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Should Personal Trainers Give Diet Advice?

Most clients come to us with the same goal: To Lose Weight! In pursuit of that goal, we try to help them make healthy lifestyle choices and make physical activity and exercise a part of their daily lives. But how can we help them meet their goals without talking about Nutrition? And how can we talk about diet and nutrition without exceeding our scope of practice?

March is National Nutrition Month so I thought it would be a good time to discuss these controversial issues.

In our Nutritional Concepts, Personal Training Certification, and Lifestyle Fitness Coaching classes, we clearly communicate that prescribing diets for our clients is beyond our scope of practice. Unless a personal trainer is also a Registered Dietician, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist, or hold a valid credential, they should not be prescribing a special diet for a client. But what about providing advice, guidance, and education? Would you be neglecting your responsibilities and duties to your client if you didn’t try to steer them in the right direction.

When I look around at the people closest to me, I see one person who makes all of the wrong (unhealthy) food choices; another who has gone strictly vegan (their version of vegan) and admittedly includes no healthy protein choices in their diet; another who skips meals regularly and ends her day tired and famished. Others watch and limit sugars only—another only eats “organic” and another had recently decided to eliminate carbs–but ingests high fat meats.

None of this seems healthy to me— What do you think?

As a personal trainer, what do you believe appropriate for you to address when it comes to your client’s nutritional habits? Where do you believe the “scope of practice” line should be drawn?

And another question, how good are YOUR eating habits? Take this quick quiz!


I look forward to hearing your thoughts!




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12 thoughts on “Should Personal Trainers Give Diet Advice?

  1. It is amazing to me how the advise regarding nutrition changes over the years. Based on new research, I at 55 am suppose to not eat meat until I’m over 60…then I can eat meat again when my body needs it. I just heard this information on the national news.

    My theory, is to listen to my body, my physician, and my personal trainer (which is me) and balance my food intake. Balance and moderation and also consideration for any special needs.

    1. Thanks for the post, Debbie. It is confusing and there’s so much conflicting information. I think the “researchers” and the media make it much more complex than it needs to be. I agree with you completely. I think we need balance, nutrients, and to listen to our bodies. It took me 45 years to figure that out—and to understand what my body needs. I can’t say I’m 100% consistent in listening to it—and probably make some “less positive” choices, but I think if 80% of the time we make good choices—that has to be something! My new concern is artificial sweeteners. I over-use them and know it’s bad. Still a work in progress!

  2. Every time I see a workshop that “certifies” a trainer to direct a persons eating habits, I cringe. There are so many variables to setting a safe effective food program. Clients trust us, so YES educate, motivate and educate some more. Then go ahead and establish professional networks that firm up your clients health first and foremost . Registered dieticians and other leaders in their respected health occupations will become referral machines for you while establishing you as an elite trainer in your community. Only great results and thankful clients will follow you around town. Define yourself and your profession, do it right.

  3. Great insight Jay! Thanks for your post. I think networking with other professionals, including RDs is a fabulous idea. Not only will it be a great source for generating referrals and business, but the client will get the best support and assistance from the different specialists. In our “Developing Relationships: The Key to Success Class” we emphasize the importance of these networks for marketing and promotions. As you point out, it is also a great way to insure that the clients are getting the best information!

  4. Wow!! really nice post ..i am impressed after reading.Please keep it up

    Personal Training Gold Coast

  5. Walking into a gym and searching for a personal trainer, my first thoughts were that they have to know what they are doing and also know everything. After looking at the W.I.T.S. Personal Trainer program, I understand that being a CPT does touch base on nutrition but people are too different and health issues are needed to be taken into consideration. I think the CPT (unless they are already registered as a dietitian or nutritionist) should only give possible suggestions and guidance, but not have a person think as their golden rule. I figure we wouldn’t go to a motorcycle shop to have our car fixed, or vice versa. Although they may have some knowledge due to similarities, if it is not something the person specializes in then you may end up with issues along the way and can possibly be costly in the long run. I can see a CPT referring someone to their nutritionist or dietitian, but other than suggesting to have better eating habits; leave it to the pro’s.

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  7. I believe that a personal trainer should be well rounded and give diet advice. When it came to me losing weight, it wasn’t just about working out, but what I was eating also. Most of the time people do not know or understand how food truly benefits the body. They think they can eat whatever they want as long as they work out. If personal trainers gave advice on this, it could lead to better results for the client. Great post!

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Caryl Anne. I think you are exactly right! Weight loss and obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight requires making good decisions about how we move our body and what we put in it! I think it’s important for personal trainers to be educated on proper nutrition and perhaps obtain a specialized credential. Thanks again for sharing!

  8. Yes its absolutely must that only a professional and a certified dietician can only prescribe the nutritional diet to follow.However, as per a local survey conducted on small gyms and fitness centers;many local gyms (some without any license) operate and they also prescribe diet for weight lose and weight gain as well which is beyond their authority.

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  10. When it comes to personal training I often take dieting advice from my trainer as it seems to work pretty well for me and goes well with my workout routine.

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