Talking about Nutrition
***8/26/14: Please refer to How to Review a Client’s Food Journal for more up-to-date information on this topic.
Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand for fitness professionals. As candidates preparing for an ACE exam, you review both topics, although exercise takes the bulk of study information for everyone except Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant candidates.
Both the ACE Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals chapter 4 covers nutrition topics including RDA, MyPlate, the special needs of vegetarians and hydration. In addition, both manuals discuss working with obese clients, or individuals seeking weight management.
Nutrition is an important topic for a fitness professional to understand. There may be only a couple questions on the exam regarding the specifics of nutrition – types of vegetables highest in calcium for example – but knowledge of this topic carries on into your professional life.
As a fitness professional you may receive many questions about nutrition. Things such as should a client eat before or after a workout? Does creatine actually help build muscles? What is the maximum number of calories a client can take in without gaining weight? Should they take supplement A or supplement X for increased energy?
While it's true that many fitness goals cannot be addressed without also considering proper nutrition, that does not mean that personal trainers should be giving out nutrition advice.
At least 40 states, plus the District of Columbia require licensure of nutrition/dietetics professionals. In most states, the licensing statutes explicitly define the scope of practice and state that performing as a nutrition/dietetics professional without first obtaining a license is illegal. In addition, many employers require dietetics professionals to be registered with the Commission on Dietetics Registration.
Supplying Nutritional Supplements to your Clients is well outside the scope of practice for the fitness professional and would be in complete violation of the ACE Code of Ethics, and is described clearly in Appendix C of the ACE Personal Trainer Manual 4th edition, “ACE Position Statement on Nutritional Supplements.”
ACE has this position on nutritional supplements because personal trainers do not have the formal training to recommend meal plans and/or supplements, and nutritional supplements are not FDA regulated at this time and therefore may contain substances that may put a client’s health at risk. This was seen prior to ephedra being pulled off the market. There was a now famous court case where a personal trainer was recommending supplements to his clients that contained ehpedra. One of the clients had myocardial complications due to the supplement and died as a result. The personal trainer was not a registered dietitian or medical doctor, and therefore was not qualified to be recommending this supplement to his clients. This made the trainer liable.
The personal trainer can educate a client about healthful eating, have the client keep a food record for several days and go through this with the client to educate him/her on areas that he/she could be eating better, educate the client on hydration, when sports drinks can be beneficial for energy during endurance events, techniques for carbohydrate loading, appropriate protein consumption, nutritious snacks/energy food during exercise, timing of post-workout meals for enhanced recovery, and more. All of these topics are out of the very comprehensive USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) and through research published in reputable scientific journals. Until supplements are regulated by the FDA, with guidelines from the USDA, it will be very difficult for the fitness professional to recommend them without stepping outside the scope of practice.
So what does that look like as you are reviewing your material and preparing not only for the exam but for life as a fitness professional? Consider the following two statements:
A: Orange juice is a good source of vitamin C.
B: You should drink more orange juice.
The first is a statement of fact, well within your scope of practice and knowledge base. The second is a recommendation, much different.
This information ties in with our earlier post about ACE Ethics and Scope of Practice. As you prepare for the exam, and even as you are taking the exam, keep these things in mind when you are considering your choices.
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