Why PTs should stick to weight plates and not what's on yours

When it comes to exercise, the support and guidance of a personal trainer has moved from the privilege of the elite to the mainstream. And whether you just need a little gentle coercion or like being screamed at while face down in mud by an ex-Marine, there’s a trainer for you.

And if you’re looking at losing weight and getting fitter it can really make sense to get a PT on board. Someone who understands the body and how it responds to exercise; someone who can help you train in fun and engaging ways and push you to achieve your goals. So it’s not in the least surprising that most PTs want you to get your nutrition “on point” too.

I should know. I’ve not only been personally trained but I‘ve been one too. And when I was, I operated in line with register of exercise professional’s code. That “PTs should only provide general advice on healthy eating, rather than give specific, prescriptive advice…and avoid giving advice which calls for the omission of food groups or encourages restricted eating patterns.”

But out on that gym floor, there’s a lot more than heavy weight being thrown around. There’s a lot of loose talk about food. In my time as both a trainer and trainee I’ve been recommended to

  • Curb carbs after five
  • Cut all fat-          
  • Do a 30 day ‘detox’
  • Avoid all carbs for a week
  • Add X brand of protein shake to your diet   
  • And my favourite – cut down on vegetables “because broccoli is a simple carb”
And you know I get how it can happen. A trainer gets approached by someone desperate to lose weight. The PT knows the eatwell guide is where their knowledge should start and stop, but the client is asking you about this celeb diet or that miracle shake. We all want a quick fix. And no one wants to lose a client so surely it’s just helping someone.

It’s not. All of these nuggets of “advice” seem to me at best wholly misguided but at worst downright dangerous and totally in breach of the professional boundaries within which any personal trainer should operate.

If your PT starts offering your prescriptive nutrition advice, ask to see their qualifications. And ask yourself “why?” Don’t let them pass on their disordered eating habits to you.

Nutrition advice that goes beyond reiterating the UK government’s evidence based guidelines without nutrition qualifications is not on. Which is why nutritionists are fighting to make their title protected – as it would protect us from this faddy nonsense too.

I would recommend anyone who has invested in having a personal trainer consider a session with a nutritionist. Someone who can genuinely analyse your eating habits and help you make lasting and sustainable changes. And you know what, I’d probably tell you to skip a week with me so you have the money too. And while you’re at it drop and give me 20 please. 

Shiv Meaker (Twitter @shivmeaker)