Certified fitness trainers must have a complete understanding of human anatomy and physiology, exercise science, and nutrition.
In this blog, we’ll focus on the latter. Trainers often make the critical mistake of putting all their eggs in the fitness basket.
While fitness is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all of training. If your clients train consistently and conscientiously but ignore nutrition, the results will be less than impressive.
Training and diet always go hand-in-hand. When their combinative power is unlocked, trainers and clients are in for results that make the journey worth it. So what exactly is nutrition education? Why is it so important for personal health trainers? Stay with us; we’re breaking it all down.
1. Nutrition Education: The Basics
Nutrition education refers to a set of educational strategies that cover the science of nutrition. As a fitness trainer, you must understand nutrition’s pivotal role in keeping humans healthy and fit.
As your clients start their fitness journey, they should consume a nutrient-rich diet and steer clear of processed, packaged, manufactured, and fast food. These food categories lack the nutrients our body needs to perform critical biological tasks. When your clients start training, they’ll quickly feel lethargic, drained, overwhelmed, and exhausted. More often than not, an unhealthy diet is the culprit.
Nutrition education equips people with the knowledge and tools needed to make positive dietary changes. As a personal fitness trainer, you must possess this knowledge to pass it on to your clients.
2. What Does Nutrition Education Include?
As a certified fitness trainer, you cannot have a superficial understanding of nutrition. If you want to earn a good reputation and help your clients succeed, you must work towards expanding your nutrition education as much as possible. A thorough, wide understanding of the role of nutrition will help you grow your practice.
You should have a good grasp of which food groups are good for the body, which food groups must be avoided, allergies, individualized dietary requirements, dietary limitations, metabolism, caloric deficit, caloric surplus, and other essential components of nutrition education.
- How does the body process calories?
- Which food groups slow down metabolism?
- What is the importance of good water intake?
- Will increased protein intake improve training outcomes?
These are just a handful of the many, many questions you’re expected to answer with sound knowledge. Developing a good foundation will help your clients meet their goals and improve their overall health and wellness.
3. False Claims
False dietary claims are extremely common. Over the years, social media has taken over. Today, the internet is replete with dangerous health claims that have absolutely no truth to them. People take this information at face value and incorporate it into their life. At best, they get no results. Worst case scenario, they develop serious health conditions or even lose their life.
In 2017, a woman in San Francisco died after drinking poisonous herbal tea. In 2020, a man died after taking a form of chloroquine to prevent COVID-19.
Nutrition education is extremely important for certified fitness trainers as it helps them draw the line between science and fiction. They possess the knowledge needed to debunk false claims and steer their clients in the right direction.
If fitness trainers lack nutrition education, they can easily mislead their clients. In fact, some fitness trainers also partner with companies to sell gimmicky dietary products. When they lack education and exposure, they’re more willing to compromise their morals for monetary gain. Their clients bear the brunt of this decision.
In February 2022, a fitness trainer was sued for encouraging clients to follow dangerously low-calorie diets. She sold absurd nutrition plans and pushed her clients to the brink of developing eating disorders.
These cases aren’t rare within the fitness community. As people—even trainers—develop an obsession with reaching their goals, nutrition becomes less and less of a priority. They have a razor-sharp focus on helping their clients lose weight. Unfortunately, they often use unhealthy strategies to drive these results.
When trainers have a good understanding of nutrition, they can help their clients achieve the desired results while keeping their health on track. Fad diets, fasting maneuvers, and gimmicky health trends do more harm than good. The importance of a healthy, balanced diet cannot be negated under any circumstances.
4. Client Satisfaction
When it comes to client satisfaction, nutrition education goes a long way. While it may be a bitter pill to swallow for many, exercise alone cannot achieve substantial fitness results. When fitness trainers help their clients develop good dietary habits, the results are consistent and powerful.
Clients understand the importance of fueling their bodies with high-nutrient foods like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. They gradually start eliminating high-calorie foods that temporarily have a filling effect and eventually tire the person down. These include foods that have high sugar and fat content. While they may provide immediate gratification, they increase the risk of developing circulatory and heart conditions.
According to preventative cardiology dietitian Kate Patton, RD, LD, both sugar and fat aggravate underlying health problems. While natural sources of sugar (honey) and fat (extra virgin olive oil) can be acceptably consumed in their purest form in small amounts, consuming saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugars is a poor health decision. Ideally, a person’s diet should include lots of healthy grains like whole wheat, bulgur, whole oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain rye, and buckwheat.
People often think certain fruits have high sugar content and must be avoided. This is not true. Yes, eating in a caloric deficit is important for weight loss. However, the fear of fruit must be eliminated from people’s minds.
The same goes for vegetables! Both fruit and vegetables are natural sources of energy. They must form the bulk of a person’s diet. Healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and fish are also important. As a trainer develops a nuanced understanding of nutrition, they can help their clients live a healthy and vibrant life.
5. Individualized Path
As a fitness trainer, you must understand that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan. Every client has a unique set of fitness goals, dietary requirements, and habits. Before you kick things off, you must understand their unique lifestyle and medical history to create an individualized plan that’s right for them.
Individualization is extremely important in the fitness industry. As a trainer, you cannot provide an off-the-shelf plan to your clients. Instead, you must consider their unique requirements and goals and create an individualized strategy that yields the expected results.
Nutrition education plays a big role in helping trainers understand the importance of individualization. How? Nutrition, as a science, operates on the logic of individualization. You cannot simply copy-paste a diet plan. While something may work incredibly well for one person, it may not work for someone else. While an ingredient may help one person heal their chronic condition, others may be allergic to it.
There are general facts in the world of nutrition. However, diet plans should never be generalized. As you acquire nutrition education, you’ll understand how to build a diet plan that checks off all the right boxes for your client.
Preferences also play into this. While brown rice is an excellent source of phenols and flavonoids (two essential antioxidants that reduce cell damage), it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If your client doesn’t like brown rice, you should have the knowledge to recommend something else that packs similar nutrients and meets their dietary requirements. You cannot make such recommendations and alterations without a robust understanding of nutrition.
Understand your client’s individualized path and navigate it accordingly. As you dig deeper into nutrition, you’ll understand how to go about this. Even if you’re a certified group fitness instructor, you must understand the group’s unique requirements. Of course, you’ll provide collective guidance as well. This should apply to all of them. However, for more specific dietary and fitness suggestions, always keep the client’s unique physiology and anatomy in mind.
Recommended Read: Tips and Tricks to Get More Clients as a Fitness Trainer
6. Holding Your Ground
As you start your journey as a fitness trainer, you’ll encounter different types of people. Some act like sponges, ready to absorb any knowledge you provide. Others, on the contrary, think they have it all figured out. And they may, but more often than not, they don’t.
Whether you’re a personal health trainer or a group exercise instructor, make sure you hold your ground. Nutrition education will help you do this. You will not take your client’s dietary suggestions at face value. Instructors often think they handle the “workout” side of things. When clients explain their diet and justify certain questionable decisions, trainers often go with the flow and don’t worry about things too much. Why? Because nutrition doesn’t exactly concern them.
This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a fitness trainer. Nutrition education will help you validate what your clients are suggesting. If a client says they intermittent fast for 18 hours a day and it works well for them, you’ll know to question their choice.
Nutrition education helps trainers pick up on implicitly dangerous lifestyle choices that may be swept under the rug otherwise. Since your knowledge will be comprehensive and substantial, you’ll be able to identify any oddities that your client may not find strange at all.
7. Emotional Health
While physical health is important, emotional health is just as imperative. The relationship between food and mood has been studied countless times. It’s not a myth; the correlation is very strong.
You’ll start feeling tired if you consume a diet high in refined sugars. This may not happen when you’re young, and your metabolism is very high. However, as you enter your 40s and 50s, the damage will catch up to you. High sugar intake also affects brain function and exacerbates the symptoms of mood disorders. As a result, the person’s emotional health is affected.
As a certified fitness trainer, you must have a good grasp of these nuances. For starters, it’s important to identify why your client is starting their fitness journey. Do they have realistic goals? Or do they want to become skinny like Kendall Jenner or build muscle mass like Dwayne Johnson?
As you understand the underlying reasons, you’ll determine whether you should take the client on or not. If you feel that they suffer from body dysmorphia, you may have to refer them to a therapist and refuse to train them until they develop a good relationship with themselves.
Nutrition education also covers emotional health. It helps trainers understand the reasons why people turn to fitness and how the journey can affect their mental health if they’re not careful. You’ll also understand the importance of providing emotional support to your clients.
As a trainer, you’re not just taking care of their fitness and dietary requirements. You’re also ensuring that they enjoy good mental health. The starting point usually gives trainers a good idea of the client’s mindset. As you begin the journey, you’ll look for the right signs and ensure that your client is mentally, emotionally, and physically on the right track.
Taking the totality of their experience into account will help them become the best version of themselves. If there are any red flags, you’ll be able to take the right steps accordingly.
Are you interested in becoming a personal trainer? At W.I.T.S. Education, we’re committed to helping people turn their passion for personal training into a successful, rewarding, fulfilling career.
We’re the only organization to receive NCCA accreditation in practical skills and theoretical knowledge for personal health trainer programs. Find out more about our fitness trainer certification program to get started! For more information, explore our locations and schedules.