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
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.