What is a Nutrition Coach?
How to Spot the Pretenders & the Nourish Nutrition Philosophy
BY: TYLER HAMMETT
Will bananas make me gain weight?
Is butter a carb?
But I can’t eat over 1,200 calories a day!
As a certified nutrition coach for the last five years, I’ve heard it all. Every question, every concern, and every worry from people looking to change their diet and improve their lives. I realized that these repeating questions I receive from clients can cause serious implications for health and nutrition coaching because there are coaches who indoctrinate their clients with the type of messaging above.
Clients come to me all the time when they’re at their “final straw” and want to try their hand at another diet. They expect me to tell them all to eat less and start working out more. They want me to tell them to only eat egg whites, and that pizza is “bad” but that's not really my job.
What is a Nutrition Coach?
Nutrition coaching is where an experienced nutritional expert teaches their clients how to eat in a way that matches their lifestyle and their physical goals. After being a part of this industry for over five years, I have seen tons of fitness professionals in the online space that give nutrition advice to their clients without taking the time to get to know each client on a personal level. Knowing the their past diet history, activity levels, digestion process and more should all be taken into account when working with a client.
Certifications can be a helping factor when chosing a coach but a certificaiton doesnt automatically qualify someone as a good coach either.
Nutrition Coach Red Flags
Some nutrition coaches may boast the fact that they have helped tons of clients lose weight, but there are ways for you to spot an experienced nutrition coach from someone blindly cutting your calories for short-term payoffs.
Here are some Nutrition Coach Red Flags to look out for:
- They always start by drastically lowering calories (1200 calorie diets are the standard)
- They promote fear-mongering when it comes to food (labeling food as “good” or “bad”)
- They have all their clients follow the same diet plan
- They promote detoxes and skinny teas
- They don’t take your lifestyle and goals into account when making recommendations
I could go on and on about the horrors that come with hiring a crappy nutrition coach, but that’s not the goal here. The goal is to empower you to make the best choice for a nutrition coach yourself.
There is more to being a nutrition coach than simply restricting calories and assigning more cardio to your clients. It’s essential for you to understand that all nutrition coaches are not the same.
While it’s important to know what red flags to look out for, it’s equally as important to know the winning combination that makes a nutrition coach exceptional at what they do.
Nutrition Coach Green Flags
A great nutrition coach provides a specific plan of action on how to approach your diet based on your unique goals and lifestyle factors. I wouldn’t recommend the same eating schedule nor caloric amount to a petite woman looking to bulk up that I would give to a man looking to slim down. Your relationship with food is going to be unique, which calls for an individualized nutrition plan.
The other coaching green flags are:
- Monitoring client sleep and stress levels
- Providing emotional support
- Accountability (even when it’s uncomfortable)
- A focus on long-term habit changes
In my experience, there are the real things that a great nutrition coach is focused on. It’s not about being “perfect” with your diet or trying to encourage you to lose the most amount of weight in the shortest period of time.
From my experience working with hundreds of clients, it’s always better to lose weight slower, using a repeatable and satisfying system, rather than constantly fluctuating weight and strategies, which ultimately hurts your psyche and self-esteem.
The Nourish Nutrition Philosophy
The Nourish Nutrition Philosophy was created after I decided to let go of the old ways of coaching. Yes, even I need to admit that I went through a phase in my coaching career (roughly 5 years ago) where I encouraged clients to lose the most weight they could in the shortest amount of time. I thought that’s what clients wanted.
But in all my years since, working with clients of all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic status is that people don’t want quick results; they want lasting results. I altered my philosophy as a nutrition coach to match the results that clients were after.
My Nourish Nutrition Philosophy thrives from these three pillars:
- prioritizing Whole Foods 80/20
- Enjoyment always
- Protein Consumption
Eating highly processed crap will make you feel like crap, even if you’re eating protein bars, lean cuisines, or an egg McMuffin. If the meal doesn’t have an expiration date or go wrong within a few days of opening, it probably shouldn’t be ingested regularly.
An excellent nutrition program should be built on the back of whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and contain only one ingredient. The only ingredient in eggs is eggs, and the only ingredient in a potato is potato.
Eating a diet that primarily consists of whole foods will have you feeling more satiated (fuller) throughout your day. It gives your body all the micro-and macro-nutrients your hair, bones, teeth, brain, muscles, and joints need to thrive. It will help give you the energy you need to keep your motor running all day.
A nutrition coach knows that a great diet isn’t just about making food choices that fit within a certain calorie amount but also how those choices will impact your body and brain over time. This is a key piece that most nutrition coaches in the game are missing but significantly impacts a client’s ability to continue making good diet choices long after the coaching period has ended. It essentially sets clients up for continued success on their own.
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Avoidance just doesn’t work.
Once your “diet” with a coach is over, does pizza or mac and cheese magically vanish from the world so that you’re never tempted to eat it again? The answer: hell no! A nutrition coach who doesn’t teach clients how to integrate these foods into their lifestyle so they can *still* see results is setting their clients up for failure once the program is over.
Your eating plan should encompass not only the foods that you need to eat to feel nourished, energized, and satiated but also the foods that you genuinely love. Your coach should work with you to help you find a balance between the foods you love to enjoy and the foods you need to feel your best in life and your workouts.
With the pillar of Whole Foods above, when clients have a higher calorie, enjoyment-based meal, I always recommend that they try to source it from whole-food ingredients. This could mean making your pizza at home with real ingredients instead of ordering Papa Johns. It could mean buying a cookie from the bakery down the road instead of eating Oreos or trying to duplicate your favorite Asian-inspired dish at home without all the MSG.
I prioritize food enjoyment when working with nutrition coaching clients because I believe that healthy food doesn’t need to be bland, flavorless, and boring. When you make eating more enjoyable, you are more likely to stick to the healthy habits that you create when we are working together.
For clients, this means feeling more satisfied, fulfilled, and significantly less stressed when making food choices every day.
Prioritizing Protein Consumption
The final focus of a Nourish nutrition coach is protein consumption. Out of the main macronutrients (including carbs, proteins, and fats), protein seems to be the least sexy.
Carbs possess allure because they give us energy. Carbs are typically the backbone of most comfort foods and the foods that remind us of being a kid at thanksgiving or special Christmas traditions. While carbs are also demonized by some nutrition coaches, I find that carbs can be easily added into client diets without too much resistance.
Fats are super sexy right now. With the rise of things like the Keto diet, fat is having its day in the limelight. The problem is that people tend to over-consume these hyper-palatable foods, putting them into a sneaky calorie surplus they aren’t aware of. Things like peanut butter, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and bacon might make you feel fuller in the short term, but overeating fats can make you lethargic and sluggish in the long term. It's also super easy to overeat on calories when basing your main intake around fats due to the 9 calorie/ 1 G ram of fat ratio. That is more than TWICE the calorie amount of carbs or protein ( 4 Cals ea) .
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The solution, then, is to make sure that you are getting enough of the least sexy macronutrient: protein.
Protein, in my experience as a nutrition coach, is one of the most under-scrutinized macro-nutrients. Consuming adequate amounts of protein for your lifestyle, activity levels, and goals will look different for everyone, but I’ve found that most people simply don’t consume enough.
When you have enough protein in your diet, you will:
- Recover better from your workouts
- Stay fuller between meals
- Maintains and builds lean muscle
- Find yourself less likely to overeat the other macronutrients
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I can’t wait to help you on your journey to becoming a more satisfied, confident, and revitalized version of you!
Owner of Nourish With Ty
NASM CPT , CNS
NAMS Certified Nutrition Consultant
Certified Tall Person and Former Pro Basketball Player : 7ft :)
I work with former athletes who struggle with weight management and joint pain . I believe that when we have the tools and knowledge to nourish ourselves through proper nutrition and movement, we will achieve health and vitality for every season of life.