Nutrition – What Advice Can Personal Trainers Provide?

Nutrition – What Advice Can Personal Trainers Provide?


Creating a nutrition plan

Nutrition: Is it illegal for personal trainers to give nutritional advice and programming to their clients?

There has been a lot of attention in the media recently on qualifications and nutrition, and who is allowed to say and do what. 

This blog will look at what a Personal Trainer can and can’t do. For anyone looking to enter a career in nutrition, check out Fit Education’s Certificate in Nutrition course.

Fitness Australia Scope of Practice

Understanding the Fitness Australia scope of practice is essential for practicing as a personal trainer. 

Many fitness professionals step out of their scope of practice in things like nutrition. It is important for a trainer to know the law. 

Just because trainers and coaches cannot prescribe medical advice for nutrition doesn’t mean they can’t make a positive impact on the lifestyle choices of their clients. 

Knowing the difference between the two not only keeps your clients safe and happy, but you within your scope of practice and out of legal trouble as a trainer.

Here is the current outline, the do’s and don’ts, to ensure that you are training your clients within the lines of the law.  

Personal Trainer & Group Exercise

Registered Personal Trainer, Gym Instructor and/or Group Exercise has a scope of practice that includes:

  1. Pre-exercise health screening
  2. Safety and risk assessment and management
  3. Application of first aid to clients where required
  4. Fitness assessment and analysis in accordance with knowledge and skill obtained through qualification and/or continuing education
  5. Development of safe, effective and appropriate exercise programs tailored to client or group needs
  6. Exercise delivery inclusive of demonstrating, instructing, monitoring, reviewing and modifying program content including technique, method and progression
  7. Working within professional limitations to provide basic healthy eating information and advice through the application of nationally endorsed nutritional standards and guidelines.
  8. Provision of general nationally endorsed public health information that will educate and support positive client health outcomes

Additional Inclusions

This Does Not Include

  1. Provision of nutritional advice outside of basic healthy eating information and nationally endorsed nutritional standards and guidelines
  2. Therapeutic treatment or independent rehabilitative exercise prescription
  3. Independent exercise prescription for high-risk clients
  4. Diagnostic tests or procedures
  5. Sports coaching
  6. Psychological Counselling

Code of Ethics

Registered Exercise Professionals agree to abide by the Fitness Australia Registered Exercise Professional Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics outlines terms for professional practice across:

The Professional Code of Ethics also outlines a complaint resolution, disciplinary, and appeals process. 

The Registered Exercise Professional scope of practice is influenced by local regulatory frameworks and as such, registered exercise professionals must adhere to regulations including (but not limited to):

  1.  Jurisdictional OH&S legislation
  2. Civil Liability Law
  3. Privacy Law
  4. Consumer Law
  5. Anti-discrimination Law
  6. Criminal Law – this may include a national criminal history record check or working with children check
  7. Local government policy for the use of public space for exercise service delivery
  8. Other relevant setting-specific policies or regulations

Is It Illegal For Personal Trainers To Give Nutritional Advice?

There is a lot of misinformation in the fitness industry. Due to the unsupported ideas that are being spread, the population is confused. 

The Australian Government, therefore, developed The Australian Dietary Guidelines and The Eat for Health Program based on scientific evidence. 

The Eat for Health Program is for people who do not have special dietary needs. It adapts the Australian Dietary Guidelines to suit the lifestyles and food choices of Australians.

Healthy breakfast with fruit and grains

Due to the large amount of b.s. information is very important that Personal Trainers stay within their scope of helping their clients with their health. 

Personal Trainers require the ability to provide healthy eating information and assist clients within the industry-endorsed scope of practice.

What Nutrition Advice Can Personal Trainers Offer?

A Personal Trainer can offer general nutritional advice to their clients. Providing nutritional information or advice should highlight healthy food choices while encouraging healthy lifestyles that will minimise the risks of the development of diet-related diseases. For weight loss, the following may be suggested:

The Personal Trainer Scope Of Practice Does Not Include

This does not include the provision of specific or individualised dietary analysis or advice, or information regarding:

The Personal Trainer must refer clients to an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Sports Dietitian, or General Practitioner as appropriate. It is important to treat people as individuals. 

Therefore, providing comprehensive nutrition education to people from different backgrounds and ages requires advanced education and training. 

An accredited dietitian is a recognised professional with education and training to provide expert advice on dietary intake.

Nutrition: Providing information to clients

What Can Be Provided?

How can a Personal Trainer provide information regarding healthy eating/health and fitness and support healthy attitudes to eating and weight management for their clients but not go outside the scope of practice?

  1. The client should have been health screened and fitness tested to identify risks and goals.
  2. Understand the Personal Trainer scope of practice.
  3. Evaluate whether guidance from a health professional is required to meet the client’s needs.
  4. Refer a client to an appropriate allied health professional where required
  5. Analyse current dietary habits
  6. Provide feedback on current dietary habits using the ADG and EFHEG

Evaluate whether guidance from a health professional is required to meet the client’s needs.

  1. Is there a possibility that the client has a disease or co-morbidity associated with their weight or related to diet?
  2. Is your client trying to manage medical symptoms through diet?
  3. Would the advice requested be considered medical or as disease treatment?
  4. Could your assessment or advice possibly cause a delay in treatment or a misdiagnosis that may result in serious harm to your client?
  5. Could your advice result in an unwanted interaction between foods/drugs, foods / medical condition, supplement/drugs, foods/supplements?
  6. Does the advice requested involve the interpretation of blood work or other clinical tests?
  7. Is the client asking you for individualised dietary assessment?
  8. Is the client asking you to prescribe an individualised diet, meal plans or dietary advice (versus general information like portion awareness or nutrient density)?
  9. Is your client asking for your opinion or recommendation on specific diets, fad diets, nutritional supplementation, sports foods, ergogenic aids or nutrition for exercise or sports performance?
  10.  If any of the questions can be answered with a ‘yes’, then decide what expertise is required to manage the client.

A general rule of thumb is:

If the reason for referral relates to a medical condition, refer to a General Practitioner. Otherwise, refer to an Accredited Practising Dietitian / Accredited Sports Dietitian as appropriate.

This is covered in depth in the Certificate III in Fitness and Certificate IV in Fitness. Enrol today and become a personal trainer!


If you enjoyed this article you may also be interested in reading The 10,000 Rule Applied to Personal Training, or The 10 Commandments of a Personal Trainer

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