Should Personal Trainers Give Nutrition Advice?

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Today’s post comes from current Cressey Performance intern, and competitive powerlifter, Pat Koch.

As someone who’s often giving nutrition advice myself – albeit in a very limited fashion – I think this is a very important and pertinent discussion to have considering the resounding alternatives that people have at their disposal.

Who should we listen to?  Who should we believe?  Who’s right?  Who’s wrong? What the hell is going to happen in Fringe this season? 

You see, I like to ask the important questions!

Nevertheless, I think everyone will enjoy this one.  See you tomorrow.

Within the last couple months, a battle has been waging.  This battle is of particular interest to those involved in the health and wellness industry, but for the most part has flown under the radar.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics formerly known as the American Dietetic Association has used aggressive tactics to deter a blogger from disseminating nutrition advice.

The blogger in question is a diabetic who used a paleo diet to help him get off meds and improve his quality of life.  He openly encouraged other diabetics to follow his lead.  The blog provided advice mostly free of charge, and built a decent web presence.  Ultimately he seemed to help a few people out.

After an uproar from his supporters, documents leaked from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showing a plan to disenfranchise other nutrition providers, using state legislature.

It raises the question: Is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics doing this for “the good of the people,” or are they trying to destroy competition for their business?

Certainly it is in their interest to make sure that registered dieticians are the gold standard of nutrition care.

I can certainly see why we don’t want any Joe Blow off the street giving diabetics nutrition advice, but do we need to make a crack down on other nutrition providers?

Physical therapists, chiropractors, personal trainers, MD’s, routinely give nutrition advice.  Should it be illegal?  Some of these professionals have no business talking Nutrition, and some of them have useful knowledge.

Note from TG:  on that tangent, it’s been said that medical students receive – at most – around two weeks of nutrition related course work during their tenure in school.  To me this is woefully deficient, and speaks volumes to the gap between who should be giving nutrition advice and who shouldn’t?.

On one hand you have someone who’s spent the better part of the past decade of their life studying the human body collecting a knowledge base that I can’t even begin to fathom. There’s a lot to be said for that and it should be commended and respected.

Yet, by that same token, I think we can all agree that two weeks of course work is peanuts and is by no means enough to cover one’s nutritional bases thoroughly.

I mean, we have some doctors out there spewing out nonsense like whole eggs are tantamount to smoking a cigarette (no joke!). I’m still waiting with bated breath the day where egg yolks are compared to ebola virus. 

Similarly, while there are undoubtedly thousands of reputable and well respected Registered Dietitians out there who “get it” and don’t coddle to the establishment, I’d be remiss to ignore that that number pales in comparison to those who are still spewing out nonsense like high(er) protein diets lead to renal damage or disease. 

On the other, you have those who, just because they read a book on how to make gluten free cupcakes (or have 10,000 posts on some random fitness forum) feel they have the nutritional fortitude to shell out advice to anyone and everyone with a computer screen.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of gray area here.

Personally, I feel completely comfortable discussing a bevy of nutritional topics with my athletes and clients.  I get questions all time relating to which supplements are worth taking, which are a waste of money, and which – if any (and there are a few) – are dangerous.

Too, I routinely answer many other inquiries ranging from what’s a good meal to eat after training and discussing with a young athlete the importance of getting enough protein in their diet to more geektastic topics like Intermittent Fasting and gluconeogenesis.

Thankfully I have a close network of diet and nutrition professionals whom I refer out to on a consistent basis.  I KNOW my scope of practice (I’m certainly not writing diets or diagnosing anything), and I would hope most personal trainers and coaches are doing the same.

That said, this is an interesting topic for sure.  For all the verbal fireworks that are abound, I think the answer does lie somewhere in the middle.

Okay, sorry for the slight rant.  Back to Pat!

Do consumers need to protect themselves from quack nutritionists?  Or should the government tell us who to listen to?

Certainly we don’t have to be reminded of the, “credible sources” that back in the day provided us with the recommendations for 6-11 servings of grains a day…

It would be a sad day when a doctor legally could not give nutrition advice but moments before entering the office, patients read magazines in the waiting room showing them how to “Lose Thirty LBS in 10 Days.”

What does everyone think?  Should personal trainers be allowed to give nutrition advice?  Is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “protecting the people,” or overstepping boundaries in order to stifle competition?

To read more about the situation read on HERE

Author’s Bio

“Pat Koch is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) through the International Society of Sports Nutrition. After studying at Ithaca College, Pat obtained his undergraduate degree in Health Sciences with a concentration in Nutrition. Since then he has been working as a trainer specializing in Sports Performance.  Currently Pat interns at Cressey Performance, and has recently started competing in powerlifting.”

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