Among ongoing debates among fitness professionals is the issue of whether and how much nutritional advice to give to clients. Many times, clients, especially those participating in a weight loss program, will want to know what and how much of a nutrient should be consumed. This is especially important if the client is older, pregnant, or has other health issues.
Should Trainers Give Nutritional Advice?
Fitness and nutrition go together
The old rule of thumb that taught trainers to refer all nutritional advice to a registered dietician or doctor may no longer be practical or even necessary, according to exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, MS, MA. Many fitness trainer courses today include making healthy nutritional choices for weight loss and total fitness; Comana believes that, when trainers take a pass on sharing what they’ve learned with clients, there is the chance that the clients will turn elsewhere for answers, such as popular magazines, health food store salespeople or other less reliable sources.
The fact is that for many people, making a special trip to a doctor or a dietician for dietary advice is not feasible, often due to lack of motivation, financial resources or accessibility.
Therapeutic vs. everyday advice
Registered dietician and weight loss promoter Christopher Mohr, owner of Mohr’s Results, believes that the main point to remember is to know the difference between talking about nutrition against providing medical therapy, such as personalized nutritional assessment, advice on meal planning for specific health conditions, or recommending specific nutritional supplements or related products.
Some kinds of advice such as assessment for an individualized therapeutic diet as part of treatment for a medical condition is better left to a licensed nutritionist of dietician or physician, states. On the other hand, information that can usually be considered in the realm of general knowledge, such as:
- Following the FDA’s Food Pyramid and MyPlate guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture.
- Reading nutrition labels when shopping.
- Learning portion control when eating.
- Principles of proper nutrition, including which important nutrients are needed for health and recommended amounts (using RDA guidelines).
- Discussing alternative diet concepts, such as vegetarianism or sharing government nutritional literature.
This kind of nutritional advice and similar nonmedical concepts are normally considered acceptable in most states for trainers to pass along to clients.