Well, let's take a closer look at this issue and see just what you can and can't say, legally of course!
Most PTs will be familiar with the Fitness Australia stand that PTs can't really give dietary advice unless they have completed an approved nutrition course and are a nutritionist or dietitian or similar, which to a degree is true. However, it is the training package and its very specific wording which we need to take our lead from. Let's look at exactly what the units say.
When you started out you would have covered Cert III in Fitness and will have completed a unit SISFFIT306A 'Provide healthy eating information to clients in accordance with recommended guidelines'. This is a unit in the Fitness Training Package that the education authorities tell education providers they must cover in your training and you must complete successfully. Once you have completed all the units in this qualification (Cert III), then you are entitled to do as the Unit describes . In that case you can give healthy eating information to your clients as long as it sits within current guidelines (such as the Australian Dietary Guidelines).
I hear you sighing, thinking we have got your hopes up and then dashed them. But wait... there's more!! And even better news is that Cadence Health offers an approved nutrition course that allows you to have insurance cover to provide basic dietary advice.
Be familiar with the detail in the training packages
If you 'unpackage' SISFFIT306A you will find a number of Elements are listed inside it, each of which has a number of units, called Performance Criteria within. It is these Elements and Units that really give you a clearer picture as to just what you can and can't do and say. With us... Ok, then let's take a look at the Elements and their Performance Criteria.
Element 1 'Explain the relationship between healthy eating, health and fitness to clients.' Specifically you are entitle to:
1.1. Discuss with clients, the adverse effect of poor nutrition on health and identify common chronic diseases.
1.2. Briefly explain the general features of healthy eating to clients.
1.3. Convey the concept of a well balanced diet and regular exercise to promote good health when providing information to clients.
1.4. Explain the interaction between healthy eating options and physical activity and obtain information about current nutritional intake and physical activity levels of clients.
The use of words such as 'provide' tend to suggest the information is sourced from somewhere else, where as 'describe', 'list', 'explain' tend to suggest this information is from you verbally or in written format for example. You can see above that you are entitle to give an explanation of what healthy diet is as well as how healthy eating options work with physical activity based on information you have gained about your clients diet and activity level.
Becoming clearer now...Get the picture... there is a reasonable scope here! Moving along to Unit 2!
Element 2 says 'Provide basic information to clients about the fundamental principles of healthy eating.'
2.1. Provide information to clients about the fundamental principles of healthy eating to improve overall health.
2.2. Apply knowledge of the general principles of healthy eating to provide basic information to clients about healthy eating options and requirements for exercising individuals.
2.3. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of current dietary trends appearing in the media with clients.
2.4. Observe the industry standards for giving healthy eating information to clients and refer clients with healthy eating or dietary concerns to suitably qualified accredited practising dieticians.
Ok, here there is a little less scope for you to create healthy eating programs, clearly there is an erring towards the provision of information as apposed to explanations. Don't forget that is why our nutrition courses provide you with dozens and dozens of healthy eating booklets and fact sheets! WE HELP YOU PROVIDE INFORMATION! No need to look around or question what is accepted knowledge.
Element 3 states 'Provide healthy eating information to clients regarding body composition management.'
3.1. Evaluate information collected in the fitness appraisal of clients about current body composition using relevant body composition measures.
3.2. Provide basic information about the relationship between diet and the management of body composition to clients.
3.3. Describe briefly the role of the body's energy systems in the storage and utilisation of energy substrates for energy production.
3.4. Refer clients requiring more extensive dietary information to a suitably qualified accredited practising dietician.
We can see here there is a mix of both the provision of information and describing information (eg verbally or written from your own knowledge).
Element 4 goes on to 'Support fitness clients with body image issues.'
4.1. Implement strategies to promote body satisfaction when providing information about exercise, fitness testing and healthy eating options.
4.2. Provide information about healthy eating options that fosters a positive attitude towards food and eating.
4.3. Recognise indicators of poor body image and discuss body satisfaction with clients, providing referral to an appropriate medical or allied health professional, if required.
4.4. Show sensitivity to cultural and social differences.
The term implement in 4.1 does tend to leave the door open. After all to implement a strategy you are very likely to have had to work out a plan with a client, for example a healthy eating plan. This would then be supported by fact sheets and other information (websites, booklets etc) that will assist your client in meeting their goals.
Element 5, 'Refer clients to medical or allied health professionals for further information or consultation.'
5.1. Recognise and acknowledge the current legal and ethical limitations of a fitness instructor in providing healthy eating information.
5.2. Identify gastrointestinal disorders or other medical conditions, disclosed by the clients during a screening process, which may affect nutritional intake, and refer clients to a suitably qualified medical or allied health professional.
5.3. Identify healthy eating or dietary concerns and refer clients to contact suitably a qualified accredited practising dietician or medical or allied health professional in accordance with organisational policies and procedures maintaining confidentiality of clients.
Element 6 'Provide information about the structure and function of the digestive system.'
6.1. Use knowledge of the structure and function of the digestive system when providing information to
6.2. Describe to clients the process of digestion and absorption, including the production and action of enzymes during the breakdown of foodstuffs for energy.
6.3. Explain the process of energy metabolism in relation to muscle contraction.
Again, we can see here that the use of the terms 'describe' and 'explain' allow you scope to guide your clients using your own knowledge.
The only courses that allow you to use nutrition professionally:
- If you hold a Certificate IV in Fitness and complete our Accredited Certificate of Nutrition you can gain insurance to use with nutrition with your clients.
How Cadence Health courses help fill the gap
We have been very aware of the frustration that many people in the fitness industry feel in regards to the scope of nutrition they are able to work with. As a result we have worked for many years in extending our courses to help fill this gap. Cadence Health and Nutrition Courses assists in 'providing nutrition information' by suppling you with:
- A full set of healthy eating fact sheets you can print and pass onto clients ranging from everything from caffeine to yoghurt.
- All students have access to our private Student Facility which holds the very latest national and global reports, including the Dietary Guidelines, WHO policy, OECD Obesity Reports and much much more, giving you access to the latest 'Guidelines' 24 / 7.
- Our courses are not only written at a tertiary level we offer you extended readings, webinars and research reports so that you are as up-to-date as we are.
Read more of the detail!
We recommend that you take a good look at the training package units on the Government Training site by simply typing in SISFFIT306A into the unit search area, or download the package units. If you read over the document (they are quite brief but detailed), you will also find specific details determining just what is acceptable sources of information and so on. If you have trouble just flick Olga an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can send it onto you.
Personal Trainers - legally entitled to provide basic dietary advice
All Cadence Health PTs who hold Cert IV in Fitness and who complete Accredited Certificate of Nutrition course can be insured for the:
- Provision of basic dietary advice
- Undertaking of meal analysis
- Provision of meal plans
Details on the insurance package from Marsh Fitness, simply contact Marsh to ensure you have these options added onto your current insurance.
Note: We believe that SISFFIT306A will be updated this year in which case you are likely to see it represented at SISFFIT306B. We are hoping it will further extend the PTs options in nutrition. Fingers crossed