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Can Personal Trainers Give Nutritional Advice (UK) - The Truth

 

Can Personal Trainers Give Nutritional Advice (UK) - The Truth

Here at OriGym we get asked this question from prospective personal trainers a lot, “can personal trainers give nutritional advice (UK)?

With so much poor advice online and in many instances trainers assuming they can write meal plans without actually knowing or understanding the parameters to what they can or can’t give to a client, we thought we would clean up the answer to this question. 

Firstly, if you’re a personal trainer giving nutritional advice or writing out detailed programmes for clients, you might want to stop what you’re doing right now.

Here is why…..

Only registered dieticians (RDs) can medically prescribe any nutrition plans in the UK. Dieticians have undergone extensive training, normally over a 3 or 4-year degree involving advanced human physiology, biochemistry, psychology and undertake nutritional assessments and provide treatments.

So, what can personal trainers giving nutritional advice actually do and say? 

Can Personal Trainers Write Meal Plans: Dos and Don’ts 

Can personal trainers write meal plans image

It is a very contentious topic in relation to “can personal trainers give meal plans” – The answer is yes, with a great big “but”. You must be really careful about how you phrase something, especially in writing and how your “advice” is intended.

Here is the major don’ts for personal trainers giving nutritional advice:

  • You can’t prescribe any medical treatments

Example: Prescribing diets to treat an individual’s obesity is the probably the most common.

  • You can’t diagnose a condition 

You might be thinking that you don’t diagnose anybody anyway, but in actual fact many trainers do this all the time without quite realising:

Example: You may be suffering from “diabetes” or “high cholesterol / blood pressure” therefore you should…..

  • You can’t suggest that a client takes a certain supplement or certain types of food to treat a condition.

Example: I would suggest adding blueberries in your diet to help with inflammation at your joints.

To summarise as a personal trainer giving nutritional advice you can’t: 

  1. Prescribe
  2. Diagnose
  3. Treat
  4. Cure 

Only registered dieticians and doctors may give nutritional advice pertaining to prescribing, diagnosing, treating and curing. You could find yourself in hot bother with personal trainer legal issues or under investigation from the ASA if any of the above are harnessed when marketing your nutrition business.

 

So, what can personal trainers do? 

Personal trainers can give meal plans as long as it is not based off a diagnosis, form of treatment, prescribed plan or a trying to provide a cure. Therefore, terminology you should harness matters quite a bit. Here at OriGym, we advise all our personal training course graduates to use phrases such as:

Can Personal Trainers Give Nutritional Advice (UK) image

Then link to their fitness goal as oppose to anything that has medical consequences.

Example: I recommend the following meal plan to help you achieve your fitness goal of “losing 2 stone of fat, in 4 months.

Therefore, when asking “can personal trainers give nutritional advice (UK)” the answer is yes, but just do it in the right way!

See later our nutrition disclaimer form for personal trainers that you can copy and paste to get clients to sign prior to writing a nutrition plan.

Personal trainers are perfectly fine to provide:

  • Nutritional management strategies – To provide advice and guidance around calorie quantities in relation to goals and training
  • Nutrition around time of the day – You can advise clients on what time you feel is best to consume food or drink based on their goals. 
  • Nutrition portion sizing – The size and proportions of key vitamins and minerals within their plan. 
  • The Food Selection Process – Providing healthier alternatives to their existing diet to help facilitate their goals.
  • Supplements – Suggesting supplements to aid and support physical performance in association with training exclusively.
  • Advice / Demonstrate food Prep – You’re perfectly fine to demonstrate or give advice on how best to prepare meals. 
  • Education – Personal trainers can give tips, guidance and recommendations on benefits of healthy eating and educate clients on how vitamins operate. 
  • Resources – Share scientifically backed resources with clients from accredited sources.

 

If you stick within the parameters outlined above, you will be absolutely fine. Just remember, if you’re unsure, do not take the risk and refer them to see a registered dietician or doctor.

Every personal trainer in the UK that has qualified through a regulated provider has completed a dedicated module in the application of nutrition via their PT diploma. This module is set by Ofqual (the government) as a mandatory unit for all personal trainers, with the aim that it is utilised and directed for the the befnit of their own training and mainly to help everyday clients. The major aspect to worry about is how something is phrased, which is why you can just copy and paste the disclaimer in the next section and place it on your meal plans:

 

Personal Trainer Nutrition Disclaimer form 

Use our nutrition form disclaimer here if you’re a personal trainer giving nutritional advice:

“By utilising (your name / company) personal trainer services, you acknowledge that meals pans issued are not aimed to diagnose, treat, prescribe or cure any medical conditions. The meal plans issued are to guide and provide advice to compliment and support your fitness goals solely. By signing below, you acknowledge that you understand that your name / company) personal trainer services meal plans are recommendations and advice only and that you should seek the advice of a registered dietician or doctor if you feel you have a medical condition to diagnose, prescribe or treat any nutritional based issues."

Client’s signature:        

 

I am a qualified PT and I have a degree in Nutrition or I have completed a nutrition course can personal trainers give meal plans then? 

To quote the BDADietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard”. 

Legal Aspects in Nutrition and Dietetics for Personal Trainers: 

legal aspects in nutrition and dietetics for personal trainers image

Unfortunately, even if you have decided to go to university or completed a vocational nutrition course you still can’t prescribe a nutrition plan to a member of the public. 

The phrase “nutritionist” is not a protected term in the UK, thus irrespective of qualifications including degrees and qualifications, anybody can call themselves a “nutritionist” and portray themselves as an expert. The one technicality they can’t call themselves is a registered nutritionist as they must be on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) to call themselves a Registered Nutritionist.

By contrast, the legal aspects in nutrition and dietetics is different for the title “dietician”, this is a legally protected term and should only be harnessed by degree qualified dieticians that are registered with the statutory regulator, the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) can use the title of Dietitian/Registered Dietitian (RD).

  

Do Personal trainers need nutrition advice insurance?

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As we have established what personal trainers can and can’t do with respect to “can personal trainers give nutritional advice (UK)” and we have summarised, that yes they can within certain remits that brings us into insurances and professional indemnity.

Due to personal trainers having the right to give nutritional advice, this is normally encompassed into your personal trainer insurance package. You can go and get nutrition advice insurance on top if you wish from the likes of Holistic Insurance, but normally this type of insurance is reserved for dieticians or those without the supporting level 3 in personal training. Bear in mind that PT insurance packages come with different levels of cover and you should always check with your insurance company first to the extent of that cover.

Marketing Your Nutrition Business Correctly

nutrition marketing image

When it comes to marketing your nutrition business to ensure the same practises and guidelines are used as when having face to face conversations and writing diet plans. Avoid phrases that could compromise you or land you in trouble with the ASA

Feel free to call yourself any of the following:

- Fitness & Diet Expert

- Nutrition Advisor

- Nutrition Expert

- Nutritionist

- PT & Nutrition consultant

Or any other colourful variations of the above. See below how Liverpool based personal trainer, Vicki Cumberworth harnesses "Personal trainer and Nutrition Coach" in her advertisements:

Can Personal trainers give nutritional advice image

Here is another example of degree qualified nutritionist and personal trainer Sarah O'Neill marketing her nutritional and personal training services:

can personal trainers give meal plans image

 Neither of these trainers are registered dieticians, thus they are marketing their nutrition business with "nutrition coach" and "accredited nutritionist", despite one not possessing a nutrition-based qualification and one with a degree. Neither have said they can cure, diagnose or treat a client's nutritional needs.

What further education is available for Personal trainers in Nutrition? 

If you’re a qualified gym instructor or personal trainer and want to improve your meal plans and nutrition advice to clients you can either go to university and complete either a dietetics degree or nutrition degree.

Alternately there are Level 4 courses that specialise in nutrition, such as the Level 4 nutrition for sport qualification, which is an Ofqual regulated course that enables you to learn more about nutrition, supplementation to give better guidance.

Not qualified as a PT yet? If you're interested in starting a career in fitness, go download our free prospectus

 

Become a Level 4 Nutrition for Sport Expert

Become a Level 4 Nutrition for Sport Expert and Expand Your Business Credentials

Conclusion

To conclude - "Can Personal Trainers Give Nutritional Advice (UK)" Yes, but just be careful how you share information and the purpose to why you're sharing it. If in doubt, do not. 

Written by Luke Hughes

CEO and Co-Founder

Luke is the CEO and Co-Founder of OriGym. Holding a first-class degree in Sport and Exercise and an MSc in Sport and Nutrition, he is also qualified as a Level 4 Personal Trainer with various specialist credentials covering the entire spectrum of health, fitness and business. Luke has contributed to a variety of major industry publications, including Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Metro, Cosmopolitan, The Mirror, The Sun, The Standard and more.