The other day someone came into the supplement aisle and asked about a product called “Alpha Omega”. I had never heard of this product but I assumed it was a brand name that we just didn’t carry (or maybe the name of a fraternity??). I quickly asked the customer where this recommendation came from and was sickened by the answer I received;
“my trainer told me to buy it, along with these other foods and supplements he recommended for my new diet plan”.
UGH! You can’t just tell your client to buy “Alpha Omega” supplements when that brand name doesn’t even exist (I Googled it and had no luck), and when the term alpha omega means nothing. Did this trainer mean alpha linolenic acid (omega-3)? If so, how much is his client even supposed to take? Oh wait, he’s not allowed to tell his client a specific amount to take, so at least the trainer did something right. But the better approach would have been for the trainer to recommend his client see a dietitian, like me 🙂
So what type of advice can a personal trainer, or other nutrition professional provide to their client if they are not in fact a registered dietitian? They can provide General Non-Medical Nutrition Information:
- Acceptable: “Orange juice is a good source of vitamin C.”
- Not Acceptable: “You should drink more orange juice because you need more vitamin C.”
In other words, they can’t perform individualized dietary assessments, prescribe an individualized diet or give individual and specific dietary advice.
Before I forget, I want to add that as a registered dietitian with only a couple exercise physiology classes under my belt, I also have no right to prescribe an exercise plan for someone, or put them through a training session such as the grueling one I was put through….
Does that mean I can’t tell someone to workout and suggest some of my own personal favorite moves? No, but like with personal trainers giving nutrition advice, there is a fine line that should not be crossed by someone like me without any training/background or certifications in personal training or exercise physiology or anything close to that. On that same note, it’s certainly ok for a personal trainer to tell their client certain products that they use, but it crosses a boundary when they go one step further and actually recommend them (depending on what it is, of course, I mean recommending your favorite peanut butter is an entirely different story, or recommending a favorite protein powder because it mixes well and tastes delicious, not because they “need more protein”).
QUESTION: Did you know that in some states (other than Ohio) anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, no matter what type of background/education they have? Do you think personal trainers should be able to give out personalized diets?