Giving Nutritional Advice as a Personal Trainer – A Simple Guide

Giving Nutritional Advice as a Personal Trainer – A Simple Guide

Providing nutritional advice is an imperative skill for a personal trainer. Nutrition is incredibly important for any client’s goals and a very important aspect of the overall health and wellbeing of an individual. However, there are set guidelines that a personal trainer must follow when providing nutritional advice to clients.

What a Personal Trainer Can Do

A personal trainer can do a lot of good giving nutritional advice, as long it is done in accordance with proper guidance on what the personal trainer can do. It must be noted however that if a personal trainer goes outside their scope of practice there is the potential for them to do harm, and therefore this must be avoided. Giving nutrition advice should be something that all personal trainers are confident in doing. It should be something that forms part of a personal trainer’s daily work with a client to be able to provide advice on their client’s diet and nutrition.

What a Personal Trainer Shouldn’t Do

It is very important to note that a personal trainer is not a dietician. A personal trainer is not able to go into considerable depth on bespoke nutritional advice. Instead, a personal trainer must pass on established, evidence-based government guidance on nutrition to their clients. They cannot come up with any ideas of their own, any theories of their own, or use any pseudo-science. Anything that a personal trainer imparts to a client must be directly from the government guidance on nutrition.

The Importance of the Eat Well Guide

The government guidance on nutrition is often referred to as the Eat Well Guide. This is established, evidence-based advice that the government has made available, and it is also readily available through the NHS, for the general population to follow to remain healthy with their eating habits. The Eat Well Guide will indicate to a client what they should be eating, what food groups they should be looking to eat foods from, what foods they should be basing their diets on and what foods they should be looking to minimise or avoid. This Eat Well Guide is readily available from the government and NHS websites at no cost, and this should be a very important toolkit for a personal trainer.

How a Personal Trainer Can Utilise the Eat Well Guide

The personal trainer can only pass advice on from the Eat Well Guide. A personal trainer cannot go beyond this, and it would be outside their scope of practice if they were to do so. A useful idea that a personal trainer can do is ask their client to complete a 7-day food diary. Once that is completed, the personal trainer can then sit down with their client and look at that diary and compare it to the Eat Well Guide. They can then perhaps identify areas that the client may wish to improve on and make suggestions on healthier options that the client may wish to consider, as long as it is of course based on and directly from the Eat Well Guide. This is a very important point and must be remembered in a personal trainer’s work.

What About Clients with Additional Requirements?

Now, of course there are going to be some clients who may have deeper nutritional requirements. These could be for example for a medical condition, or related to the type of training being undertaken, but whatever the reason is, a personal trainer is not qualified to go beyond providing guidance from the Eat Well Guide. Therefore, if someone had a particular need such as someone with a medical condition, or an elite athlete with a high-level nutritional need, then it is beyond the scope of practice of the personal trainer. In these instances, the personal trainer must refer onwards to a qualified professional like a dietician or a clinical nutritionist. Being able to identify one’s scope of practice, stay within it, and to refer on when something goes outside of that scope of practice, is an imperative skill of a professional and it is certainly something that a personal trainer should be doing.

A Quick Recap

To recap,

  • A personal trainer can do a lot of good via nutritional guidance
  • This must always be in accordance with the government Eat Well Guide
  • A personal trainer can provide information to a client and can have a real positive impact on their client’s health and wellbeing from making their client aware of the guidance on the Eat Well Guide
  • If someone has particular need that goes outside of this and require things such a bespoke dietary plan/meal plans or bespoke dietary programmes, this is outside of the personal trainer’s scope of practice and the personal trainer must refer to a dietician.

A final note - according to the Association of Nutrition (AfN) - a personal trainer never writes meal plans. Meal plans are only to ever be written by a Dietician or Clinical Nutritionist - both of which are roles that require a University Degree. If somebody asks a personal trainer for a meal plan, it is not within their scope of practice to do so for a client, and they would need to refer onwards to a Dietician or Clinical Nutritionist.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, this article has looked at the scope of practice for a personal trainer when giving nutritional advice and hopefully has provided some guidance on what a personal trainer should and should not do when helping their clients with nutrition. I hope this article proves useful.

Nutrition is a core module of our Personal Trainer Course please check out our course pages for details. 

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