How To Pay A Nutrition Coach In A Gym (Option #1 Is Our Favorite)

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Are you a gym owner with a nutrition coaching program looking to enhance the health and wellness of your members, and also add a revenue stream? With obesity levels in the United States affecting over 41% of the population, the role of a nutrition coach is in high demand. But, understanding how to fairly pay a nutrition coach while maintaining a thriving business can be complex.

In this blog post, we delve into a couple of ways to structure a nutrition coach or health coaches salary, which is a balance between offering competitive compensation, and also ensuring your gym’s financial sustainability.

What Is A Nutrition Coach, Sometimes Called A Health and Wellness Coach?

pay a nutrition coach amanda doing inbody

A nutrition coach, often referred to as a health and wellness coach, is a trained professional who provides guidance, support, and education to individuals seeking to improve their overall health, and well-being through better dietary choices, and lifestyle changes. These coaches work with clients to develop personalized nutrition, and wellness plans taking into consideration their goals, and current lifestyle.

Nutrition coaches help clients understand the principles of nutrition, educate them about balanced eating, and empower them to make informed decisions about their diet and lifestyle.

At Healthy Steps Nutrition, we teach our nutrition coaches to focus on a holistic approach. So many factors go into nutrition decisions in addition to just trying to decide what to eat for the day. This is why our holistic framework is key in helping clients succeed.

hsn framework graph demonstrating the holistic approach to a nutrition coaching program that can be put on a nutrition board

We look at the whole person, rather than focusing only on what the person is eating. The Healthy Steps Nutrition Framework focuses on these pillars:

  1. Sleep

  2. Nutrition

  3. Stress Management

  4. Lifestyle

  5. Support System

  6. Exercise

In summary, the aim of a nutrition coach is to guide clients towards achieving their health goals, such as weight management, improved energy levels, learning healthier habits, and gaining overall enhanced well-being.

Paying Your Nutrition Coach

Many gym owners struggle, and over complicate things when considering how to pay a nutrition coach. Salary ranges vary depending on where people live, and the cost of living. From our experience, gym owners either pay their nutrition coaches way too much, or coaches barely make enough to pay their rent.

Developing a salary range that benefits both parties is extremely important. Your coach needs to make enough money to be able to maintain some type of lifestyle. And you as the gym owner need to make enough money to pay the expenses of the program, and still maintain a 30% profit margin.

Keep in mind that all of our nutrition coaches are 1099 employees. A 1099 employee is an independent contractor responsible for paying their own taxes. Freelancers, coaches, consultants, photographers, and artists are all common independent contractors.

This saves the employer from having to pay any type of tax on an employee, and also provides the employee with some great write offs they would not be privy to if they were a regular W2 employee.

Listed below are two ways to pay a nutrition coach salary.

nutrition coach holding broccoli demonstrating what goes on in a nutrition coaching program

Option #1 - Paying A Nutrition Coach On 4/9th's Commission

At Healthy Steps Nutrition we believe in paying our coaches on commission. This model is clean, and offers very few ways to become confused.

Commission for a nutrition coach role is 44.4-50% of revenue coming from nutrition.

For example, if Sally purchases a 12 week nutrition coaching package at sign up, and the fee is $299/month, because the nutrition coach is paid 45% commission, they would make $134.55/month for that client until the client did not renew, or the nutrition coach got a raise.

Going up to 50% commission for more experienced coaches or RD’s is completely acceptable. The variance between 45 – 50% allows for a lot of room when considering increases in pay for coaches.

pay a nutrition coach to do an inbody on a client

Option #2 - Paying A Nutrition Coach Hourly + Percentage Of Profit

Another option we have seen adopted by gym owners is to pay their nutrition coach on an hourly “salary”, plus offer a commission of profit.

We know how long it takes in general to see a nutrition client. Setting a salary based on that time allotment, then adding a 10% commission based on program profit is another way to pay a coach.

Remember, the commission is based on profit, not revenue. So, if the program brought in $700, but expenses were $350, the coach would receive 10% of $350.00 which equals $35.00.

Time It Takes To See A Client

With a standard accountability package, on average a new client will take about 2 hours of the nutrition coaches time the first month, and about 45min – 1 hour of time per month each month moving forward.

The salary amount per hour depends on cost of living in your area, but a place to start is:

Dietitian: $25-30/hour       Nutrition Coach: $20-25/hour

Here is an example of how this works:

A nutrition coach has 10 clients start in August. The coach receives $50 salary each one (2 hours of time each). Profit for the program was $350.00.

Total Nutrition Coach Salary Month One = $535.00

Thoughts behind this method

This isn’t our favorite method, but if works if you live in a state that doesn’t allow for 1099 employees, or you have a coach that feels uncomfortable with a commission based role. Often times with this model we see coaches overly concerned about how much time they are spending with clients. For clients that take longer than two hours the first month, or one the following, we’ve experienced coaches feeling slighted by their pay. We don’t typically see that with the commission based role.

The other factor to consider is that when using this model, no matter how much a client pays, the nutrition coach’s salary portion isn’t going to change. So if the gym raises prices, only the commission portion of the nutrition coaches pay will go up. This can lead to feelings of resentment in some people.

diagram of what gym owners pay a nutrition coach to do each day

Nutrition Coach Roles And Tasks

The certified nutrition coach roles and tasks are the same no matter what method of payroll you choose. In general, nutrition coaches are responsible for:

  • Meeting with the client

  • Reaching out to the client regularly

  • Content creation and social media posts

  • Promotion of the program

  • Hosting free nutrition consults

  • Hosting nutrition talks

  • Updating the nutrition board

Important Factors To Consider When Paying Your Nutrition Coaches

Are you generating at least 30% profit for yourself from the program after expenses (including payroll)?

Remember that the program is there to serve you, the client, and the coach. If the profit per client is below 30% then either your expenses are way too high, or you are paying your coach to much.

We have experienced gym owners paying nutrition coaches 70-75% percent of revenue from the program. Doing so doesn’t allow the owner to make a profit after they pay expenses such as credit card fees, management software, and rent for the nutrition office space.

Is the amount your coach is making enough to support a lifestyle if they are working full time?

We see so many gym owners undercharging for their service because they think they are doing clients a favor. Nobody wins in this scenario. The client doesn’t take the program seriously when they don’t pay enough for it, the nutrition coach can’t survive on the low hourly rate, and the owner doesn’t make any money.

Many coaches have career goals, so the cost of the nutrition program needs to be high enough that when paying a coach, it’s enough to make them want to stay.

nutrition coaches standing around with fruit over their mouth being funny

Why Do We Like The Commission or "4/9th's" Payroll Method Best?

We like the commission based model the best.

It’s extremely easy to figure out how much each nutrition coach makes on a monthly basis.

When paying between 44-50% of program revenue, there is still enough margin to cover expenses, plus make a profit for the gym owner.

If for some reason the profit margin is low per client when using the 4/9th model, then the solution is to look at expenses. We already know the coach is making a fair amount. The only other variable factor is the expenses.

It allows for coaches to create their own business within your business

The gym owner takes the risk of having a space, doing marketing, maintaining a nutrition program platform, and providing education for the coach. Meanwhile the coach can grow their business under this umbrella with no risk other than lack of action. They can make as much or as little as they want to, and they don’t have to worry about credit card fees, client software, or an office space.

For coaches who think this level of commission is not enough, having a conversation about the expenses that go along with running a business in general may need to happen.

graph referencing profit rising which allows gym owners to pay a nutrition coach

Wrap Up

Deciding how to pay a nutrition coach can be hard. But no matter what method you use to pay your coach, remember clear communication is important. Making sure your nutrition coaches understand what their roles and tasks are, in addition to how they fit into the future of your company is extremely important for job satisfaction, and continued motivation. 

Creating a calendar for owner/coach meetings, and regular annual evaluations is part of a gym owners role when running a nutrition coaching program in a gym.

If all this sounds amazing, but you aren’t sure how to get started with paying your nutrition coach, reach out! If you are a current HSN Mentoring client, contact your mentor. If you are not a client and want to learn more, book a free call! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between A Nutrition Coach And A Registered Dietitian

While both nutrition coaches and registered dietitians (RDs) work in the field of nutrition and wellness, there are distinct differences between their qualifications, scope of practice, and the services they offer:

  1. Qualifications and Education:
    • Registered Dietitian (RD): RDs are healthcare professionals who have completed a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field, along with a supervised internship and passed a national examination. They are also required to maintain continuing education to stay up-to-date with the latest research and guidelines. RDs have a strong foundation in medical nutrition therapy, and are qualified to provide specialized dietary advice for various medical conditions.
    • Nutrition Coach: Nutrition coaches may have varying levels of education and must hold some sort of nutrition coach certification. While some nutrition or health coaches hold advanced degrees in nutrition or related fields, others may have completed shorter certification programs offered by the health and fitness industry. The requirements for becoming a nutrition coach can vary widely, and the depth of their education and training may vary as well.
  2. Scope of Practice:
    • Registered Dietitian (RD): RDs are trained to provide evidence-based nutritional counseling and medical nutrition therapy for various health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and more. They can work in clinical settings, hospitals, private practice, and healthcare institutions. RD’s can also write meal plans, where as nutrition coaches without the RD credential, cannot.
    • Nutrition Coach: Nutrition coaches typically focus on providing general guidance, education, and motivation for healthy eating and lifestyle changes. They may work with clients on weight management, wellness goals, and improving dietary habits. However, their scope of practice is often more limited compared to RDs, and they might not be equipped to handle complex medical cases.


An RD can do all the things a nutrition coach can do, but a nutrition coach is not qualified to do the same tasks as an RD.

Examples of things a certified nutrition coach without the RD credential cannot do are: 

  1. Write meal plans
  2. Treat diseases using nutrition protocol (An example of this would be writing a specific nutrition plan in order to help a diabetic lower their blood sugar )


In summary, the key differences lie in the depth of education, medical expertise, and scope of practice. Registered dietitians are qualified healthcare professionals with specialized training in medical nutrition therapy, while nutrition coaches generally provide nutrition education, guidance on overall wellness, and healthier eating habits.

How Much Can A Nutrition Coach Make

This largely depends on the desire of a coach. Coaches in my gym want to work part time as they both have family obligations outside of the workplace. Nutrition coaching is a great way for them to help people, and also make good money.

My gym is in a small town in the Midwest. Our prices are not extremely low, but I have seen higher. Our coaches are paid using the 4/9th’s model. When broken down by how much time they spend with each client, their hourly rate ends up being about $45 – $55 per hour.

Keep in mind there are no expenses associated with this. Independent coaches not associated with a gym may appear to make more money up front by saying “I make $100/hour doing nutrition coaching”. 

This number is typically inflated as the coach hasn’t considered the cost of time spent on social media, credit card fees, and CRM platform rates. 

Free Help For Gym Owners And Coaches

WATCH & LISTEN: How To Improve Them: What Gym Owners Need To Know – HERE

WATCH & LISTEN: Grow Your Business For Gym Owners With Mike Michalowicz – HERE

WATCH & LISTEN: What Is The Gym Owners Role In A Nutrition Program: Going From Good To Great – HERE