Personal trainers can help clients improve their fitness, strength, overall health, happiness and confidence. As a personal trainer, you have the power to help people change their lives. And naturally, you probably want to do everything you can to help your clients achieve their goals.
But can you give nutrition advice? Can personal trainers provide meal plans and help clients change their diet?
It’s one of the most discussed topics in the fitness industry.
Nutrition and personal training go hand-in-hand with fitness when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle. But clients must get the advice they can trust from the personal trainer they can trust.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there that could be harmful to people’s health and progress. So if you’re considering creating meal plans for your clients or offering nutrition tips, you need to know what advice you’re allowed to give and what you’re not.
By ensuring you know what you’re qualified to talk about, you can protect yourself and ensure your clients get the advice they need from the right person — whether you or a qualified nutritionist.
Can Personal Trainers Be Nutritionists?
As long as you have the Level 3 Personal Training Qualification, you’re allowed to give some nutrition advice. Still, you can’t call yourself a Dietician or offer the same level of guidance that dieticians can provide.
Dieticians are the only nutritional professionals that are governed and regulated by the law. They’re able to diagnose and treat dietary problems and prescribe healthy plans for treating medical conditions. But they need to meet the highest standards and will have completed a degree in dietetics.
However, personal trainers can become nutritionists rather than dieticians. During your Level 3 personal training course, as well as grasping health and fitness best practices, you’ll learn about how nutrition can support physical activity.
To further enhance your nutritional knowledge and offer better advice to your clients, you can also complete your Level 3 Nutrition for Sport and Exercise Performance.
What Nutrition Advice Can Personal Trainers Give?
With the knowledge learnt on your PT course or further nutritional studies, you can call yourself a nutritionist and give evidence-based recommendations about food, healthy eating and nutrition for sport/fitness.
You can’t diagnose conditions or prescribe food or diets. But you can give advice in line with government guidelines for healthy eating.
You can also analyse your clients’ food choices against the government guidelines for a balanced diet. For example, you could ask your clients to complete a food diary for you to review. You can then suggest where they lack a particular food group and recommend foods or supplements to help them achieve a healthy diet.
Can Personal Trainers Give Meal Plans to Clients?
When creating bespoke plans for your clients, you might want to include a personalised meal plan to help them reach their fitness goals or stay on track with their weight loss or weight management goals.
But this is best avoided. When you create meal plans for your clients, this is essentially classed as “prescriptive” nutrition advice, which only qualified dieticians can give.
Rather than creating a specific meal plan, advise clients on what foods they should be working into their diet. Teach them how to prepare healthy meals, but not the exact meals they should be preparing.
You can also teach clients what nutrients they need to maintain a healthy diet and make nutritional recommendations based on their fitness goals rather than their medical needs.
Watch Your Language When Giving Nutrition Advice to Clients
You must know where you stand when giving nutrition advice because overstepping can land you in serious trouble. If you give advice that you’re not qualified to offer, you could face legal consequences.
As well as making sure you stay up to date with your nutritional knowledge and understand what advice you’re allowed to give, one of the best ways to protect yourself is being considerate of the language you use and the way you present advice.
When you tell clients what they should be eating, you’re giving prescriptive nutrition advice, which you need to steer clear of. So rather than telling clients what to do directly, use phrases like “I suggest” or “You could”.
You can also create a disclaimer for your clients to sign when you provide nutrition advice. This can help you protect yourself if something goes wrong — for example if clients misinterpret your advice.
If you want to give nutritional advice to your clients, you must gain the correct certifications, including your Level 3 Personal Training qualification. If you want to qualify as a general personal trainer or complete further training to expand your nutritional knowledge, we offer several courses that can fuel your career in the health and fitness industry.
The Take Home:
If you are Level 3 Personal Trainer already you can give nutrition advice up to the point you feel confident in. As long as your advice comes across in an educational and honest way you can really help your clients.
Only if you are a qualified dietician can you provide meal plans and prescriptive advice.