The next time your personal trainer tries to sell you a new protein powder or diet plan, press pause—you should not seek nutritional advice from a trainer if they are not properly licensed. While a coach’s suggestions might go hand in hand with the best intentions, nutritional advice and personalized meal planning should be left to the professionals.
“Practicing coaches interested in using nutritional tools are subject to the statutes of nutrition laws relevant to their state,” said The American Nutrition Association. “In a state where nutritional law is exclusive, it is illegal for a personal trainer / fitness trainer without a nutrition/dietetic license to use nutritional tools in their work, unless the practitioner’s nutritional advice falls under an exception to the Nutrition/dietetic License Act.”
Laws vary by state. For example, in Tennessee, an athletics coach or coach cannot give nutritional advice if it is not properly licensed. In Arizona, however, there is no lawful recourse to provide unlicensed nutritional advice.
This means that if your unlicensed personal trainer offers you a protein bar, you are unlikely to resort to lawful recourse. Coaches can talk about basic nutrition to their clients without a specific license-they just need to know their limits, says Lindsay Ogden, a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and breakout training manager at Life Time.
“In most places, coaches can talk about nutrition in general to support broad health and fitness goals for otherwise healthy clients,” says Ogden. “Dietitians graduate and pass a licensing exam that qualifies them to offer medical nutritional therapy-treatment of health issues such as diabetes or obesity. If you are not a registered dietitian, it is best to avoid treatment, prescription and diagnosis. In some states, it is even considered “prescribing” to give someone a meal plan and is not allowed unless you are an RD.”
Your trainer might encourage you to drink water after training, and that’s good. But let’s say, for example, that they advise you to adopt a plant-based diet to treat the underlying health problems, this is not the matter.
Instead of going from state to state to learn the rules, it is better to hire a personal trainer or track and field coach who is also formally trained on nutrition and nutrition. After all, food is essential for healthy fitness—it is literally a fuel for the body, which has a direct impact on performance and recovery.
“The best Fitness professionals are looking for certifications to train and guide customers,” says Ogden. “If your trainer is not a RD or a certified nutritionist, I recommend that you look for it separately from your workouts .”
Michelle Gottfried, MS, CNS, senior nutritionist at the Nutritional Genomics Institute, agrees with Ogden that coaches and nutritionists can work together to better support their clients.
“Because nutrition involves the biochemistry of the body, it is important that when a coach gives nutritional advice… About a certain diet or supplement you have the appropriate classes in biochemistry, ” says Gottfried. “When a nutritionist prescribes certain exercises that go beyond general recommendations, they have the appropriate identifying information to advise a client on how best to do that particular exercise so that they are not hurt. Having someone who has the appropriate training in both is ideal.”
The next time you’re in the market for a personal trainer, make sure their resume contains nutritional certifications. Or seek advice from another expert who can work with your certified track and field coach. Keeping coaches and nutritionists in their own ways is designed to help you achieve the best results.