Are you allowed to give nutrition advice to your clients?
This is always a hot topic on our Level 3 Personal Trainer courses.
As a Personal Trainer, Health Trainer or any other non 'Dietician' profession, what nutrition advice can you give to your clients, without over-stepping your professional boundary?
The fitness industry is full of uncertainties when it comes to knowing what qualifications you need to deliver different types of sessions, and nutrition is a HUGE 'grey' area. Some trainers just aren't aware how much detail they are allowed to go into. Some are happy to prepare entire meal plans for clients whilst others shy away from offering any advice at all for fear of potential litigation should anything go awry!
If you are a trainer already, you will know that even if you have provided your client with the perfect programme for them, it won't be half as effective as it could be if their nutrition isn't right.
You desperately want your client to achieve their goals and want to help them eat better, but what are you really allowed to say?
Here is some much-needed clarification!
As a Personal Trainer, you CAN talk to your clients about their nutrition - but there are limitations. If you are going to talk about nutrition with your clients, then the first responsibility you have is to really know what you are talking about. Thinking you know what you are talking about is not the same as being able to prove that you know what you are talking about! Although many articles you may read on social media may have real scientific credence, the only information recognised legally as being correct are scientifically backed studies – and these are where government guidelines are drawn up from. All recognised nutrition qualifications will offer you proof that you know and understand these guidelines.
It is better to give no advice, than give wrong advice both from your client’s perspective and also from your own. Therefore you should always check that your information is correct. Though it may sometimes seem out-dated, the information contained within any recognised qualification has been proven over time to be a good starting point for healthy eating. The guidelines issued are flexible enough to fit most people and in most cases, these guidelines will make a big difference to your clients health and nutrition. Do not stray from these guidelines!
When giving nutrition advice, as someone who is not a REGISTERED Dietician, and therefore has NOT completed a Dietetics degree, you CANNOT:
Prescribe a diet/meal plan in order to treat, or treat symptoms of a medical condition or diagnose a medical condition.
‘Why?’ you ask. Well consider the following scenario:
Your client comes to you with a BMI of 34. You run through a standard PARQ and a basic nutrition questionnaire with them. The PARQ does not ask and you do not think to ask if there is an underlying medical cause for your client’s obesity – you just assume that it is through over-eating. You do not consider, because you do not know about the medication that your client is on. Your meal plan does not react well with the medication and your client suffers an adverse reaction.
End result: Your client suffers and you leave yourself open to potential litigation.
The reality is that without specialist training and qualifications, most of us simply do not know enough about specific issues our client’s may have, or the process by which we can be 100% assured that the nutrition plan we are offering is right for our client.
However, all is not lost!
If you are a qualified Personal Trainer and have completed an industry recognised Level 3 Nutrition unit as part of your qualification, such as the Applying Principles of Nutrition unit within the Level 3 Personal Trainer, Level 3 Exercise Referral or Level 3 Pilates qualifications (all offered by Fit4Training), then this is what you CAN do....
Educate your clients on the best sources of protein, carbohydrate, fats, fruit and vegetables.
Explain the effects of calorie deficit and over-consumption.
Explain how daily energy requirements change depending upon activity levels and BMR – and how BMR can be changed by altering body composition.
Educate your clients on the benefits of different macronutrients, micronutrients and water intake.
Offer clients recipes and food preparation advice.
Share nutritional resources from reputable sources.
Offer advice on strategies to improve their eating habits.
Offer support and motivation throughout your client’s new regime.
Remember, all advice you offer must be based around government guidelines.
Be sure to be careful in how you communicate your nutrition advice. For example, you cannot prescribe a meal plan in order for someone to manage their high blood pressure, but you can offer them advice/tips on how to eat a more balanced and healthy diet.
Investing in your education and continuous development is essential to progress and maintain your knowledge in specific areas such as nutrition. Fit4Training currently have a series of Nutritional Therapy / Personalised Nutrition modules in development that will build your knowledge base with scientifically proven information. These modules can ultimately help you to become a registered ‘Nutritional Therapist’ with the British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT). More information on these modules, please contact us.