By Merideth Harrington, Special AFS Contributor

What are Functional Foods?

Functional Foods are more than just calories. These foods can effectively support your members’ fitness goals and manage their medical conditions. Functional Foods can prevent disease and sometimes also reverse disease in later stages.

However, not all foods in this category are functional for everyone. Foods become functional when they fit with an individual’s goals, health challenges, and other factors like their genetics and allergies.

Example: Blueberries. Blueberries are a Functional Food for the vast majority of people. They contain potent antioxidants (anthocyanins and polyphenols) that are known to boost heart health, bone strength, and manage diabetes, obesity, and blood pressure challenges. In other words, they can support your members in their journey to become healthier.

Why are Functional Foods important?

Nutrition plays a critical role in how much success your clients have with any exercise program. All the physical activity in the world can’t make up for poor nutrition. Likewise, ideal nutrition will not lead to optimal health and body composition on its own. Fortunately, medical practitioners, trainers, and club owners are realizing that optimal nutrition involves far more than counting calories. Nutrition has the power to accelerate positive fitness outcomes, manage disease, and make your members happier and more holistically healthy. Food can be medicine.

Abilities of Functional Foods

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Support bone, brain, and heart health

Common health conditions your members may have that could be managed using food:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes

Common goals your members may have that could be supported with food:

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce fat
  • Build muscle
  • Increase energy

How can you support your members with Functional Foods?

Here are five ways to bring functional foods to your studio or club...

1. Consider cooking classes

  • Host a clean cooking demonstration.
  • Collaborate with a local restaurant or teaching kitchen for regular healthy cooking classes or recipe demonstrations.

2. Add Functional Food snacks to your space

  • Do you offer snacks already? Giving them a “functional” makeover could further support your members.
  • Don’t offer snacks? Adding a healthy, functional snack option can give your members a convenient way to grab a healthy snack.
  • If you’d rather not have snacks accessible all the time, perhaps having healthy samples available once a week could be a good option.

3. Share online education about Functional Foods

  • Social feature: Share a different Functional Food and its benefits weekly on your social channels.
  • Email marketing: Share a favorite functional recipe or resource.

4. Talk with your trainers, coaches, and instructors

  • Ensure your trainers know about Functional Foods, and can, therefore, point members in the direction of nutrition that will improve their health and further their goals.

5. Find a nutrition partner

Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on how you and your members can utilize Functional Foods for a holistic, evidence-based approach that prevents disease and accelerates fitness goals.


Merideth Harrington currently serves as a marketing consultant for Fitness Formulary and is also the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Product Management for GlobalFit. Merideth is a fitness industry veteran, specializing in growing revenue for start-up and early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies. Her expertise is in sales and marketing platform development including digital marketing, customer acquisition, and lead generation, as well as identifying new opportunities for creating revenue streams for commercial health clubs and medical fitness and weight loss centers.

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