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Faulty advice

August 19, 2008


I am a personal trainer. I love what I do, and I try to research topics that interest me as often as I can (nutrition, exercise science, hormones, etc). I give the best advice that I can give to clients, and sometimes that does include nutritional advice/opinion, lifestyle advice, and most often, exercise advice.

There is a stigma in the personal training world-that trainers should not go beyond their scope of practice. I agree with this statement to a point-if I feel I am well-read about a certain topic, and I have discussed this topic with someone more qualified in the field (say, nutrition), then, I am surely going to give my clients advice about what they should be eating. Will I give them specific diet plans? No. I am not a nutritionist, and although I have given outlines as to what diets should look like, I do not make specific diet plans for people (I have seen this done, and I have seen trainers charge for it, which is WRONG).

Not too long ago, I was training someone and I overheard a gentleman in the gym complain of his leg cramps. The trainer told him that he must have a potassium deficiency, and that he should take a supplement for it. I was listening and I just had to chime in because I knew this advice was faulty and not administered properly.

I didn’t want to go overboard with my questions, but if this were my client, I’d have asked him a series of questions first, such as, is he drinking enough water? Has he increased his exercise load? Family history? Any disease? Meds? Does he get massaged? There are so many factors that should be taken into account before one prescribes a supplement to another person. Even after the series of questions, I wouldn’t prescribe the potassium because that is WAY beyond my scope of practice. I cannot get over how often this is done. Trainers prescribing supplements and protein shakes and drinks without researching ingredients and possible drug interactions, etc, etc.

Potassium deficiency can be real, and the result is usually not muscle cramping, but instead, muscle weakness. However, how can one tell without a blood test? There is no way to tell. If one’s diet contains enough calories and is rich in fruits and vegetables, then most likely, the cramping is not due to a potassium deficiency, but rather muscle fatigue, lack of hydration, or possibly…possibly…a lack of calcium or magnesium, but I would still never prescribe a supplement. This is what doctors are for. I know when something is beyond my scope of practice. I will research the info, give the best opinion that I can, but leave the rest to the people that should deal with these types of issues—DOCTORS.

I think the reason why trainers do this is either, one, they feel that they need to come up with an answer right away, or, two, they really are ignorant as to what they can and cannot do. If someone asks me a question that I cannot answer, there is no shame is saying “I don’t know-let me research that further”. Trainers, take note. If any trainers read my blog, that is. ;>

So, there you go. I had to blog on this because it’s one topic that gets my blood boiling. Trainers-don’t prescribe drugs, crack backs (yes, I’ve seen that, too), or tell your clients to drink protein shakes with ingredients so heinous I wouldn’t feed them to my dog. DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST.

In sparking, perfect health!

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