In recent months, here at REPs we have noticed some confusion on social media with regards to the type and level of nutrition advice which Personal Trainers are able to give. It can be an emotive area as many PTs believe that their nutrition advice is at least as important as the exercise advice they give their clients. Unfortunately, it is apparent that many in our industry fall under the influence of the latest fad or celebrity diet, and thus give poor, confusing or potentially dangerous advice to their clients. In this statement, REPs will try to clarify what the boundaries of appropriate nutrition advice are.
All REPs categories have what are known as ‘Occupational Descriptors’ which describe what instructors should or shouldn’t do as part of their job role. When it comes to nutrition advice, the Occupational Descriptor clearly states:
L3 Personal Trainers should NOT:
4. Provide prescriptive nutritional advice or develop bespoke individualised nutrition plans for clients.
This basically means that PTs should only provide general advice on healthy eating, rather than give specific, prescriptive advice. If PTs start giving nutrition advice to alleviate real or suspected medical conditions, then they are operating outside of their professional boundaries and may find themselves in trouble if problems with clients occur. In the UK, the only group of people who can legally give this type of advice are called ‘dieticians’ who will have completed a 4 year degree programme. This job title is legally protected (unlike the job title ‘Personal Trainer’) and is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
So, what are the basic messages here?
• Personal Trainers should certainly encourage their clients to change their dietary habits to encompass recognised and evidence based healthy eating guidelines.
• PTs should avoid giving advice which is based on fads, trends or has celebrity endorsement.
• PTs should avoid giving advice which calls for the omission of food groups or encourages restricted eating patterns.
• Finally, PTs should recognise that they should not write specific, individualised nutrition programmes for their clients unless they can legitimately use the title ‘dietician’.