This is a great question. With the right training, and short of being a “Registered Dietician,” (RD) I think a trainer can certainly make dietary suggestions and design meal plans. Saying that meal planning is, “out of my scope of practice,” is not necessarily a given for personal trainers. It all depends on your training in the area of nutrition. If you do not understand nutrition and find it confusing, then yes, it is definitely out of your scope. However, if you do understand nutrition, then it is within your scope. Lets get real here. Nutrition is not rocket science. The most ignorant animals on this planet seem to get their meal planning correct. Having said that, I do think it is unethical and reckless to advise a client to eat high protein diets, take supplements, or participate in any fad, or extreme diet, or make food recommendations when you yourself do not understand what you are saying. But that goes for anything in life. This should just be common sense.
Having said that, I want to expose a little fraud here. I have been a trainer now for 27 years. In that time immense changes have occurred in the area of fitness, exercise physiology, biomechanics, exercise machines, group exercise, etc, etc. While all of those changes have occurred, virtually nothing has changed in the area of nutrition. In other words, if you had gone to a R.D. 27 years ago, and again yesterday, you would have gotten virtually the same recommendations. Again, almost NOTHING has changed with respect to what R.D.’s are recommending. This is not because there is lack of new and good research. It is however because the dairy, pork, and meat industries have maintained a strong hold over the national Food and Nutrition Board, and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the recommendations that they make. Why? Not because they care about your health, but because they want you to continue to consume animal products, and other processed foods, and include them as part of your “healthy” diet. When in fact, the latest research shows that dairy is not only very unhealthy for humans, but it is the most carcinogenic food that one will consume in their lifetime. Milk is for cows. Simple. Additionally, meat, including chicken, fish, and eggs, provide way too much protein, cholesterol, and fats for humans. Animal products also cause heart disease and a plethora of other degenerative diseases. I would suggest reading, “The China Study,” “The Perfect Formula Diet, and visiting drmcdougal.com, and pcrm.org. Learn about plant-based nutrition. The point here isn’t to go vegan, though the research does support the idea that plants provide all of the nutrients and protein that humans need. Rather, the point is that the average R.D.’s continue to recommend diets that are not in alignment with current nutritional research.
Having said all of that, the point here is that, we trainers are certainly capable of reading and learning about proper nutrition, and giving recommendations to their clients. The ADA and R.D.’s, have failed us miserably in educating the public on what a healthy diet consists of. Instead, they have gotten in bed with the food lobbyists and the millions of funding dollars they provide. Furthermore, the ADA works vigorously to pass laws not allowing anyone other than themselves to talk about nutrition, and to convince you that “nutrition” is “out of your scope.” Nonsense! They have tried to create a monopoly on the subject and control their “turf.” We should be free to discuss nutrition with our clients, and I believe it is well within our scope with proper education. This is a simple subject, and the most meek among us can figure it out. Give yourselves a little more credit, and educate yourselves. To say otherwise, is giving the ADA, as well as food manufacturers, more power over our food choices.
Whoa Don- I am a RD and the laws are there to prevent people from giving MNT- medical nutrition therapy advice that are not trained NOT preventative or general nutrition guidelines. Why are you so angry? Would you want a personal trainer coming in your hospital room giving you nutrition advice when they have had no training in oncology, renal, diabetic or the million other diseases we learn in clinical dietetics and work with the health care team on a solution to getting the patient back to full health or at least a better quality of life? Does a personal trainer know how to provide enteral formulas for the specific disease? IT IS NOT A SIMPLE SUBJECT.
Haha. Not angry Lora. And with all due respect, I have worked with a lot of very average R.D.’s (which is most) who’s advice is as much of the problem leading to their health problems. The problem is, is that the A.D.A. and R.D.’s have failed miserably to properly educate the American public on the science of nutrition. R.D.’s continue to promote the consumption of animal products, particularly diary, in light of a plethora of research showing that a plant-based diet, is the healthiest diet for human beings. It is the inclusion of animal products and dairy, that is the main culprit in the development of degenerative diseases. This was shown in the 20 year research project by Dr. Colin T. Campbell, and two high level research teams from Oxford University and Cornell University, known as “The China Project.” With over one billion in funding from the National Institute of Health, and 98,000 correlations, 8000 of which were statistically significant, they showed that the number one the most powerful promoter of cancer is animal protein, and the worst being dairy. In fact, dairy will be one of the most carcinogenic foods that one will consume in their lifetime. Furthermore, data published in the Lancet in 1990 by Dr. Dean Ornish, showed that you can reverse heart disease with a low fat diet. Other doctors have also shown similar results with similar methods: Caldwell Esselstyn, and K. Lance Gould., to name a few. And furthermore still, Dr. Roy Swank, and now Dr. John McDougal, have shown that the progression of M.S. in 90% of patients, can be stopped or reversed with a plant-based diet, that does not include dairy. Yet, despite this knowledge, the A.D.A. and R.D.’s continue to promote the consumption of animal products as part of a health diet. One literally has to ignore all legitimate current research to continue to promote animal products as part of a health diet.
I think it is interesting the R.D.’s design meal plans for sick patients in a hospital setting. For example, if one follows the standard advice of a R.D. and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) dietary recommendations (food pyramid and now food plate), one will certainly get continued and progressive heart disease. R.D.’s typically recommend a diet allowing up to 30% fat in ones diet. Show me even ONE research study that shows that a diet with the inclusion of that much dietary fat can reverse or even slow heart disease. Show me one! Yet, that is the standard range recommendation coming from R.D.’s. For heart patients this figure might be dropped to 20 – 25%. Still, that is not low enough to stop the progression of heart disease. That’s why we work with so many patients/clients that say they following the advice of their R.D. and still their heart disease progressed. It is a well known fact, that eating a plant based diet of 10% fat can reverse heart disease. In most cases, arteries begin to open within only 12 days. Show me one medication that can do that? So the question to you is, when is the last time you worked with a heart disease patient and recommended a level of 10% fat? If you are an average R.D., you haven’t. In that case, whatever diet you recommend containing more than 15% fat, is going to further advance heart disease in your patient or client. So what real good would you be serving that patient?
Lets talk about dairy. There is absolutely nothing healthy about consuming dairy in the human diet. Yet it remains part of a healthy diet recommended by the A.D.A, and average R.D.’s. I could go on and on about the ills of dairy and it’s connection to childhood Type I and II Diabetes, M.S., irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, migraines, osteoporosis, skin problems, childhood ear infections, etc, etc. Again, in light of the scientific connections between dairy and degenerative and autoimmune diseases, the A.D.A., R.D.’s continue to promote it’s consumption. Again, all current research regarding dairy, shows adverse health effects for humans when consumed. Interesting Note: Try to feed a cow human milk and the A.S.P.C.A. will be all over you. However, feed a human cows milk, and it is ok (Just a funny contradiction in logic).
Lora, I work with a group of physicians nation wide (Dr. John McDougal, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Janice Stanger, and others.) and some fantastic Ph.D.’s and R.D.’s (Pam Popper, Ph.D., Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, Suzan Levin, M.S., R.D., Kathryn Strong M.S., R.D., and others.) who are all curing diseases by eliminating all animal products, including dairy and extracted oils from the diet. These aforementioned people are all recommending plant-based diets containing NO animal products. For healthy people we know we can allow up to 10% animal protein in their diet with no ill effects. However, when you are talking about people with degenerative and autoimmune diseases, they must consume a 100% plant-based diet, no more than 10% fat, to reverse these diseases. A diet containing even small amounts of animal products has not been shown to reverse common degenerative disease.
You mentioned that cancer and diabetes above. It is well known, and accepted science, that a plant-based diet is the best preventative measure one can take to combat this disease. When speaking of cancer for example, it is the animal protein, and diary, that activates the cancer gene. So having a cancer patient switch to a plant-based diet would be the most effective thing they could do to turn off the cancer [Having said that, cancer is tricky and is difficult to cure once contracted]. On the other hand, Type II diabetes is very easy to reverse and cure. Dr. Neal Barnard, of the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.ORG), has a 87% cure rate with type II diabetes when he eliminates ALL animal products, as well as extracted oils and dairy, from a patients diet. He is only one of many physicians who are now using a plant-based diets to reverse type II diabetes, as well as many other degenerative diseases. In fact, regardless of what disease we are talking about, a nutrient dense, high-fiber, plant-based diet will always result in improved health.
Having said all of this, I find the nutrition issue very very simple. A plant-based diet is the best diet for human beings. One gets more iron, calcium, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, ect, from a plant-based diet, than from meat, fish, chicken, eggs, or milk. Furthermore, plants also provide all of the protein requirements that growing children and adults need. I am sure you are aware of this. Anyone can learn this with the most basic of education. Trainers do not need a four year degree, a masters degree, or even a Ph.D. to be able learn and safely advocate a healthy plant-based diet. Though, I would recommend some basic education. But, with some basic education, nutrition should certainly be within the scope of what we do. How would you separate fitness from nutrition anyway? You can’t. They go together.
One last point. You stated, “Would you want a personal trainer coming in your hospital room giving you nutrition advice when they have had no training in oncology, renal, diabetic or the million other diseases we learn in clinical dietetics and work with the health care team on a solution to getting the patient back to full health or at least a better quality of life?” First, trainers are not working in that setting, so I am not sure how your comment applies in this discussion. But again, all of those diseases are better helped with a plant-based diet anyway. I will also say that I have worked with a lot a clients who went to mainstream R.D.’s, did not get better. Eventually, they found me, and began to eat a plant-based diet, and got better.
Question for you: Who would you not recommend a plant-based diet for? Since you have so much clinical experience, tell me what disease would be made worse as a result?
The real tragedy, is that most R.D.’s and trainers have never been taught the value of a plant-based over a diet that include animal products because the A.D.A., as well as the meat, poultry, dairy, and processed food industries, have monopolized what information is getting out to the American public. For example, the Food and Nutrition Board (those who put together the food pyramid, and now food plate) is nothing more than a marketing scheme for big industry. It does not provide the American public with the correct nutritional advice. It was shown by the PCRM through a federal lawsuit, that most of the their board members have food industry ties to the same foods they are advocating. That is why most R.D.’s and trainers to this day have no clue that animal products, including all of the whey protein drinks, are not healthy for their clients to consume. So they continue to advocate animal products with their clients thinking that it is healthy, and their clients need that much protein. Both couldn’t be further from the truth. Again, this is mainly a result of the A.D.A. trying to control it’s turf on the subject.
To the extent that a highly trained R.D. recommends anything other than a plant-based diet to manage any disease, is simply incorrect. In fact, recommending animal products in ones diet, not only ignores current research, it borders on fraud, if not fraud. Thus, I think R.D.’s who follow A.D.A. recommendations, and ignore research, can be equally as dangerous as anyone else out there giving dietary advice.
I am not an R.D. basher, I am just aware of what nutritional research is telling us about diet, and how the A.D.A. and R.D.’s continue to ignore these facts. On top of this, these same two groups have managed to scare the general public and professional trainers into thinking that ONLY R.D.’s should be providing dietary recommendations. This is simply an overzealous attempt to control the market. Shame on the A.D.A. and R.D.’s who believe and advocate this nonsensical position.
So according to most of you if I ‘feel’ like I know what I’m talking about them I’m good to go? So if I ‘feel’ like I could diagnose an injury then I should and then proceed to fix it on my own?
Yes I agree, nutrition really is very basic, but due to all of the conflicting theories and fad diets out there people get lost. Yes, as a certified personal trainer you are allowed to help people understand the basics of nutrition, but it is outside of my scope to create a detailed nutritional program for them.
Just because someone wants to call themselves a nutritionist does not mean they know what they are talking about. Alot of states do not recognize the title ‘nutritionist’ so unless you are an R.D. leave nutrition up to the experts.
@LORA…you are totally right. Fitness and personal trainers alike need to understand this clearly! They can only give advice. Most will not understand it until it becomes a “LEGAL” matter. If you are not an R.D. you cannot prescribe meal plans, you must protect yourself and just give advice. But with in this world of “fitness experts” carrying online nutrition certifications and giving magazine based advice to not good. Furthermore, a lot of these personal trainers don’t even carry insurance to cover themselves if sued on the grounds of giving illegal nutritional meal plans and prescriptions. Trust it can get very legal very quick, sadly I know trainers that have been sued, and carried no insurance and were not R.D.’s
FYI: Supplement prescriptions counts as well, and most don’t have a clue about food drug interaction, as they go about recommending/ prescribing Fat-burners to possible risk-clients unknowingly.