up with theory behind a computer screen.

This is one of the reasons we felt it was important for both Kane and me to keep our gyms.  They serve as testing grounds for Coach Catalyst so we can bring what’s working  directly from the trenches.  

Keep up the good work and keep changing lives.

Coach T

P.S.  If you have questions hit us up in our private facebook group.  Join here!

P.P.S. You can take Coach Catalyst for a test drive for FREE for 30 days at anytime and I will even be so nice to do a coaching call and help you figure out how to blow it up in your business.

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