Fuel with Food

Nutrition: A tough subject for almost anyone. But, a Box owner cannot ignore the sustenance it can provide. When it comes to wanting to grow and set your Box apart from the rest, nutrition could be just the fuel your Box needs.

“I think what’s really important is if you look at the CrossFit pyramid of fitness, the base is nutrition,” said Neal Thompson, the owner of CrossFit Boston in Boston, Massachusetts. “And I think a lot of times we get a lot of people [that] come in and just kind of want to glance at it, or they just miss it entirely.”

Alex Black, MPH-RD, is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist. In fact, she was pursuing her degree when she started out as a member at CrossFit Boston. As time progressed, she became more and more involved at the gym, eventually becoming the Box’s nutritionist. Now, Black offers seminars, writes a weekly blog and is training to be a Coach at the gym, something she said is significant.

“Bottom line, I think it’s important to understand not only how CrossFit works and the intensity and how hard you’re really working, [but] also the mentality that goes into that,” she said. “And why people might be choosing to be there, and what they might choose based on that CrossFit mentality.”

There is a difference when it comes to the education of nutritionists. Sarah Landes, the lifestyle coach at CrossFit Lando in Woburn, Massachusetts, currently holds an AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification and is working on her Professional Graduate Certification from Washington State University. “The certification I have allows me to meet with members and teach them general nutrition guidelines,” said Landes.

“After finishing with Washington State, I will be entitled to dive deeper, so to speak, with people,” Landes continued. “At that point I can advise macronutrients guidelines and be more specific with members. Instead of saying just what to eat, I can advise how much. This will be especially helpful within the Box because it will help me get people to reach their goal a bit quicker, since I can give someone a ‘meal plan’ and have them stick to that, as opposed to waiting for them to bring a food journal with mistakes they may have already made,” she said.

Black said education is key in her role. “I think there’s that credibility there because this is coming from a licensed, registered person with an education in this matter,” she said. “And I think it frees up the Coaches, because nutrition and physical activity are so united together, but how can you possibly be an expert in so many things? Do you want your CrossFit Coach to spend their time improving their knowledge of Olympic lifting and programming and that sort of thing, or do you want them to be reading nutrition articles? And personally, I want them to be learning more about what they’re experts in.”

Thompson agreed. “We as Coaches, we’re great at coaching and we learn a base level of nutrition. That is some great generalizations,” he said. “But I think that it’s important to take it deeper, and really get a better understanding of it because it truly is the foundation.”

But Black noted the credentials are only part of it: “Having a conversation with a potential nutritionist and understanding their nutrition philosophy to determine whether or not they will be a good fit for your Box is equally important,” she said.

Knowing the Box and its culture also helps a nutritionist to be able to better understand not only the members, but what the gym stands for as well. “You need to find someone that is aligned with your goals as far as what fitness is and what good nutrition practices are,” said Thompson.

Overall, Thompson said the benefits of having a nutritionist at his Box are intangible, especially since good nutrition can seep into all facets of a person’s life. “I think it sets you up as a gym owner to really get a long return buy-in,” he said. “And to have a greater opportunity to have a more significant impact over a longer period of time with your clients.”

“I think what we’re going to see ultimately is the retention rate for our members, that they’re going to be with us for so much longer and that they’re going to be happier, just because they’re getting where they want to be,” said Landes. “They’re fighting an upward battle by just working so hard but not having that nutrition piece.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.