We need to talk about nutrition!

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By Darren Doak, National Field Manager for The Training Room

While being able to design and deliver safe, results-driven exercise programmes will always be a core skill for personal trainers, there are a number of other tools a good PT needs in order to stand out in a crowd. Increasingly, the most important of these “additional tools” is the ability to help clients with their diet and nutrition.

If there is anything positive to draw from the pandemic, then it might be the way it has made people think and re-evaluate their physical health. This, in no small part, is thanks to the number of well-publicised studies which have linked underlying health conditions and lifestyle diseases to complications from coronavirus infection. The message has been clear – if you’re fit and healthy, you’re more likely to survive Covid-19.

The studies have established a particularly strong link between severe Covid-19 symptoms and obesity. Findings include that people under 60 years old with a BMI between 30 and 34 are twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 when compared with those with a lower BMI [1]. Most recently, in March 2021, the World Obesity Federation reported that Covid-19 mortality rates were 10 times higher in countries where more than 50 per cent of the population is overweight[2].

As well as making Average Joe realise that by keeping fit they stand a better chance against serious disease, the link between lifestyle diseases and Covid-19 deaths has made political leaders stand up and take note. Their newly-found appreciation of physical activity was reflected in the way how, during lockdowns, governments around the world made exercise one of the few reasons people could still leave their house for. Here in the UK, it has even led to the launch of an entirely new department – the Office for Health Promotion – tasked with promoting physical activity and tackling obesity.

The renewed focus on exercise and combating obesity can only be a good thing for PTs and fitness instructors – and of course the wider physical activity industry. It is an opportunity for the sector to step up to the plate and play a hugely important role in improving the nation’s health.

It is an opportunity we can’t afford to waste. Therefore, we need to ensure that we are in possession of all the tools we need, in order to make a difference in the lives of those who come to us needing help and assistance. One of those tools is the understanding of diet and nutrition.

We already know that both exercise and diet are crucial in any successful weight loss programme – you could even say they are interdependent. PTs and fitness instructors might spend hours on getting a weight loss-oriented client’s exercise regime spot-on, but it is likely that results will be disappointing unless they successfully change what and how the client eats. What more, the changes in diet and nutrition need to be permanent, if the results achieved are to be lasting.

When training to become a PT, the main focus is, quite rightly, on topics such as physiology, anatomy, coaching and the delivery of safe exercise sessions. Most courses that lead to a Level 3 or 4 PT qualification do equip learners with foundational elements on nutrition, but in order to truly understand diets and nutrition – and their relationship with weight management and exercise performance – something extra is often needed. Not least because consumers themselves are becoming much better versed in how food and nutrition work.

This has never been more true than in the age of wellness apps, wearable tech and fitness trackers – another factor, alongside Covid-19, which has raised people’s awareness of the importance of physical fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Many of these apps measure the results of exercise through the number of calories lost. Measuring the impact of, say, a 5K run in calories can be highly impactful from a nutritional point of view – especially when the runner realises that their 5K run burns fewer calories than there were in that large portion of McDonald’s fries they had the previous evening.

A PT who can confidently offer sound, science-based nutrition advice – as well as devise brilliant exercise programmes – will find themself in an advantageous position to those who can’t. As the fitness industry gets back to business following the pandemic lockdowns, there will likely be an increased demand for professionals who can offer the whole toolbox needed for delivering successful weight-management programmes.

As a PT, investing time and effort in growing your knowledge of nutrition can pay immediate dividends with your existing clients. It will also offer huge opportunities in the future, as consumer demand for a whole-person approach to health continues to grow.

Become a Certified Nutrition Coach! 

The Training Room has recently launched its Level 4 Certificate in Nutrition for Weight Management and Athletic Performance qualification. It provides learners with the skills, knowledge and competence to provide nutritional support, either as a nutrition coach or as part of their offering as a PT. Upon completion of the course, students will qualify with a TQUK Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Nutrition and Health and a Focus Awards Level 4 Certificate in Nutrition for Weight Management and Athletic Performance. To find out more, click here: https://www.thetrainingroom.com/health-fitness/nutrition

[1] World Obesity Federation. Obesity and covid-19: policy statement. https://www.worldobesity.org/news/obesity-and-covid-19-policy-statement

[2] World Obesity Federation. COVID-19 and Obesity: The 2021 Atlas. March 20201. Accessed March 8, 2021. https://www.worldobesityday.org/assets/downloads/COVID-19-and-Obesity-The-2021-Atlas.pdf

 

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