Healthy eating and exercise tend to go hand in hand. But personal trainers and fitness instructors should be careful about any advice they give to clients about nutrition and health.
It’s one thing making general recommendations to clients about healthy eating or sharing recipes. However, in the UK, the term dietitian is legally protected and requires you to be qualified to degree level. Only registered dietitians are permitted to prescribe nutrition plans for medical conditions.
What are PTs taught about nutrition?
Nutrition is the delivery of essential materials to cells and organisms. These are required to promote optimal health and growth.
Studying for a Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training will include some coursework on nutrition, such as finding out about micronutrients and macronutrients, Basal Metabolic Rates (BMR), and food labels and nutritional guidelines.
This means that personal trainers are qualified to analyse a client’s diet and offer recommendations based on Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide, but not that they are qualified as a dietitian.
Fitness professionals looking to broaden their qualifications can, however, opt to study for a Level 3 Award in Prescribing Nutrition for Physical Activity and/or a Level 4 Certificate in Physical Activity and Weight Management for Obese and Diabetic Clients.
What dietary advice can personal trainers give?
Personal trainers can advise their clients on following a balanced diet, with a good intake of water and sufficient quantities of fresh natural food from the various food groups, which will contain micronutrients and macronutrients, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.
Their advice can include recommending options for healthy eating, discussing the type of food to eat before and after workouts, and offering general advice such as the importance of staying hydrated.
However, they should not attempt a diagnosis of a medical issue or offer nutritional advice as treatment for a medical condition. Doing so is potentially dangerous for the client and is likely to be in breach of the Registered Exercise Professional (REP) guidelines as well as invalidating the personal trainer’s insurance in the instance of a claim by the client.
Above all, a personal trainer should take a professional approach that recognises the boundaries of their qualifications. This should take into consideration issues such as data protection and informed consent.
While Personal Trainers can advise clients on general healthy eating, they should be careful not to overstep the mark by recommending diets and offering nutrition plans for clients with specific medical issues.
If a PT has any concerns about a client’s health, they should suggest that the client seeks medical advice, either from their GP or another appropriately qualified professional.