Providing nutrition advice – are you working within your scope of practice? 

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Recent media coverage on the scope of practice for exercise professionals has honed in on provision of nutritional advice to clients. It’s not a new topic, but it does raise the question of how well do you know your scope of practice? The scope relates to your level of education and training but can be confusing and the lines often blur. To help you determine your scope regarding nutritional advice, here’s a little info on what you are qualified to provide as a trainer.

Current fitness qualifications (Cert III and IV in Fitness) contain a single unit around nutrition. The unit, ‘Provide healthy eating information to clients in accordance to recommended guidelines’, which is part of the Cert III syllabus, has very specific learning outcomes, none of which correlate to providing any kind of specific dietary advice. In fact, the unit learning outcomes state the aim is to educate trainers in discussing the relationship of exercise and healthy eating, promote positive body image and advise clients to follow the current Australian Dietary Guidelines, which have been painstakingly created by a group of Accredited Practicing Dietitians.

The unit itself aims to educate trainers to “recognise and acknowledge the current legal and ethical limitations of a fitness instructor in providing healthy eating information” as well as refer clients onto appropriately qualified professionals for specific advice. What an awesome opportunity to develop a great referral network and offer your clients the appropriate service in support of the work you are doing with them. Although trainers do have some knowledge of the digestive system, the included study cannot cover all that you need to know to provide detailed and specific advice to clients. It is also important to be mindful that insurance will not cover you should you provide nutrition advice and something goes awry.

PAA’s advice to trainers who really want to be able to provide additional information to their clients would be to obtain an additional certificate in nutrition or cultivate a relationship with a dietitian or qualified nutritionist and refer your clients to them. You can find a list of PAA-accredited nutrition courses on our website.