Clutch Bodyshop owner and Celebrity Trainer Ashley Conrad on eating right and getting the most out of life.

By Dario Bard

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To hear Clutch Bodyshop owner Ashley Conrad tell it, she is in the business of transforming people. What she means is perhaps best conveyed by her company’s tagline: Fight for the future. It is a phrase borrowed from a church sermon that urged members of the congregation to fight for what they want out of life. The words resonated with Conrad, who felt it captured her company’s spirit.

“The problem with a lot of people is that they don’t really want to show up for their own lives,” she explains. “They want things to be made easy, and that is just not the way life is. I think so many people discount what they are capable of. They look at me and they think they could never be as successful as I am. Well, I got where I am because I fought tooth and nail, because I outworked everybody else, because I stayed focused and sacrificed. Basically, because I fought. So at Clutch Bodyshop, we are about providing people the products, the training, the lifestyle, the motivation, everything they need, and then instilling in them that desire to fight for what they want, for their future.”

Transforming people, then, is about more than physical fitness; it is about waking people up to their full potential. In that respect, Conrad is certain that nutrition has a key role to play.

“I feel like our food supply in the United States is so bad, and so many people are either confused or uneducated about nutrition, that we are just loading our bodies up on such junk that of course people feel lethargic,” she says. “Our product line is about educating people on how to fuel their bodies so they have the energy to go out and fight, to give 100% at work, to give 100% to every area of their lives.”

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Clutch Bodyshop’s top-selling product is its baking mix, which is perfect for making waffles, pancakes and muffins, and features pea protein as its leading plant-based protein source.

IFT had the opportunity to speak with Conrad about this unique product and to hear a firsthand account of the fascinating story behind the Clutch Bodyshop.

IFT: How did you come up with the Clutch Bodyshop concept?

Conrad: I was going to medical school and, because I came from a sports background, I was hired as a trainer at a gym for US$ 9 an hour. What struck me as really weird from the beginning was that I saw clients coming to our gym to train and then head over to another company for nutrition; then a third company for massage therapy and they also had a separate meal delivery service. That’s when I saw this need in the Los Angeles market to create a company that had everything a person would need to transform his or her body under one roof. So I took a huge risk and dropped out of medical school to create that company. I immediately hired the best people in every field and I was at the helm, creating all the programming for the company and the clients.

IFT: You worked with a number of celebrities, right? Can you tell me about that experience?

Conrad: Yes, I’ve worked with Bradley Cooper, Kate Hudson, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, to name a few. When a new client comes in, I do everything—full nutrition, full supplement and full training plans. Basically, a client can come in and only have seven days before a photoshoot, and we develop a regimen to slim them down in that time. Or maybe they need to bulk up fast to play an action star, and we can do that, too. Because of our infrastructure, we are able to transform people faster than anyone else. The important thing is to do it in a way that is healthy, without depleting the body of water or carbohydrates.

Our work with celebrities generated a lot of good press for us and that opened the door for professional athletes. So I’ve also worked with NFL and MLB players, and professional tennis players, too.

IFT: Can you tell me about your sports background?

Conrad: I played basketball at the University of Southern California (USC). I wanted to play professionally, but I ended up getting hurt. During the summers at USC, after the rest of my team had gone home, I used to workout at the gym by myself. That was when USC had just hired Pete Carroll as the head coach of the football team. Well, he came into the gym and struck up a conversation and invited me to summer training with the football team. That was a really cool experience and that training is something I was able to carry over to my training in Los Angeles.

Then, I also got into boxing and was the Adidas global trainer for boxing in 2013. That is the sport I practice most now. I love anything fight-based. I find boxing to be the greatest sport in the world. I don’t box professionally; I do it to stay in shape. And I do it with a lot of my clients, as well. I’ll employee boxing techniques and spar with them. It is just such a great workout and so good for your mind. It is such a goal oriented sport because you can see yourself getting better session after session.

IFT: And how did the idea for the product line come about?

Conrad: Just like I identified a need with the Clutch Bodyshop, I also identified a need here. With the supplement industry as a whole, there is a lot of shady stuff that goes on. With my clientele, I can’t afford to give someone something that is going to potentially bloat them if they are going to be on camera. When I looked at what was available, I couldn’t find anything that was all natural, good for you and trustworthy. So that’s when I saw the need to create the product line.

IFT: How about the Clutch Baking Mix? How did that come about and why did you decide on pea protein as the key ingredient?

Conrad: When people try to lose weight or make a healthy lifestyle change, the things we enjoy eating are often cut out of our diets. We are not allowed to eat cookies or muffins anymore. No more pancakes or waffles, either. A lot of these rich, decadent, carbohydrate-heavy foods that most people crave and love are suddenly off limits.

So one issue I saw with my clients, particularly my high-profile clients, is that these are people working 16 hours a day on a movie set or training 7 hours a day as an athlete, so their bodies are naturally going to crave carbohydrates. What they tend to hear, though, is that they ought to eat brown rice or quinoa. Now those are great choices, but when someone wants a waffle, brown rice ain’t going to cut it!

I wanted to create a product that would satiate the cravings of people who are working out hard and trying to lose weight. If I allow that person to wake up in the morning and have pancakes or waffles for breakfast, that is going to be a huge win because if I can curb that sweet tooth and that desire for those foods right away in their first meal of the day, they won’t have that craving all day.

Another thing is that other gluten-free baking mixes are not high in protein like the Clutch Baking Mix is. They have very high carbohydrate counts and because they are made from flour they cause blood sugar levels to spike.

So, for me, it was important to make the Clutch Baking Mix balanced, so that it is high in protein and also something that people could have completely guilt-free. And that is where pea protein comes in. At 80%, pea protein has the highest protein content of any plant-based protein powder. It also has 30% iron content. And, because it doesn’t have any lactose or gluten, people don’t experience any bloating like they do with a lot of the whey protein or dairy products.

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Another thing I like about peas is that they are high in L-Lysine, which is vital to converting fat into energy. That is a huge selling point for pea protein.

For these reasons, it just made a lot of sense, because of all the massive amounts of benefits of the nutrient breakdown of peas, to make it the primary protein source.

IFT: Where is the pea protein sourced from?

Conrad: It comes from Belgium. We wanted to make sure the ingredient was non-GMO because our entire product line is non-GMO. Also, with plant-based protein, the flavor varies a lot depending on the supplier. There are differences in terms of texture and the way the pea protein absorbs moisture. Pea protein has a tendency to dry out fairly easily when used for cooking, so it was important to find an ingredient that could achieve the appropriate consistency of the end product.

In the end, the non-GMO and end-product result considerations led us to a Belgian supplier.

IFT: What is the taste profile like?

Conrad: It is vanilla flavored and the flavoring system is great. Our aim was to make it taste like a waffle cone and it is a milder and less sweet version of that. Right now, we are in the process of making even further taste improvements in that direction. Obviously, any time you are dealing with a protein powder and you avoid adding a bunch of carbohydrates to it, you are not going to make it taste like Bisquick. But it is very mild. I think it tastes like any other gluten-free pancake or waffle mix. And it is unsweetened.

IFT: Has the Clutch Baking Mix been commercially successful?

Conrad: It is our top seller. People love it. We just re-launched it a couple of months ago and it is still our best selling product. There really isn’t anything else like it on the market. Most of the other high-protein pancake or waffle mixes add in a lot of carbohydrates and they are not as clean as ours is. Also, the taste and flavor of the Clutch Baking Mix are really amazing.

It has been well received in a massive way by the fitness community and also by everyday people who want to eat healthy and start enjoying food again. I mean, why eat a rice cake when you can have a waffle?



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Dario Bard, IFT Journalist

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