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Should I get nutritional advice from a personal trainer?

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For almost ten years, I lived in a high-rise apartment in New York City. There is a well stocked small gym in the basement. While walking on the treadmill or doing his own strength training sessions, I would often see my neighbor working up a sweat under the guidance of his personal trainer.

It was impossible in such a narrow space No to listen to their conversation. Listen for cues from the exerciser on perfecting form and tips on rest times between sets. It’s the guidance fitness professionals expect to provide their clients. But surprisingly, many of the coaches also offered nutrition and dietary advice, most of which was either unsupported by science or dangerously restrictive.

As a registered dietitian, I found it really hard to keep my mouth shut listening to those conversations. I see them promoting tips and nutrition plans. Each of these posts tempts my colleagues and me to drop face and palm emojis in the comments section.

I may sound like a cranky RD with a “get off the lawn” attitude, but by and large I’m a personal trainer and fitness coach. should not do Advise clients on diet and nutrition. Of course, there are exceptions. For example, some trainers have extensive nutritional science education and can provide sound advice on foods to support exercise performance and recovery. But before you take a trainer’s nutrition and diet advice at face value, you should keep these points and major red flags in mind.

how nutrition helps exercise

Before we dive into who can and shouldn’t offer nutritional guidance, we need to know why diet and food choices are important when it comes to fitness. It can help you achieve certain fitness-related goals, such as training for weight, building muscle, or working towards healthy weight loss or weight gain. Proper supplementation prior to a workout with the right balance of macronutrients (essential macronutrients that support the growth of the human body) can help boost exercise performance. to replenish stores of glycogen (a type of glucose derived from carbohydrates), repair muscles, and support overall post-exercise recovery.

But these best practices aren’t typically learned in high school health classes. Then some people may look to their personal trainer for nutritional tips to support their fitness journey. There are – even if they don’t have the education or training to back them up.

What nutritional advice can a personal trainer offer?

To clarify, the trainer can Talk about food. However, it is important to consider whether the information they are sharing is within their scope of work. This is similar to how doctors, nutritionists and therapists refer to research on the mental and physical health benefits of exercise, but with the necessary qualifications to provide detailed training plans to their patients and clients. There is a possibility that it is not.

For example, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) shares specific guidelines on nutrition that fitness professionals can generally discuss. This includes dietary advice provided by the federal government, such as those found in Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate Recommendations. Additionally, according to ACE, people who have passed a fitness certification program accredited by a board of national certification bodies or the American National Standards Institute can provide basic nutritional information. , which includes the principles of healthy eating and food preparation. Essential nutrients, their role in the body, and how to incorporate them into your diet. how your nutritional needs change throughout your life; the nutritional content of foods and supplements;

Aside from these basics, your trainer may offer more specific nutritional advice. Also Registered dietitian. These individuals have completed the required core nutritional science education (think courses such as organic chemistry, biochemistry, food science and production, clinical nutrition, nutrition and metabolism throughout the life cycle) and are 6-12 years old. Nationally recognized licensing exams after completing months of supervised training. You will also need to complete a four-year degree (and a master’s degree in 2024) to take an exam that proves you can legally practice as a nutritionist. All things considered, registered dietitians have a nuanced understanding of nutrition that personal trainers simply cannot provide.

You may also feel comfortable seeking or receiving nutrition advice from trainers who are qualified in a comprehensive nutrition program for personal trainers. Precision Nutrition (such as PN-1 or PN-2), Look for accreditation from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the Institute for Nutritional Coaching, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Nutrition Coach Program.

Please know that these certification programs do not require the same degree of nutrition education as registered dietitian programs. Consider working with The RD can better understand the condition and explain what needs to be different regarding meal timing. The carbohydrate portion, and exercise, especially if you’re on medication to control your blood sugar. Or, if you’re pregnant, you’ll want to work with someone who understands how your nutrient needs change during each pregnancy.

When You Shouldn’t Get Nutritional Advice From A Personal Trainer

Remember: Unless your trainer has a nutrition certificate from an accredited and well-known program, proceed with caution when taking specific dietary advice from them. In other words, fitness professionals shouldn’t offer personalized nutrition recommendations or meal plans. Assess your nutritional needs and recommend specific calorie, nutrient, or dietary intakes; Advise on ways to prevent, treat, or cure disease. Or prescribe nutritional supplements, according to ACE. If a trainer or coach makes any of these suggestions, consider it a red flag.

If your trainer recommends any of the following, regardless of your certification, it’s not a good source of nutritional information.

They suggest cutting out entire food groups.

From a mental and physical health standpoint, removing entire food groups from your diet is a slippery slope. This can set an overly restrictive mindset and lead to a disordered diet.

I often heard trainers at my apartment gym telling clients to limit dairy. But interestingly, milk, Greek he yogurt, kefir and cottage cheese provide an excellent combination of easily digestible carbohydrates and proteins. This is an essential nutrient for daily life. When workout recovery. If you feel sick after eating dairy products, don’t eat sober. But if you can tolerate it and it’s serving you, then keep it in your plate or glass.

Be aware that trainers who tell you to quit dairy or cut out all carbs may come to you from a place of their own fear of these foods. Maybe I just got my nutrition education from a viral TikTok post instead of an agency.

They encourage extremely restricted or very low-calorie diet plans.

Restricting your diet not only makes the act of eating incredibly boring, but it also increases your risk of missing out on important nutrients, which can harm your gut health. is important to support gut health, and eating a variety of foods helps cover more of the base to support optimal functioning of the microbiome. If you’re eating the same few foods over and over again, you might be missing out.

Extremely restrictive diets create an unhealthy “planned/unplanned” mentality. If you don’t follow a (usually very restrictive) meal plan, you may find your diet very different. This all-or-nothing pattern can make it very difficult to meet nutritional goals and maintain visible results.

If your coach is overly specific about which brands are “good enough” to include in your diet, you should be skeptical. I’ve heard trainers telling someone to avoid carbs.I love sprouted grain bread that’s rich in fiber and protein, but it doesn’t have to be your thing that’s all A source of complex carbohydrates.

They try to sell you supplements.

Remember: According to ACE, fitness professionals should never supply, prescribe, or sell nutritional supplements to clients. The supplement industry is less heavily regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so you should be aware of potential interactions and quality control issues with other medications you may be taking. As it is.

Use some carefully selected supplements (such as those determined to be beneficial with the help of an RD, doctor, or other qualified professional) to address specific health concerns But if your trainer is pushing a lot and you’re feeling pressured to buy without really knowing what the product does, take a step back.

They classify foods as “good” or “bad.”

If your trainer calls certain foods “good” or “bad” or makes you feel like you’re being criticized for your eating habits, cut the ties. Even if you feel that getting your butt kicked is more likely to get you on track (yes, we’ve heard this from patients and clients before), let someone else criticize your food choices. Hearing voices can lead to build-up. , shamelessly come up with an individualized program that takes into account your goals, needs and preferences.


In most cases, personal trainers should only provide basic nutritional information. So take any other guidance with a grain of salt or as a sign to start training with someone new. However, if your coach has additional nutrition training to support your exercise recommendations, you may be okay with taking the advice. But remember to trust your intuition. And if you have more specific nutritional needs or just want a reality check, talk to a registered dietitian.

FTR, which also works in reverse. We would never advise anyone to get an exercise plan from a nutritionist or doctor who is not a trained instructor. Choose to work with people who make you feel empowered, supported, and safe.