Why Your Trainer Won't Talk Diet
While trainers can share basic advice on nutrition, what they do is different than an RD.
By Lucy Maher•
You’ve been riding your Peloton five times a week, or hitting the Tread for running sessions on the weekends in addition to your weekly Bootcamps. You’ve got plenty of endorphins flowing, and you feel great. The next question you're likely to ask? It's about the other half of the equation: your diet. Peloton instructors and even other Members are accustomed to getting questions about nutrition, and their advice is a great starting point. After all, to maintain a serious fitness regimen, they must know something about nutrition, right?
That’s true, but to really get your footing nutrition-wise, you need to consult a registered dietitian, or RD. These folks have met rigorous academic and professional requirements in order to earn their RD certification, something trainers without an RD have not.
“Probably the biggest factor that you get with an RD is that we are required to be ‘evidence-based practitioners,’” says Alix Turoff, MS, RD, CDN, CPT. “That means that the advice we give must be supported by scientific evidence.”
How Do RDs Earn Their Credentials?
To become a registered dietitian, one must have a bachelor's degree and complete course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). These courses include studying food and nutrition sciences, as well as biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and chemistry. Over half of RDs have advanced degrees.
After that, prospective RDs have to complete 1,200 hours at an accredited, supervised practice program or internship at a health care facility, community agency or food service corporation. They then have to pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, and meet continuing professional educational requirements to keep their registration up to date.
RDs are able then to use this knowledge and experience to translate the science behind nutrition into solutions based on an individual’s need. That could be in a hospital treating patients with diabetes, or in private practice, helping people manage their weight.
Some folks may consult with a nutritionist for their weight management needs. Turoff says they should not be confused with an RD.
“Crazily enough, you don't have to do anything to call yourself a nutritionist,” says Turoff. “The title isn't regulated. There are certainly many knowledgeable people who call themselves nutritionists--and many trainers who are knowledgeable about nutrition -- who aren't RDs, but because there's no regulation, it's very difficult as a consumer to know what you're getting without going to a RD.”
How Can A Trainer Weigh In?
According to the American Council on Fitness, trainers who are not also RDs cannot do the following:
-Give individualized meal planning recommendations or make specific dietary recommendations
-Perform a nutritional assessment
-Offer nutrition counseling
-Recommend nutritional supplements
To become certified, trainers must have a basic understanding of nutrition principles, guidelines and recommendations. As such, they are able to provide their clients or students with government-endorsed resources, such as Dietary Guidelines for Americans or MyPlate recommendations. They can also get creative by partnering with a RD on workshops or webinars, and distribute weight-management advice provided by a doctor or RD. With a great deal of expertise on what works for their own bodies, learning about a trainer or athlete's regimen is often instructive and interesting--but you'll want to consult an expert for the individualized plan that's right for your body, health, and fitness goals.