By Bruce Hope
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Zach Elkins of Lean Impact Nutrition has an atypical story. The 42-year-old creator is a former corporate America financier turned mixed martial artist turned amateur nutritionist turned entrepreneur.
That is quite the career path. That path, however, led Elkins and his wife, Ashley, to do something he loves in a way that had not considered.
Lean Impact Nutrition is a food prep company that provides corporate catering and individual nutritious meals. LIN states its mission as being “dedicated to providing our customers a convenient, healthy alternative to get properly fuel their lifestyle and crush their goals.”
Zach Elkins, said he was in the finance industry, specifically corporate banking.
“I joined the MMA [mixed martial arts] gym because I was a big fan of the UFC,” he said. “I really just joined the gym to get in shape. I never had any intention of fighting or competing or any of that.” What began as wanting to get into better shape and a desire to be involved in a sport that he enjoyed watching, soon became almost an obsession.
After about six months of training, he said he took a fight and became hooked. Being in his mid-30s at that time, being a father of four, a husband and working full time, he did not have the same amount of time to dedicate as his younger competitors. He began looking for a competitive advantage and says he discovered it when he began studying nutrition.
“Every single Sunday, I would write out all of my meal plans and all of my macros that I needed to hit to lose the weight,” said Elkins. “In order to do that I had to be very strict with my diet. Every Sunday, I would prep 20 meals [for the week].”
Elkins ended up becoming a five-time amateur champion and at age 37 had a short professional career. Following that stint, he retired from fighting, but people who knew him would constantly approach him about how he had managed to cut weight and to stay in such good shape even into his forties.
When he explained that his primary method was in his meal prep and diet, he began to coach people on how to track their macros and to eat for weight loss, management and optimal performance.
“Inevitably,” he said, “They were like, ‘why don’t you just make the food for me too?’ So I started doing that on the side.” He began making meals for his workout buddies and posting it on Facebook and it grew from there.
His burgeoning business began to expand as he would receive referrals from clients. “We were literally doing this from our kitchen table in our home.”
Elkins enlisted his wife, a registered nurse, to help.
According to him, once he gets focused on something, he gets the proverbial tunnel vision. In his own words, “There is no Plan B.”
“Where I used to be a fighter who was cutting weight, using meal prep, now I’m helping fighters providing meal prep so they can make weight as well as being food vendors at their shows at the Morocco Shrine,” Elkins said.
As a sponsor for Combat Night, a Florida based MMA promotion, he and Ashley can be food vendors at their events.
Elkins left his work in corporate finance of April 2019 and devoted his full attention to Lean Impact. His wife still works full time as an RN but works with him on weekends to prepare online orders, which are then picked up by the customer.
The corporate catering side of the business was just launched last month. “My goal now is to help employers and employees to be more productive by providing them with more nutrient-dense food instead of caloric food, which will help them to be more productive at work,” Elkins said. “During the week, the focus is on catering and the weekends will be exclusively for the meal prep.”
He does not plan on expanding to ship out of the area because the food loses its freshness and may possibly spoil in transit.
“We prepare everything fresh and deliver it same day [to varying pickup sites], so our customers are able to pick up their meals the same day. All their meals are prepared for the entire week. They don’t have to cook; they don’t have to shop and they don’t have to clean because even our containers are disposable. I want to keep the quality and keep that local flair,” he said.
“It’s something that I truly love to do. It’s not something that I knew I loved until I started to do it,” said Elkins. “People eat things that they don’t want to eat because they think it’s healthy and it’s good for them.
“It doesn’t have to be that way. You can still have flavor profiles; you can still have good tasting food that is low in calories if you control what’s going in it. I just love creating different healthy foods. Like on a Sunday having 400 pounds of raw protein and seeing it turn into an actual meal and a flavor profile. Every single container that leaves that kitchen goes to someone somehow to help them.”
The Elkins also work hard to combat redundancy in their meals. Zach gets inspiration from Pinterest, other meal prep companies and even food magazines on the rack in the line at Publix.
LIN is located at 1301 N. Orange Ave, Suite 102, in Green Cove Springs, with commercial equipment where they do their prep. It has long since outgrown its humble beginnings on the Elkins’ home kitchen table.
The company is now in the running for Best of the Best, which is an award given to a new business in Clay County. They are also competing for the Best Health Food award.
The mantra of the company is “Positively Impacting Lives Through the Power of Nutrition.”