Step a block away from downtown Salinas and you’ll find MaxFit Meals and Nutrition tucked in to a small shopping center at the corner of Monterey and San Luis Street.
Though the storefront may look small from the street, owner Kris Spencer’s made the most of the facility to offer a market for health supplements, smoothies and pre-made meals.
It’s a far cry from where Spencer’s fitness origins came from. The Watsonville native looked to it for direction growing up.
“Training really saved me,” he said. “I was not a healthy person growing up with an alcoholic dad. Fitness brought me the discipline I needed in my life.”
That discipline and dedication’s led to a steadily growing business stretching from Salinas to the Monterey Peninsula.
‘The light bulb went off’
Spencer has been involved with the health supplements business for over a decade and worked in the Creekbridge Village center starting in 2005.
“The recession hit and we had to downsize,” he said. “From there, we were at the In-Shape on North Main Street. We spring-boarded over time from that to the 5,000 square feet we have now (between two stores).”
The two stores in Salinas and Monterey are a long way from the 460 square feet in a corner of In-Shape. Now he has his own line of health supplements called Forbidden Labz which has an expansive array of different items and sponsors some athletes.
“I wanted to have something for everybody,” he explained. “From the guys training for physique competitions to your grandma.”
“I’m happy to say this company is one of the best I’ve worked with,” bodybuilder Alyssa Ruiz said. “The company really takes pride in the product.”
While he was selling supplements at different locations, Spencer often had people ask about the food he had prepared in containers to eat throughout the day. Like the stereotypical meal prep food, Spencer kept proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates boxed up to maintain dietary discipline.
“I just had food brought in for myself from another company in a little cooler,” he said. “I had people asking me, ‘hey, is that meal prep? Can we buy that?’ The light bulb went off in my head about that pretty quickly.”
That gave him the idea for a meal preparation business in addition to the supplements brands he already sells. MaxFit’s Salinas location opened in 2011 and another spot opened in Monterey in 2017.
Flourishing in a home
Take a walk past the various displays in the Salinas store and the options are vast for different supplements like protein blends, branched chain amino acids (BCAA) blends, fat burners, vitamins and more. There’s chairs and booth seating to stop and relax and a smoothie bar in the far corner complete with dozens of drinks on the menu.
But head to the back of the store and you’ll see part of what makes the store so popular: pre-made and portioned meals.
Typical pre-prepared meals with a fitness-focused appeal can be boring (see: chicken, rice and vegetables). In contrast, MaxFit’s offerings include crowd favorites like ham and egg breakfast burritos, tri-tip fajitas with spanish rice and beef stir fry.
The demands can be different depending on who comes in to fuel up.
“We had Crossfitters coming in and saying, ‘I’m out here running around the block and doing pushups, deadlifts and situps,'” he recalled. “So they’d need dishes that were higher in calories. Not everyone has the same needs.”
That leads to products that are labeled low-carb or paleo for those following different diets. Every pre-made meal also includes an ingredient list and macronutrient information (including total calories and grams of carbohydrates, fat and protein).
“Everything we have here is made fresh daily,” Spencer said. “There’s no preservatives to make it last weeks longer.”
That variety means anyone can find something to enjoy, be it a fitness athlete or Salinas City Councilmember Scott Davis, who occasionally stops in for a late afternoon meal.
Overall, Spencer maintains a focus on what works best for the steadily growing clientele.
“When you have the narrative to do your best for the customer and emphatically bring the best products, that leads to a lot of loyalty to your business,” he said. “We’re here to help a professional of any sort and I want to be a resource for food for anyone who can (afford it).”
Next on the menu: more new meals and finding more environmentally-friendly packaging for the products. While those are in the works, Spencer and the rest of the team will continue churning out fresh meals, smoothies and supplements for people from Salinas to the Monterey Peninsula.