Functional Training Zones

Creating a Nutrition Strategy for Your Clients

By: Amanda Carlson-Phillips

How do you decide what to eat and drink? More importantly, how do you navigate your clients through the world of nutrition to determine a strategy?

Nutrition requires a plan tailored to individuals and their goals. When nutritional conversation veers into specific supplement recommendations and medical nutrition therapy, we recommend you collaborate with a registered dietitian or sports dietitian. However, helping your clients upgrade basic behaviors is within the scope of coaches, and you should be prepared to help clients with nutrition.

When creating a nutrition strategy for our clients, we go through a four-step process: (1) assess/identify (2) prescribe (3) share (4) focus and coach.

Step 1: Assess/Identify

Although it might be out of your scope to recommend specific nutrients or supplements, coaches should be able to have knowledgeable conversations on nutrition. You can utilize the framework below to assess and identify which core fundamentals may be a challenge for your clients, and use the continuum below for each of the principles and keys. This gives you a consistent way to gauge your clients' behavior and progress.

The Framework
EXOS is always working diligently to improve our nutrition message. Our newly updated philosophy not only explains what people should be eating, but also why and howwe fuel our bodies from a physical, emotional, and social perspective.   Our nutrition philosophy is a set of five principles: eat with purpose, fuel for impact, aim to sustain, devour life, and make it about you. Each principle has a series of keys to success based on the latest nutritional science and insight from our work with elite athletes, the military, and people with demanding corporate jobs. We leverage this framework to help clients become more aware of what we consider to be the key elements of nutrition. This framework can be used by coaches to bridge the nutrition conversation with clients and provide guidance on how they can fuel for success.  

Principle 1: Eat with Purpose

Eating with purpose is about coming to the table and nourishing your mind, body, and spirit. Food is a means to connect and create, and to enable the best version of you. So be intentional with your food choices, and savor every morsel and moment you share with others.


  • Set your intention. Being thoughtful about your choices is a key step in linking your nutrition to your goals. Whether you're choosing the best option available for lunch or enjoying your favorite comfort food, make an intentional decision.

  • Find balance. If you're making thoughtful choices most of the time, allow yourself some meals or days to indulge in foods that might not be the best for your health but satisfy other needs, such as enjoying a treat or celebrating with friends. After all, food is about more than nutrients.

  • Eat together often. Whether it's a dinner party, lunch meeting, or celebration with friends, food can serve as a way to come together and share stories. Research shows that families that eat together have healthier eating habits. Cooking together or eating as a family, team, or group strengthens relationships.

  • Principle 2: Fuel for Impact

    Choose responsibly sourced food that's tasty and nourishing such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, and lean meat.


  • Feed your superpowers. Fuel your body to create sustainable energy, build and maintain muscle, protect cells from harm, and prevent disease. High-quality grains, proteins, and fats benefit your brain and body. The majority of your protein should come from lean animal protein sources. Fats found in fish, nuts, and seeds help the body absorb nutrients, improve brain function, contain anti-inflammatory properties, and promote heart health.

  • Up your color quotient. Whether it's maintaining the body's immune function, maximizing focus, or optimizing the ability to produce energy, it's clear that eating a variety of vegetables and fruits is beneficial. The colors of foods correlate with benefits. Red foods improve circulation, blue/purple foods support brain function, and white foods help the immune system.

  • Fill the gaps. Even if you think you're a model eater, you'll benefit from a daily multivitamin, fish oil, and probiotic supplement. Supplements are not created equal. It's important that they're produced in an NSF International GMP registered facility and, for athletes, that they're NSF Certified for Sport. These certifications ensure that what's in the product is on the label and what's on the label is in the product. Coach note: This is an area possibly beyond the scope of coaches so consult with a registered dietitian or doctor when needed.

  • Maximize your efforts. The right blend of nutrients will help get the most out of training, boost energy levels, and support recovery. Eating the right ratio of carbohydrates and protein after workouts repairs muscle and speeds recovery. Don't forget to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. A shake with 100 percent whey protein isolate, chocolate milk, or Greek yogurt with fruit and honey are good options for post-workout snacks. Coach note: Whenever your clients train, make sure nutrition support matches goals.

  • Principle 3: Aim to Sustain

    No matter the schedule, it's possible to kick-start the day with an energizing meal. Continue eating small meals or snacks and hydrating throughout the day to keep energy high, focus sharp, and mood stable.


  • Rise and dine. Eating a healthy meal shortly after waking inspires better food choices throughout the day. The first meal buffers stress hormones and revs up metabolism, which can help control weight, stress levels, and mood. Aim for a balanced breakfast of high-quality protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fluids to support the body's needs.

  • Create an even spread. Eating well throughout the day fuels performance, keeping the body focused and energized. The key is to plan ahead. Schedule meals or snacks every few hours, stash healthy snacks in your car, purse, or bag, and make the time to stay fueled.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink a tall glass of water first thing in the morning and keep drinking all day. Proper hydration increases productivity, reduces stress, and regulates appetite. As a general rule, drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water or other naturally non-caloric beverages like green tea each day. So if you weigh 180 pounds, the goal should be at least 90 ounces a day.

  • Principle 4: Devour Life

    Food brings us together and takes us on personal journeys. From the smell of delicious food baking to the satisfying crunch of crisp veggies, food reminds us to reflect, look forward, and appreciate the present.


  • Try new things. Eating new foods keeps a nutrition plan fun and interesting, and it's important for getting all the necessary nutrients. Not feeling adventurous? Check out other people's plates to see what's trending.

  • Raise a glass. Enjoying good food and drink with others is part of life. Sharing meals and enjoying the occasional alcoholic beverage with friends can also benefit health. A glass of red wine is known for its heart health benefits, and sharing meals with a friends can improve well-being.

  • Savor good times. The aroma or mere mention of a meal can transport you to another place or time. Recreating a recipe from a parent or grandparent can cause you to reflect. Whether you're looking back on last year or last week, allow food to help you relax, recharge, and smile.

  • Principle 5: Make it About You

    Eating is not about following a strict set of rules; it's about eating to support your body, goals, and preferences.


  • Know yourself. As your life evolves, your nutritional game plan will change. When refining your strategy, consider your performance, training, and health goals, as well as your current lifestyle. There are many resources available, but working with a doctor or dietitian can help you become more knowledgeable about how to adjust your nutritional game plan to maximize your efforts.

  • Design deliciously. A simple way to think about customizing meals is to reserve half your plate for vegetables and fruits. Then split the other half between high-quality grains, protein, and good fats. If you have trouble keeping portions in check, remember that it takes the brain more time than the stomach to realize it's no longer hungry. So limit distractions and take the time to enjoy food. Coach note: Work with a dietitian, if necessary, to personalize your client's game plan.

  • Fuel your dreams. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to eating. Taking inventory of your needs and goals can impact how you approach food. For instance, maybe you want to bolster immunity for cold and flu season, shed a few pounds, or improve sports performance. Connect your approach to food so it can fuel what's important to you.

  • Step 2: Prescribe

    Nutritional prescription doesn't have to be calories and macronutrients. After using the framework to identify which core fundamentals are challenging for your clients, you can then "prescribe" or guide them to which behaviors to start with. Starting with one or two areas and building from there is more manageable than trying for a complete nutrition overhaul all at one time.

    Step 3: Share

    Sharing great information, strategies, and perspectives with your clients is the next step.  Based on what you've identified and "prescribed," you can now share knowledge, research, and pointers to help you clients begin upgrading their behavior.

    Step 4: Focus and Coach

    Just as you coach movement during your session, you can now apply focus to the areas your client is working on and continue to coach them as they upgrade their nutrition habits. Once your client has found success in all of the areas above, you'll know that their nutrition foundation is solid and they'll maximize their results.

    Coaches often focus on the training portion of their clients' needs. But coaches should be knowledgeable about nutrition. Getting clients to embrace the fundamentals of nutrition can get them most of the way there from a nutritional perspective.

    Read more about the TEC Model.

    Learn about EXOS Performance Nutrition.

    (March 2016)