The modern-day Personal Trainer (PT) is becoming a much more holistic practitioner, it is true. Many PT’s now offer more than just fitness training advice and programming. It is not uncommon to find strength and conditioning, boot camp services, sports specific training, sports massage therapy, posture and corrective exercise, stress management, lifestyle coaching and more as other commonly offered additional services. But perhaps the most naturally occurring second string to a PT’s repertoire is providing nutritional advice and guidance to support exercise and fitness objectives. Understanding your professional limits to nutritional advice is important to ensure avoidance of liability for giving unqualified direction to ta client.

Whilst it is clear that any appropriately certified fitness professional will likely have learned some nutritional advice within their qualification, that knowledge and skillset still come with professional boundaries. Fitness instructors will usually have covered the very basics of principle-based nutrition and will likely need to restrict their advice to client’s / members to include only the type of general guidance given within population-wide government dietary guidelines, such as the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations.

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Most good quality Personal Trainer certifications will usually cover nutrition in greater depth and widen the scope of practice to provide more informed nutritional advice. It is essential that PT’s understand the range and limits to nutritional advice that they can offer client’s to remain within their professional boundaries.

The following Advise and Avoid guidelines may serve to keep PT’s rooted within the professional limits of a typical personal training certification.

4 Advisory steps:

  1. Advise on the general volume of food intake, the quality of meals, and the ingredients or foods items consumed
  2. Advise on meal timings and hydration needs, especially in relation to exercise and activity
  3. Advise on basic, food-based nutritional adjustments to support sensible weight management
  4. Advise on basic, food-based nutritional adjustments to support an increase in lean muscle tissue

4 Avoid steps

  1. Avoid offering nutritional advice in direct opposition to nationally accepted dietary guidelines
  2. Avoid offering nutritional advice to treat any medical condition or to address ill-health in any form
  3. Avoid offering specific guidance on nutritional or sports supplementation for any purpose
  4. Avoid directing a client to adhere to a fixed or strict dietary regime that you are not fully qualified to do so

There is still plenty of scope for a PT to provide an excellent nutrition service within those professional boundaries. Nutritional advice can provide a range of supportive and desirable products/services that appeal to client’s and can make a business profitable. Be creative and find ways to help your client’s move forward in their dietary habits.

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So does this mean that a PT or fitness professional cannot offer higher level nutritional services? No, of course not, but it will require you to increase your level of qualification and expand your nutritional skill set to offer a more specific level of assistance. By widening your skills through further qualification, your professional boundaries also widen and increase your potential scope of professional practice. Whatever your formal qualification level, be sure you operate within the recognised limits to nutritional advice that the scope of your certification allows.

Could you benefit from strengthening your fitness-related nutrition knowledge by helping clients manage their weight, improve their exercise nutrition or build muscle tissue? Enrol in the Nutrition for Health and Fitness Certificate from Nordic Fitness Education.